How I Do My Manicures

I realized recently that I’ve never discussed how I do my manicures so it’s time to remedy that.

I’ll discuss the steps I take to prep my nails and show the tools that I use.

Removal of existing polish

I’m rarely without nail polish so the first step I take is to make sure my nail polish is removed thoroughly.  Currently I’m using Onyx Professional Moisturizing Formula Nail Polish Remover (shown on right, in the lavender scent), which is one of my favourites.  Also shown is my staple from Sally Beauty Supply (I get a lot of my nail supplies from there as you will see in this post), the Beauty Secrets Acetone Nourishing Nail Polish Remover, which I buy in the large bottle ($7 for $946ml) and decant into an old Zoya Remove+ bottle. I did love the Zoya Remove+ but it is pricey at $13 for 237ml, so I learned that you can add some glycerin into acetone to create your own version (see recipe here).

I’m currently using the crappy fake Shiseido facial cotton from Rexall just to use them up – they’re not great since they are a little linty. The DuSoft non-woven cotton is what I use to wipe my nails clean just before I apply polish, which I’ll talk about more below.

Nail Shaping

I shape my nails before I’ve washed or wet them because it’s best to do this on dry nails. I primarily shape them with glass nail files and then do minor adjustments using a regular nail file.

This case has seen better days!  I got it at the dollar store years ago and haven’t been able to find a replacement.  I have spilled nail polish on it and attempted to clean it. 😛

It is where I keep the majority of my nail implements.

Glass nail files – I have this unbranded one that came in a navy velvet pouch (from Beauty Supply Outlet, I recall) that I’ve probably owned for 10 years. I live in fear that it will break one of these days so a few years ago I went in search of a back-up. After testing a bunch, I landed on the OPI Crystal File as being the most similar. The OPI is slightly courser so I only use it when I have to file down more length.

Cushion nail file – I really like this one from Sally Hansen which I’ve now learned are discontinued (of course!) I like the cushion ones as they hug the nails better to get rid of any stray bits (sorry, not a technical term but you know when after you file, some bits hang on underneath?) and for fine tuning my nail shape.

Cuticle Care

I think my cuticles grow like weeds! I’m constantly battling them. I know there’s advice out there saying to never cut cuticles, just push them back. Not for me, I have to trim my cuticles or else they look ragged.  Case in point:

These are my very dry, very ragged cuticles after 9 full days since my last manicure. 😳  (the polish I have on is by Jessica in the shade Tres Chic). I was taught by my esthetician friend how to trim my cuticles so as to not overdo it.

Cuticle remover – I’ve been a devoted user of the Blue Cross Cuticle Remover for probably the past 6 years. It’s a milky watery liquid that is hands down the most effective and inexpensive cuticle remover on the market. I get mine from Sally Beauty Supply and I decant from the big bottle into the small squeeze bottle (I’m reusing a bottle of some other brand of crappy cuticle remover) which makes it easier to apply to the nails.

Cuticle pusher – I leave the Blue Cross Cuticle Remover on for about 60 seconds and then use my cuticle pusher to push back the cuticles on each finger. This one I have is the Quo brand which gets the job done.

Metal nail file – I don’t use this to file my nails at all, I just like the tip which I use to clean under the nails and to loosen the nail matrix skin (I just noticed that this is made in Korea – interesting)

Cuticle nippers – I used to mostly use the traditional type with the spring loaded action (shown on top). Then I decided to try out the nipper / scissor hybrid which is what I primarily use now – I find that I can get more precision with these. However, I still find the spring-loaded nippers to be sharper.

And voila, my nails are nearly ready:

My naked nails… I don’t think I’ve ever shown my bare nails here before. 😮 This is such an unflattering hand pose. I need to up my hand posing game. 😉

Like this?

I was seriously testing and practising different hand poses. What has my life become? o_O


A few other pre-polish steps:

Buffer – I like lightly buffing the surface of my nails to smooth them of any ridges and I do think this helps the polish to adhere better. These buffing blocks are nicely cushioned – I get mine from Sally Beauty Supply and the yellow ones (fine grit) are my favourite.

Hand scrub
– I use the Mary Kay Satin Hands scrub on and off and it does feel really amazing, like a mini-spa for my hands – but I don’t think this is a necessary step, just a nice treat! 🙂

Nail brush – I’m not sure if this does too much and it could be a force of habit but I do scrub my nails with a nail brush when I’m washing the Blue Cross cuticle remover off my nails and after I’ve trimmed my cuticles. It gets rid of any remaining debris I might have.

