I have composed an easy to follow 12 step manicure system that works for me. I used to do nails professionally, adding in a gentle hand massage between steps 7 and 8. First you'll need a few supplies that can be purchased at any drug store or beauty supply. Here they are in no special order:
1. Bowl with water
2. 2 tbs lemon juice (Optional)
3. Cuticle pusher of your choice
4. Hand towel and napkin or paper towel
5. Nail clippers
6. Cuticle oil (olive oil in a dropper bottle works too)
7. Buffer/Nail file
8. Polish remover of choice
9. Alcohol and a small cup
10. Cotton balls or pads
11. Base coat
12. Top coat
Onto the manicure:
1. Set up your area, I use the bathroom counter in my bathroom with the overhead fan on and my bedroom window open.
2. Get a bowl of water and add 2 tbs of lemon juice if you like, this is good for cleansing the nails and softening the cuticle.
3. Start with freshly washed and sanitized hands and tools. This can be easily accomplished by putting some alcohol into a small cup to make an implement (your cuticle pusher, orange wood stick, clippers, toothpicks, whatever tools you use to do your nails with) alcohol bath. Leave them for five to ten minutes then remove and let air dry on a paper towel or napkin.
4. Remove existing nail enamel by soaking a cotton ball or cotton pad and then forming it to the top of the nail you're removing the polish on. Let sit for 1-2 minutes and then polish should come right off with gently motions from top of the nail by the cuticle, downward to the tip.
5. Next file the nails down if there are any snags, file in one direction, from the side to the center, this is important so as not to weaken the natural nail. Artificial nails can be sawed, but side to center is the way they teach us in Beauty College and I want you to know the best way to keep your nails up.
6. At this point you can use a buffer to smooth out some ridges, but keep in mind that for natural nails, the smoother and more glass-like the finish from buffing, the more prone the polish is to peeling, and this is not through any fault of the polish, any of it will peel off really glass-like shiny natural nails. Artificial nails however are the opposite, you want them to be shiny when naked, and this doesn't seem to impact the polish wear in my experience having had my nails both ways I think I can speak to this peeling problem personally.
7. Apply cuticle oil to cuticles and massage into nails, if desired you can then use hand lotion and give yourself a brisk but quick hand massage. I like to use olive oil on my nails both on the cuticle and underneath the free edge to help the nail remain hydrated. I do this throughout the day after washing and drying my hands.
8. Soak fingertips in the bowl of lemon water for 5 minutes, then pat dry with the towel.
9. Gently push the cuticles back with your pusher, or orange wood stick and remove any dead tissue, being careful not to indent the nail bed or the cuticle area to avoid making any dents in your nails that would have to grow out slowly. Wipe clean with the towel and make sure your nails are lint free. Then if needed, gently use the clippers to cut away any ragged or uneven cuticle skin or skin beside the nail itself.
10. Use the other end of the cuticle pusher or orange wood stick, and clean underneath the nail's free edge to remove any and all dirt or dead tissue. Wash hands and towel dry, doing a lint test again to make sure you don't have any adhering to your nails, it will ruin a polish job as sure as bumping your nails against objects will if they haven't fully set yet.
11. Put on the base coat and let dry.
12. Apply colored enamel, let dry and then top coat them.
You're all done and should have ten gorgeous nails.
One extra step I figure I will mention that you can take, I don't always do this, but I have and it works great. Is to take some Vaseline and use that around the cuticles in a VERY THIN layer of the jelly, this will be there as a barrier to polish mistakes setting onto the skin surrounding the nails. So when you're done and the polish has set for twenty minutes or more and you want to use an orange wood stick to 'clean' up the mistakes, you can easily remove them because of the petroleum jelly's ability to block the polish for setting onto the skin.
This is how I do my own nails, and sometimes I leave steps out, like I will only trim skin or cuticle a couple times a month, too much trimming can result in problems with scabbing and worse, damage to the nail matrix. I want you to understand the way nails are grown, there is a bulb of cells at the base of the nail and it's called the Matrix, that is what the nail is actually grown from and what we want to nourish. It’s why we need to oil the cuticles, because beneath them is the matrix, so be especially careful to NOT dent this half-moon area above the cuticle. Try Googling “Nail Matrix” and you'll see images of it on a diagram I'm sure. However I felt I would be remiss if I didn't share that information with you because dents need time to grow out, and no one wants dents.
I hope you like my system of manicuring my natural nails, I welcome your feedback and pictures on your own results. I will do my best to answer your questions and thank you for reading!