8 Steps to a Professional Manicure...At Home

Get the professional look at home!Get the professional look at home!A few months back I had my very first gel manicure. And goodness was it expensive -- not to mention, time consuming. But then they would last for up to three weeks and I am like: SOLD! Am I right?

Each time I get a manicure I tell myself it will be my last. At $35 a pop (here in the city) they are not inexpensive. But I just loved the little kick of luxury. And there is nothing that takes the edge off of changing a dirty diaper than a really pretty set of nails (that you know you're not going to ruin -- hello, mommies). Finally, I did some research and realized it's entirely possible to get your own at-home kit for the price of about three professional manicures. And then you're set! For a really, really long time.

Follow these 8 steps to learn how you can do your own at-home manicures!

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The toolsThe toolsWhat You Need
The most important supply you'll need is a UV lamp. You can get them on Amazon for anywhere from $25 to $100. I wanted one wide enough for two hands at once. You'll also want nail polishes, but these don't necessarily need to be the gel polishes made by CND or OPI -- any polish will do.
Get the tools here

Step 1Step 1Step One
First, you want to buff and file your nails with an emery board. You need a little bit of texture for the polish to really grab on. Don't go crazy, just a nice even buff.

Step 2Step 2Step Two
Trim your nails and make sure they're shaped just how you want them. This is a time when removing cuticles and trimming your nail beds really will make a difference.

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Step 3Step 3Step Three
My local drugstore sells these prep polishes that are basically made of rubbing alcohol. They dry the nail and make sure it's primed and ready to go. They also claim to prevent fungal growth, for those of us who wear polish most of the time and don't give our natural nails too much time to breathe.
Get the prep polish here

Step 4Step 4Step Four
Polish time! Yes, I am skipping the base coat. In my experience, the base coat isn't necessary. In fact, there's such a high margin of error on that stuff that the few times I've used it my polish has peeled right off in one big chunk. Try to keep your polish coats as neat and thin as possible. Layer slowly.

Step 5Step 5Step Five
In between each coat you'll need to set your nails under the UV lamp for 2 minutes if you're using gel polish. This dries the polish. Gel nail polish will NOT dry on its own, ever. Regular polish will require less curing, but I still bake a full two minutes for each coat. Better safe than sorry!

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Step 6Step 6Step Six
I decided to try some nail art (so trendy right now) and while I don't totally love it, I don't hate it either. One coat of polka dots, and I set it for another two minutes.

Step 7Step 7Step Seven
This is the part where your nails become indestructible. A thin (very thin!) coating of this stuff, followed by two three-minute sessions under the lamp (the salon I go to has me cure for three sessions!). This is of the utmost importance: keep the coat thin, and pay extra attention to the tips of your nails. Make sure you're covered all the way to the very tips, so there won't be any chipping. I like to run the brush horizontally along the end of my nail just to be sure.

Step 8Step 8Step Eight
Until you swab your nail down with rubbing alcohol, it is going to be sticky and weird feeling. Take a cotton ball and rub those nails down. A little polish may transfer, but it won't adversely affect your pretty nails, promise.

All done!All done!All Finished!
You're done! Enjoy two to three weeks of blissfully perfect nails! To remove, simply soak your nails in acetone for a few minutes until the polish becomes soft enough that you can gently scrape it off. Enjoy!

- By Natalie Holbrook
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