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.


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.


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


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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  1. 11.6.18
    lotusgurl said:

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

    • 11.8.18

      Oh yay!! I hope you love them as much as I do (you totally will). Let me know what you think!

  2. 11.6.18
    jewelsofsayuri said:

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

    • 11.8.18

      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).

  3. 11.5.18

    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?

    • 11.5.18

      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.