What’s Your Current Nail Polish Routine?

Published in: Just For Fun, Nails

Time to paint the paws!

I was just sitting down to paint my paws when I got to thinking about lacquer-loving ladies (and gents) and our various nail polish routines.

My friend Jen, for instance. She likes to regularly treat herself to nail salon visits, whereas a college friend of mine used to just plop a huge drop of polish on each nail, spread it around with the brush, and that was that.


I usually do my nails at home because 1) I like to change colors every few days, 2) I find it relaxing, and 3) I’m very particular about my nails, so I don’t visit nail salons too often.

First, I paint my right paw, then my left. Then I like to follow up with an extra coat or two to enhance whichever colors I’m using. If I’m feeling ambitious or have some extra time, I’ll start with a base coat and finish with a top coat, but it depends… I don’t always go that extra mile (again, because I like to change my polish often).

How about you? What’s your current nail polish routine? Do you prefer at-home manis or nail salons? And do you like to go all out with multiple layers, ombre effects, neon nail art or stickers, or do you tend to stick to a single coat?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. Hello and happy Tuesday, friend! πŸ™‚ You know what I realized last night after watching Pretty in Pink for the ga-jillionth time?

That movie has an excellent soundtrack! When I woke up this morning, If You Leave was humming in my head…

In other news, it’s supposed to be another warm one here in the Bay Area today, so if Tabs sees fit to allow me to take a break, I think I’m going to head over to an outdoor mall for some window shopping and vitamin D.

Have a great one today.


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  1. Aida says:

    I’ve actually never had my manicure done professionally, but that’s mainly because I’m too paranoid of catching something… I’m sure they’re very clean, but I’m a bit of a “germaphobe”… The other reason is that I also like to change my polish every other day and I rather enjoy the whole experience. I always use a base coat, start with my left hand then right. I always use two coats (at least) and always follow with top coat. I also use Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream (HG product!!!) several times a day. I love pairing my nails :).

    • Karen says:

      Hi Aida,

      Me too. There’s some very relaxing about the entire experience from start to finish. Do you paint your toenails as often as your fingernails?

  2. I almost never get my nails done. I am a DIY’er! I try to pick the right moment for my DIY manicure (as in: not half an hour before I have to start chopping veggies for dinner) and then try to take my time. Base coat, usually two coats of nail polish, a top coat to seal the deal, et voilà. And if I really have lots of time, I might do some nail art or add a fancy top coat.
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Beauty spotlight | My favorite MAC eyeshadow : part III

  3. Chelsea says:

    My nails are almost always bare! I don’t really like the way they look polished for some reason.

    I love doing my toenails though. I always start with a base coat (I like Orly Bonder, but the cheap Sinful Colors one is good too!) and then I usually do two layers. My favorite color of all time for my toes is a LE Revlon color from 2011 called Watermelon Fizz – it’s a gorgeous, candy apple red with a jelly type finish and really fine glitter. I have two bottles of it because I really love it. And then topcoat (which I try to add a new layer of every couple days).

    I try to take really good care of my fingernails – I use cuticle oil (read: olive oil) at least twice a day, and I try to use hand cream multiple times a day (I love CeraVe’s Therapeutic hand cream). I keep them generally rounded, because my fingertips themselves are rounded, and I like to keep the shape of the nail the same as the shape of the white part – I think it looks best that way if you’re not going to paint nails. Some people have straight white tips, and they can pull of squared nails.

    My nails have been breaking really easily lately though.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Chelsea,

      Watermelon Fizz sounds really pretty, like the ultimate summer color. Are you as good about keeping your toenail cuticles in shape? I totally slack in that department, although I’m trying to get better by applying cuticle oil (right now I’m using CND Solar Oil) on both my fingers and toes.

      • Chelsea says:

        I do cuticle oil on my toes too! I keep cuticle oil, hand cream, foot cream, lip balm, and various ointments on my nightstand and do that every night before bed. My skin is horribly horribly dry, so I have to be religious about moisturizing (face too).

