A step-by-step guide to a do-it-yourself manicure that will give you salon-style results
Credit: Hornick/Rivlin

Tools you'll need:

A small bowl for soaking, polish remover, cotton balls (orpads), and manicure tools (a cuticle pusher and a flexible nailfile).

How to do it:

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

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

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

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

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

Step 6. Apply polish. Start with a layer of base coat, thenfollow with two coats of color and a final dose of top coat. (Ifyou'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 infront of you. Practice so that you get just enough polish on thebrush to make one complete swipe of your nail per dip-withoutpuddles of extra polish forming on either side of the brush as youapply it. On each swipe, plant the edge of the brush on the centerof the nail, just in front of the cuticle; slide it back so that itbarely touches the skin, then pull it forward toward the tip of thenail to make a single stripe of polish. Repeat with another stripeon either side of the center stripe, keeping the brush just insidethe cuticle on each side of the nail. Try to cover the entire nailwith only three strokes of polish; the more swipes you take, themore likely you are to get streaks.

Step 7. Clean off any polish that might have dripped ontoyour skin with a cotton swab dipped in polish remover. Be sure tolet nails dry for at least 15 minutes before handling anything, andbe extra careful for a complete half-hour to prevent smudges ordents.