As much as we love the salon manicure experience, frequenting the nail salons isn’t a priority for a lot of us right now. But a flawless acrylic set or stylized natural nails may be what’s needed in time for spring and summer… or just to feel a bit more put together. Even if you don’t normally opt for doing your own nail maintenance, a perfect manicure that looks fresh out of a professional salon is still possible.
At-home nail hacks or acrylic sculpting isn’t an emerging trend, but user-friendly extension techniques and maintaining prim nails might be something you’ve never came across. After a long bout with the art of nails, I’ve found some of the easiest techniques for quick looks or two week wearability. Keep scrolling for some of my favorite DIY manicure tricks you’re going to want to try — you’ll feel like a pro soon, I promise!
The best natural looks start with a great base. If natural nails dressed in lacquer is your preference, but they’re in need of a little reinforcement, try applying a thin layer of nail glue right on the stretch of the nail bed. While there are a ton of nail hardeners on the market, I’ve found them to only be slightly helpful with strengthening my nails.
With the glue, your nails feel closer to acrylic strength. You could even add a clear dip powder to combine with the glue. The powder is designed to build a layer at a time with each dip. It’s also beneficial when trying to manage the shape and thickness, versus molding acrylic.
Afterwards, grab your favorite file to smooth the surface and shape the nail to your liking. Add two coats of color or design, followed by a top coat. Voilà! You’re done!
If you’ve ever gotten an acrylic full set, you’re likely familiar with nail “tips” used as a base for acrylic to build on. These are plastic, faux nail extensions, that are applied with nail glue at the end of the natural nail.
After applying, you could add more glue over the tip that just touches your nail. Then, file with the goal of smoothing the ridge left by the tip, in order to blend the extension with your nail. Be sure to file primarily on the extension, while avoiding filing too thin. Once smooth to your preference, proceed with designing.
Gel form kits
Gel form kits are a bit more tasking than the others mentioned but much quicker than sculpting with a brush. Rest assured, this method is manageable for many levels of nail design enthusiasts. Gel forms provide smooth faux nails, with a cook of a lamp. The difference in technique between gel forms and acrylic is in the name — the forms. You can purchase a pretty inexpensive kit that’ll last many applications.
The kits typically come with the builder gel (used to fill the form), base gel (applied on the natural nail), the reusable forms, file, the gel manipulating liquid or alcohol, and paint brush. Usually, you’d have to purchase a UV LED lamp separately, but again, it’s still very inexpensive in the long-term compared to professional salon prices. If you’re ready to commit, follow the steps below to achieve a flawless application.
File away shine from natural nails and then apply gel base. Then cure under a UV LED lamp. Note, times are dependent on the product directions.
Squeeze builder gel into the nail form. Use a pea size amount, just to give yourself space to build if needed.
Tip: Apply less around the cuticle portion of the form and spread gradually to a thicker build to the desired length. Forms have tick marks for precise length of all nails. Pat the build lightly, till you have a concave shape, using the form as a guide.
Finally, place form over your nail, starting with the cuticle and lay on top of your nail without flattening the form to your nail. Otherwise, the gel will leak outside the form. You can still adjust the shape by patting or swiping any gel that deviates from the form, then place your nails under the UV LED lamp. After set time completes, you should be able to remove the form with a few wiggles to reveal a mechanically smooth finish. Repeat on all nails, then design!
When you’re ready to decide on your polish color, check out our roundup of trendy nail colors!