Non-woven cotton – I like to do one last wipe of my nails with nail polish remover to ensure any lingering polish is gone. I’m always surprised to find a stray bit usually when I’m wearing deeper shades. I scored a bunch of these cottons from a salon that was closing down for $2 and now I’m looking for a replacement – any recommendations? They are like texture mesh gauze that are lint-free.

Rubbing alcohol – I used to use the Deborah Lippmann 2 Second Primer which is just fancy rubbing alcohol that costs $19. When I finished it, I refilled the empty bottle with plain rubbing alcohol from the pharmacy and this works just as well to remove any trace of oil from my nails.

Trind Nail Balsam – this isn’t essential but it’s great for restoring moisture back to my cuticles and nails after all that washing, buffing and alcohol. This doesn’t interfere with nail polish application since it’s glycerin based.

Nail Polish Thinner – this isn’t a prep step BUT I wanted to include it since this is an essential arsenal in my nail kit. I’ve had this little bottle probably for 5 years now and it’s only half way done. Do not thin your top coats / polishes with nail polish remover – it will ruin them! This bottle cost me less than $5 from Sally Beauty Supply – you only need a few drops to thin polish.

Polish Application

This is the most straight-forward part!

Base coats – before I apply my actual base coat, I often use a nail treatment like Witchcraft Rock Solid or Orly Nailtrition (review here) – these help to prevent my nails from peeling and splitting. My base coat of choice is Orly Bonder base coat – I have a 120ml refill bottle just because I love it so much. 😀

This is with 1 coat each of Orly Nailtrition and Orly Bonder base coat. The tips of my nails are slightly stained from whatever polish I wore probably about 3 months ago. I’m not bothered by it since my nails are always polished. Hey, I noticed that if I flip the image upside down, this pose looks better. Hrmm. 💡

Then I apply whatever polish I’m wearing – I usually do 2 coats.  I don’t have any special method or tips to share – I do 3 strokes: middle, side and side. I make sure to run the brush along the tips to wrap the nails.

Cuticle stick – I use this to clean polish from around my cuticles as I’m applying my polish layers while they’re wet. I try my best to keep the polish out of the nail grooves but some polishes are so runny they tend to pool in there.

Pointed cotton buds – I use these dipped in polish remover to clean around my fingers once the polish has dried.  I get these Nail Tees from Sally Beauty Supply.  The rare time I will use a brush dipped in polish remover to clean around the nail bed but I find it’s not as effective as the cotton buds.

Top coats – Poshé Fast Drying Nail Top Coat is my jam! (review here) I know Seche Vite is the popular choice for fast dry top coat but I find it shrinks polishes from the tip as it dries. Poshé doesn’t do that and it dries my nails in 10 minutes, plus it keeps my manicures from chipping for a week! And I own a giant salon-sized refill bottle that will likely last me another 10 years. 😆 A couple of other top coats I like are the Essie Gel Couture one (review here) and Pro-FX which I found at Walmart – I use this mainly for my pedicures.


Hand cream – I’m not that loyal to any particular hand cream – I’m currently using the Herbacin at home, and I keep the Consonant in my purse.

Cuticle oil – I’m using this one from Anna Sui in the cute bottle but I really have no preference for cuticle oils, they all pretty much work the same. I keep the Nicole By OPI Oil to Go pen at my desk.

And, that’s it. From beginning to end, it takes me about an hour to do my nails. 🙂 My routine is every Sunday night and I usually watch the show 60 Minutes while doing my manicure.

Here’s an example of a finished mani:

This photo is from my OPI Dim Sum Plum post.

PS. Pedicure is pretty much the same but I use a nail clipper rather than file my nails, plus, I use a foot file for my soles.

I found this foot file from Winners (the brand is Titania from Germany) and loved it so much that I’ve bought multiple back-ups.  I soak my feet for about 15 minutes in soapy water and then go to town with the foot file.  The nail clipper is from Revlon which I’ve owned for ages – I bought it from the CNE at one of those discount beauty booths.

While polishing, I also use these La Cross gel toe separators that I found at a dollar store.

So that’s how I do my nails! How do you do yours?