  4. Agata says:

    I am a nail polish addict and I am very particular about my nails too but I enjoy getting manicures too. It’s just usually too expensive though especially when I have such a huge collection of nail polishes at home. I don’t use a base coat, just 2 layers of nail polish of my choice and a coat of Out the Door top coat (it’s the best thing ever). Recently I have enjoyed using my at home gel nail polish kit so the whole nail polish application process is much longer.

  5. Sunny says:

    I go to a nail salon about once a year when I’m back in Taipei, so for the most part I do my own nails! I do base coat, two coats of nail polish, and top coat, and I start with my left hand! It’s just way less frustrating that way πŸ˜‰
    Sunny recently posted … And then the Fairy Godmother Waved Her Wand to Produce Diorshow Iconic Overcurl!

  6. Trude says:

    I’m super picky about my nails too, and change the color about once a week. I do max three coats and then always a quick dry top coat, usually either Orly or Essie. And I’ve been using Lush’s Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter, which has been like a mini miracle for someone who could never quite get her cuticles looking pretty. I love splurging on pedicures though, I hate doing those myself. πŸ™‚ Right now I’m wearing Essie’s Jamaican Me Crazy, obsessed!
    Trude recently posted … Friday With Dante

  7. Stephanie Smith says:

    I’m a nail polish junkie! I always always always use a base coat, Orly Bonder right now, then two coats of polish, then a top coat (I love Seche Vite even if it does shrink the polish). I keep my polish in an old Caboodle, Fall/Winter colors or Spring/Summer colors, the ones I’m not using are in a shelf in my closet. I paint my left hand first, then my right, every single time, and I plop that Caboodle on my lap and use that to steady my hand while painting. I only paint my toenails in the Spring and Summer, the rest of the year I keep them bare. I looooooooove nail polish!

  8. Katherine G says:

    I am trying to let my fingernails grow out and then I will probably paint them. I haven’t painted my fingernails since I was a kid due to biting my nails (super bad habit, I know, my grandfather did it…). My toenails are extremely brittle due to my anemia disorder but because of exercise my blood counts are up a lot more than ever. My toenails are slowly starting to heal and grow like normal toenails, and I don’t have them painted now but I will probably file and paint them today because I am getting tired of wearing socks to martial arts (they’re ok with it, but everyone else is barefoot – I’m the only one in socks).

  9. Laurina says:

    Currently, I will start by removing the old polish and washing my hands. Then I will clip my nails to make them all even and file them. Then I slather on hand and cuticle cream and let it sink in for a bit. After that, I push my cuticles back and clip any extra off. I wash my hands again to get the cream off my hands and I will put on a coat of just clear nail polish (I need to get a base coat). After that I do two coats of the color I am using and one coat of Seche Vite on top and I’m done! Right now I am wearing Revlon Flirt, it is such a fun Spring color!

  10. Trisha says:

    I do my own manicures at home. Mostly because I don’t want to pay for someone else to do it, it’s good practice, I like to try new designs, and I have so many polishes to use.

    My routine is, I paint left hand, then right, both starting at the thumbs and working out. Coat. Coat. Coat. Then, I keep that manicure for a week or two until it has practically all chipped off. Then I start again.

    I know my manicure looks terrible toward the end…I just don’t care enough to fix it any sooner. πŸ˜‰
    Trisha recently posted … Olivita and My Love of Artisan Soaps

  11. Tiffany says:

    I’m so picky about my nails, I feel like I do my own much better than they do at the salon… I just tweaked my routine. First, I remove the old polish. Then, I file/shape/smooth my nails. After that, I apply cuticle remover cream and push my cuticles back. I wash my hands then apply Essie Millionails treatment as a base, polish and finish with Milani Glosse topcoat. I’m currently wearing L’Oreal Crazy for Chic from the new spring collection and I love it!! πŸ™‚

