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Easy at-Home French Manicure

Avoid salon expenses and do your own French manicure at-home

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French Manicure
Photo Taken by: Peter Nicholson / Getty Images

Some people feel that the French manicure is an outdated way to style your nails. But many still consider it to be a timeless way to finish off your image.  Your nails will be smart, pretty, clean and suitable for all occasions.  

Whenever you plan to paint your nails, it is always best to schedule some time away when you know you will be undisturbed.  You want to ensure that the experience is enjoyable and stress-free, so allow at least an hour.  Below is a list of essentials you will need to gather together prior to beginning your manicure:

What You'll Need

Small bowl of warm water

Emery board

Nail polish remover  (Non-acetone if you have false nails)

Scissors

Cuticle tool

Cuticle remover cream

Moisturizer/hand lotion

Kitchen towel

Cotton balls or pads

Q-Tips

French manicure pack (available from most drug stores) 

French manicure color kit

Clear top coat polish

Hand towel to roll up and place under your wrists whilst painting

2 small plastic bags

At-Home French Manicure Technique

1. Remove jewelry and wipe off all traces of nail polish, using cotton balls or pads.  Remember acetone will dry nails out significantly.  Non-acetone is kinder but takes longer to remove stubborn or bold polish (non-acetone is essential for fake nails, otherwise they will dissolve.)

2. File or cut back nails to required shape.  When filing, remember to do this in one direction only, not in a back and forth motion.  Nail shape is an entirely personal thing. Square are a lot more popular now, however oval still has its place.

3. Apply cuticle remover and soak hands in a bowl of water to soften the cuticles.  It is best to give a good 5 minute soak.  *If your hands are exceptionally dry then you could place them in plastic bags for a further 5 minutes.  This will encourage the cuticles to soften even more and your hands to feel less rough.

4. Dry off hands and nails with a kitchen towel to avoid lint or threads from regular towels.

5. With the cuticle tool, very gently encourage cuticles back towards base of nail.  Do not snip away extraneous skin with scissors unless you are sure it is dead otherwise you will cause damage to the cuticle.

6. The opposite end of cuticle tool can be used to remove debris from the underside of the nail.

7. Apply moisturizer or hand lotion and massage your hands and the lower part of your arms.  It improves circulation and is very relaxing.  Before painting the nails, take one of the Q-Tips and dip it in the polish remover.  Wipe just the surface of the nail. If you do not the moisturizer may still be present on the nail and will prevent the polish from adhering successfully.

8. Apply the base coat to the nail beginning with one stroke down the center of the nail and then one from the left and right-hand sides.  Make sure all coats of polish are thin.  The temptation is to start with a thick coat to get it down quicker but it will be gloopy and not dry properly.

9. A tip to encourage nail polish to dry quicker is, approximately 1-2 minutes after applying the polish to the last nail run your hands and nails under cold water. 

10. Your French manicure pack should contain guide strips so that you can get a good distinction of color on the nail tip.

11. Once your base coat is thoroughly dry apply a guide strip below the naturally white section at the end of the nail.  You are aiming for a nice, clean white arc.  The size of the arc is really dependant on personal preference; however, if you have particularly short nails (or small nail beds) it is best to only have a very small white tip otherwise it will look unbalanced and give your fingers the appearance of being short. The same applies in reverse if your nail bed is large, a shorter tip will not balance out.

12. Paint the white tip in the same direction as the base coat rather than horizontally. Start mid-way over the guide strip and come down off the end of the nail with each stroke.

13. Wait for this coat to dry before removing the guides.  

14. If there is any residue left from the guide strips it is possible to remove this (once all polish is completely dry) by dipping one of the Q-Tips in pure alcohol and lightly brushing it over the surface of the nail.  

15. To prevent chipping seal the whole thing with the clear top coat.  Your manicure is now complete and ready to be admired. 

Extra Tips

  • It is not essential to use the guide strips if you find them irritating.  However, you will need an exceptionally steady hand to draw the arc.
  • To keep the manicure fresh apply a further top coat every few days.
  • Nail polish pens can also be useful for quick touch-ups, in case you chip the color.
  • An alternative to the French Manicure is the American manicure; the pink base coat is replaced by a more natural flesh tone.
  • For modern look why not replace the traditional white tips with a vibrant color such as electric pink.
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