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I post a lot of nail polish reviews – you may have noticed! 🙂 This week I thought I would share my overall nail care approach and the steps I take when doing my weekly manicure.

My tools of the trade.

My tools of the trade.

I’ve had enough salon manicures to pay attention and remember what they do so that I can mostly replicate it at home. Step 1 is always to remove the prior week’s nail color. Some weeks I remove the old polish a full day before I plan to do my new manicure, to give my nails a little breathing room. But there are weeks when I remove and re-apply on the same day. I use an acetone-based remover, which is hard on my nails, but necessary to remove glitter polish, which I wear about half the time. I often give my nails a quick once-over with a non-acetone remover after the polish is gone.

Step 2 is to file my nails down to a reasonable length. I spend a lot of time typing, and long nails just get in my way, so I keep them fairly short. I used to use nail clippers, but I almost always ended up clipping my nails too short, and I was having problems with split nails. So now I just file. I use a fairly rough emery board to really hack them down, being careful not to saw back and forth, because that can weaken nails and also lead to splitting.

Step 3 is to re-file my nails with a metal file to clean up any jagged edges. I also pry up any nail debris that’s been caught on the underside of my nails and file that off.

In Step 4 I apply Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover gel to the cuticles of one hand and soak that hand in a small bowl of very warm water for about three minutes. After soaking, I use the nail of a finger on the opposite hand to push back the cuticles on the soaked hand, then give that hand a thorough rinse under cool water to remove the rest of the gel.

After drying my hands, Step 5 involves *carefully* scraping and trimming any dead cuticle tissue. I use the orange-handled tool pictured above to scrape off any residue. Then I use the trimmers to cut away detritus. I then repeat steps 4 and 5 on the other hand.

Filed, trimmed, and ready for polish.

Filed, trimmed, and ready for polish.

At that point, I’m ready for polish. I always use base coat, and lately I’ve been absolutely loving the Orly Bonder Rubberized Base Coat. It provides good coverage, dries quickly, and has just a hint of tackiness to help the nail color adhere to your nail.

After two coats of color, I seal everything with a coat of top coat. My go-to top coat these days is Seche Vite, which is ironic, given how hard I try to avoid chemicals in my nail color. Seche Vite definitely contains toluene (one of the five ingredients that “five-free” polishes do NOT contain), and it has a strong chemical smell. I’m careful to use it near ventilation and to not get it on my skin as I apply it. And with three coats of other products between it and my nails, I figure it’s probably not seeping in that way either. It’s worth it to me, because it dramatically reduces the length of drying time. And as a consumer, the amounts of toluene are far below (really far below) the amounts deemed harmful. (Nail techs working with it all day…now that’s a different story.)

Et voilà! The finished product.

Et voilà! The finished product.

I used to use a quick-dry finishing spray, but with Seche Vite (which means “Dry Quickly” in French) I don’t need to. I also stopped using the quick-dry spray when I accidentally ruined a manicure with it. Pro tip: don’t use it with specialized top coats, like Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat or CND Vinylux top coat. It destroys the shiny finish!

For ongoing maintenance, I apply either cuticle oil or cuticle balm before bed, and I always apply hand cream before bed and after washing my hands throughout the day. I like Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream, Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil, or just plain Argan oil.

From the time I start removing last week’s polish to the time the top coat is applied is about 45-50 minutes. The Orly Bonder is great because by the time I finish applying it to the second hand, the first hand is dry and ready for color. I leave a few minutes between my two coats of color. And I leave about 5-10 minutes between my second coat of color and the top coat. I like to make sure the color is set so I don’t accidentally get color onto the top coat brush and into the top coat bottle.

My fancy new nail polish rack. I feel like a professional!

My fancy new nail polish rack. I feel like a professional!

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