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These game-changing tricks will make your at-home mani look like a salon job.

1. Cuticle oil can liven up unpainted nails

When your nails look sad and you don’t have time for a full manicure, Jin Soon Choi, who founded her eponymous nail line, swears by cuticle oil to moisturize dry skin and give your mani a second wind. “Or if you don’t have cuticle oil at home, olive or coconut oil will also work perfectly,” she says. Just massage a few drops around each nail, and they’ll look instantly refreshed

2. Don’t skimp on buffing.

It's easy to skip this step, but if you truly want a salon-quality mani, don't sleep on it. “If you don't buff, the natural oils in your nails can build up, leaving manicure-ruining residue on them,” says Rita Remark, Essie global lead educator. “Buffing your nails is kind of like brushing your teeth—it's brightening, it makes nails look more youthful, and it gets rid of ridges.”

3. Base coat is key.

We know, we know, it's yet another step, but it really does make all the difference. Apply a base coat to hydrate and protect nails and prevent chipping. Then chill for a few. Nail guru Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie, recommends waiting two full minutes between each coat, starting with the base coat.

4. Use painter’s tape for negative space manis.

“Lay down the tape in the shape you want to ‘cut out’ of your nail color,” says celebrity nail artist Miss Pop. “Then apply a base coat and two coats of polish around the tape. When you peel it off, you’re left with an awesome negative-space manicure without any Picasso-like skills.”

5. When it comes to polish, less is more.

“Many of us overload the brush and do too many strokes,” Nails Inc. founder Thea Green says. “The key is to load just enough polish on the brush to cover the nail in one coat.” She recommends striping your nail three times: once down the middle, once on each side

6. Wear ridge filler when your nails need a break.

If your nails are looking a little worn or rough, bring them back to life with ridge filler. Nail artist Naomi Yasuda paints one coat onto each nail for a matte, neutral finish that makes nails look smooth and clean.

7. Apply glitter the right way.

Raise your hand if you've ever painted, like, a thousand coats of glitter on to get it to fully cover your nail. Well, consider your mind blown with this trick from nail vlogger Kelli Marissa. Instead of using the polish brush to paint directly on your nail, saturate the edge of a makeup sponge instead—then press the sponge on over your nail. The sponge soaks up most of the actual nail polish leaving just the glitter behind, so it goes on dense and opaque in one fell swoop.

8. Treat your nail care like skin care.

Ever wonder how those women with long almond nails keep them from breaking? “It requires constant care and TLC,” says Remark. That obviously sounds like a lot of work, but think of it like this: “During your nighttime routine, add a step to take care of your nails. So when you’re done with your face, put on cuticle oil after that.” It helps to keep a bottle of it right next to your bed.

9. Simple nails often make the biggest impact.

Talk to any pro artist and they’ll agree: You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to make a statement. Naomi Gonzalez-Longstaff loves creamy pastels, especially soft pinks; Rose Velez-Miggins likes a mixture of pale shades and earthy tones that flatter all different skin tones; and Choi is all about androgynous colors (think greige and browns) with a squoval (squarish oval) tip.

10. Seal off your nails.

Nicks and chips tend to happen most at the tip of the nail, and yet the majority of us forget to give that part a little extra topcoat love. Try this trick (it acts like Saran Wrap for the polish on that area): “Take a topcoat and run a horizontal swipe of it over the bottom edge of your nail after you do your last coat,” says Edwards. Let it dry, and repeat one more time.

By: Lindsay Schallon | May 19, 2021

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