How I Do My Manicures

I realized recently that I’ve never discussed how I do my manicures so it’s time to remedy that.

I’ll talk about the steps I take to prep my nails and show the tools that I use.

Removal of existing polish

I’m rarely without nail polish so the first step I take is to make sure my nail polish is removed thoroughly.  Currently I’m using Onyx professional Moisturizing formula nail polish remover (shown on right, in the lavender scent), which is one of my favourites.  Also shown is my staple from Sally charm supply (I get a lot of my nail supplies from there as you will see in this post), the charm secrets Acetone Nourishing nail polish Remover, which I purchase in the large bottle ($7 for $946ml) and decant into an old Zoya Remove+ bottle. I did love the Zoya Remove+ but it is pricey at $13 for 237ml, so I learned that you can add some glycerin into acetone to create your own version (see recipe here).

I’m currently using the crappy fake Shiseido facial cotton from Rexall just to use them up – they’re not great because they are a little linty. The DuSoft non-woven cotton is what I use to wipe my nails clean just before I apply polish, which I’ll talk about much more below.

Nail Shaping

I shape my nails before I’ve washed or wet them because it’s best to do this on dry nails. I mainly shape them with glass nail files and then do minor adjustments using a regular nail file.

This case has seen better days!  I got it at the dollar store years ago and haven’t been able to find a replacement.  I have spilled nail polish on it and attempted to clean it.

It is where I keep the majority of my nail implements.

Glass nail files – I have this unbranded one that came in a navy velvet pouch (from charm supply Outlet, I recall) that I’ve probably owned for 10 years. I live in worry that it will break one of these days so a few years ago I went in search of a back-up. After testing a bunch, I arrived at the OPI Crystal file as being the most similar. The OPI is slightly courser so I only use it when I have to file down much more length.

Cushion nail file – I really like this one from Sally Hansen which I’ve now learned are discontinued (of course!) I like the cushion ones as they hug the nails better to get rid of any stray bits (sorry, not a technical term but you know when after you file, some bits hang on underneath?) and for fine tuning my nail shape.

Cuticle Care

I think my cuticles grow like weeds! I’m continuously battling them. I know there’s guidance out there saying to never cut cuticles, just push them back. not for me, I have to trim my cuticles or else they look ragged. Esete:

These are my very dry, very ragged cuticles after 9 full days because my last manicure.  (the polish I have on is by Jessica in the shade Tres Chic). I was taught by my esthetician friend how to trim my cuticles so as to not overdo it.

Cuticle remover – I’ve been a devoted user of the blue cross Cuticle remover for probably the past 6 years. It’s a milky watery liquid that is hands down the most effective and inexpensive cuticle remover on the market. I get mine from Sally charm supply and I decant from the big bottle into the small squeeze bottle (I’m reusing a bottle of some other brand of crappy cuticle remover) which makes it simpler to apply to the nails.

Cuticle pusher – I leave the blue cross Cuticle remover on for about 60 seconds and then use my cuticle pusher to push back the cuticles on each finger. this one I have is the Quo brand which gets the job done.

Metal nail file – I don’t use this to file my nails at all, I just like the suggestion which I use to clean under the nails and to loosen the nail matrix skin (I just discovered that this is made in Korea – interesting)

Cuticle nippers – I used to mostly use the conventional type with the spring loaded action (shown on top). then I chose to try out the nipper / scissor hybrid which is what I mainly use now – I find that I can get much more precision with these. However, I still find the spring-loaded nippers to be sharper.

And voila, my nails are nearly ready:

My naked nails… I don’t think I’ve ever shown my bare nails here before. This is such an unflattering hand pose. I need to up my hand posing game.

Mint ez?

I was seriously testing and practising different hand poses. What has my life become?


A few other pre-polish steps:

Buffer – I like lightly buffing the surface of my nails to smooth them of any ridges and I do think this helps the polish to adhere better. These buffing blocks are nicely cushioned – I get mine from Sally charm supply and the yellow ones (fine grit) are my favourite.

Hand scrub – I use the Mary Kay Satin Hands scrub on and off and it does feel really amazing, like a mini-spa for my hands – but I don’t think this is a required step, just a good treat!

