5 steps for the perfect at-home manicure

5 steps for the perfect at-home manicure

11 July 2023 – 5 min read

Are you living in a post-gel universe, that’s sans shellac and so done with SNS? You’re not alone. More people than ever are joining the stay-home salon club by learning to perfect services they’d normally pay for. And as your number-one nail pal, we’re here to show you just how achievable a stunning at-home mani can be, without all of the confusing bottles and soaking tubs.

Not only is your DIY-style set to be as polished as the professional ones, our 12-free nail polish formula will leave you with healthier, happier nails. At Kester Black, we're well-versed in saying ‘no’ to nasties and ‘heck yes’ to nice-ies. That's why our nail polish formula, like all of our beauty products, are as clean as they can be. That means, they're not only vegan, cruelty free, carbon neutral and created by a B Corp accredited beauty co. They're also breathable, water permeable, and 12-free (meaning we've stripped out 12 of the nastiest ingredients normally found in nail polish, so that it not only looks good, but does good too). Oh and it's safe for kids, so little hands can join in on the homemade manicure fun.

What you will need

Tip: We receive plenty of questions about cuticles; should you push them, trim them, stuff them under the bed when no one’s looking, etc. The truth is, your cuticles protect your nail bed from damage and infection, arguably very important things! So while you mightn’t love them, it’s important that you retain some cuticle integrity for the health of your nails. We recommend soaking your hands in a bowl of warm water before your manicure and gently pushing your cuticles back with a rubber or wooden pusher. Finish by trimming and tidying any overgrown cuticles - consider this as more of a conservative trim, not a trendy lob).

Step 1. Prep, file and clean

Nail file at home manicure

Haven’t you heard? The secret to perfection lies in the preparation. Set your fingertips up for success by filing them before even thinking about polish. Find your most flattering shape here, then soak a cotton pad in isopropyl alcohol and gently wipe over each fingernail.

This is an important and often overlooked step in the manicure process. Nails are made from keratin and, like your hair, can become oily. Isopropyl alcohol removes any natural oils without drying out your nails, to create a clean surface for your polish to stick to; resulting in a longer-lasting manicure. But don’t fret, we’ll bring a healthy dose of natural oils back into the mix later on, where they can nourish but not interfere with the longevity of your look. 

Step 2. Ace the base

Miracle Treatment Base Coat for at home manicure

Apply a thin layer of Kester Black Miracle Treatment Base Coat to your nails and allow to dry. This anything-but-basic formula doubles as a repairing treatment and pretty pearlescent colour - talk about the full package.

Base coat is the unsung hero of long-lasting manicures. It acts like a primer by adhering to your natural nail far better than polish does, and really gives it something to stick to. 

SHOP MIRACLE TREATMENT BASE COAT

Step 3. Apply your first and second coat

Natural breathable nail polish at home manicure

Finally, the fun part. Using your favourite breathable, high-performance Nail Polish (hint, hint), glide the brush over each fingernail, coating the surface from base to tip. The trick to a controlled result is to only load your brush with enough polish for one coat. We like to use the three-stroke technique, painting a line through the centre of the nail and one on either side - but we also like to be realistic, and have been known to use four to five strokes from time to time.

Allow to dry for five-minutes before applying a second coat to each nail. Difficult as it may seem, you really must resist the urge to use your hands. We’re looking at you, spontaneous knitters.

Using low-toxic nail polish gives your nails a break by minimising their exposure to harsh chemicals like formaldehyde and camphor. We steer well clear of these baddies, plus similarly difficult-to-say suspects like xylene and phthalates (which we pronounce as ‘see ya’).

If you were curious about what it means to be 12-free, we’ve compiled a great little article with everything you need to know, and why you should care.

SHOP 12-FREE NAIL POLISH

Step 4. Seal the deal

Natural top coat at home manicure

Seal your nail polish colour with a Kester Black Supersonic Top Coat, taking extra care to ‘cap’ the tips of your nails, as this will prevent chipping. This particular formula is an antioxidant-rich concoction that dries to the touch in a lightning-fast 60-seconds. For all other top coats, allow around five-minutes to dry.

Tip: To refresh and prolong your manicure, apply Kester Black Top Coat to just the tips of your nails every two-days.

SHOP SUPERSONIC TOP COAT

Step 5. Let the love in

Natural cuticle oil at home manicure

To complete your ritual, apply one coat of Kester Black Self Love Oil to your cuticles, gently massaging them in small circular motions moving towards your hand.

Our Self Love Oil is made of certified organic almond oil, avocado oil, jojoba and vitamin E, so it's perfect for softening and nourishing your cuticles. And the loving doesn’t stop there, it can also be used to unchap lips, melt away make-up like lipstick or mascara, and moisturise dry skin. It’s a really generous companion to have in your cosmetic cupboard.

Do your nails a favour and treat your cuticles to this oil daily before bed, to really allow the potion to work its magic overnight.

SHOP SELF LOVE OIL

Common manicure mistakes and their causes

  • Nail polish peeling in one go: You're most likely applying your layers too thick and not allowing them to dry properly in between. Don’t slather on the top coat like you see at the salon when you get gels done!
  • Nail polish chipping: Residual oil on the nail is the main cause of chipping. Dastardly oils! Did you skip cleansing with isopropyl alcohol?
  • Flaking nail tips: Many of us give our nails quite the beating by filing too harshly. Remember to gently file your nails in one direction (none of this back-and-forth business!) until you achieve your desired length and shape.
  • Smudged nail polish after the recommended drying time: Though you’re free to go about your business after the drying times above, avoid jumping in a hot shower or doing the dishes straight away. Heat and steam can cause nail polish to bubble or smudge, so it’s best to wait at least an hour. 
  • Mythbusting: Should you run your hands under cold water to help them set? No, nail polish dries thanks to the solvent evaporating, so submerging them in water won't help. But a fan will!

Nail art tutorials

Now you’ve nailed the manicure, it’s time to branch out and dabble in some more adventurous designs. From colour blocking to geometric grids, and something a little French (oui-oui), we've prepped enough step-by-step tutorials to keep you busy for days.

Whoever said ‘nobody likes a show off’ never anticipated Instagram. Hit us up with a humblebrag by sharing your best nail looks using #kesterblack and tagging us at @kesterblack. Or you could send us a love letter addressed to  hello@kesterblack.com.

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