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5 Easy Ways to Get the Best At-Home Manicure of Your Life

Elevate your nail game.
dark nails fall 2015
dark nails fall
Photo: ImaxTree

When it comes to an elevated beauty look, a perfect manicure is that finishing touch every woman needs. But you don’t have to spend a ton of time (and money) at the salon every week getting your nails done—and we speak from experience.

Given that we’re somewhat polish obsessed, we’ve picked up some amazing tricks when it comes to doing our own nails—and we’re sharing them with you. Take your nails to the next level with these awesome at-home manicure tips.

File your nails first.
Before you remove last week’s polish, file and shape your nails. Yep, we’re serious. Not only does the lacquer provide extra strength to nails that tend to split and break, but because differences are more obvious on painted nails, it also helps ensure that you get each one a uniform length and shape.

Bonus tip: If you have delicate nails, rounded or oval nails are a better shape for you than anything square. Not only are they structurally stronger, but they have fewer edges and corners to catch on things and encourage breaks.

Use your thumbs.
One of the sure signs of a rushed at-home manicure is polish that’s “flooded” around the cuticle. Not a good look. Most people use an orange stick to gently scrape the excess lacquer away—but one wrong move and you can damage the surface of your nail, nick your drying manicure, or (horror of horrors!) remove too much polish and leave behind a visible nail line.

To avoid these terrifying scenarios, use your thumb nail to clean around your cuticle instead. Not only does it give you more control than a wooden stick ever could, your nail has a very thin edge that’s perfect for delicate detail work.

Bonus tip: This probably goes without saying, but paint your thumbnail last so that you don’t mess it up while trying to clean your other nails.

Pucker up.
Everyone knows that you need to wait until each coat of lacquer is completely dry before you apply the next—but since formulas (and therefore dry-times) vary wildly, it’s not as simple as just setting your phone’s timer for four minutes.

Instead, check your polish’s progress by gently touching it to your lower lip. The skin on your lips is both thin and incredibly sensitive; you’ll know your polish is dry when it no longer feels really cold, sticky, or tacky against your kisser.

Fix a smudge.
It’s happened to all of us—you go to pick something up before your nails are completely dry, and bam: You smudge your hard work. Don’t worry, you don’t have to start over. If it’s a minor smudge (like a fingerprint), brush a small amount of topcoat over the imperfection. The bristles and the thickness of the polish will smooth out the flaw perfectly. If it’s a scratch (the polish has been fully removed and you can see the naked nail underneath), let the polish dry completely, then dip a cotton swab in nail polish remover and smooth any raised or uneven surfaces. Paint a small patch of color over the exposed nail and allow it to dry, then repaint the entire nail. Total perfection guaranteed!

Bonus tip: If you aren’t feeling these repair tricks, you can always hide manicure mistakes underneath a coat of glitter nail polish. Because, seriously, there’s never been a beauty problem that sparkle couldn’t fix.

Bonus tip #2: Don’t waste your money on special “smudge repairing” treatments. They’re just thin topcoats that cost twice as much.

Remove stains.
Because it’s the official season of dark manicures, stained nails are often the unfortunate result. Instead of sanding discoloration away with a file—which you should never do, by the way—dissolve a denture tablet in a glass of room-temperature water and soak your nails for two minutes. You’ll be amazed at how clean and healthy your nails will look.

MORE: The Best Nude Nail Polishes for Every Skin Tone

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