Life is plenty busy as it is, which means that we don’t always have ample time to make it to the nail salon each week. We’ve found ourselves executing at-home manicures more than ever, but for those of us who aren’t especially deft with a polish brush, a clean, natural look is still key. You don’t need to use color to give yourself a gorgeous DIY manicure—just keep ’em looking clean and sharp by following these easy rules.
Soak and exfoliate first.
Fill a small bowl with warm water and soak each hand for a few minutes before moving on to the grooming process. It helps to soften the nail beds and make clipping and filing easier, as well as making it easier to push back the cuticle. Exfoliating with a hand scrub also helps to smooth the skin and the cuticle for easier grooming.
Use an orange stick to clean beneath the nails.
Because nobody wants dirt underneath their nails—no matter how short your nails are, debris can still gather beneath them, so you should always use an orange stick to rid the nails from dirt. If you have old polish beneath your fingertips or stubborn dirt, you can use a bit of a cotton ball or pad wrapped around the orange stick and soak it in nail polish remover before digging around.
File your nails in one direction, not back and forth.
Sawing the nails back and forth with a file is a recipe for disaster, namely jagged tips that are more susceptible to peeling and breaking. Instead, drag the file smoothly in one direction at a time rather than with a back and forth motion. File from one side, then the other, until the nails are smooth.
Use a nail buffer.
Not only does a good nail buffing help to polish the surface of the nail for a better look, but it’ll also help to flatten out and smooth over any dents or divots in the nail, as well as clean off any remainder of polish residue or texture. Use it on the tips of the nails, too, to finish off your filing job.
Push your cuticles back instead of cutting them.
Word to the wise: don’t ever attempt to cut your cuticles at home. Make cuticle-removing products your best friend instead, as they loosen and remove dead skin so you can basically wipe away the remnants before pushing the cuticles back. Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover is the perfect affordable pick that really gets the job done.
Read more from Daily Makeover: How to Remove a Gel Manicure at Home in 5 Easy Steps