Hannah Frye

mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

By Hannah Frye

mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.

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Image by Lucas Ottone / Stocksy

October 20, 2022

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Every beauty professional has their nonnegotiable steps. In our series Like a Pro, we tap experts for the top three techniques they absolutely swear by. Here, you’ll hear from a variety of industry insiders on the fail-safe tricks they always keep in their back pockets. We’re all about simplifying your beauty regimen wherever you can, and sometimes the best routines are as easy as 1, 2, 3.


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At-home mani not measuring up to your favorite salon? While you may not be a seasoned nail tech, there are probably a few other factors contributing to a subpar paint job. Ever wondered how salon manis last so long? How the polish sits so smooth? How your cuticles look pristine for weeks post-appointment? 

Us, too. We asked celebrity manicurist and creator of the iconic vegan nail polish brand Deborah Lippman for the 101 on nailing an at-home manicure. Here, three cardinal rules you need to know:


Don’t skip the pre-polish prep. 

“Before applying any kind of nail polish, give yourself a proper manicure,” Lippman says. This means cleaning the nail of any residue with a gentle polish remover and dedicating time to tend to your cuticles. PSA: This does not mean cutting the cuticles. “I always say, if your skin gets dry, you wouldn’t take scissors to cut off dry peeling skin—so you shouldn’t do it with your cuticles,” Lippman says.

However, she does recommend taking a high-quality cuticle pusher and gently sliding them back, “both to create more space on the nail for polishing, but more importantly, to remove excess skin,” she says. “The goal is to remove as much excess dry cuticle as possible while pushing back,” she says. If you want to accelerate this process, use a gentle exfoliating treatment like Lippman’s Cuticle Remover.


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Don’t “saw” your tips. 

Like most beauty tools, nail files aren’t always intuitive, especially when you’re going for a complex nail shape. One common mistake Lippman sees people making is “sawing” back and forth at the tip of the nail. “This can cause your nails to peel and become weak,” Lippman says.

Instead, follow this protocol: “If you have thinner nails, if you have weak/peeling nails, instead of holding a file flush to the nail, tilt it so you file from underneath the nail,” she explains. “While shaping nails, the file should not be slanted—it should be straight against the side wall and then perpendicular to the tip of your nail. File more or less in one direction.” 

To perfect this technique, you may opt for a glass nail file, especially if you have brittle nails.


Never skip all 3 polishes. 

“A base coat is imperative to enhance the wear of the manicure and avoid staining the nails,” Lippman says. If you’ve ever had a yellow stain left behind post-polish, it may be caused by a lack of base coat.

If you find a grade-A base coat (a few worthy picks here), it will actually benefit the nails—even when worn alone. “Forget the old wives’ tale that says your nails need to ‘rest,'” Lippman says. “Keeping them polished, or at least with a base coat, can strengthen and protect your nails so they look younger.” (That’s assuming you use clean, formaldehyde-free polishes, of course.)

She suggests waiting a full two minutes in between your base, polish, and top coats. That last step is also crucial for a salon-grade look, as a top coat can provide shine and protect against chipping.

All in all: “Do not cut corners; if you are committing to having a perfect, beautiful, colorful manicure, you must adhere to the proper protocols to get the best results—go big or go home,” Lippman says.


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The takeaway. 

Even without years of experience, you can still achieve a salon-grade manicure from your own home. The key is to dedicate time to pre-polish prep, learn to file the right way, and commit to every step. If you’re on the hunt for supplies, check out this list of our favorite DIY manicure sets to start building your at-home salon.


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