  12. JCz says:

    I do my right hand 1st too! I’m a righty so I figure I might as well get that awkward-to-polish hand out of the way first, before I lose interest and/or patience. I can do my left hand pretty easily.
    I don’t go to the salon because I’m lazy, cheap, and paranoid. I’m not worried about germs per se, but rather about the filing. I figure if I file my nails and they’re just ok, I only have myself to blame (not the nail tech) and at least I didn’t spend any money for it. I use a base coat (usually NailTek II) and a sticky coat (CND Stickey), then 2 coats of polish and a quick dry top coat (I love Butter London’s). I usually do this before bed and don’t touch anything for about a half hour. After that, you should be ready to go as long as you don’t sleep on your hands or anything like that.
    Also, I use the Elmer’s glue trick so I can wear chunky glitters without having to sandblast it off my nails. 1 relatively thin coat of Elmer’s glue first, followed by a sticky coat, then nail polish and top coat. When you’re ready to change polish, it should come off in 2 or 3 sheets without taking a coat of your nail with it and without having to soak in acetone. You have to let the glue dry COMPLETELY though, or else it will start to peel off on its own after a day. Also, try to avoid water for a few hours after doing this to let it all set.

  13. Eesha says:

    Hi… I also do not visit Salon’s too often to get my mani done. I like to change my nail colors frequently. My routine is like as follows:
    I do my left hand first and then the right hand. A couple of coats depending upon the color pay off of the polish. I like my mani to last longer so, I usually do a top coat (Sally Hansen mega shine), but, not always. πŸ™‚
    Eesha recently posted … Review: Nars Blush in Torrid

  14. MonicaP says:

    I’m having a ‘why are my nails splitting’ issue so haven’t bothered to paint my nails for a while. Must wear gloves while washing dishes!

    MonicaP recently posted … H&M dress for $10 dollars

  15. The L.A. Lady says:

    I paint my nails right before bed. I do a base coat, two lacquer coats and a speedy top coat. Then I spray in the quick dry stuff.

    I hardly visit salons these days, too. Just not worth it. They really go to town on your cuticles!

  16. Kate says:

    I find doing my nails very relaxing, it sort of calms and centres me. I used to be useless at it, but I’ve gotten better over the years. I’ve only gone for a manicure a few times, but I tried to pay attention to what they did and learn.

    I always go whole hog and use a base and top coat, because that’s part of the ritual for me. I also use a cuticle softening oil (not every time) and buff my nails about once a week or so. Despite the fact that I change colours fairly often (how else am I going to use up all those little bottles?), I like taking the time to do this, because it’s something that I do just for me. It’s a few minutes respite from whatever else I have on my plate.
    Kate recently posted … ruining your life, one blog post at a time

  17. gio says:

    I do my manicures at home because I like to change colours often. I first paint my left hand, then my right, and then I’d add another coat. I never use more than 2 coats, unless the colour is truly stunning and unique, as I’m kinda lazy lol. I sometimes use a top coat too, but that’s not a must for me as I get tired of my nail colour quickly and change it after a few days anyway.
    gio recently posted … Should I Apply Skincare Products On The Upper Lid?

  18. Eva says:

    Believe it or not, I’ve never gone to have my nails done at a salon. My nails are a really weird shape, and I guess I’m a bit embarrassed about that. OTOH, nail polish helps a bit with the breakage. I always use base coat and top coat, because I get days more wear with them.

    I’m an impatient person, so I always used to try to do stuff before my nail polish was dry, and I ended up with mess on my nails. Nowadays, I read a book on my e-reader between applying the coats: I can turn the pages without smearing the half-dried polish, and I don’t have a problem with waiting anymore.

    I’ve discovered nail polish relatively late in life, but now I’m enjoying changing the colour of my nails. I’m very fond of jewel tones, and a bit of glitter from time to time. I’m enjoying shocking my staid software developer geek colleagues by wearing bright, sparkly polishes in the office.

  19. I’m like you in that I only sometimes use base coat, but I pretty much always use top coat (unless I’m swatching) – I love extra glossy finishes! I do my nails about 4-5 times a week I think. I have so much nail polish & it wants love!
    Emi at Project Swatch recently posted … Revlon Baby Sticks Swatches & Initial Thoughts

  20. C'enna says:

    There was a point in my life where I was at the salon every two weeks religiously filling my acrylics but I stopped because they just were not my style anymore. Now my nails are always bare. Im too busy to paint them but thats probably just an excuse. I always file and shape them at least once a week just to keep them decent. I wish I had the patience like some to do it myself and keep up with it.

