7 Steps to a Perfect DIY Manicure

Published in: Guest Post, Makeup Tips/How To, Nails

SammyAbout the Author
This guest post was written by Sammy of The Naulasaurus. You can also find Sammy on Twitter, Facebook and Etsy.

How to do a salon perfect manicure

I’ve been blogging about all things nail-related for more than two years now, and most of the questions I get from readers go back to basics. How do you get the polish so smooth? How do you get it so neat around your cuticles? What’s the secret?


I must’ve painted my nails more than a thousand times in my life, so I suppose if there is a secret, it’s just practice, practice, practice!

To get you started on the practicing, here are the seven steps I take to get a perfect DIY manicure!

Step 1:

Start by washing your hands and giving your nails a good scrubbing with a nail brush. Make sure you completely remove the remnants of your previous manicure.

One trick I use to remove stubborn old polish stuck around my cuticles is to use an old toothbrush dipped in polish remover to scrub it away.

Pushing back your cuticles with a cuticle pusher makes it easier to smoothly paint on your polish without making a mess, and here’s a good bargain on a set from E.L.F.

Salon perfect manicure: step 1

Step 2:

With a glass nail file, smooth away any snags around your nails, and sculpt them to your favourite shape. Glass nail files are my favourite kind. They work mush faster than other files, and they’re better for your nails.

Salon perfect manicure: step 2

Step 3:

Apply a base coat to protect your nails, keep them strong, and make your mani last longer.

Salon perfect manicure: step 3

My all-time favourite base coat is OPI Nail Envy, and before I discovered it, my nails were weak!

I couldn’t grow them out at all because they’d snap and peel all the time, but I’ve been using Nail Envy under every manicure for years now, and my nails are practically diamond hard! It’s a must for anyone whose nails peel or break easily.

Step 4:

Time for the fun part. I start by painting my chosen shade with one stroke down the center, and then another on either side. Today’s polish is a seductive, deep red from Cult Nails called Quench.

Salon perfect manicure: step 4

This approach may not work for everyone, and it could take a few tries to find a way that works best for you. The key is to take your time for a silky smooth application.

Step 5:

Add a second coat of colour, or as many as you need. Sheerer polishes may need more than two, and with more opaque colours, you might get away with just one.

Salon perfect manicure: step 5

Step 6:

Add a topcoat for a lasting finish. I use NYC’s In A New York Minute in Grand Central Station.

Salon perfect manicure: step 6

It’s an absolute godsend! It’s super shiny, and it really does dry in 1 minute, although I normally wait at least an hour before doing anything too rough with my nails. The best part is that it’s less than £2 ($3) a bottle, and you can find it in most drugstores.


Step 7:

This is the step that most people are curious about: the cleanup. I always have a bit of polish left around my cuticles that I’d rather wasn’t there, but nobody’s perfect, and there’s a very simple solution.

Dip a small paintbrush — the teeniest one you can find — into a bottle of acetone or nail polish remover, and run it around your cuticle to clean up the edges and leave you with a nice crisp line.

Salon perfect manicure: step 7

And those are my seven sacred steps for a perfect DIY manicure! Perfect, that is, if you don’t have the time, or if you’re anything like me, the spare pennies and inclination, to spare a trip to the salon before that big event.

The perfect salon manicure

SammyAbout the Author
This guest post was written by Sammy of The Naulasaurus. You can also find Sammy on Twitter, Facebook and Etsy.


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So far, 51 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Great tutorial! Cleanup is always the hardest step for me, probably because I’m a bit messy when I paint my right hand 🙂
    Emi at Project Swatch recently posted … NOTD: Layla Flash Black Hologram Effect Nail Polish

  2. Jessica says:

    Great tip for getting nailpolish off your cuticles with a toothbrush! I never would’ve thought of that.. =)

  3. Liz G. says:

    I agree, awesome tutorial! I’ve always been a wreck at doing my nails but now I think I have some good tips, especially the cleanup part. Thanks Sammy!

  4. Great tips Sammy! I’m really not the best in doing manicure, and I always make a mess. Looks like I need a small paintbrush and cuticle pusher now!

  5. Naomi says:

    Loved this post! I now need a small brush for my clean up.
    Naomi recently posted … Silver Smoke and White Ashes with Coastal Scents Go Cairo Palette

  6. Rads says:

    Fabulous post and your photos!!

