Everything You Need For A Salon-Worthy Manicure At Home

We've been missing our regular manicure joints for three months now and one look at our chipped, broken, dried-out nails and you can tell why. Having to quit gels cold turkey or forego bi-weekly nail care appointments has left our digits looking like we've been trying to dig our way through a concrete floor. 

Of course, there are plenty of at-home manicure products we can use to try and replicate that freshly polished and groomed look, however we lack both the steady hands and the wherewithal to make it look professional and not like we gave a four-year-old a bottle of polish and let them go to town.

Which is where celebrity manicurist and former creative direct of Paintbox Julie Kandalec comes in. Her just-launched Nail Art Design Book is a how-to guide for pros and amateur nail-art lovers alike that's brimming with helpful tips on nail care, color theory, and design inspiration. We checked in with her for her best advice on how to help gel-damaged nail heal, the key five steps to the perfect manicure, and how she keeps her nails looking great between manis.

First up: gel rehab. The absolute most important thing with gels, she says, is do not, under any circumstances, peel the polish. "Doing so causes damage that will not only take months to heal, but it also prevents gel from adhering properly when you do want it again — it's a vicious cycle." So, no matter how annoying they are, hands off the chipped gels.


As for how to get the perfect at-home manicure, her process is super simple:

1. Remove polish and push back cuticles with cuticle oil. If you're in a pinch, olive oil works great, too.

2. Use a glass file to shape from corner to center. 
3. Use cuticle nippers to trim loose skin. 
4. Use 91% isopropyl alcohol to cleanse the nail place and prep for polish. 
5. Basecoat, color, topcoat.  
Yup, it's that easy. If you want to try your hand at nail art, she's got a beyond simple design that literally anyone can do. Check out the how-to video.

 


Of course, keeping nails in great shape is all about having the right products for the job. We've got you covered on that front. Obviously, a hand lotion is crucial to keep skin moisturized, especially right now as we wash our hands more frequently. Lavido's Nurturing Hand Cream repairs, nourishes, and protects with a healing blend of organic cold-pressed mandarin oil, shea butter, beeswax and almond oil.

To keep your nail bed hydrated and start the process of repairing damage, a healing oil like Arch Sole Savior Nail Oil is a fantastic choice. It features an array of beneficial oils, including sweet almond, jojoba, tea tree, coconut, citrus peel, geranium, sunflower seed, spearmint, thyme, and rosemary (whew). Together with shea butter it nourishes and treats dry, damaged, split nails. 

When choosing a polish, don't just look at the color — make sure you are painting with a non-toxic formula like Sundays vegan, 10-free polish. It doesn't have potentially harmful chemicals like dibutyl phthalate, toluene, or formaldehyde, which have all been linked to potential health hazards.

Finally, when its time to undress your digits, Sign Tribe's Remove and Chill is THE coolest product we've tried yet. It's a nail polish remover cream that gently breaks down lacquer, and conditions nails and cuticles without that nose-stinging chemical smell. Simply apply a thick layer and leave it on one minute for every polish layer you applied and an additional three minutes if you used a top coat and base. Massage the cream into the nails, then wipe off with a dry cotton pad and marvel at your now bare and beautiful nails.

So, while we miss our salons dearly, think about this current situation as a vacation for your nails to repair any damage and a chance to up your DIY manicure game. It's learning a new skill set that might come in handy (pun intended) for when you can't make it to the pros.

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"Beauty is self care. And self care makes us feel beautiful."

-Athena Calderone