How To Get A Salon Worthy Manicure At Home

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Anytime someone says “I just love getting a mani and a pedi” I literally cringe. I despise visiting the nail salon. It’s the most miserable place to me for a few reasons. One, it’s the biggest waste of money to pay to get your nails painted. And two, a pedicure is serious torture in my opinion.  I can’t stand when they push your cuticles back, or when they use that damn cheese grater on your heels. Sure my feet look and feel great after, but the process to get there is pure misery.

If I do go to a nail salon it’s maybe a handful of times a year to get a good pedicure, so that I don’t have to ever go back. Instead, I paint my own nails at home and do it nearly every week. In order to get a salon worthy manicure and pedicure, I rely on a few simple tools and tricks. Today I’m sharing them with you so you can join the at home mani club. It’s become one of my favorite lazy day rituals. Plus, I feel weird if my nails aren’t painted. So this process happens often as soon as my nails begin to chip.

Must Have Tools For An At Home Manicure

1. Buffer & Nail File

I can’t imagine life without my nail buffer. It’s 99 cents at Bed Bath and Beyond (or any beauty supply store). It’s my favorite way to file my nails down when they just need to be cleaned up a bit after clipping them. If I need to really shape them, I sometimes use a real ebony file, but honestly, this thing is the best. Plus, I like to buff my nails a tad, I find that it gives you a bit of a better surface to paint your nails on and the polish stays on longer. Everyone should have a buffer and nail file. Some buffers have various grades on each side. I prefer the finer ones, and use the real deal nail file to really get my nails down if I need to.

Nail Buffer

2. Wooden Tool

When doing my toenails at home, this tool is key for cleaning up your toes for an at home pedicure. Under the nails, around the cuticle, it’s the best. It’s also great for cleaning up your cuticles/skin when you paint your nails and it gets a little messy.

$1.29 Cuticle Sticks

3. Good Polishes

My favorite polishes that you’ve seen me talk about time and time again on here and on social media are my Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure. They’re inexpensive, the brush is great and they last a while.  I occasionally will use OPI (Coca Cola is a favorite red) or Essie for their great nudes and blushes. You can see some of my favorite colors from Sally Hansen here that I have on constant rotation.

Shop Sally Hansen Polishes

4. Two Top Coats

I use two top coats. First I apply the Salon Manicure Cleared For Takeoff from Sally Hansen and then top that with Healthy Hoof. I’m pretty sure the last one is pure formaldehyde but it dries your nails almost instantly. In an effort to be cleaner with my beauty, I think once this bottle is done I’m not going to rebuy it. It just smells like poison. So I’ll be on the hunt for a less toxic second top coat.

Clear’d For Takeoff Top Coat

Also my number one tip for making sure your nail polish stays on for as long as possible is to reapply a top coat (not the Healthy Hoof) every few days. It’s the ultimate barrier to help protect your polish.

A Step By Step Guide On The Perfect At Home Manicure

Step 1

Trim & File – First you’ll want to trim your nails down to the exact length you’d like them. If mine are getting long, I use a nail clipper and then finish with a nail file. You can also clean up any dirt with the wooden tool from under your nails. I personally leave my cuticles as is because I don’t think it’s really necessary to push them back.

Step 2

Buff – I always buff my nails with the softer side of my nail buffer. I think this helps to prep the nails the best so that your polish stays on longer. It also helps to get out any irregular edges. My nails tend to split at the end, so this helps to even them out and keep my polish from cracking once it’s applied.

Step 3

Base Coat – This is 100% optional. I actually do not use a top coat anymore on my fingernails but some people may want to. If you have brittle unhealthy nails, you may want to try a nourishing top coat to create a barrier between your nails and the polish.

Step 4

Polish – Your nail polish coats should not be thick, period. This is the biggest take away from painting your nails at home and making sure they dry faster too. I always do two coats and allow them to dry just a tad in between. I polish from the middle and then work my way outwards.

Step 5

Top Coat – As mentioned above, I use two top coats. I first use my Sally Hansen Clear’d For Takeoff and then follow it up with Healthy Hoof. You can skip Healthy Hoof if you like since it’s probably not healthy at all despite the name.

Step 6

Reapply Your Top Coat – The best way to ensure a long lasting at home manicure is to reapply your topcoat every 2-3 days. I forget to do this almost always, but when I do remember, my nail color always lasts the longest and looks nice and shiny too.


Photos by Sydney Bruton

Jessica is an Atlanta life and style blogger. Aiming to bring practical tips to your every day life. Tips that you can easily tackle and make your life feel just a tad more 'put-together'.


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Leave a Comment


  1. 8.7.18
    Laura Leigh said:

    Really great tips! I need to get a nail buffer stat!

    xo Laura Leigh
    Louella Reese

  2. 8.8.18
    Amanda said:

    I hate visiting the nail salon as well! It feels like I’m wasting so much time and I always feel like I’m being an inconvenience. Salley Hansen is my favorite polish for an at-home manicure.

    xo Amanda

  3. 9.4.18

    I NEEDED this post!! At age 24, I still don’t know how to paint my nails and also hate going to the salon. Thanks for the tips!

    xo, Hillary |