The perfect manicure

Breaking out the gloves definitely does not mean putting away the nail polish. Fend off dry cuticles and hang nails with a manicure, and mix up a unique batch of nail polish with a simple and cheap recipe.

Contrary to popular belief, a good manicure does not start with soaking nails in warm water. While this might feel nice, it expands the nail bed, so when your nails dry, the polish won’t stick around very long.

Before applying nail polish, getting the right nail shape is key. Start with a cuticle oil or even olive oil and rub your cuticles to soften them. Push them back, don't cut them, either with your fingers or an orange stick.

Shaping nails is the most important part of a manicure, after the polish of course. Different shapes will have different effects on the overall look.

For a traditional look, let your nails grow out past your fingers and file them down to a length you are comfortable with, giving them a rectangle shape with slightly curved edges. This shape is clean and natural looking. For a trendier look, try a pointed or almond shape nail. Your tips need to be fairly long for this look to work. File nails on either side up towards the center and keep the middle slightly rounded to keep the look from looking cat lady-esque.

Remember to follow the natural shape of your nail bed, and that longer nails are more prone to breakage than short nails. Also, when filing nails, file in one direction, not back and forth, as that causes the layers of your nail to wear down.

Don’t waste your money on nail oils because the polish won’t stick to an oily base. In fact, before applying any nail polish, nails should be swiped with acetone so nails are as dry and clean as possible. If you apply lotion or oils to hands before polish, wipe nails afterwards.

Always start with a base coat because this will help to lock in moisture and give the colored polish layers something to stick to so they last longer.

Apply two thin coats of color, about two minutes apart, making sure they are completely dry. The first coat should be sheer, the second coat will fill it out. Make sure to swipe your brush horizontally across the top of the nail to seal in the color.

If you can’t keep your hands steady, place the hand being painted on a computer mouse or another rounded object. To steady the hand doing the painting, take a deep breath and as you exhale, paint your nails.

After the second coat of color is mostly dry, apply a clear top coat, making sure it isn't too thick, as your nails won’t fully set. After each nail, swipe across the top of the nail to help prevent chipping.

Don’t let all your hard work go to waste! Give your nails 30 minutes to an hour to fully set, preventing smudges. If your nail does smudge, don't just add another coat of polish, as it will never dry. Remove the nail polish and start fresh.

If you’re more interested in making your own colors, you can show the old eye shadows sitting in the bottom of your makeup bag daylight once more. Those bright colors you bought on impulse years ago might not look great on your eyelids, but will look fresh on your nails.

Freshen up your nail polish collection with this D.I.Y. nail polish recipe:

1 bottle of clear nail polish (you can decide how expensive or inexpensive to go with this) + crushed eyeshadow + a paper funnel + a toothpick

Pour a bit of the nail polish out into the garbage to make room for the eyeshadow, or you can always just use a half used bottle of top coat. Crush up the eyeshadow very finely to prevent clumping and pour into the bottle through the funnel.

There is no real measurement for the eyeshadow, just remember that more eyeshadow will give you a more opaque finish, less will give you sheer coverage. Use the toothpick to push all the eyeshadow into the bottle.

Finally, close the bottle and shake like crazy to mix the color. Before each use, the bottle will have to be re-shaken to mix the color again.

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