  21. Kate & Zena says:

    I do mine at home because I’m A) too cheap and B) the salon just does not carry my kind of crazy anymore (what happened to the bright blues, pastels and what not?) I also tend to chip my polish easily (clumsy) so I just prefer to do them myself! I also tend to get headaches from the acetone polish too.

    Here’s my routine (if I feel like REALLY pampering myself):
    1. Remove old polish.
    2. Push back cuticles. Remove any if necessary.
    3. Remove gunk under my nails. I collect a lot of icky stuff!
    4. Swipe nails cleans with non-acetone polish for a clean slate.
    5. Base coat.
    6. Put on my first coat of nail polish, pinky to thumb on my left hand. Repeat one right.
    7. Wait about one minute (no patience.) Repeat process. If absolutely necessary for a third, I’ll do this again.
    8. If I feel like doing nail art, I do it now. I usually don’t do anything too crazy (the craziest I’ve done is my Hunger Games or my Night Circus nails.)
    9. Top Coat.
    10. Clean up with a brush, non-acetone nail polish remover, and tissue (to clean brush.) I don’t do this until my top coat is dry for a few minutes.
    11. Moisturize with lotion.

    Regularly, I skip 2-4 and 8! I just can’t be bothered.

  22. Liz says:

    I do mine at home every few days. I have sensitive skin, so I stay away from nail salons. Always left first, then right! Starting with the thumbs. I’ve been using butter London’s base coat and seche vite as a top coat since forever, and lately I’m really digging Julep polishes. At first I wasn’t a huge fan of Julep and thought that they basically only did bright cremes right…but I’ve been doing the Maven thing nonstop since last July, and I’ve honestly seen real improvement in their formula. This month they did pastels with opalescent shimmer, and those are just super! Right now I’m wearing Simone, which is like a pale lilac with subtle, subtle blue shimmer. LOVE.

  23. Anitacska says:

    Pretty In Pink Γ’β„’Β₯ James Spader is my favourite actor of all times *drool*
    Anitacska recently posted … NOTD: Mac Immortal Gold and Topshop Black Dynamite Crackle

  24. Wendy M. says:

    I’ve gotten my nails done once or twice professionally but I prefer to do it at home. Not only do I save money but I’ve been told it looks just as good. πŸ˜‰ Not to mention that I also find it very relaxing.
    I like to start with my left pinky and work my way to my right pinky. I very rarely use a base coat so I just start with my nail polish color of choice, do a few coats and then use my top coat. When I’m feeling particularly creative, I do some sort of design on my nails and then follow up with top coat.
    I’m thisclose to becoming a nail polish hoarder, so I like to change my nail color every week (ditto my toes).
    I’m currently wearing a traffic cone orange on my nails and a plummy magenta on my piggies. ^_^

  25. Jen says:

    I’ve gotten my nails done at a salon like once in my life. I prefer to do them at home. I always use a base and top coat, and it seems no matter what I try, I always have tip wear and it chips within a couple days. I work at a bar, so my hands get wet a lot, so that might be why. πŸ™

    I start with my left hand first, then do the right (and the right hand always looks crappier, haha!).
    Jen recently posted … Swatches: Wet n Wild Megalast Lipstick 908C Sugar Plum Fairy

  26. Kalli says:

    I do my nails about once a week, with base & top coat. I use OPI almost exclusively, and I don’t do much nail art although I’m dying for a set of dotting tools! That’s something easy I can handle haha. I do experiment with glitter top coats and accent nails and I love interesting colors! I rarely do something muted. Sometimes I’ll go to the nail salon, but that’s more of a treat for me.
    Kalli recently posted … Prabal Gurung for Target for a NEON Spring!

  27. I do my nails myself! I change them so often – every 2/3/4 days or so (I know some bloggers change them daily!) that I would feel guilty going to a salon and spending $ only to change my polish in a few days πŸ™‚ I love nail time, it forces me to sit down and just chill while I wait for them to dry!
    Gotham Polish recently posted … WIN IT! Cirque and Arms & Armory “Alter Ego” Set

  28. Macy says:

    Our routine is much the same! However, I always start with the left hand! Haha!