    I am quite clumsy with my nail polish application..but am learning. Recently started doing the brush clean-up and find it so useful 😀
    Rads recently posted … Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush: Candy Coral

  7. Another amazing post, Sammy! Of course you chose a red polish, gah applying red can be terrifying but you make it look so easy 🙂
    Gotham Polish recently posted … Lilacs and Lilacism

  8. Shauna says:

    Great article/tutorial! I completely agree that the glass nail file is the way to go!

    * OPI’s Rapi Dry spray is a-mazing to put onto any quick dry or normal top coat, if you haven’t tried it, I would highly recommend 😀

  9. EmmyJean says:

    Great post! I’ve never been good at painting my nails, will have to try out the seven steps!
    EmmyJean recently posted … How to Cover the Darkest of Dark Circles

  10. Stacie says:


  11. Britany B. says:

    OMG Thank you!! Now I know what to do with this eyeliner brush I never use LOL. Gonna try this RIGHT now.

  12. Michelle says:

    I’ve tried the NYC topcoat and it chips on me within hours! Has anyone else experienced this?

  13. Helz Nguyen says:

    Thank you so much for the tips 🙂 highly appreciated! Im a horrible nail polisher and my nails are not always in the best conditions, so these tips comes in handy for me!

  14. Anitacska says:

    I should try OPI Nail Envy, my nails are in a really bad shape. 🙁 Great tutorial!
    Anitacska recently posted … Barbara Daly Satin Swirl Eyes Eyeshadows Review and Swatches Part 3

  15. Stef Smith says:

    Nail Envy is awesome! I use it as a basecoat and it makes my manicure last longer and strengthens my nails!

  16. LauraA says:

    Thank you for the toothbrush hint–I never thought of a brush as a possibility for the pesky little bits that evade regular removal. Will have to try that tonight. 🙂

    Also, love the Cult shade you selected, Sammy–it’s a beautiful color.

  17. best tutorial ever- i wish i had seen this last night while i was doing my own nails!! i am going to try every step and these products!! going to share this with all my followers!!!

  18. Sarah S. says:

    The cleanup is just so smart. I need to hunt for a tiny brush now!

  19. raina99 says:

    Great advice Sammy. I am so using these steps! 🙂
    raina99 recently posted … Glossybox.ca …Did you know…

  20. Joan says:

    Thank you Sammy! Fantastic manicure tips- and your nails are beautiful. Joan

  21. Liz says:

    Perfect application and great tips 🙂 I am usually too lazy and skip the cleanup step, but my hand has become more steadier so I don’t usually get the polish on my cuticles anymore. 🙂

  22. Bobby Thomas says:

    Hey Sammy

    Great guest post.

    Being honest I have no interest in nail polish etc, but it was so good I read all of it.

    I am from South Wales also 🙂 that’s so cool. What area you from if you don’t mind me asking?

    Bobby Thomas
    Bobby Thomas recently posted … Healthy Habits Challenge 1: Drink 2L Of Water Per Day

  23. Jessica W says:

    Gorgeous colour! I love manicures 🙂 I can paint my left nails perfectly but not my right. Sigh.

  24. ellyp says:

    Can you give a tutorial on how you get such nice cuticles? I would love to know! I am having a hard time knowing what to do and I have been asking around a lot.

  25. Evani says:

    Great tutorial! Seems so simple when you put it that way!


  26. LOVE this post. and that manicure is better than a salon version

  27. Marcela says:

    I´ll sure try it! Thanks for sharing… xoxo

  28. Joanne says:

    Thanks for the great outline–sometimes I even have trouble putting on clear polish, haha. Any suggestions for dry skin all the way up the sides of my nails, particularly right where the nail bed ends and the tips start? Cuticle oil just doesn’t do it for these darned rough spots. Anybody solve a similar problem?

  29. Monica says:

    Hey Sammy! This was great advice- your nails are awesome! What I can never figure out though is drying time in between coats- Should the first coat be totally dry before you apply the second coat? And before the top coat?

  30. Doreen says:

    Do you let each coat dry between applications?

    Chemotherapy ruined what little shape my nails had and I’ve been struggling now for years to regain my pretty & strong nails.

