Secrets From The Salon: How To Do A Professional Manicure At Home

We caught up with beautician Laura Hurst, who gave us the step-by-step on how to do a salon-worthy DIY manicure.

At home manicure

Tools of the trade

  • Nail clippers
  • Soft emery board
  • Acetone-free nail polish remover
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle pusher or hoof
  • Base coat
  • Polish of choice
  • Top coat

You can’t beat a Shellac for staying power and gloss but if you’re broke, can’t get an appointment or need a quick lick of paint before a night out, here’s how.

“My top tip is to start with your weakest hand”, says Laura Hurst, salon manager and beautician at Ultimate Hair and Beauty. “If you’re right-handed, do that hand first. Going back and forth between hands can be frustrating as you’ll fly it with the strong hand but the awkwardness of your clumsy, not as coordinated, weaker hand, can get annoying and it’ll feel like it’s taking an age!”


If you need to cut your nails use clippers. “Never take down length with a file”, warns Laura, “they’ll just split and crack.” #ouch


Get a blob of your favourite moisturiser and massage it into the hands. “This is especially important after a shower when your cuticles are nice and soft,” she explains.


Take your cuticle pusher and press the plump cuticles back, away from the nail. This step will make your manicure look neater. “If you don’t have a tool to do this you can do it with another nail. Shhh, I didn’t say that,” laughs Laura.


Next step is to swab your nails with nail varnish remover. Choose acetone-free remover as products containing acetone will dry out the nail AND the skin – not a good look. “It’s essential to dehydrate the nails”, reveals the beautician. “The base coat will stick better and your manicure will last longer.”


According to Laura, a back and forth see saw motion file and shape is not a good idea. “This causes heat which breaks the natural gel bond between the layers of nails and will eventually split the nail at the tip. The correct way to file is in one direction (left to right or right to left), nice and slowly, going straight across or around the nail.” An ordinary soft, emery board will do the job. Stay away from the steel ones!


Buff the nails really lightly to take down the shine and get rid of dead cuticle skin. “Remove the buffing dust with another quick swipe of acetone-free nail varnish,” she says.

Base coat

Take a blob of base coat up to the neck of the bottle and work from this – there’s no need to stick the brush into the pool every time. Really tiny amounts are the key, brush the excess off prior to nail application. Go three strokes per nail – one down the middle, a brush down the left and then one on the right.

One coat is all it takes and it pays to pay. “Invest in a good base coat – Jessica, Sally Hansen, Essie and Orly are all great brands. A base coat will hydrate your nail; it will protect it against the polish and nail staining”


If you pop a few drops of nail varnish remover in to the dregs of your favourite nail polish, you’ll get one last manicure out of it. “I’ve done it, and it’s been fine,” agrees Laura, but she advises using acetone-free remover. Again, the thinnest layer possible for the polish and use the three strokes approach. This time you’ll be going two rounds to make your colour pop and perform.

Top coat

When the colour is dry, the last step is your top coat. Apply as you have the base and colour. One layer is all you need.

The last word

The best time to do your nails is just before you go to bed. Here’s Laura’s top tip: “Have all your bits and pieces done: face cleansed, teeth washed and jammies on, and then do the manicure. Let them dry and then turn in for the night. By the time you wake up in the morning, they’ll have had ample time to set!”

Smudged it?

“Depending on the depth of the pock, a teensy, and I’m talking teensy blob of colour and then some top coat can smoothe it out”, suggests Laura. “Otherwise, I’d recommend removing and starting over.” #soz.