Closeup of Woman applying nail varnish to finger nails
Image: Shutterstock/Elena Vasilchenko

There’s nothing quite as luxurious as going to a nail salon and sitting back while your nails become someone else’s problem. But sometimes you might want to save time and money, or maybe you realized your nails look like absolute crap and they need some TLC NOW. Fear not, a home manicure is a lot easier than you think. Read on to learn how to do a basic home manicure that will feel just as rewarding as going to the salon.


If you have any nail polish on your nails, you’ll want to remove it now with a basic nail polish remover. Apply the remover to a cotton ball, and gently wipe your nails. You may have been told to soak your nails in remover, but this can be quite drying for a treatment that’s supposed to leave your nails in pristine shape, so forgo that advice for right now.


You may be used to clipping whenever your nails look long or when you realize you have a rough edge. Take time to uniformly cut your nails to one length, giving them a rounded shape or rounded edges as you go. Smooth out rough edges with an emery board. Part of the luxury of a home manicure is the fun of getting your nails just how you like them for length and uniformity.

Cuticle care

Now the best part of the manicure: taking care of cuticle problems before they start. This will increase the look and texture of nails, while preventing hangnails. Here’s the part where you get to soak your fingers in a relaxing bowl of warm water with face cleanser added. Leave your fingers soaking for no more than a couple minutes, though. The goal isn’t for everything to be too waterlogged and wrinkly.

Now apply a cuticle remover gel to your nail beds. This will make it easy to trim away the excess cuticle. Using a cuticle pusher, gently push back the cuticle. Anything that ends up sticking out you can get with a cuticle nipper.

Never force this step. This isn’t a slash-and-burn method for your cuticles, which can protect the nail bed. It’s just a way to get rid of any cuticles that have overgrown. If you have minimal cuticles, you may want to skip this step altogether.

Exfoliate and moisturize

An optional step is to gently exfoliate with your favorite gentle scrub if you have rough, calloused skin around your nails.

Otherwise, apply a cuticle and nail moisturizing treatment. You can also try a natural oil, like olive oil or argan oil, if you want to keep it simple. An option is also to soak your nails in the oil for a couple minutes as an extra moisture boost.

Once done, clean well with a moisturizing cleanser to make sure the nail itself isn’t covered in slick oil or moisturizer. That will prep you for the next step.


If you’re looking for a design, now is your time to repaint or apply nail wraps. A clear gel basecoat helps prevent staining the nail, keeps the paint on longer and can fill out uneven spots on the nail. Let that dry, and then apply the color like normal. If you don’t want color, you can also keep the gel coat uncovered for shinny and smooth nails.

Bonus: check out these nail drying hacks to lock in your polish for days.