At-Home Manicure Tips That Will Keep You Going Until Nail Salons Reopen

Good nail health is important to your overall health.

As we move into our third month of sheltering at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are turning to home beauty treatments while professional salons remain closed.

We checked in with Nishma Jamal, professional aesthetician and co-founder of Sekai Nail & Beauty Bar in Toronto, to get some expert advice on how to handle our foray into DIY manicures and pedicures, and found that there’s plenty we can do at home to keep our nails in good condition.

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Home nail care is something we can get into the habit of even once businesses open again, whether we’re taking time for maintenance in-between salon visits, or simply embracing DIY as an economical way to maintain our nails.

In addition, healthy nail care not only keeps our hands and feet neat and tidy, but it also provides the perfect canvas to enjoy bright, summer colours — something that can definitely lift up our spirits.

Check out our tips for at-home nail care below.

Don’t expect to be salon perfect

When it comes to your at-home nail care skills, practice simply makes you better. Jamal gently reminds us to, “take your time, don’t get frustrated if the job isn’t perfect.”

Start off by getting in the habit of hand, feet, and nail maintenance, which includes keeping your hands and feet clean, regular nail clipping and filing, and protecting cuticles.

We enjoy the ritual of moisturizing our hands and feet as a mini self-massage, and consider it a soothing way to wind down after a stressful day.

Keep your cuticles healthy

Cuticles protect nails from bacteria when they grow, but if they get damaged it can lead to infection, which is why it’s so important to keep them healthy.

Healthline recommends soaking hands and feet in soapy, warm water for around 10 minutes every day, which leaves cuticles soft and nails clean. Alternatively, you can apply cuticle oil to prevent them from drying and cracking.

Cuticle oil works wonders to hydrate and moisturize cuticles and is simple to apply. We love this Essie apricot nail and cuticle oil, as well as Jamal’s personal fave, CND Solar Oil.

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Jamal suggests moisturizing cuticles daily — we find a little goes a long way with cuticle oil, and it’s also great for a relaxing finger and toe massage.

But leave the cutting for the professionals: Jamal says we shouldn’t cut our cuticles at home as this is a treatment that requires a lot of practice. If we accidentally damage our cuticles by cutting them, they can get infected.

She also advises we stay away from foot razors, and stop nail biting and picking off shellac (ahem, guilty!); she explains that the latter “should be removed carefully with cotton and acetone.”

Buff and exfoliate

The soles of our feet can take a beating from being barefoot and from daily movement as well as squeezing into heels and uncomfortable footwear. Dry, cracked skin, as well as corns and calluses can form from being barefoot and on our feet all day.

Pumice stones and foot files can be kept in the shower and are a great way to keep feet smooth as part of your regular hygiene routine. Jamal suggests “using a foot file in the shower every two to three days ... to keep skin baby soft and then following up with a moisturizer.”

A pumice stone is used to remove dry, dead skin on the soles of the feet. It can also soften calluses and corns.
A pumice stone is used to remove dry, dead skin on the soles of the feet. It can also soften calluses and corns.

Exfoliation is not just for feet; hands can benefit from the gentle removal of dead skin, too. Jamal swears by LoveFresh’s natural exfoliating scrub for an all-over treatment.

Experiment with different colours

A couple of new nail polishes is a relatively inexpensive way to splash some colour into your summer wardrobe.

We love OPI’s blue and green tones for an alternating colour way (Did You See Those Mussels and Two Pearls In A Pod gorgeously complement each other) or fabulously iridescent nudes like You’re Full Of Abalone and I’m A Natural for an elevated natural mani.

Essie’s Expressie line offers quick drying colours (like the blue-grey Air Dry) for the impatient among us, and comes with a slightly angled brush to make painting with that non-dominant hand easier.

Base and top coats FTW

Like any beauty treatment, there are steps that should not be skipped to ensure the best results; applying a base coat and a top coat as part of your at-home manicure are key to a professional-looking finish.

Have fun picking out your polishes!
Have fun picking out your polishes!

We like Essie Strong Start Base Coat, which helps reinforce nails, as well as Jamal’s recommendation, CND Vinylux Long Wear Top Coat, for a strong finish.

For those of us who don’t have much time, Nishma says, “Put your half-dried nails in a bowl of ice water to speed up the last minutes of drying all the layers.”

Eat healthfully

You are what you eat and your nails can be a dead giveaway if you’re not getting enough nutrients.

“For the general population, nail health is most often an indicator of poor nutritional intake or poor digestion,” Dr. Sara Norris, a naturopathic doctor based in Los Angeles, told Healthline. “Brittle, weak, and peeling nails are the most common concerns I see in my practice and these symptoms are more often the result of a poor diet.”

Jamal suggests eating foods like fruits, lean meats, salmon, leafy greens, and beans as well as sticking to unprocessed wholesome foods to help improve nail and overall health.

She reminds us to “always consult your dermatologist if your nails are showing (major) signs of change.”

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