How to Do a Manicure in 5 Easy Steps

A beautifully manicured hand used to be the province of women with enough money to spend on a professional manicure on a weekly basis. Not anymore. With more women working as professionals and executives, a manicure is no longer considered a luxury, but rather an important part of daily grooming.

If you want to keep your nails looking professionally manicured, but don't want the weekly hassle and expense of salon manicures, you need to learn tips and tricks of simple home manicures. You can give and get perfect manicures at home with just a few easy techniques.

Before beginning your manicure, wash your hands thoroughly with a scrub brush, making sure you get under the nails. Clean the tops of the nail as well. Let them dry completely. Use polish remover and a cotton ball to remove all traces of any old polish completely. Once your nails are completely clean and bare, look at them carefully just to make sure there are no signs of injury or damage to the nails or the cuticles. Applying polish to damaged nails could invite infection.

Next, use an emery board to file and shape the nail on each finger. Start with your little finger, and use short strokes to file from the outside edge of the nail toward the center in the same direction. File with two or three short strokes and then one longer smooth stroke. If you file your nail this way, you will avoid any splitting. The single longer stroke blends and smoothes the edge of the nail so it is uniform.

Nails grow in a variety of shapes and sizes, but there are four basic shapes: pointed, oval, round and square. Typically, the squarer the nail is, the stronger it will be. You should consider what you do with your hands when deciding how to shape them with your manicure.

Treating Your Cuticles
Apply cuticle remover, and let it sit for a minute or so. Ideally, you should soak your hand in a solution of antibacterial soap and water for a few minutes. Dry your hand, and then carefully push back the cuticle with an orangewood stick that is wrapped in cotton. Be gentle so you don't tear the cuticle; it hurts and it isn't pretty. Repeat with the other hand. Treat yourself after this part by giving each finger and hand a quick massage.

Polishing Your Nails
Start with a base coat first. It will protect the fingernail, and it will help your color go on smoothly and last longer. Start with the little finger on each hand. Use light strokes, starting at the bottom and gliding upward. You should use three strokes on each finger. Polish the middle of the nail first and then either side. As you stroke on the polish, try to get the same amount of polish on the brush each time so the nail polish goes on smoothly.

Use two coats of polish, but be sure to let it dry completely in between. Wrap an orange stick in cotton that has been dampened with nail polish remover to clean up any stray drips or slips. Finally, apply your top coat. Try not to skip the top coat unless you are in a real hurry, as it will help the rest of your polish last.

Dry Your Nails
If necessary, use a quick-dry product. These little beauties come in a spray, a pump or a polish, so choose your favorite but use one. A quick-dry product will dry your polish in a snap, protecting the surface from bumps or smears. If you have ever worn nail polish, you know the frustration of smeared polish that never even got a chance to dry.

Manicure Maintenance
When you are all done and your nail polish has dried, clean your tools, such as your nail clippers, with a disinfectant. Don't share your manicure tools with anyone else to avoid infection.

To make your manicure last, try to wear gloves when performing any activity that will require wear and tear on your nails, such as washing the dishes. Also make sure to use hand cream and moisturize your cuticles.

Don't worry if your first home manicure doesn't look salon-perfect. This art is easily mastered. Many women perform their own manicures and never tell a soul. If you schedule your home manicure as a relaxing gift to yourself, you will soon find out how soothing a ritual doing your nails can become. If you follow this step-by-step guide and practice just a bit, your nails will never give away your secrets to a perfect home manicure.

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