81 thoughts on “How I Do My Manicures

  1. Your nails looks so good and I love the nail polish you have on. I also always have nail polish on and I feel super weird when I don’t, I almost feel naked, haha!! I definitely need to step up my prep game! I never do anything to my cuticles because I’m scared that I will ruin my nails or hurt myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I feel naked without polish too! So weird because I didn’t always used to wear polish but now I can’t stop! 😛
      It did take some practice to not overdo with the cuticle trimming – there is a possibility of cutting too much but I just make sure to trim the white part, not the fleshy bits!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved reading this! Great tips! And I loved how you did your manicure with the pinkish nailpolish, looks so classy!!
    I got really vulnarable nails, they often break and unfortunately when I’m nervous I kind of destroy them… 😦 So lately I left them to rest without any nailpolish nor any other nail product and honestly after a few months they got better. In this moment I’m also taking hair vitmains, that I’ll talk about in my blog in a couple of weeks, that also should help the nails getting a bit better. However, for the first time in a long period, I just did my nails today and having them done feels great!
    Have a wonderful week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am lucky that my nails aren’t too fragile. Actually, I find when I don’t have nail polish on, my nails get more damaged (peeling and tips get jagged).
      Oh I do also take hair and nail vitamins especially zinc and biotin – what do you take? I look forward to seeing your post on it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wish I had stronger nails! You’re lucky! 😊 I’m taking the hair vitamins from Longlife called Hair Formula Plus. I just finished 3 months and will continue at least another month, I think it has helped a bit 😉


    1. I didn’t use glass files until my esthetician friend introduced them to me. Changed my world! We didn’t have Sally here for ages and when they opened, it was amazing to have access to all the salon-quality items at a fair price! I don’t even know where one would find those buffer blocks. Drugstores don’t have the good ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently found Sally beauty in the UK, not sure if it’s the same one, and I think they’ll be my go to for nail things. I haven’t ventured much outside brands I know at the moment but I’ll have to see if they have the polish remover. I should probably work on my manicure routine, mine tends to be file, remove the old stuff then paint them. I always feel weird without nail varnish, like I’m missing something even if it’s just a clear one so it feels off when I’m giving them a break for a few days and I always think they’ll break then.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had a look on the Sally UK site and I think it’s the same company since they sell their house branded products like Ion (hair care) and Beauty Secrets (nail care). It took me a while to get a routine down pat – lots of it was trial and error – now I’m fairly robotic when it comes to doing my nails. 😛 I have given my nails a “break” but usually that means I end up banging my nail and tearing the side (OUCH). I much prefer having SOMETHING on my nails.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess I need to actually get a routine then 😆 mine seems to change each time at the moment! I do the same when I have no nail varnish on. I think it’s because I use gel a lot I tend to need a bit if a rest where I use just nail oil or hand cream though I don’t do it for long without at least a clear varnish or my nails don’t last.


  4. You take such amazing care of your hands, and it shows! My lazy butt cannot be bothered with all of these steps, hence my grandma hands 😦 How long does it take for you to do a manicure? The length of time it takes to watch 60 Minutes (so 60 minutes? lol!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes it takes me about one hour! Tick tock tick tock… 😛 The activity I spend the longest doing is the cuticle removal stuff… also, when I was taking photos of manis. Now I don’t do that any more. Ain’t got no time for that!
      You do NOT have grandma hands! XD


    1. I guess it’s just become routine for me now. It’s my little “spa” time each Sunday night. 😛 Plus, I have so many nail polishes, I should really be painting them TWICE a week! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t do my own nails. It looks like Stevie Wonder did them by the time I’m done. I got acrylics & gel nails in the 90s but then got rid of them around 2002 as they were too spendy to keep up. Now I’m firmly in the press on/glue on nails camp. I get packs of nails at the dollar store, tape them to q-tips & paint them in advance so no mess when applying. Or I’ll buy a set of nails already done up if I don’t have time to make my own. The Kiss Gel Fantssy ones are nice and I like the ImPress ones too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LMAO Stevie Wonder line. XD
      I’ve never gotten gel nails but I did dabble in press-ons for fun. I did not know you did press-on nails until you mentioned it one time. They look really natural on you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Press on nails have come a looong way since the old Lee Press On Nails (remember those in the 80s?). They can look a lot more natural now as they’re much thinner to lay more flat over your normal nails (but still durable). Plus polish lasts a lot longer on fake nails because of the smoother surface. I’ve never experienced chipping, just fading off a little at the tips.


  6. That is a thorough step by step of the process. Mine is similar, but I’ve not being doing much about cuticles, nor do I buff my nails as it thins them too much. I’ve been going bare nail for a month now or so. I used to do my nails every Monday night, after spinning class, but after not making it to that class for a while I’ve been skimping on my nail polish game. Have to find a new night that is convenient.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been wanting to shift my night to another night but Sundays is the most convenient. And I have freshly painted nails for the start of the work week so that’s good. I hope you find a good night to do it – nail polish is so fun. I feel naked without painted nails.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alas, I think this week will be another one without the polish. Life has been too irregular these past few weeks. Doing my nails is then one of the first things to suffer.


