How to Get a Salon-Like Manicure at Home

Nothing makes me feel more “put together” than having nice, pretty nails.  There’s just something about looking down at my hands and seeing my nails done that makes me smile.  Do you know what doesn’t make me smile, though? Paying $$$ at the nail salon to get them looking great.  
This was our 1st pic as a family.  I did my own nails, because when you have
a new baby, there’s other things to budget for:)
I used to become frustrated with myself when I would try to paint my nails… I had all of these amazing shades of nail polish, but they just didn’t look as amazing on my cuticles as it did in the bottle (anybody else have this problem???).  And I’m impatient.  I would try so hard to keep my hands still until I thought my nails were dry.  Guess what–they never truly dried!  I would think they were dry and then go to bed, only to wake up with weird marks on my nails in the morning. UGH!  I tried all the tricks in the book– running cold water over my nails, using the hair dryer, using the spray stuff that the salon uses… nothing worked.  
But ladies, after MUCH trial and error, I have found a winning combination for those of you who want salon nails without the salon price.  First things first: shell out the money for a good base coat and top coat!  I cannot stress this enough.  One of the things I love most about salon nails is that they don’t chip the 1st day you have them done.  Or the 2nd.  Having a good base coat and top coat, regardless of what brand of nail polish you use for your actual color, will make all the difference in staying power!  Go cheap on the actual nail color to save money!  I usually get 5+ days out of a mani by sticking to this.  While a good top coat and base coat will cost you more than the discount store brand, you’re saving money and time by not having to repaint your nails every single day!  

Pouch:Mini Zipper Pouch, Thirty-One Gifts, $12 (pattern discontinued)
Nail Polish (L to R): Butter London Nail Foundation Base Coat;
Avon MegaWatt Nail Enamel in Electic (no longer available), similar (can also find at Rite Aid for $1.99);
Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat, Sally Beauty, $5.99.

BRIGHTUTORIAL: At-Home Salon Manicure

1. Prep your nails.  Shape your nails and push back your cuticles.  If you use a cuticle cream/oil, or hand moisturizer, be sure to swipe your nails with nail polish remover so that you have a clean base on which to apply polish.

To give your nails that neat, professionally-done look that you get at the salon,
keep your nails short and rounded.

2. Apply a base coat.  This is an important step that you should not skip!  Applying a base coat not only helps your polish to adhere to your nails better and therefore stay on longer, but it also keeps bright colors from staining your nails.  And remember, don’t go cheap on your base coat!  I really like Butter London Nail Foundation Flawless Base CoatDreams Nail Lacquer 2-in-1 Base and Top Coat (BRIGHT deal) or OPI Nail Envy for soft or thin nails.

3.  Apply your first coat of color.  Always do thin coats of polish, as this helps the nail polish to dry quicker/more thoroughly.  Nobody likes goopy nails!  Here’s the trick for getting that salon mani look: DO NOT apply the color all the way down to the cuticle–you’re just asking for messy nails if you do that.  Stop short of the cuticle when applying the color, as shown below, and you’ll “nail” the salon look!

Start applying the color in the middle of the nail, slightly above the cuticle, as shown here,  

4.  Apply your second coat of color.  Please note that a third coat may be needed if your polish is more sheer, but it’s better to apply 3 thin coats than 2 thick coats.  Once again, make sure to leave space inbetween the polish and the cuticle!

If you mess up and get the nail color down too far on your nail (close to
the cuticle), use your thumbnail to push the color back up.
5. Apply your top coat, making sure to flick it over the tips of your nails to seal the color.  Remember, don’t go cheap on your top coat either!  My favorite top coat for shiny nails is Essie’s 3-Way Glaze, but I like to use a quick-dry top coat because I can’t sit still long enough to let my nails dry.  I’ve found these quick-dry top coats to be really good– Dreams Nail Laquer 2-in-1 Base and Top Coat, Essie’s Good to Go, and Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat (BRIGHdeal) .  

This stuff has a cult following for a reason: it dries SUPER quick and shiny.
No joke- I picked Kane up about 3 minutes after applying and it did NOT smudge!
And you’re done!  You have some fabulous looking nails without sinking $35+ at the nail salon.  Let’s calculate your savings:  If you get your nails done at the salon every 2 weeks for $35, then you’ll save $910/year by doing your own nails!  That’s enough to take a small vacation, pay towards a bill, etc.  Even if you stretch it to 3 weeks inbetween salon visits, you’ll save around $607 per year!
Next week, we’ll discuss how to get nice brands of nail polish for cheap, and if you like my nail color in this tutorial, I’ll be hosting a giveaway from my friend Amy that includes a bottle of it! 

Nice to meet you!

Hi there! I’m Tif Fannin, the blogger behind Bright on a Budget, based in Lexington, Kentucky. Bright on a Budget is a Southern fashion and lifestyle blog where I share everyday looks, beauty, and travel, along with a behind-the-scenes look at my life as a working mom of two. I have a penchant for bright colors + good deals. Follow along for posts that are relatable to the everyday woman.

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