    • Luzette says:


      You might want to try also taking Biotin tablets–can be found with vitamins. My dermatologist recommended it to me when I complained of peeling, week nails. He suggested taking it every day, and after about six months or so, I would see a difference. It didn’t even take that long and I have REALLY seen a difference. My nails don’t peel at all now, and it’s been a few years. I’ve actually even stopped taking the biotin, but the effect has lasted.

      Of course, this is if there is no medical reason you shouldn’t take the mineral. I wish you great luck!


  31. Ginger says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve never done anything more than brush on some clear polish. I think I’ll actually try this!

  32. Lorelei says:

    For the topcoat, I might suggest Seche Vite. It is also pretty important to remove all or most of the pteregium from the surface of the nail (it’s sort of a waxy substance that grows out with your nail) before the undercoat, and…..don’t paint the fashion color all the way up to your cuticles. Those are the professional tips!

  33. Rowena says:

    Sammy, I thank you on behalf of all womankind for the paintbrush tip. No more smudging with a cotton-tipped orange stick!

  34. Shea Mingo says:

    Loves it!! I found this via Pinterest. Thanks so much for the tips. The paintbrush tip is genius!! Of course I have to subscribe to your blog now!


  35. Judy Dunn says:

    Thanks for the great tips Sammy. Will try the OPI base coat and love the small brush tip to remove polish around the nail, common problem.


  36. Sravya says:

    Hi Sammy,
    I really love my nails, but no time to maintain them. sometimes I even forget to color them. Your steps are very good. As it takes less time for this, I will follow them.
    Thank you

  37. Mary says:

    Essie good to go,,,the best top coat ever!

  38. adrienne says:

    You make this look totally doable! Thanks!

  39. Jo says:

    Simply beautiful nails! Very well done!
    I get compliments on my nails because I’ve practiced and practiced and yes, practice does make perfect! Plus, it’s a hobby of mine to pamper my nails 🙂
    For cleanup I’ve been using a Qtip moistened in nail polish remover but now I want to find a paint brush!
    Thank you for the tips and pictures!

  40. Sarah says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful tut. I’ve been a little spoiled (ok a lot) by having weekly manicures until I revampedy budget. I have a terrible time with my cuticles pealing and bleeding. They never did until I stopped having manicures. Your cuticles look so clean. My question for you is, what do you do to keep your cuticles so healthy?

  41. Jennifer says:

    Fabulous tutorial!

  42. Nare says:

    Wow…that is the PERFECT manicure! I never thought about the old toothbrush trick…definitely going to use that for those bits that don’t budge!
    Nare recently posted … All About Lips

  43. Katie Lynn says:

    The one thing that I do that you don’t have listed here is rough the top of my nails with a fine buffer. I use the polar block from Sally’s to do that. It definitely helps my polish last longer without chipping. Usually I will get striations at the stress points but no chips before I switch polishes.

    For base and top coat I use the Rock. Rock Hard for my base (that’s the strengthening one) and the regular Rock as the topcoat. It’s insanely glossy and self-levels. They’re both about $7/bottle at most Sally’s stores.

    I can usually go a good week before noticing wear on my tips (and I am very rough on my hands). I used to use Nail Envy, but the formula I liked best became too difficult to find (and expensive for the amount I would go through!).

  44. Amy says:

    Love this! I do the same and she’s so right practice makes perfect!!! One trick I’ve discovered recently that works magic is after the 7th step, get Pam (yes Pam, non stick cooking spray) and spray it on your nails. Let the top coat dry for 5-10 minutes before you do this. One you’ve sprayed it on your nails, wash them in freezing cold water. It makes your nails soo smooth and helps the polish last. Almost like a wax for a car

  45. Lene says:

    Thanks for the last tip about the cleanup!!! I’ve been wondering how my favorite bloggers have been achieving that crisp, uniform and perfect line!

  46. Prabha says:

    If I do some nail art to my nails and after that if I use nail enamel as top coat the designs gets smudge…tell me the apt solution to prevent it…

  47. Julie says:

    I found your tutorial very useful. I also read that if you apply baby oil around your cuticles it helps from the nail polish stickin to your cuticle ( or skin, in my case).

  48. Miria says:

    Great! Thank you for the tips! 🙂

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