How I Make My DIY Manicures Last

Tips, tools & the best products for your home manicure kit.

I’ve taken my manicures into my own hands for years — I shared my DIY manicure tips in this post back in 2014 — so I’m really good at painting my nails, but it wasn’t until I watched this video that my DIY manis started to last up to two weeks. (And guys, I’m real rough on my hands at work, so this is a true achievement.)
Best products for home manicure kit: Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover, OPI Infinite Shine Ridge Filler Primer, Essie 'stop, drop & shop' from fall 2018 color collection; Seche Vita Instant Gel Effect Top Coat.
My must-have products for my home manicure kit: Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover, OPI Infinite Shine Ridge Filler Primer and Seche Vita Instant Gel Effect Top Coat.

Prep

A good DIY manicure starts way before you paint on the polish. Let’s break down the prep steps, one by one:
  1. I start by removing any hangnails with cuticle trimmers. I used to have a bad habit of biting/tearing them off with my teeth, which at minimum, leads to irritation and inflammation, and at worst, can cause infection; keeping a pair of cuticle trimmers in my kit helped me stop, and improved the health of my cuticles so that I get fewer hangnails. This deluxe manicure kit has all the tools you need for $20.
  2. Next, I trim my nails if necessary with sharp nail clippers, and shape them with a medium-grit nail file. (I stockpile nail files at Sally Beauty; they have every grit/size you can imagine and lots of them are less than $1.)
  3. Then I apply this instant cuticle remover gel ($7 at Ulta) to all my cuticles and let it sit for a few minutes before using a warm washcloth to gently massage/push them back. If I’ve neglected my nails for a while, I’ll use a wood orange stick (you can buy 100 on Amazon for $7) to scrape off any cuticles that are stuck to my nails, but if I’m consistent with my nail care, the washcloth method works like a charm. I wash my hands thoroughly after this step with warm water and hand soap.
  4. Finally, I wipe down all my nails with a cotton swab dipped in acetone to remove any remaining product or natural oils so the polish has a clean and dry surface to adhere to.

Paint

This is the fun part! And the secret to a long-lasting DIY manicure is using the right products, from base to top coat. This means splurging on good quality and dropping a little cash up front to stock your kit, but if you consider you’d pay $15-20 for a similar professional service, your kit will pay for itself in a few home manicures and last through lots and lots of mani/pedis.
  1. My favorite base coats are this ridge-filling primer and this rubberized bonder base coat. The first fills ridges and lays down a smooth foundation for your manicure, and the second dries with a sticky finish that grips to polish to help it last. I do a thin coat of each base, letting each coat dry completely before moving on to the next step.
  2. Next, I do two thin coats of color, leaving a tiny gap between the polish and my cuticle and cleaning up as a go, as shown in the video. OPI and Essie are my go-to brands for great color, and OPI is my top pick for longest wear. Again, let each coat dry completely as you go through the steps to prevent nicking/smudging/bubbling in the polish.
  3. If I’m in a rush, I use this quick-dry topcoat to finish things off; the formula penetrates down to the base coat and sets my manicure to a glassy, chip-free finish in about about a minute. Lately I’m digging this ‘instant gel effect’ top coat from the same brand that doesn’t dry quite as quickly, but gives my polish the plumped-up, high shine, glossy finish of a gel manicure.
Best nourishing hand cream: Farmhouse Fresh Buttermilk Lavender Steeped Milk Lotion
As a longtime hand cream hoarder, this Farmhouse Fresh buttermilk lavender lotion is the best I’ve ever used; it’s a staple in my handbag and I try to remember to use it a few times a day. If you’re local, I buy it (and all my FHF goodies) at Spectrum Studio

Maintenance

If I want my manicure to last more than a week, I have to do a little work to keep it looking fresh. I touch up any chips throughout the week with teeny dabs of polish and seal it/smooth it out with a fresh coat of the gel effect top coat. Dark shades usually need more touch ups than nudes and light colors (which is why I typically prefer the latter, with the exception of rich autumn shades that I just can’t resist this time of year).  If I don’t have any chips to repair, I still go in with a quick coat of top coat every 4-5 days. I also try to use a deeply nourishing hand cream a few times a day to keep my cuticles hydrated; I love this hemp hand protectorGoe oil, and every hand cream/intense lotion from the brand Farmhouse Fresh.
Essie 'stop, drop & shop' cream nail polish from fall 2018 color collection with matching Olive & Oak sweater, Levi's 501 skinny jeans and gold jewelry.
Essie ‘stop, drop & shop‘ 

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Author: Keira Lennox

I'm a small town lady from the sunshine state with an affinity for bookstores, beauty counters and unfussy style. I spend my days running my flower shop, and my nights blogging about what I love and what I wear. (Or watching Netflix and drinking wine.)

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  • I just went out and bought the Seche Vita and the OPI ridge filler! So excited to try these! Thxxxxx

  • Since I am always working with my hands I can never seem to make my manicure last. Thanks for sharing the tips.

    • I wreck my nails in my job as a florist, so I can totally relate. That’s why I stopped bothering with professional manicures and started doing it myself. These tricks and products really help; I get at least 5-7 days out of dark polish and up to two weeks with lighter shades and nudes (they aren’t as obvious when they chip).

  • Love this. Any tips for what to do when you do a great job in the evening but then go to bed (too soon after) and have your fabric imprint on the nails making them less glossy?

    • Girrrrl, isn’t that the worst?! Sometimes I find I can fix it with a good coat of the Seche Vite Instant Gel Top Coat; it’s kind of thick so it covers a multitude of sins.