How to: Maintain Your Nails Between Salon Visits

By Erika, Resident Fashionista

The finished product! Learn how to get there below.

I once read (or saw a Pin or Instagram) that you’re never fully dressed without a good manicure.  I believe this to be true.  But, I also believe that having well-manicured nails doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.  I know that bi-weekly nail appointments can cost anywhere between $30-$60/month.  To save myself some money right after college I started maintaining my nails at home between salon visits.   I head out for a professional manicure every 4-6 weeks and do regular maintenance and polish changes at home.  Below is a basic, step-by-step guide to help you maintain your nails between visits.


At a bare minimum you will need the following items:

  • Nail file


  • Nail clippers
  • Nail cleaner
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Nail buffer
This mini manicure kit was a gift, but you can get your own from your local drug store or beauty store, like Sephora.
  • Base coat
  • Nail polish
  • Top coat
  • Quick dry (optional – use sparingly!)
Base Coat, Top Coat and Quick Dry: Sinful Colors I Nail Polish: Kook-A-Mango by Sally Henson
  • Nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls & cotton swabs (Q-Tips)


  • Moisturizer
Moisturizer: Arbonne
Arbonne Ultra-Hydrating Hand Creme

A Few Tips for Your Next Nail Salon Visit

  • Have your nails shaped into an easy to maintain shape (I like square with round edges).  This will make it easier for your to maintain the shape at home.
  • Have your manicurist clip your cuticles; I never do this at home.
  • Purchase a favorite color that you love so that you’ll always have it on hand.
  • Pay attention!  Just really watch one good time while your nails are being done.  You’ll pick-up a few pointers!

Step-By-Step Guide

1.       Remove existing nail polish with nail polish remover and cotton balls.

2.       Clean your nails – you can do this by soaking them in a bowl of warm water and a little soap or by simply washing them.  Make sure you rid your fingers of any excess polish remover and oils from your face or hair.

3.       File or clip your nails – depending on how long your nails are and the length you want them you can simply file them shorter or you can clip them to your desired length.


4.       Shape your nails – following the shape given to you by your manicurist shape your nails using a nail file (the file pictured labels which side to use to shape the nail and it’s a steal at $2 from Michael’s!)


5.       Clean underneath fingernails – with your nail cleaner (the pointed edge) gently clean any remaining dirt from underneath your fingernails.

Top: Cleaning underneath the nails I Bottom: Pushing back cuticles

6.       Buff your nails – use a nail buffer across the surface of your nails to get a nice, smooth texture.  This will make it easy for polish to be applied.

7.       Push back your cuticles – gently push your cuticles back off the nail bed.  If you had your manicurist clip your cuticles there should be little to nothing to push back.  You can also use a cuticle oil at this step to soften your cuticles.

8.       Wash your hands – take a moment and wash off any dust, particles, clippings or cuticle oil from your hands.  Make sure you thoroughly dry your hands.

9.       Moisturize – use a hand lotion or body butter and moisturize your hands and in between your fingers.


10.   Remove lotion from nails – dip a cotton swab in nail polish remover and run it over your nails to remove the lotion from the nail bed.  Again, this will assist in nail polish application.  Save the cotton swab as you can use it to touch up any erratic polish.


11.   Apply your base coat and let it dry for 1-2 minutes – consider using a base coat that is white or nearly white to really make a color standout.  This is especially true for lighter colors (like blushes).  Clear base coat will work for all colors.

IMG_7621 IMG_7620

12.   Apply your nail polish – start by painting a stripe down the center of your fingernail, then fill in each side of the nail.  Use your cotton swab to remove any excess polish from around your fingernails (a toothpick with tissue also works for this). Let your polish dry for 2-3 minutes and then apply a 2nd coat.  Remember, lighter colors dry faster and darker colors dry slower.  Dark nail colors aren’t completely dry for almost a full hour!



13.   Apply your top coat and let your nails dry for 10-15 minutes – if you’re in a rush, let them dry for a full 5-7 minutes and then apply a quick dry polish.  If you’re not in a rush wait it out.  After I dry my nails I always run them under cold water for another minute or two just to be sure.


14.   Enjoy your at-home manicure!


A few last minute tips:  If you want a longer lasting manicure, opt for a light color.  It’s less noticeable when the polish starts to chip.  Also, once you apply more than 2 coats of polish you run the risk of getting sticky/tacky nails, so apply sparingly!

If you follow these really easy steps you’ll be able to maintain your manicures between trips to the nail salon.  Send us pics of your best at home manis!! We’d love to see them!

Your Chic is Showing,

Erika's Signature

7 thoughts on “How to: Maintain Your Nails Between Salon Visits

  1. You know, I try to do all of that, but my at-home manicures never seem to last…I can’t seem to get the consistency right for the amount of polish. So I always end up with big gloopy nails that peel after just a day! I think I’m going to skip the base coat and see what happens when I just use the color….Now that I am wearing rings more I want to make sure my nail game is on point!

    1. You can def skip the base coat. I often skip the top coat. Especially because now so many brands have a really shiny finish.

      I also should have mentioned that your first coat shouldn’t be super think. I think people get worried about making the color show up with the first coat. But it’s like painting your walls at home. It’s ok if the first coat looks a little “thin.” The 2nd coat covers it.

      I also think some brands only require one coat. For example, the Sally Henson brand I used in this post could totally be done with one coat. But I find I always use two with Essie.

      Let me know how your experiment works!!

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