How to Give Yourself a Manicure

by Barbie Carpenter ; Updated September 28, 2017

Skip the time-consuming and costly trips to the salon and perfectly polish your nails at home. With the right equipment, your favorite polish color and some serious patience, you can create salon-quality styles while saving major cash. With that extra savings, go splurge on some flashy new rings to show off your well-manicured nails.

Trim and Shape Your Nails

Use nail clippers to trim your nails to their desired length. Once they are trimmed, use a nail file to shape your nails. The simplest nail shape to achieve at home is a square. File three straight lines along the sides and top of your nail bed. Then create a smooth, subtle C-shaped curve along the corners of the top line.


  • If you have short nails, try the squoval shape, which blends the square and oval. Use the same technique to create a square, but file a softer curve along the top of the nail.

Clean Your Nails

Cover a cotton ball in nail polish remover to eliminate any leftover polish. Then, soak your nails in a bowl of warm, soapy water for 5 minutes to soften the cuticles.

Push Back Your Cuticles

Use a cuticle nail pusher or nail stone to gently push your cuticle away from your nail bed.


  • If your cuticles are especially dry, apply a dab of a cuticle cream or oil, and work it into your skin to soften it and make it easier to manipulate.

Hydrate Your Hands

Work a rich cream into your hands to give them added moisture. Try a cream with nourishing ingredients such as shea butter or hyaluronic acid.


  • After you apply the moisturizer, run a cotton ball over each nail to eliminate any residue. Dry, product-free nails absorb the polish better.

Apply the Base Coat

Brush a base coat onto your nails to protect them from the polish and extend the life of your manicure.

Apply Two Coats of Polish

Use three strokes to polish your nails, brushing the polish down the center and then along both sides of the nail. Let the first coat of polish dry before applying the second coat in the same fashion. Dip a cotton swab in polish remover to clean up any mistakes.


  • The less polish, the better, when it comes to painting your nails. Thin coats will apply more smoothly and dry more quickly, so opt for more thin coats rather than fewer thick ones.

Add a Top Coat

Add a top coat to your dry manicure to preserve your polish. Use the three-stroke motion you used to polish your nails -- and add another swipe of the top coat along the edge of your nail to minimize chipping.


  • Don't waste your day waiting for your nails to dry. Fill a bowl with ice water and quickly dunk your nails in them to speed up drying and preserve your polish.

Our Everyday Video

Brought to you by LEAFtv
Brought to you by LEAFtv

About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.