  7. I am nowhere near as rigorous with my nails like you are…not even halfway. 😂😮Although I do actually like my nails. They’re not the nicest though when they grow really long cos clearly I don’t file mine (ain’t nobody got time for that) so they become unruly.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Same same! I think because I grew up playing the piano, I was taught to keep my nails short so I did, which helps a lot too if you’re writing (your nails aren’t digging into your palms then). I don’t think I will ever experience ‘getting my nails done’ outside so painting my nails and occasionally making them look neat is the closest I’ll get to ‘nail care’ XD.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. i know you can
        I BET U a GAZILLION lipsticks that if i gave you my nails – ALTHOUGH they are FAKE
        u could make them LOOK nicer than the people at the salon because of ur METICULOUS NATURE
        AND PS ur delicate
        i am keeping mine shades of white this summer
        i have aspen something or other on right now – opi
        i love white for me
        if u know some good pale shades
        LEMME KNOW
        LOVE + marshmallows xxx


  8. I use my nail brushes all the time! I actually read somewhere that gently scrubbing with one can help clean up your cuticles… not 100% sure how true that is, but it makes sense to me :]

    While reading through your post, I kept thinking, “Wow, this is a lot of stuff for just doing your nails!” but honestly I have just as many things and use them all! Before the obsession I had no idea it could get so complicated 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good to know about the nail brush being actually useful! I think it does make sense. 🙂

      It does seem like a lot, doesn’t it? But they are all itty bitty things and they follow logical sequence. But I do realize that I end up with 5 layers of stuff on my nails when I’m finished: treatment, base, 2 layers of polish, and then top coat! 😮

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You’re such a pro! I find it adorable you have a routine and a whole bunch of products for all the stages – proper dedication right there! I normally just file my nails, buff and remove ridges, then polish and top coat! I don’t do pedicures, my toes are soooo weird lol! I still haven’t painted my nails when I commented to you last week I was going to, oopsie 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it’s my “thing”? 😛 My boyfriend knows to leave me alone for that time. Nothing bugs me more than if I ding my nails accidentally! 👿
      I like keeping my feet pedicured even in the winter months. Something about having painted toes makes me tolerate the idea of feet better! XD

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m on the hunt for a replacement of that dollar store bag! I think maybe an art store may carry something like that.
      And you should take time out for pampering activities. 😛 That’s my excuse.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How about Muji? They have a lot of choices. Light weight rip stop nylon and indestructible “ballistic” weave nylon varieties haha

        I patience with my nails is like… er… none? *LOL* I prefer just knitting to chill haha

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve checked out MUJI but they don’t have anything similar. They just have cosmetic pouches with zippers and interior pockets. I’ve seen art store have these types of holders for brushes but most of them are very long, which I don’t need.

          Ah, I haven’t knitted very much lately. My wrist always end up getting sore. I’m trying to finish up an item for a baby… who just turned 2 yrs old recently LMAO.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. A very lengthy process but totally worth it from when you do polish reviews! I have to be honest my routine is pretty simple, remove polish, add oil to my cuticles, apply a clear nail growth polish since my nails suck and them paint. Occasionally I file them but I have shorter nails so I don’t end up needing much prep 🙂 Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My nails grow pretty quickly but I prefer them shorter so I’m constantly filing them down. I used to have a shorter routine but I’ve found these steps really help my polishes last the full week. I hate having chipped nails and don’t have time to repaint during the week. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lovely to see the step by step methods that you use and for me, regular use of cuticle oil, moisturisation of cuticle, make the nails to breathe when the nails are not painted, nourishing the body with calcium and selenium related products like nuts, water, avocado and dairy

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Um do you want to come and do my nails for me? Seriously you’ve got your own little manicure shop there for yourself – no wonder your nails always look so fab! My nails are always an after thought – I probably spend 15 min doing them total and even that bugs me sometimes – I hate waiting for them to dry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it’s now my “thing” to have polished nails. I feel unfinished without them done. Get yourself a fast dry top coat like Poshe! I used to have to wait for nail polishes to dry but it has changed my mani game!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I wanted to comment last week, but…

    Anyhoo… I used to buff my nails too, but I gave up years ago because my nails were super weak and they’d break all the time. Back then I didn’t know that the reason why my nails were so thin and brittle was that I buffed layers and layers of keratin away. I also don’t file my nails as often anymore. Sometimes I don’t file them for 3 weeks (and it’s fine because they’re not weak anymore). However, every time I do a new mani, I use a buffer in the way you use a nail file. This way the tips are super smooth – and this also reduces the risk of tears and chips. 🙂

    I do have quick-dry top coats, but I rarely use them. I used a quick-dry top coat once this year (it was an emergency), but I prefer to use simple clear polishes as top coats because they never cause bubbles and they don’t shrink the colour polish underneath. But I don’t always “top coat” my nails. My manis bore me quickly, so they don’t have to last for long anyway.

    if you want your manis to look perfect for longer, you should reapply your top coat every day or other day.

