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Manicure 101

Hornick/Rivlin <br /> <br />
A step-by-step guide to a do-it-yourself manicure that will give you salon-style results
Tools you'll need:

A small bowl for soaking, polish remover, cotton balls (or pads), and manicure tools (a cuticle pusher and a flexible nail file).

How to do it:

Step 1. Remove your old polish with a few fresh cotton balls or pads and an acetone polish remover.

Step 2. File and shape your nails. Nails that are filed into a square shape, with the edges only slightly tapered, look more sophisticated―and practical―than long, pointed talons. Most women look best when their nails extend only a sixteenth to an eighth of an inch past their fingertips. To get the right shape, use an emery board or flexible nail file, not a metal file (it may may damage nails). File each nail, working toward the center of the nail with each swipe; sawing back and forth will tear the nail. Filing in one direction also lets you proceed slowly, so you're more likely to achieve the shape you want. Start with a coarse file, then finish with a finer texture.

Step 3. Soak your fingertips. Fill a bowl with warm, soapy water, and submerge nails and cuticles for a few minutes. If you have time, give yourself a post-soak hand massage. Make a fist and push the knuckles of that hand gently into the palm of the other hand; then switch hands. Rub your fingers along the bones in the back of each hand, then pull gently on each finger.

Step 4. Groom your cuticles. Apply a dab of cuticle cream to each nail, massage it into the nail bed, then let it do its thing for a minute or two. Gently push cuticles back with a cuticle pusher or orangewood stick.

Step 5. Clean up. Wash your hands, using a small nail brush or towel to get the cream off your fingers; then swipe nails with polish remover to clear them of excess cream.

Step 6. Apply polish. Start with a layer of base coat, then follow with two coats of color and a final dose of top coat. (If you're pressed for time, try a one-coat polish.) For best results, work slowly and hold the hand you?re polishing flat on the table in front of you. Practice so that you get just enough polish on the brush to make one complete swipe of your nail per dip-without puddles of extra polish forming on either side of the brush as you apply it. On each swipe, plant the edge of the brush on the center of the nail, just in front of the cuticle; slide it back so that it barely touches the skin, then pull it forward toward the tip of the nail to make a single stripe of polish. Repeat with another stripe on either side of the center stripe, keeping the brush just inside the cuticle on each side of the nail. Try to cover the entire nail with only three strokes of polish; the more swipes you take, the more likely you are to get streaks.

Step 7. Clean off any polish that might have dripped onto your skin with a cotton swab dipped in polish remover. Be sure to let nails dry for at least 15 minutes before handling anything, and be extra careful for a complete half-hour to prevent smudges or dents.