Clean the nail and remove old polish with a nonacetone polish remover.
File with an emery board or nail file, rounding the edges slightly. Always file in a single direction; if nails are thin or peel easily, angle the file so that it lies slightly under the nail.
Soak in warm water and liquid soap, then massage cuticle oil into cuticles (the thin tissue-like skin that adheres to the bottom of the nail plate). Give it a few minutes to soak in.
Use a cuticle pusher to remove cuticle overgrowth from the nail bed; trim hangnails along the sides of the nail with a clipper. Never cut the cuticle."Treating the cuticle is paramount and leaves nails looking like they were professionally done," says Dana Caruso, a manicurist for Sally Hansen.
Wipe the nail surface again with nail polish remover to remove oils, then apply a clear base coat. Don't overlook the base coat; it hydrates nails to minimize splitting or cracking.
Apply polish in two thin coats. If applied too thick it's more likely to chip.
Fix smudges. Have you mistakenly smudged the polish? Quickly dab the tiniest drop of nail polish remover over the nick using the tip of another finger. The remover thins out the surrounding polish to cover the smudge. Wait a minute, then reapply color or top coat.
Finish with a quick-drying top coat; reapply the top coat every other day to prolong the longevity of the manicure.
Expert Tip: "If your normally white nails have been yellowed by polish, rub them with the peel of a lemon or grapefruit," says Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie Cosmetics.
The Do-It-Yourself Pedicure
Clip overgrown nails and remove old polish. "I'm astounded by how many people never take the polish off their toes and just continue to paint over the top," says Ji Baek, owner of Rescue Beauty Lounge in New York. "Take the nail lacquer off and examine your natural nails to make sure they're in healthy condition."
Use a dry-skin file to whittle away stubborn calluses. (If you suffer from multiple conditions such as cracked soles, calluses, or corns, don't attempt to fix these yourself. Seek the help of a podiatrist.)
Soak feet in warm, soapy water for 10 minutes, then exfoliate using a grainy scrub on feet, heels, and legs.
Gently push back cuticles and use a manicure stick to clean under toenails.
Slather cream on legs and feet. Clean nail beds with nail polish remover.
Paint on a base coat, two coats of color, and a top coat, and wait at least 20 minutes for toenails to dry.
Expert Tip: "Even your own tools need to be sterilized after each use," says nail expert Ji Baek. "Soak metal tools in rubbing alcohol for 25 minutes then seal in a plastic bag."