Tips & Techniques, Wellness / Self-Care

How to prep your Nails for color, at home

Because color is never a bad thing.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Jul 18, 2022

How many of us frequented the nail salon every 2 weeks for an appointment or full blown design pre-pandemic, then felt completely lost when nail salons were forced to go AWOL during the height of the pandemic? And yes, most salons are back and open due to the decreasing mask mandates, but for many of us, that time spent at home doing our nails has become sacred.


We might have invested in not only nail polish (regular, gel, or dip), but nail tools (files, clippers, buffers) and gel machines. Or maybe you are looking to save your coin and get away from salon manicures, but don’t know the first step in doing your own nails. Regardless of where you stand, a veteran at nails or a noob at home design, below is a guide for how to properly do your nails at home for a fresh manicure every single time.


Step 1: Clean the nail

A great manicure always starts with a clean canvas. Make sure you are cleaning the nail of all color that could potentially be on it or any remaining residue with a non-acetate nail remover.




Step 2: Shape the nail

Once the nail is all cleaned from any color or dirt, it’s time to shape the nail. There are many shapes to choose from: Natural, square, almond, stiletto, duck, coffin, and more. Decide if you want you edges to be straight, curled, or rounded and you will be able to narrow down the shape. The most popular are round and square.


You will then shape the nail with an emery or glass file, then buff nail for enhanced shine.


shaping nail copy


Step 3: Focus on cuticles

Here is where you will define the nail bed so the polish can apply smoothly. Take a small wooden cuticle stick and gently push pack your cuticles. You can also apply a cuticle oil here to soften the skin if you plan to remove some. If you notice excess cuticle skin, feel free to trim some off with a very fine cuticle scissor or nail clipper, but be cautious of taking off too much, as this skin acts as an armor for the nail plate to protect it from any infections.




Step 4: Polish the nail

Now that the nail has been fully prepped. It is ready to be polished. Start by applying a base coat so the nail has something to hold onto, and for a longer-lasting polish. Next, choose your polish and apply from cuticle to top, putting on as many coats as you like. Keep in mind the more coats, the stronger the color.


Lastly, fix the nail with a good quick-drying top coat to keep it from chipping. If you would like to apply designs to your nail, invest in a good dotting brush, thin nail brush, or makeup wedge to dot on or tap on designs. Do this after the first coat of polish and then use a top coat over. Allow nails to fully dry before touching — should be about 15 minutes.




Need help with choosing the best nail polish? Start with these 4 brands for men.


Photo via The Washington Post, Getty