    Like you, I love changing my nail polish! I once had acrylics put on just because of the staying power of the nail polish.. DUMB IDEA. Why go through the damage of acrylic nails when I still switched nail colors every other day… goodness..
    Macy recently posted … Maybelline Mega Plush Mascara Review, Swatch, & Photos

  29. Savannah says:

    I can’t do anything fancy for my nails since we’re not allowed fake nails, French manis or any color. So, I cut my nails, file and buff them and put one coat of light clear pink polish. I do this approximately once a week. I wear color on my toes though, my favorite is illamasqua nomad.

  30. Lorraine says:

    Karen, please do more nail posts! I think you can tell from all the comments that a lot of your loyal readers are nail obsessed. And BTW is that Estee Lauder Bittersweet you are rocking? thanks for heeding my plea and showing us the Bittersweet mani- looks fantastic!
    I change my polish often, and use the $$ I save by skipping the salon to add to my polish collection. My faves are same as others mention- Orly Bonder base coat and Out the Door topcoat(life changing! for those late night manis) also love OPI Avoplex cuticle oil and Zoya remover(pricey but moisturizing and a little goes a long way with the stuff, so worth the extra $ IMO).

  31. AmandaM says:

    I love nailpolish!! Painting my nails is my way to relax. I am a DIYer for the same reasons you are. I have had a few manicures, but I have never been totally happy with them. I find I do a better job, and I get compliments all the time on my nails. People are often surprised that I do my own nails-they think I went to a salon and got them done professionally! Also, for the price of a professional manicure, I can buy several bottles of polish.
    I paint my nails about 2 times a week. I usually paint the Left hand first-a habit that I can’t seem to break. I am a habitual 3 coater (3 coats of polish). I always use base and topcoats since polish tends to chip so quickly on me for some reason, and using a base and topcoat seems to prolong polish wear for me. My favorites at the moment are Salon Sciences Instant Artificials as a base coat (available at Sally’s) and Out the Door topcoat (LOVE this-Cheap & Cheerful, not thick and gloppy, and no tip-shrinkage). I also love Zoya Remover-pricey, but worth it. I have to admmit that I am a bit lazy when it comes to cuticle treatments, but I am lucky that my cuticles don’t usually need much attention.

  32. BeckBeck says:

    I paint at home – probably 5 or 6 nights a week. (I am one of those crazy polish people! I have hundreds of colors.) I have no fear when it comes to color or texture, but I don’t do much nail art because I don’t have terribly steady hands (and if it doesn’t turn out perfect, it bothers me).

  33. Felis says:

    I’m a nail nerd. I have about 300 polishes, counting base and top coats. I usually do my own nails – base (ORLY Bonder!), two or three coats of whatever, topcoat (Seche Vite FTMFW, or Out the Door if I’ve had shrinkage in the past).

    I still go to salons, though, for occasional manis and pedis. Mostly because I hate dicking around with my toe cuticles and I’m bad at shaping my own nails. No cuticle cutting, though, that’s hideously bad for you.

    I am currently wearing China Glaze Blue Sparrow, a matte sparkle, on my nails. It’s sort of horrible. My toes are Just Spotted the Lizard, one of the thousands of Chanel Peridot duochrome dupes.

  34. Kim says:

    OMG, yes on OMD and PiP soundtrack. Ah, memories… πŸ™‚

  35. Jennifer says:

    I wish I had nice nails… but I pick at my cuticles and they’re a mess. No routine here.
    Jennifer recently posted … Drugstore Faves from the Prestige Princess

  36. Ru says:

    I used to get mani pedis all the time when I lived in NYC because they were $15!! But now I’ve moved to boujie DC where everything is overpriced. So unless prepped with a Groupon in hand, I usually do it myself at home. I’ve been really good lately about changing colors every week since my collection of nail polishes have grown dramatically and they’re super long right now so if I don’t keep them painted they will break! The pedis I do every few months or until the color starts chipping.

    • Ru says:

      I didn’t answer some questions πŸ™‚

      I have the Konad stamping kit but barely do it anymore. My obsessions vary. Sometimes I do a non-traditional french and sometimes the accent nail (with shatter or glitter).

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