If you love a beautiful manicure and pedicure but find yourself shying away from doing it yourself -- after all, you can't imaging achieving the results you receive from a professional nail artist -- look no further than grooming tools. Becoming familiar with more than just a bottle of nail polish can make the experience seem somewhat complicated, but once you've been introduced to the essentials, you'll see that at-home nail care is a cinch.
Before you paint, buff or file, you need to do some prep work. Missing this step is a major misfire when you're striving to achieve an immaculate manicure or pedicure. Start with cotton balls and nail polish remover to clean off any old nail polish -- for hard-to-remove paint, dip a cotton swab in nail polish remover and rework the area until clean. Use a toothbrush or nail brush and hand soap to then gently scrub your nails on top and under the tips to remove any dirt. Rub cuticle salve or oil over your cuticles and push them back with a tool called an orange stick or cuticle stick. For calloused feet, scrape stubborn skin with a callus rasp for a more aesthetically pleasing look and feel. Or, for toes with a fungus issue, apply an anti-fungal serum for a few weeks to achieve healthier nails.
While you should avoid cutting away your cuticles completely, a cuticle nipper is a helpful tool when you have a hangnail or tattered cuticles that need to be removed. Gently nip the dead skin off just above its base without getting too close to healthy skin. If your nails are longer than you'd like, cut them back with manicure scissors -- these smaller, safer scissors are less likely to result in injury than a pair of fabric or office scissors. Or, reach for a pair of nail clippers for a simple, easy trim.
Once your nails are clean and trimmed, it's time for shaping. Because nail clippers can leave uneven or jagged ends and the tops of your nails may have a less than ideal texture, you will need to use shaping tools for a smoother appearance. Start with a nail file, running it in one direction over the tip of each nail -- you can alter the shape of each nail for a square or rounded look by leaving a hard corner or smoothing each corner. Use a soft file to prevent damage. Use a nail buffer -- or nail block -- running its sides along the tops of your nails for an even, ridge-free surface.
Your nails are clean, trimmed and shaped and it's time for the color, right? Before applying color, protect your nails from staining and create a strong canvas by first applying a colorless base coat -- if your nails are still a bit uneven after buffing, look for a base coat that fills uneven textures in nails for a smooth finish. Once dry, apply two coats of the nail polish of your choice, allowing the polish to dry for a few minutes between coats. Once the color has set, finish your manicure or pedicure with a top coat. This clear coat acts as a sealant for extra shine and to protect nails from chipping. For a budget-friendly option, look for a does-it-all product that works as a base coat and top coat. Use a corrective pen to clean up any stray color and you're done.