Our hands take us through life's moments, big and small – whether you're giving an assertive handshake before an important meeting or joyfully reaching out to a loved one. Beautifully cared-for hands and nails are an easy confidence boost, no matter what you're doing, and add effortless polish to your look.

Careful regular maintenance with an at-home manicure routine is a quick and easy way to maintain healthy nails and elegant-looking hands. This guide will tell you which tools you'll need and the process to follow for a salon-perfect finish.

Manicure kit

You'll already have the essentials in mind, but a truly great at-home manicure kit goes a little further. Of course, it helps to purchase quality manicure tools, as they'll do a better job and last longer too. If your current nail clippers, nail file and hand cream have been faithful companions for some time, consider upgrading them to start afresh with your new routine. Also invest in a rich moisturiser with sun protection to keep those hands looking lovely for longer.

Now for the extras to take your do-it-yourself manicure up a notch: you'll need a hand scrub to slough away dull skin, cuticle cream for soft, malleable cuticles, and a cuticle pusher to elongate your nails. If you have brittle nails, try using a nail strengthener and giving your nails a break from coloured polish for a little while.

Pink NARS nail polish

Choosing a quality nail polish is essential for giving yourself a long-lasting salon-like manicure at home. Extended wear and gel nail polishes are a useful option as they tend to have a longer lifespan than standard versions. Thankfully, polish created for personal use will forgo the potentially drying effects of the harsh UV lights used to seal in the colour at the salon.

Make sure you use a clear base coat before applying colour. Not only will this provide protection from stains, it'll also smooth out your nails for a sleeker overall finish. Finally, a clear matte or shiny top coat will prevent your nail polish from chipping and peeling for longer. This also forms a base for any embellishments you want to add on top.

Illustration of different nail shapes

Finding a flattering shape is generally dictated by the length and width of your fingers and nail beds, but consider your personal style, too. If you prefer an edgier look, longer, angular nails will add to this. Those with a more understated style might choose to go for a shorter, neater nail featuring softer curves.

When looking at the shape of your hands and nails, you'll likely fit in to one of four categories. Generally, longer fingers with slim nail beds suit square or 'squoval' (square with a slightly rounded oval edge) shapes, as this adds an angular touch to streamlined hands. Long, wide fingers will find balance with elongated almond or oval shapes, while short, wide fingers will find the curves of round or oval nails the most flattering. Lastly, short, slim fingers tend to suit shorter styles, but can pull off most shapes.

Woman painting her own nails

Ultimately, an at-home manicure is an opportunity to pamper yourself a little. Set aside some time when you know you won't be interrupted and use this as an opportunity to wind down too. Really try to avoid doing a manicure in a rush, as you'll end up with a poor finish. There's nothing worse when you've just applied that flawless fresh coat than having to do something that involves your hands and potentially ruining all your hard work. It helps to keep your phone nearby if you know you might need it, so that you don't have to root around in a bag or coat pocket.

Minimise the rather intense scents of nail varnish remover and nail polish by sitting in a well ventilated area and making sure you open a window before getting started if needs be. Tie your hair back if it's long or you have a habit of absent-mindedly playing with it – best not to give your hair a fresh coat of polish as well!


Before you begin, collect everything together – tools, products and any entertainment you might need while your nails are drying!

Illustration of how to manicure

1. Remove all traces of polish with an acetone-free nail polish remover and then wash your hands thoroughly. If necessary, trim your nails, then smooth them into your desired shape with a nail file. Take care to get rid of any sharp edges and hangnails.

Illustration of how to manicure

2. To soften cuticles, soak your hands in a bowl of comfortably warm water infused with an essential oil such as soothing lavender or uplifting jasmine. After a few minutes, you'll be able to gently nudge your cuticles back to elongate your nails. Avoid removing or cutting the cuticle, as it helps to protect the nail and nail bed.

Illustration of how to manicure

3. Gently exfoliate your hands with a scrub. Massage it in thoroughly, paying attention to rough patches but being careful not to irritate delicate skin. Wash off every last trace in the bowl of water, then follow up with a rich moisturising cream to make your skin super soft. If you've got a separate cuticle cream, apply this now.

Illustration of how to manicure

4. Allow all of the goodness from your moisturiser and cuticle cream to be absorbed before applying a base coat to your nails. Leave this to dry thoroughly to ensure that your coloured polish has a smooth surface to go on to.

Illustration of how to manicure

5. Next, apply colour. Don’t rush this stage as an accident here could mean you need to start from scratch. A quality product will generally only need one or two coats to create the desired opaque finish. If you make any mistakes, tidy them up with a small makeup brush dipped in nail varnish remover.

Illustration of how to manicure

6. When your polish is completely dry, add a top coat to protect your nails and give them a salon-perfect shine. After that, simply sit back, relax and admire the effects of your pampering session while you wait for your nails to fully dry. Steer clear of activities like washing up or doing your hair for a little while afterwards to avoid nicks or smudges.


Once your nails are looking beautifully neat and healthy, you can take things a step further and get inspired with creative nail ideas. After all, a striking nail design needs a perfect foundation to look at its best. Remember that this can sometimes require a lot of nail varnish remover, which might impact your nail health. Reserve complex designs for special occasions and leave your nails bare every now and then. Buff them to a healthy shine for a naturally polished look.