Make sure nails are clean.
Nails that have oil or residue on them from food, lotion or other substances will not be the ideal canvas on which to start. Make sure your finger and toenails are free of polish; non-acetone polish remover is best to use, as acetone can be harsh on nails.
Cut and file.
Fingernails should all be about the same length. If you’ve broken a nail recently and it’s a lot shorter than the other nails, you’ll want to cut or file the longer ones down. Nail files are easier on nails than emery boards and are also easier to handle. Make sure the edges are smooth and even with no knicks. Wash your hands afterwards to clear off any residue.
Exfoliate and care for cuticles.
Soak hands for two to three minutes and feet for five minutes in warm water. Exfoliate, rinse and dry. If you have it, apply a small amount of cuticle oil to cuticles and push them back with a cuticle stick. Wash and dry hands and feet.
Don’t skip the base coat.
Even if you’re short on time, it’s important to apply a base coat for a couple of reasons. First, darker polish can stain nails. If you apply a base coat it will prevent staining. Second, the base coat fills in any ridges or unevenness, which will lead to a more polished look.
Apply like a pro.
Professionals paint the first stroke down the nail’s center and then move to each side. Also try to make the coats thin—this will extend the longevity. Two coats of color will do the trick, then follow up with a coat of top coat to add shine and help cover any flaws.
Allow adequate drying time.
This is one of the biggest sabotage factors of a mani or pedi, not waiting long enough for the polish to dry, getting up to do something, and smudging a nail. Don’t start a mani or pedi in the middle of doing something else—have the patience to wait for nails to dry.
If you take the time and do these steps carefully, you can have beautiful hands and feet in between your salon visits.