I can’t believe how much money some people spend on their nails — between getting tips (artificial nails wrapped in silk or hardened with acrylic or gel), regular fill-ins, manicures and pedicures, the nails business is booming. In my town, there’s a nail salon on every corner — only to be outnumbered by the number of pizzerias, of course.
A new set of gel tips can set you back almost $100 in my area. That’s insanity. A pedicure by itself is about $17-$18, and a manicure runs about $10-$12, but many places have 2-for-1 deals where you get both for $20. But still, if you go twice a month, that’s $40. Some women go every week, for a total of $80 (before tips!). Plus, that’s before adding in how much it costs to have silk wraps or acrylic nails put on.
I don’t get tips put on because I find them unwieldy. But I’ve found I can do just as good of a job at home on my natural nails. All I need are a few relatively inexpensive tools.
Manicure & Pedicure Tools of the Trade
— Nail polish remover and cotton balls, to remove old color before you start.
— A good nail file. Get a two-sided one that has a fine grit on one side and a medium grit on the other.
— Nail and toe clippers. You can get away with just the toe clipper if you’re precise enough with your cuts.
— A cuticle pusher. Push back your overgrown cuticles and smooth out the “walls” around your nail with this tool.
— Lotion. I like to use a heavy-duty moisturizing lotion like Lubraderm or Eucerin, but you can use whatever you’d like.
— A large plastic basin to soak your feet in. Or, just fill your bathroom tub with enough water to cover your feet. I just add a bit of olive oil to the water as a softener/conditioner rather than use any particular foot soak product.
— Base coat/top coat. You can find polish that are two-in-one, so you don’t have to buy both.
— Nail polish in the colors of your choice. I seem to be drawn to the ones on clearance!
— Cuticle oil, to soften the cuticles for shaping/cutting
— Cuticle scissors or cuticle clippers
— Foam toe separators
— Foot buffer or pumice stone
I follow the same general procedure for both hands and feet.
First, take off all old polish with the cotton balls and the remover.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a basin and soak hands or feet for 5 minutes a few minutes. Remove hands/feet from water and dry with a clean towel.
Gently use the cuticle pusher to push back overgrowth toward the nail walls. If desired, cut stray cuticle pieces with the clipper, but be careful not to nick your skin.
You can also use a pumice stone or buffer on your feet to get rid of any rough spots, such as callouses and corns.
Use a nail clipper or a file to cut and shape nails to your liking (I prefer rounded nails over squared). Then wash your hands/feet with warm, soapy water. Apply lotion liberally, and follow up with a paper towel to wipe any extra lotion off your nails.
Now, it’s time to apply the polish! Start with a clear base coat. Once dry, apply a first coat of your selected nail polish color. Wait a few minutes and reapply for a total of two color coats. About 10 minutes later, add a clear top coat to “seal” the color. Now, if you’re me, you’ll need to constantly remind yourself not to touch anything for another 15 minutes to allow the coats to start fully drying. I’d also advise waiting a full half-hour before resuming your activities so you don’t mess up your polish.
I won’t lie — I do this about once a month, and most of the time I don’t even bother putting color on my fingernails (I stick with a clear coat). But it still beats spending the $20 — plus tip.