Here's Why You Have To Put Extra Nail Polish On The Tips Of Your Nails

Certain things in life are better when handled by professionals: plumbing, tattoos, and—until recently—your nails.

Yes, those massage chairs at the salon do feel really. Freaking. Good. But when money is tight, you have to admit a pedicure at home feels better. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to master an amazing at-home pedicure. Well, not if you have three nail experts who’ve founded luxury nail brands and opened spas walking you through the tricks of the trade step-by-step:

1. Gather your gear.

You’re going to need a solid arsenal for your pedi, says Jin Soon Choi, New York-based nail artist and spa owner. It might look like a lot, but you can find most of these at your local drugstore and they’ll last you for years.

Here’s what you’ll need for your home pedicure kit:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Nail clipper
  • Nail file
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Nail nipper
  • Q-tips and cotton balls
  • Orangewood stick
  • Cuticle oil
  • Cuticle eraser or cuticle remover
  • Exfoliation scrub
  • Foot file or pumice stone
  • Foot lotion or foot mask
  • Toe separator
  • Base coat
  • Top coat
  • Nail polish
  • Quick-dry drops

While these aren’t all essential, if you’re really aiming for that professional level spa-like me-time, Choi wants you to be prepared.

2. Get rid of the old gunk.

Grab a gentle nail polish remover from your local drug store or beauty supply store—Choi recommends a non-acetone polish remover since acetone weakens and dries out nail beds. Then, soak some into a cotton ball before running it over your toenails to remove old polish, debris, buildup, and natural oils from your nails, says nail care expert Lauren Berkovitz, the founder of Lauren B. Beauty.

3. Soak your feet.

Fill your tub with warm water and soak your feet in there for about 15 minutes, Choi advises. This is prime time to catch up on your Insta feed!

To make the experience more spa-like, add a capful of distilled white vinegar (to cleanse and tone), a few drops of tea tree oil (to banish stinky bacteria), or a few tablespoons of Epsom salts (to help with achy feet). You can even throw in a few slices of lemon, which can help soften your cuticles and calluses, and sanitize even your feet, says Amy Ling Lin, owner of Sundays nail studio in New York City (here are 10 more beauty uses for lemons).

4. Shape your nails.

After a nice soak, gently pat your feet dry with a towel. Wait about five minutes to allow your nails, softened by the water, to totally dry and harden before grabbing your toenail clippers, nail file, nail nipper, and buffer.

Once you’ve cut your nails down to your desired length with the clipper, shape the corners and edges with the file before clipping off any hangnails using the nipper. When you’re done, gently buff your nail beds to smooth out any ridges that would make your nail polish application look uneven.

5. Oil up.

Apply a cuticle eraser or remover to the skin around your nails, and with a metal cuticle pusher, gently push your cuticles back. If you’re confident, go head and cut the loosened skin around your cuticles off with the nipper, if you’re not, Choi says not to worry about it.

Then, regardless of whether you cut or don’t, apply cuticle oil to the skin around your nails. It will help prevent damage to the cuticle and nail, plus, it will help your pedicure last longer.

6. Slough off dead skin.

Now that your nails are pretty much ready for some color, dedicate a few moments to getting your feet in shape, too. After dipping your feet into the water once more, run a foot file or a pumice stone back and forth across your heels, soles, and sides of your feet to get rid of all the dead skin and callouses.

Then, with a scrub (Choi loves sugar-based versions) massage your feet, ankles, and calves. When you’re done, rinse off with warm water, making sure there’s no residue in your cuticles or between your toes, and pat dry with your towel.

7. Moisturize.

You’ll want to hydrate your feet and calves with lotion (or a foot mask if you’re feeling extra!) to replenish moisture. But make sure it’s not too greasy, Choi says. A greasy lotion will leave oil on your toenails making it harder for the nail polish to latch on.

8. Paint your nails.

Clean your nails and cuticles with a Q-tip or cotton ball soaked in polish remover to nix any remaining oils which can mess with the polish. And before you start swiping, Choi recommends using a toe separator, or a twisted paper towel in between your toes, to prevent smudging.

Prop your foot onto a chair or even the toilet and, with smooth strokes, use base coat to create a bottom layer which will help the polish stick better to your nails. “Take care to cover the entire nail,” Lin says. “This is the foundation you’re building off of, so take your time to make a smooth surface for the color coat.”

Then, apply your favorite nail polish color. “Apply thin, even layers,” Berkovitz says. More thin layers will last longer than fewer thick ones. To reduce the chance of nail polish getting on your skin, Choi recommends painting the middle of your nail first. “It will create guidelines for the rest of the nail,” she says, which will allow you to easily connect the painted sides of the nail to the middle strip.

Once you’re satisfied with a first coat, go in for a second thin coat making sure to hit the tips of your nails with the paint since that’s where polish chipping tends to start, Choi says. Give the polish a couple minutes to settle, then top it with a clear top coat to give shine and protect from chips.

And if you’re anxious for your toes to dry, Choi recommends applying quick-dry drops or using a hair dryer on its cool setting on your toes. Otherwise, be patient! It takes nail polish longer than you’d think to dry. If you rush it, you could end up with a sloppy, uneven finish.

9. Clean up any smudges.

Don’t worry if you got a little color on your cuticles. This step will give you the look of a perfect paint job. Choi recommends using a Q-tip or orangewood stick covered in cotton and polish remover to clean them up.

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