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January 12, 2021

How To Get A Professional Looking Manicure At Home

Giving yourself a non-toxic, salon-worthy manicure is much easier than you think.


Look, I’ve let my manicure game slide since the pandemic. I used to have a weekly drop-in at the nail salon (every two weeks for a pedicure). Now, about the only love I show them is a routine chop when they become unruly.



Not ideal, especially considering “a good manicure should be a non-negotiable part of your beauty routine,” says Dr. Vivian Valenty, founder of Dazzle Dry® – an award-winning collection of non-toxic, vegan nail care. “Overgrown cuticles and ragged proximal nail folds are not only unsightly but could lead to other problems.” 


Dr. Vivian Valenty, founder of Dazzle Dry®


If you, like me, are not quite ready to head to the nail salon, because, well, COVID, or just want to become an at-home pro who can whip up everything from a long-lasting classic mani to something a little more trend based, here are six professional tips to help keep your nails looking stronger and healthier than ever.


1. Clean Your Nails


After you’ve washed your hands with soap and water, you want to run over them with an acetone or non-acetone polish remover—whether you have a current color on our not. This not only removes any remnants of old polish, but also any lingering oils or dirt. “Saturate a cotton round and allow it to sit on the nail for a few seconds; then wiggle, wiggle, wiggle and pull,” explains Silva Nahabedian, Dazzle Dry®’s Director of Education. This also “prevents the color from bleeding all over the fingers.”


Manicure set


2. Find A File 


If you have natural nails, you want to use a file designed for, well, natural nails. Consider a crystal file or a 240/180 grit mild nail file. “The higher the sandy grit on the file, the gentler the file is,” says Nahabedian, noting that anything under 180 is designed for artificial enhancements and can be too aggressive for natural nails. Then she says to either file in one direction or side to center until the desired length and shape are achieved. “Aim to let your shape follow the natural curvature of your cuticle area,” advises Nahabedian. “This helps accentuate the shape of your natural nail and elongate your nail bed, giving the illusion that they are longer.”


A warning: Don’t soak your nails pre filing. When soaked, the natural nail plate expands, and filing while expanded can lead to “separating the layers of keratin, which can cause splitting and peeling nails,” says Nahabedian.


Gently push back cuticles from side to center using a cuticle pusher or an orangewood stick.


3. Curb Your Cuticles


You do however want to soak nails (about three minutes) in warm soapy water before you get to work on your cuticles. Next, “gently push back cuticles from side to center using a cuticle pusher or an orangewood stick,” explains Nahabedian, which will lift any excess dead cuticle tissue off the nail. The result: a smoother polish application. 


Be careful not to be too rough. It can cause permanent damage to the nail root as well as ridges or grooves in the nail. (FYI: Dr. Valenty recommends Dazzle Dry® Transform to hide the deep ridges and create a smooth canvas.) Even more important, not cutting the cord of healthy skin at the base of the nail. “We often refer to it as the cuticle, but it is actually your proximal nail fold,” explains Nahabedian. “This is live tissue. It is a protective barrier that prevents bacteria and microbes from entering the body.  Gently nip cuticle tissue that is loose or sticking up but do not over-trim the live tissue.” 


Buffing will smooth out any imperfections and allow for a flawless polish application.



4. Buff It Out


Using a 240-grit buffer, gently buff the sides of the nail, around the base of the cuticle, down the center and free edge of nail plate (the white part that grows beyond the tip of your finger).  While not an essential step, Nahabedian says buffing will smooth out any imperfections and allow for a flawless polish application.


5. Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize. 


Once you have groomed and buffed the nails, they will be thirsty for moisture, so reach for a nail/cuticle conditioning oil (Nahabedian suggests Dazzle Dry® Maintain Oil). Spread a drop on each nail, rubbing it for roughly eight seconds. “This motion will stimulate blood flow and oxygen to promote healthy growth, keep nails flexible and prevent breakage,” she says. Then give your entire hands some love with a moisturizing hand lotion.



6. Have A Painting Party


First scrub your nails with soap and water to remove oil, lotion, and other contaminants, then start with a base coat, which acts as a double-sided sticky tape to adhere the lacquer to the nail. Nahabedian recommends two coats, making sure to let each layer dry completely before applying the next coat. Next move on to the fun part: the color. Again, you’ll want two coats, making sure each one dries. Be careful not to over brush your polish, “this can disrupt your base coat and cause streaking,” explains Nahabedian. Also “leave a tiny margin between the proximal nail fold and the nail.  If you polish up against proximal nail fold, your mani may prematurely chip. Last, top things off with a topcoat to seal in all the layers. Make sure to tidy things up, wiping away any misplaced polish using acetone and an eye liner brush— and voila, perfect at-home mani! (Pssst, to make thing even easier try the Dazzle Dry® four step nail care system. You’re Welcome!)

Rozalynn S. Frazier is an award-winning, multimedia journalist, and certified personal trainer living in New York City. She has created content for SELF, Health, Essence, Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Money, Reebok, Livestrong, and others.



So many great tips here! My nails have taken such a beating with dry winter weather, hand washing and hand sanitizer. Noticing more pronounced ridges too as I get older. I've been doing the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do - soaking before filing - so definitely going to stop that since peeling a pesky problem. Dazzle Dry is now on the must-try list! Now if I can just paint my right hand with so that it looks anything like the left...

These are great tips. As a professional hand model, I understand the importance of having great nails and beautiful hands. I never go to the nail salon unless my agent wants me to get them professionally done. It's more convenient for me and time saved to just do them myself. Although it does take a lot of practice to paint them to perfection, I find it very therapeutic to be at one with myself and my nails. I do need to learn to "Curb My Cuticles", so I will take this advice. Thank you for the informative write-up!

I definitely need help here. I deal with uneven texture in my nails and supplements have helped a lot.


Anybody else paint the edge of their nails? I like my freshly filed edges coated with some polish as well. I just carefully slide the brush right at the edge of my nail tips. 


LOVE to see articles like this! Incredibly helpful!

I've always done my own nails because my mom always did and through a lot of practice I actually got quite good myself. Even so, I learned a lot from this article like what order to do things in and the focus on and importance of moisturization as well.


DIY tips are definitely needed during this pandemic. Appreciate the tips on the cuticles...very relevant for guys too.

Though I love a good pro mani/pedi, I have been doing it since before Covid because I'm "thrifty" and my nail gal was always booked. I do notice when I don't rush, my nails look near perfect (at least without a microscope). Another tidbit I discovered is nails can be telltale signs of underlying health issues. Demarcations, colored lunula (half-moons on nails), discolored/yellow nails can be symtoms of something else, so be sure to address them with your nail pro, or derm doc.


I've been an aspiring hand model since I was a kid (haha) and have been going to the salon for years because I cannot paint/manicure my nails to save my life. This article was super helpful and it gives me hope!

These are really good tips and tricks. This is a great article! Thank you for the advice.


Enjoyed reading this since I love painting my nails!