How to care for your nails at home, according to nail pros

Get an at-home manicure in no time.

At-home nail care tips

Can I be honest for a moment? Even if COVID-19 wasn't here, I have to admit that maintaining my nails at home is a challenge. If you're anything like me, your nails are prone to breakage, splitting, and when you're under pressure, you bite them. Sure, at-home nail kits are great for maintenance, but sometimes I need advice from the professionals.

How can I get the "fresh out of the salon" look after being quarantined with two kids under the age of four for months? And, how can we present my best self at home without spending tons of money and time?



I asked a few top nail professionals how to maintain the health of our nails (and even how to create the best mani) if you don't want to go to nail salons. Here's what they had to say:

On filing properly:

"Filing and shaping nails may seem like a mindless activity, but it can weaken and break your nails if done improperly. To prevent damage, never 'saw' back and forth on the tip of the nail. Instead, gently run the file across the nail in one direction." — Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist + brand founder

Editor pick: Butter london nail file, $2

On removing gel nail polish:

"First, buff your fingernails with a nail file, removing the shiny coating of the gel polish. Then, soak a cotton ball in acetone. Place the soaked cotton ball on top of your buffed nail and wrap your finger in a small piece of aluminum foil to keep it in place. Once you have soaked for about 10 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and cotton. Use your cuticle pusher and VERY gently nudge the gel off the nail. If it doesn't lift right off, do another round of soaking saturating cotton with acetone and wrapping aluminum foil. Resist the temptation to 'file the gel off' that is where you can damage your natural nail." — Lippmann

Editor pick: Onyx Professional 100% acetone nail polish remover, $16.90

Note: Acetone nail polish remover is great for removing gel nails, but when removing regular nail polish, a non-acetone remover is best.

On cleaning your cuticles:

"Our cuticle acts as a barrier to keep free radicals and bacteria from entering the body. It's ideal to give ourselves a proper manicure once a week. I recommend using cuticle remover and a cuticle pusher to gently nudge your cuticle back toward your knuckles. Push the skin back on the sidewalls of the nails, then wipe the nail clean.

If you have any pieces of skin that are not connected, place your cuticle nipper exactly on that piece of skin—close it and reopen it without pulling. Keeping the cuticle intact is key. The next step is to hydrate your cuticle with cuticle oil to nourish and protect the skin." — Lippmann

Editor pick: Tweezerman dual sided pushy, $16

On creating ombre nails:

"Ombrè designs might sound difficult to create, but you can create the look with simple sponging techniques. First, apply a base coat, then apply a thin coat of a nude color. Next, apply the nude color to the base of a beauty sponge. Then apply preferred shade to the beauty sponge directly above where you've applied the nude color. Next, gently dab the beauty sponge onto the nail with another preferred nail color at the top of the nail. Finally, apply a top coat and let dry." — Sigourney Nuñez, OPI North America Education Manager

Editor pick: JINsoon nail polish, $18

Côte founders Mary Lennon and Leah Yari offer tips for creating the perfect at-home manicure:

  1. For starters, don't be in a hurry. Take your time, find a clean, well-ventilated space and lay out all your items. Make it your own little home-spa oasis.
  2. Make sure your nail plate is clean. Use a non-acetone remover, then follow up with a quick wipe of rubbing alcohol.
  3. Don't skip the basecoat. Even though the color is the fun part, the base coat is important if you want your color to last. But don't overdo it—a thin coat on each nail will suffice.
  4. When applying polish, start with one swipe down the middle, then follow up with swipes to the sides to spread the polish.
  5. Wait at least 5 minutes before applying another coat of polish. Waiting between coats does wonders for helping the overall drying process.
  6. When it's time for the dreaded non-dominant hand, make sure you anchor your hand against something, like a table. This will make those wobbles disappear and give you control of where your brush goes.
  7. Finish with a top coat to seal it all up. Have fun with this part, consider a matte finish just to mix it up.

In This Article