I read somewhere that Lauren Conrad (AKA, L.C., to the MTV crowd) paints her nails every single night. What? I scoffed. What kind of a spoiled princess has that kind of time? But as my nails started to experience an unfortunate amount of damage from repeated gel manicures (Hi, my name is Jenny and I am addicted to shellac.), I realized that maybe the girl was on to something.
I’ve always loved doing my own nails. I find it both cathartic and fun. If it’s a busy night and I have to slap some polish on quickly, I go for nudes or creams that won’t show mistakes too easily. If it’s game day and we’re camped out in front of the TV, like last weekend, I’ll go full-on with a five-step mani including a glitter fade comprised of crafting supplies. That one was a hit!
Now, I still don’t do them every night, but I’m at the point of about every-other. My polish collection is honestly disgusting. It started with a bottle of Chanel my mom gave me when I went off to college and it’s amassed into an entire (large) shelf in our bathroom armoire. And onto the kitchen counter. And a scattering on the side table by the couch. And then there’s the red and the pink I keep in my gym bag just in case.
Experimenting with your nails is fun and easy. It’s just like accessorizing in any other way, but it’s pretty damn cheap. So, how do you make them look amazing at home, a la L.C.? Practice is important. The more frequently you do your own nails, the better you’ll become. But here are some of my personal tips for achieving a salon-quality mani on your couch. Or, if you’re like me, in the middle of your living room floor:
1. Moisturize. Just like your skin, your nails crave moisture. Before applying any polish, wash your hands and then dab some eye cream onto each nail. I know it sounds nuts, but I use eye cream for everything. It’s rich and full of nutrients that your nails will soak right up.
2. Invest in a proper base and top coat. The base coat keeps your actual nails protected from the pigment and dyes in the colors you apply. It also evens out the surface of your nail, preventing a bumpy look. A top coat is important for preventing chips and creating a uniformed aesthetic. I like Essie’s Good to Go; it’s super-shiny and dries in a flash, leaving your nails shiny as glass in a few minutes flat.
3. Make like a nail girl–shape, buff and shine! It takes a little extra time, but when you do your own nails, you can’t skip these steps. Filing is great, but get yourself a 6-in-1 or at least a 4-in-1 so you can also shape, smooth, buff and get those nails to a shine! These are easy to find for under five bucks at any drug store.
4. Take your time. Paint slowly, and allow a full five minutes to pass between applying each coat. The more time you give yourself to apply the polish, the better it will look. And the longer each coat dries, the less likely you’ll be to smudge it later.
5. Have fun! Nail trends run the gamut these days from flair nails and glitter to ombre, rainbow brites and nudes. Whatever you fancy in a magazine, give it a whirl at home. You might just be surprised by your own chic talons… and I guarantee, your friends will be thinking, “What kind of spoiled princess has that kind of time?”
Well, you do, now. Because you decided to make it for yourself.