Nail It: Mastering the DIY Manicure

One way to ensure that your photoshoot is a success is to come prepared! A bit of at-home pampering can help you feel and look your best and help you get ready to strut your stuff for the camera. I’ll take you through a few of my tried and true pre-photoshoot rituals in a future post, but for today – it’s all about the main attraction. Hands and nails are something we all overlook, but chipped polish can be very noticeable! Your hands will likely be featured in your photos, especially boudoir and maternity, so it’s in your best interest to polish them pretty!

Here’s what you’ll need to master your manicure:

  • nail clippers
  • nail file
  • nail polish remover
  • cotton pads or cotton balls
  • exfoliant
  • hand cream
  • rubbing alcohol
  • base coat
  • nail polish (any colour)
  • top coat
  • Q Tips/ cotton buds

Step 1: Trim

Your nails don’t have to be long to look pretty in polish. What is key to getting a salon look at home is to ensure that all of your nails are a similar length. A good set of nail clippers won’t set you back an arm and a leg, but make sure that yours are sharp so that they don’t leave jagged edges.

Step 2: File

You may have noticed a recent onslaught of varied nail shapes showing up on social media (and real life) from squared, to flared and from stiletto to coffin. Don’t worry about filing your natural tips into perfect points. The most flattering nail shape for your finger tips will mirror the natural shape of your cuticle.
Be sure to always file in the same direction, rather than back and forth. A back and forth motion weakens the nail and will make your tips prone to peeling and breakage. The only exception to this rule is with an actual crystal nail file, such as the Leighton Denny crystal nail file, but I still recommend avoiding a back and forth motion.

Step 3: Cleanse

Remove any remaining polish from a previous look using your favourite nail polish remover – I always use a formula with acetone for the most effective cleanse, but be sure to choose a remover with conditioning ingredients to keep from damaging your nails. Press down at the base of the nail with a lint free cotton pad or cotton ball saturated in remover and swipe upwards over the nail to remove any last traces of polish.

Step 4: Exfoliate

Rough, dry skin be gone! Many companies make scrubs specifically for the hands, but your regular body or facial scrub will do the trick. I like to soak my hands in warm water first to soften the skin, and then massage an exfoliant over them in circular motions. Give especially problematic areas like the knuckles a little extra attention and get ready for super soft skin!

Step 5: Moisturize

Let’s face it, we are hard on our hands! Time to treat them to a well earned massage. Choose a rich, luxurious hand cream and work it into your skin. Bring any excess product up onto the forearms so they don’t feel left out 😉

Step 6: Prep

No matter what polish I use, my DIY manicures always last me at least 5-7 days before chipping. The most overlooked step in nail care is the prep step, and I believe this is what gives my manis their longevity. Saturate another lint free cotton pad or cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and using the same motion as in the “Cleanse” step, swipe over your nail bed. This step removes any excess oils from the nail so that your polish has a clean surface to stick to.

Step 7: Base Coat

Ace your base! A base coat does so much to aid in the wear and appearance of your manicure. It will protect your nails from staining, fill in ridges and imperfections as well as prime the nail by giving your choice of polish a smooth surface to adhere to.

Step 8: Polish

Pick a colour, any colour! I love dark nails, especially for boudoir, but if your style is more subtle, a sophisticated nude will look just as pretty! There are a few tricks to a smooth application. First of all, apply your polish in thin coats and allow each coat to dry in between applications- this will prevent bubbles and smudges. Use a minimum amount of brush strokes to coat the nail, starting at the cuticle and working your way up to the tip. You needn’t worry about polish that makes its’ way onto the cuticle – it’s easy to clean up later on.

Step 9: Top Coat

When it comes to the perfect mani, patience is key. You just can’t move on until your polish is DRY DRY DRY. I’ve tried EVERY trick in the book to make polish dry faster, from dipping my tips in ice water, to blow drying them, as well as sprays and drops. Here’s my take on the tricks: they don’t work. I try to paint my nails when I’m watching a movie so that I have lots of time to let them dry on their own. Once your polish IS dry (try your best to wait a minimum of 20 minutes), apply your top coat from cuticles to tips. To ensure extra longevity, swipe your top coat OVER the tip of the nail as well to seal the edge. A top coat will maximize the wear of your polish and give your handiwork a beautiful shine that will look great in photographs.

Step 10: Perfect

If I’m painting my nails the night before a shoot or event, I don’t often bother with much of a clean up. Any residual polish on your cuticles will wash off in the shower or sink with out much effort on your part. To perfect your nails for immediate wear, dip a cotton bud into a bit of nail polish remover, and use it to do some precision clean up around the edges of your nails. This trick works especially well with an angled eyeliner brush, as you can get really close to your cuticles with out removing polish from the actual nail.

At All Things Pink, our photographer, Erin, is a master at getting a salon standard manicure look at home! If you follow these steps and take your time, you’ll be sure to give her a run for her money at your next photoshoot! We can’t wait to see you and the pretty polish you chose at the studio soon!