Nailed It: 9 Genius Tips for Doing a Perfect Home Manicure

Warning: TRY this at home! Whether you’re already an at-home manicure maven or the thought of a self-service mani makes you cringe (don’t give up, practice makes perfect!) we’ve rounded up some in-house hacks that will not only save you time and money, but are pretty genius to boot. Imagine the shock, awe, and, dare we say, hint of jealousy on the faces of those who realize that not only do you have some serious creative chops when it comes to your digits, but also that your pro-level polish barely cost you a dime! Here, nine items you probably already own that will help you achieve the perfect manicure. Happy painting!

featured image credit: NailPro

1. Scotch Tape

photo credit: The Beauty Department
photo credit: The Beauty Department (click to enlarge)

This sticky supply staple is a DIY manicure’s best friend, especially when it comes to creating your own nail art. Teamed up with patterned blade craft scissors, you can make your own salon-worthy designs. For a two-toned look, choose two colors and paint half of each nail with the lighter color first and let dry. Then, clip tape into a zigzag (or your choice) edge. Place tape over the painted side of the nail. Be mindful of tape placement to ensure there are no gaps in the polish. Now polish the remaining half of your nail, let it dry a bit before removing the tape, finish with a quick-dry topcoat and voila! Perfect two-toned nails! No craft scissors? Use the straight edge of tape as a guideline for something like the checkerboard or chevron designs pictured above.

You can also create linear designs, like this sweet, summery gingham pattern by painting the tape directly, snipping it into strips, and layering across the nail. The design is your oyster and you can create a coordinating manicure for any look by starting with two coats of white nail polish and choosing a contrasting color for the tape. Trim any excess tape from the nail with a cuticle tool and secure strips with a clear, longwearing topcoat. Use fun summer colors like Essie’s Spring 2014 Mini Cube Collection.

2. Rubber Band

photo credit:
photo credit:

We’ve always left the flawlessly curved edge of the French Manicure to our professional manicurist whose freehand ability leaves us nothing less than speechless…until now. We’ve also never seen much use in the way of office supply rubber bands. You can’t put them in your hair, so what’s the point? Also until now. Turns out, they are the perfect tool for a DIY French Manicure because you can keep them place with one hand, keeping the other free to focus on application. So stretch the rubber band across the nail, leaving your desired space for the colored tip. (This tip works best on natural nails, as the tightly pulled rubber band has been known to smudge fresh polish.) Paint the tip traditional white or a bright, mod hue. Touch up any imperfections with a q-tip dipped in polish remover and finish with a clear topcoat. We’ve also been known to use the curved edge of a Band-Aid or hole reinforcer for this trick!


3. Elmer’s Glue

photo credit: Wacky Laki (click to enlarge)
photo credit: Wacky Laki (click to enlarge)

Around Your Cuticles

Ah, Elmer’s totally takes us back to our crafty formidable years when we came home with as much glue covering our OshKosh B’Gosh overalls as was actually on our art projects. Now the pasty white spread has a whole new meaning when it comes to DIY. Use a small (and cheap at your local craft store) paintbrush to spread Elmer’s around the edges of your nail bed letting it dry most of the way before carefully polishing around it. After you’ve completed your manicure as so and the glue and polish have adequately dried, it won’t matter if you’ve accidentally polished outside lines as you peel away the glue and excess mess with it!

For Glitter Polish Removal

Elmer’s Glue is also a lifesaver when it comes to glitter polish because how hard is it to remove glitter polish?! Practically impossible! Ten minutes late and all your tissues are shredded, there’s cotton ball suck to your nails, and that glitter has barely budged. Brush on a coat of glue in lieu of a base coat, apply glitter polish (which lasts at least twice as long as a plain hue) and when you’re ready to remove it, simply peel off the glue base with the help of a cuticle pusher. Glitter be gone!

P.S. If you’re simply “glued” to your tried and true nail habits, another great hack for removing glitter polish is to soak cotton balls in remover, press on each nail, and wrap tin foil around the nail and cotton ball cocoon style. Let them soak for about five minutes and glitter should come off easy breezy.


4. Loofah

photo credit: (click to enlarge)
photo credit: (click to enlarge)

Bet you never you thought your trusty skin-sloughing shower tool could be used for nail art! (We’re talking about the netted mesh variety rather than the dried plant sponge.) For a sultry, seductive look use a base coat to prime, then paint each nail with two thin coats of a deep, opaque hue like black, navy, or maroon. Make sure you use a base coat to protect nails from staining. Cut a swatch of netting from the loofah and lay it gently over the nail polish once it’s tacky, but not completely dry. Use a makeup sponge or cotton ball to dust glitter over the mesh until you have a full, even coat across the nail. Remove the netting and seal your sparkly design with topcoat.

