Step 1: If you’re hoarding old polish on your fingernails, remove it entirely. You need remover, but instead of a cotton ball, wet a piece of felt, hold it to your nail for 30 seconds, and the polish will come right off.
Step 2: Clip first and then file with an emery board—moving in one direction—to get your tips round or square. Then use a nail buffer for the tops and sides to smooth out any snags or bumps.
Step 3: You can soak your nails in warm water or soap, or moisten them with oil to then push back your cuticles with a cuticle stick. Don’t clip! Cuticles actually protect your nail beds from bacteria and keep them soft.
Step 4: Use a nailbrush to make sure it’s nice and clean up under your nails and slough off any dead skin.
Step 5: Apply a clear basecoat. Let it dry 2 minutes. Better safe than smudged. A basecoat protects and prevents chipping (aka the enemy).
Step 6: Hold your hand steady and apply the first coat of color. The best bet is to brush away from the cuticle in a fluid movement. Drag the polish upward, smoothing out any bubbles. You want to avoid getting polish on your cuticles (obviously, right?). This looks amateur, but it’s not easy to avoid.
Step 7: After 2 minutes apply the second coat, which is key to achieving richness of the color and a salon quality look.
Step 8: 2 more minutes and finish with a topcoat that prevents your hard work from chipping away.
Step 9: If you’ve blundered anywhere, use a Q-tip (or even better, your cuticle stick wrapped with a bit of cotton for a more precise point) dipped in remover and clean up your edges.