What I’ve Learned So Far

My obsession with nail polish started just a few months ago.  Before that, I had major difficulty giving myself a good manicure.  Instead, I would go to the salon and watch carefully and wonder how their result could look so much different than mine.  My cuticles were always a disaster, my nails would constantly split and my polish would always have air bubbles.  Now, I’m proud to say, I get compliments on my nails and get asked where I get them done (Salon Leona, my friend!).  I’ve worked hard on them and have learned so much in the process.  I thought I would pass along what I’ve learned.

Note: I’m in no way a professional and everything I’ve learned has been by trial and error and reading other’s techniques.  This is what works for me.  Everyone needs to try different techniques, so I recommend reading as many tips as you can and practice, practice, practice!  You’ll find what works for you soon enough.  This is intended as a guide, not gospel.

Nail maintenance:

  • I put cuticle oil on my nails daily and sometimes multiple times a day.  I use Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil.  I keep it on the end table next to the couch, so anytime I’m watching TV or a movie, I put it on and let it soak in.  I always put some on right after a shower.
  • For the rest of my hands, I’ve been trying different brands.  So far none are ideal.  Right now I’m using Burt’s Bees Hand Salve.  Sometimes I just put on a swipe, but other times, I douse it on.  This lotion is effective at moisturizing, but doesn’t soak in that fast, leaving a greasy feeling.  I’m on the lookout for new hand lotion that is as effective and faster to soak in.  Let me know if you have any suggestions!
  • I give myself a full manicure once a week.  This entails the following:

–  filing my nails to their desired shape (after removing any polish).  I prefer the ‘squoval’, which is a straight tip, but rounded corners.  I use a glass file, which I absolutely love.  I make sure to only file in one direction.  It definitely takes longer, but since I started doing this, my nails don’t split as much as they used to.  I’ve tried glass files from Sephora, Sally Beauty and Cult Nails.  I prefer the one I got from Cult Nails.  It’s double-sided and not too thick.

–  soaking my nails in warm water, then applying cuticle remover.  I use Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover, which is amazingly effective.  I’ve learned that it doesn’t actually remove your healthy cuticle (which should never be cut), but removes the dead, dry cuticle tissue that builds up over time.  After applying it, I use a metal cuticle pusher to push back my healthy cuticles, then wash my hands with gentle soap and warm water.

  • Before applying polish, I swipe my nail with a rubbing alcohol pad, like the ones used for first aid.  I find this does wonders for absorbing all the oils from the nail and prepping it for the base coat.
  • I’ve been trying different basecoats.  So far, I like Orly Bonder the best.  I just recently got some holos, and have heard that regular basecoats don’t work well with them, but I haven’t used them yet to test them out.
  • I polish one hand at a time.  I used to go back and forth to each hand between coats, but have found that I tend to get sloppy that way.
  • I rest the hand being polished on an upside down paper plate (one of the real sturdy ones).  I find this elevates my hand nicely and it feels more natural than laying my hand flat.
  • As I apply the polish, I keep a wooden cuticle stick close by and use it to clean up any overt messes, such as extra polish pooling on the sides of the nail.  If you’ve ever gotten a professional manicure, this is analogous to the manicurist using their own nail to swipe away extra polish.
  • I wait 1-2 minutes between each coat.  I prefer full opacity and prefer formulas that achieve that in two coats.  If I need to add more than that, I wait closer to 5 minutes between the second and third coat.
  • At the start of the second coat, I paint the tips and a skosh of the underside of my nails.  I have very thin nails and so make sure that there’s just a dab of polish on the brush.  I have found this helps with tip wear and the shrinkage caused by a quick dry topcoat.
  • After the last coat, I wait at least a minute (more if using polish with glitter) and then apply Seche Vite Quick Dry top coat.  I love this stuff.  I’ve heard some people complain that’s it too globby and lays on too thick, but that’s one thing I love about it.  It’s like applying a thick glass layer over your polish.  If you’ve worked really hard on a design, you want to protect it!
  • After waiting at least 5 minutes, I repeat on the other hand.  After that, I go sit for a while  for at least 15 minutes, keeping my hands away from as much as possible.  I probably don’t have to wait that long, but I like to make absolutely sure that the polish is all dry.
  • After that, if there is additional cleanup to be done, I take a small brush (any small brush will do), dip it in nail polish remover, and carefully use it to clean up any stray marks.  I wait until the polish is totally dry before this step because I’m a skosh clumsy and I don’t want to accidentally hit my nails with the brush.
  • I use Zoya Remove + (nail polish remover) and love it.

Applying the polish itself:

I dip the brush in the bottle and then wipe one whole side against the mouth of the bottle.  Then I wait a few seconds, which allows the polish on the other side of the brush to settle down to the tip of the brush.  If there’s too much polish, the weight of it will make the excess come off the brush, leaving a nice little bulb of polish on the end.  That’s the ideal situation for me.  If it’s too thick, this won’t happen and you’ll have too much polish.  If it’s too thin, there won’t be enough polish.  It’s always best to have too little polish than too much.  You definitely have to adjust with the formula and this just comes with practice.

Apply the brush to the middle of the nail and slightly above the cuticle.  Slide the brush down slightly so that you come as close to the cuticle as you can without touching it.  Glide the brush straight up to the tip of the nail, then do the same for each side.  Depending on the formula, you may need to get more polish to cover the nail prior to moving on to the next one.  Do not try to fill in patches or streaks until the next coat. If it’s a good formula, the polish will be self-leveling, meaning any line or bump you see between the fresh polish you just applied and the polish from the first brushstroke will disappear as it dries.

Repeat for each coat, waiting between the coats as mentioned above.

I hope this has been helpful.  Happy painting!

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2 Responses to What I’ve Learned So Far

  1. Anonymous1 says:

    This is the best how-to I have ever read! Thank you! 🙂

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