Photo courtesy of


5. Cornstarch

photo credit:
photo credit:

Make a DIY matte nail polish at home with this genius trick—and no, you don’t have to ruin any of your beloved colors! All you need a bit of leftover clear polish. (You know, that one that isn’t a fast dry but you haven’t gotten rid of it because you might need it someday. Today is that day!) Start adding it a bit of cornstarch until the clear polish has turned a milky white color. If you started with about half a bottle, it will be almost full by now. Paint your nails as normal with any opaque hue and let dry before adding topcoat. Apply your new concoction over the color and tada your own customized matte mani!

6. Pencil / Straight Pin / Toothpick

Endless fancy nail designs like flowers and polka dots are made simple with a nail art dotting tool. It’s basically a stick with a tiny round ball at the end that when dipped in polish and pressed on the nail makes the perfect circular designs. While a professional tool isn’t that pricey, (at the max they can cost about $10) say you’re ready to get crafty on whim and don’t already have one in your kit. You can create your own quick fix with a straight pin and a pencil by poking the sharp end of the pin into the eraser until secure. Combine your new tool with the addition of a toothpick to create different sized dots with contrasting colors and even tiny hearts as seen above or lines. Just make sure to put a dot of color from the brush onto wax paper to work from—never dip your tool in the bottle! Now, will you seeing spots or picking daisies?

photo credit:
photo credit:
photo credit: the Beauty Department
photo credit: the Beauty Department

7. Baking Soda / Hydrogen Peroxide / Lemon

photo credit:
photo credit:

 After all that primping, priming, and painting remember to give your nails a break once in a while. There’s only one way to go bare while retaining your digit dignity and that’s with bright, healthy-looking natural nails. For a convenient at-home whitening remedy, look to nature’s own whiting, stain-fighting ingredients. To prep, use a buffer to smooth nails and buff away surface grime. Use a shallow bowl to mix ½ cup water, 4 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, and the juice from ½ a lemon. Spread on nails with an old toothbrush and rest them in the bowl to soak for about three minutes before rinsing with warm water. You’ll see instant results!


8. Tea Bag

photo credit:
photo credit:

If you’ve ever broken one nail out of a perfect ten manicure, you know how heartbreaking/frustrating it can be to trim them all down and start over. But if you find yourself with a tear (like on the side, close to the nail bed) and you don’t want to scrap your mani or it’s too painful to cut—this is the perfect fingernail first aid. Open and unused tea bag and empty out the tea. Cut a small square that’s just enough to cover the tear but not your entire nail. As you can see above, the employment of tweezers to handle this tiny patch is extremely helpful. This small piece of delicate paper will act as a bond to keep your nail intact and will be virtually invisible under polish! Apply base coat first and while it’s still wet place the piece over the tear and part of the nail. Polish as usual, finish with a hardening top coat, and you’ve saved your nail for another week at least!


9. Sponge

photo credit:

 Creating an ombre nail art design may look like feat, but really all you need is the right tools and it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3—no professional painter required! Simply gather a sponge (any sponge will work!), some wax paper or tin foil, a few toothpicks and your ombre color choices. Two polishes of the same hue in different shades are always fun to create a light to dark look, or you can choose two completely different colors. Create endless combinations with a color coordinating set like this one from China Glaze. With this technique it’s super easy to blend to get the gradient effect. Polish your nails with the lightest color first. Next, drop each of your colors side by side on your mixing sheet (wax or foil). Blend them in the middle only with a toothpick as shown. This allows you gradually incorporate your second shade for a real ombre look. Dip the sponge in the mixture and gently apply to your nail. Make sure you match the right color with the right end of the nail! Clean up any excess polish with a brush or q-tip dipped in polish remover and you’ve achieved oh-la-la-ombre right at home.


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Julianne Zigos

Julianne Zigos is a freelance fashion and lifestyle editor, writer and reporter based in New York City. Former projects include editor for Glam Damn It and The Upswing. Her work has been published via various online editorials from Daily Front Row to Business Insider. She’s most likely found on the red carpet covering film premieres and events, backstage interviewing designers at NYFW, or on the couch killing zombies as a recently converted gamer. Her favorite things to do are run, ride motorcycles, and travel, scouring the world for up-worthy trends and the best places to take selfies.

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