Nail brush – I’m not sure if this does too much and it could be a force of practice but I do scrub my nails with a nail brush when I’m washing the blue cross cuticle remover off my nails and after I’ve trimmed my cuticles. It gets rid of any remaining debris I might have.

Non-woven cotton – I like to do one last wipe of my nails with nail polish remover to guarantee any lingering polish is gone. I’m always amazed to find a stray bit typically when I’m wearing deeper shades. I scored a bunch of these cottons from a beauty salon that was closing down for $2 and now I’m searching for a replacement – any recommendations? They are like texture mesh gauze that are lint-free.

Rubbing alcohol – I used to use the Deborah Lippmann 2 second primer which is just fancy rubbing alcohol that costs $19. When I finished it, I refilled the empty bottle with plain rubbing alcohol from the pharmacy and this works just as well to remove any trace of oil from my nails.

Trind nail Balsam – this isn’t essential but it’s great for restoring moisture back to my cuticles and nails after all that washing, buffing and alcohol. This doesn’t interfere with nail polish application because it’s glycerin based.

Nail polish Thinner – this isn’t a prep step but I wanted to include it because this is an essential arsenal in my nail kit. I’ve had this little bottle probably for 5 years now and it’s only half way done. Do not thin your top coats / polishes with nail polish remover – it will destroy them! This bottle cost me less than $5 from Sally charm supply – you only need a few drops to thin polish.

Polish Application

This is the most straight-forward part!

Base coats – before I apply my actual base coat, I often use a nail treatment like Witchcraft rock Solid or Orly Nailtrition (review here) – these help to avoid my nails from peeling and splitting. My base coat of choice is Orly Bonder base coat – I have a 120ml refill bottle just because I love it so much.

This is with 1 coat each of Orly Nailtrition and Orly Bonder base coat. The suggestions of my nails are slightly stained from whatever polish I wore probably about 3 months ago. I’m not bothered by it because my nails are always polished. Hey, I discovered that if I flip the image upside down, this pose looks better. Hrmm.

Then I apply whatever polish I’m wearing – I typically do 2 coats.  I don’t have any special method or suggestions to share – I do 3 strokes: middle, side and side. I make sure to run the brush along the suggestions to wrap the nails.

Cuticle stick – I use this to clean polish from around my cuticles as I’m applying my polish layers while they’re wet. I try my best to keep the polish out of the nail grooves but some polishes are so runny they tend to pool in there.

Pointed cotton buds – I use these dipped in polish remover to clean around my fingers once the polish has dried.  I get these nail Tees from Sally charm Supply.  The rare time I will use a brush dipped in polish remover to clean around the nail bed but I find it’s not as effective as the cotton buds.

Top coats – Poshé fast drying nail top coat is my jam! (review here) I know Seche Vite is the popular choice for fast dry top coat but I find it shrinks polishes from the suggestion as it dries. Poshé doesn’t do that and it dries my nails in 10 minutes, plus it keeps my manicures from chipping for a week! and I own a huge salon-sized refill bottle that will likely last me another 10 years. A couple of other top coats I like are the Essie Gel Couture one (review here) and Pro-FX which I found at Walmart – I use this primarily for my pedicures.


Hand cream – I’m not that faithful to any particular hand cream – I’m currently using the Herbacin at home, and I keep the Consonant in my purse.

Cuticle oil – I’m using this one from Anna Sui in the cute bottle but I really have no preference for cuticle oils, they all pretty much work the same. I keep the Nicole By OPI Oil to Go pen at my desk.

És ez az. From beginning to end, it takes me about an hour to do my nails. My routine is every Sunday night and I typically view the show 60 minutes while doing my manicure.

Here’s an example of a finished mani:

This photo is from my OPI dim Sum Plum post.

PS. Pedicure is pretty much the same but I use a nail clipper rather than file my nails, plus, I use a foot file for my soles.

I found this foot file from Winners (the brand is Titania from Germany) and loved it so much that I’ve purchased multiple back-ups.  I soak my feet for about 15 minutes in soapy water and then go to town with the foot file.  The nail clipper is from Revlon which I’ve owned for ages – I purchased it from the CNE at one of those discount charm booths.

While polishing, I also use these La Cross gel toe separators that I found at a dollar store.

So that’s how I do my nails! how do you do yours?

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