How To Get A Salon Worthy Manicure At Home

how to paint your nails at home
Jessica Camerata paints her nails at home
everything you need to do an at home manicure
essentials for an at home manicure and how to do it

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 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.

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 seasonal colors. You can see some of my favorite colors from Sally Hansen here that I have on constant rotation.

Shop Sally Hansen Polishes →

4. Top Coat

The one top coat I swear by is the essie Gel Couture Top Coat. It’s hands down my favorite and for years now. It lasts a long time and seems to do the job well.

essie Top Coat →

A Step By Step Guide To 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 base 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. I recently started using this essie Strong Start base coat since my nails tend to split.

Step 4 – Polish

Your nail polish coats should not be thick, period. This is the biggest take away from painting your nails at home. It also helps to make 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

The topcoat I swear by is the essie Gel Couture Top Coat. I’ve been using it for years and personally think it’s the absolute best.

Step 6 – Reapply Top Coat

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'.

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 |

  4. 4.14.20
    Lisa Autumn said:

    So many great tips and products lovely!

    Lisa |

  5. 4.15.20
    Natalia said:

    So worth it! Now we finally have time to pay attention to our nails and to learn how to do the trick for ourselves.