All Posts, Beauty, DIY

At-Home Beauty: Nails

Because of my creativity and love of Do-It-Yourself projects, I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with different at-home beauty treatments that normally require an expensive visit to the salon. Plus, if there’s an opportunity for me to save a couple dollars, I’m always down. Now that we are all spending more time at home and don’t have access to salons at the moment, these DIY options are a great alternative! Many of these treatments definitely have a learning curve and take some practice. But, if I was able to teach myself these DIY treatments, you can too! Here is everything you need to know to get started, and some inexpensive options on Amazon, to bring the glam squad right to you at home without lifting a finger (okay, maybe one finger to open the Amazon app)!

Since I want to give you guys all the necessary details, I’m splitting these posts up and we will start with . . . *drumroll* . . . NAILS!

So, here are the 6 different options you have when it comes to at-home manicures, from easiest to most challenging.

1. Press-On Manicure

Press-on nails are making an epic comeback, and I’m definitely here for it. Most of them come with more than enough sizes to choose from and a sticky underside that sticks for a lot longer than the old-school glue-on ones. One thing that is super important is cleaning your nails beforehand to get the optimal stick. There are a ton of design/style options and application/replacement is super easy. Removal won’t damage natural nails, but can be a little painful because they are so sticky. Side-note: these can be filed down just like regular nails!

Some fun press-on options:

2. Basic Manicure

Another inexpensive option and does not damage nails, meaning you can change your color as often as you want. Also very easy to fix mistakes and touch up chips. Lasts the shortest amount of time compared to others, and easily chips/fades.

My Essentials:

  • Cuticle clippers: One of the most essential tools, in my book…I literally use these every day for quick cuticle touch-ups. These ones have non-slip handles that make them easier to control.
  • Epic top coat: Makes all the difference, and can make an inexpensive manicure look like shellac or even gel! Essie makes my all-time favorite top coat for insane shine and no chips for at least a couple days!

3. Shellac Manicure

Shellac manicures are sometimes called a “gel manicure” at the salon, but don’t confuse it with hard gel! Shellac goes on natural nails just like regular polish and is sealed with a UV light to last 2 weeks or longer. While shellac can be a cheaper option at the salon, doing it at home requires a few specific tools. In my opinion, they were 100% worth the investment. I love the high-shine look of a shellac manicure, and it holds up much longer than a basic mani. Plus, super quick dry time! Downside: the removal process is a little annoying, and if you do too many shellac manis in a row, your nails could start getting a little weak from the acetone.

My Essentials:

  • UV Light: UV light is necessary to seal or “cure” your shellac. The one I have is pretty hardcore, but you can get one for cheap that can also be used to dry basic nail polish, and cure hard gel, as well. 
  • Good shellac base coat: Sometimes if you use a crappy base coat, or don’t leave it under the light long enough, it can gradually bubble and screw up your whole mani! 
  • Lots of acetone for removal!

If you want to go all-in, you can also get a full starter kit on Amazon here. Learn how to do a shellac manicure in 2 minutes with this video I made:

4. Dip Powder Manicure

Dip powder manicures are super popular right now, and for good reason. The powder, when combined with an activating polish, hardens quickly (without the UV light) and provides a strong manicure that can last for around a month! This manicure is super-duper easy, but has some downsides. It can be pretty harsh on your natural nails, and removal can result in pretty thin nails. 

My Essentials:

  • Dip Powder Starter Kit: I taught myself how to do these manicures with the Cuccio Pro Powder Polish Dip Starter Kit. There are cheaper options on the market now, but I would definitely recommend this one– follow the instructions carefully!
  • Hardcore nail files: You’ll be shaping your nails after the dip powder sets, so you’ll need a super gritty nail file! I just ordered this “bulk” pack of files, buffers, and scrubbing brushes (mostly for the scrubbing brushes for the ultimate hand-wash during the pandemic) that are working great!

Learn how to do a dip powder manicure in 1 minute with this video I made:

5. Hard Gel Manicure

This is one of the more difficult and time-consuming manicures you can do at home, but the result is pretty epic. Essentially, you are using a paintbrush to apply a very thick gel onto your nails and then filing them down to smooth and shape your nails. Huge learning curve (and a steady hand necessary) with this one, but gives you a long-lasting, durable manicure with a ton of shine. Note: this one will also thin out your nails over time! For longer nails, hard gel can be used on top of tips (glue-on nail extensions) or built on their own over guide stickers. You’ll also need a UV light for this manicure, and be careful, depending on how strong your nails are, the curing process can be a little painful. 

My Essentials:

  • Gel nail brushes: Various sizes of brushes are really helpful, especially for meticulous designs like a French manicure. And, be sure to clean these thoroughly after each, or they won’t last!
  • Guide stickers: These stickers are awesome because you can build your nail as long as you want, and in whatever shape (the stickers also help to create shapes).

6. Acrylic Manicure

By far, the most difficult manicure to do yourself at home. Once dipped into acrylic liquid and then dipped into acrylic powder, you then use a paintbrush to essentially shape the entire nail on top of your natural nail or tips. It’s not only difficult to figure out how to get the right ratio of acrylic liquid to powder, but also pretty difficult to shape the acrylic. Despite these difficulties, this became my favorite kind of manicure to do to create dramatic, long nails! Also, you don’t need to buy a ton of colors of acrylic powder because you can use regular polish to paint over the acrylic!

My Essentials:

WARNING: Acrylic liquid is very powerful, and has a very strong smell. It can also irritate your eyes. When doing this manicure, make sure you are in a ventilated area (open a window and turn on a fan)! It is also flammable- so take care when storing your supplies!

Before attacking this manicure yourself, I would suggest watching a bunch of videos on Kiara Sky’s Instagram (yes, I watch these when I’m bored…#satisfying) and follow instructions carefully! 

nails, nail polish, DIY, manicure, manis, manicures, acrylic manicure, gel manicure, nail extensions, dip powder, shellac, beauty
Some of my favorite DIY manicures from over the years!

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