    I love that you’re committed to cuticle oil. I bought one a few weeks ago. Put it somewhere. Haven’t seen it since… So I haven’t used any cuticle products in years – but my cuticles are perfectly fine. Actually, they have improved a lot. I just moisturise my hands (+ cuticles) all the time, so the cuticles stay flexible… elastic… in shape. I also don’t push them back with a tool anymore (I had a tool, I probably still have it – I think I lost it to the invisible stash monster that seems to claim random products at random times) – I use my nails to !!gently!! push back my cuticles once a day, or every other day – and I always do that after I’ve moisturised my hands. I never need to really push back the cuticles – I somehow just maintain them – and it works perfectly. No need to trim or cut my cuticles. No need for cuticle remover. Have you tried to only push back your cuticles with your nails instead of trimming them? I understand you’re rally good at trimming them, and you don’t overdo it, but… could you try to just give them a gentle push-back every day after you’ve moisturised? I don’t want to sound like someone who thinks they’ve got all the answers (because I know I don’t have all the answers – or any answers for that matter), but you’re my friend and I don’t want you to have a cuticle trimming accident… mkay? ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thanks for your concern for my cuticles! I really have tried to only push my cuticles back – for months I tried but they look terrible when they’re not trimmed. I do push them back daily, especially when I am using the cuticle oils and / or when I’m applying hand cream. They just grow and grow and look ragged. 😦

      The system I have now with the Orly base and Poshe top coats keep my manicure for a full week. I’m really happy with this combo.

      I’m really lucky that my nails aren’t fragile – they grow very fast too. My nails only really peel in the winter months when I’m washing my hands a LOT (to avoid spread of cold!) and the dry climate here. But overall, I don’t suffer from breaks or tears. Oh yes, I use a buffer to file my nail edges too – as a last step. It makes them super smooth. 🙂

      Thanks for all your tips and concern! Much appreciated! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Vicious cuticles! Boo! OK, so gotta tame them. 🙂

        Glad to hear your nails are strong! My nails are kind of weak. They’re total softies! So I actually need to polish them, otherwise they’d just break… I remember my pre-polish days… I had the shortest nails, and they’d still break, peel and chip… fortunately those times are over. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you!

            Yes, they’re super soft. But I polish them until they feel strong. Clear polish helps a lot because it is better than most base or top coats, althought two coats of nail hardener as a base achieve the same result. 🙂


  14. I’m so jealous of your long nail beds, your nails always look so long! My middle finger just doesn’t seem to grow at the same rate as all my other nails so I’m left constantly with one short nail as they always seem to break easier as well!
    I’m pretty lazy when it comes to caring for my hands in general, I’ve even fell out of practice of using a hand cream since Christmas, I only started using one last week and my hands already look a lot better. I have this cuticle scraper thing which I do use as my cuticles seem to just float back into place as soon as I’ve pushed them back, once a week seems to do the trick to keep on top of them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve found that certain nails grow faster than others too! My ring finger and index seem to grow faster. Are you still taking biotin? I take 2500mcg daily and I think it helps both my hair and nails.

      Yes I know what you mean about your cuticles floating back into place – they’re like cowlick hair bits! XD

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow!! Your nails look amazing and there’s so many steps. I’ve never done a manicure or pedicure before I guess. I take care of my nails, but very simply : I clip my nails with a nail clipper, file my nails, and that’s it. I didn’t realize that spring nipper thing is for cuticles! I use it to clip off hang nails. I sometimes buff my nails, but rarely. I’m usually too lazy to paint my nails, but sometimes I do. I’ve never cut my cuticles before but is there risk of bleeding associated with that? I have a bleeding disorder (blood doesn’t clog) so I avoid things that’ll increase my risk of bleeding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ve been doing my nails for years. I used to be terrible at it but practice has really helped! I think having clean unpolished nails is really nice too. 🙂 Oh yes, you can use the nippers to clip off hang nails too. As for the risk of bleeding, as long as you don’t go too far in. I have in the past accidentally clipped too far in! The key is to only grab the white part of the cuticle. But I think in your case with your condition, it’s better to avoid altogether and simply push your cuticles back. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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