My Nails Are in Bad Shape, so I Got an Expert's Tips for an Easy Home Manicure

I possess a small (but mighty) number of beauty skills under my belt that I can legitimately brag about—cutting my own bangs and accomplishing the perfect smoky eye among them. Doing my own nails, however, is not.

Admittedly, I have relied heavily on my local nail salon to provide me with a biweekly sleek manicure (and tackle my dry, bitten nails) ever since I could afford to go there, and I’ve never looked back. So when every nail salon closed due to COVID-19, I knew it was finally time to acquire and perfect a new skill: the perfect at-home manicure.

With my nails in dire shape, I reached out to Sarah Gibson Tuttle, founder and CEO of luxury nail salon Olive & June, for tips and tricks on how to achieve a salon-worthy manicure at home. With three locations across L.A., Sarah has now created a collection of innovative new products, polishes, tools, and how-tos, inspired by the belief that no matter who you are, where you live, or what you do, you can achieve a perfect manicure that makes you feel like your best self.

“When I saw a good mani had the power to change someone's mood, I wanted to share that happiness with everyone everywhere and truly democratize the salon manicure. So I spent a year teaching myself how to do my own nails at home and learned so much. Namely, salon-perfect nails are totally possible but only with the right tools and a new system. From that, the Studio Box was born, the first all-in-one at-home manicure system that includes everything you need to do your nails at home, plus a tool I invented, The Poppy, that makes it easier to paint your nails with both your right and left hands. And it really works. I promise at the end of this you will be a mani pro,” Tuttle shared. 

Read on as she walks us through how to easily achieve a salon-worthy manicure at home.

Getting Started

"It’s all about getting a routine going. This is your moment of self-care. Take your time, call your BFF on FaceTime, pop on your favorite TV show, and start your mani. Don’t worry if this is your first time. It’s way easier than you think."

Step 1: Shape, Clip, & File

"Let’s start with your shape. It’s all about the 90/10 rule: 90% of your shape comes from your nail clipper; 10% from filing. First, use flat-edge clippers to cut your nail into your desired shape."

"Then, gently smooth out the edges with your file. My secret hack to getting the perfect shape is starting with your old polish on so you’re not being distracted by the natural whites of the nails."

Step 2: Prep

"This is literally the most important step. With proper prep, your Olive & June mani can last seven-plus days. It’s super easy; just dip, buff, dip. Dip each nail in a polish remover pot to remove old polish as well as any excess oil that can interfere with your polish adhering to your nail bed. Buff out any imperfections. Then dip each nail back into the remover pot. Do not touch your face or hair or anything after your final dip. We don’t want natural oils or water getting into your nail bed before you paint. Water expands your nail plate, so when it evaporates, it will contract and cause chips or cracking."

Step 3: Trim (Hangnails Only!) + Buff Cuticles

"Do not cut your cuticles! I know this may come as a shock, but this is the way to go for perfect cuticles. Just gently push back your cuticle with your thumb in the shower or bath weekly, and then use the buffer cube to gently buff back and forth along the edge of the cuticle to erase dry skin and smooth things out."

Step 4: Polish

"This is the main pain point for people, which is why I created the Poppy—so both hands will look salon-perfect. First, pick a polish with a brush that makes it easy for you to get a clean line. The brush in our bottle basically paints the nail itself so you get that clean line without having to really work for it. Don't try to cover your entire nail the first few times you paint. Start midway into your nail and push the brush back. Then do three swipes—side, center, side is usually my go-to. But do whatever feels good to you! A clean line with a tiny bit of space between the polish and the cuticle looks way better than polish on your cuticles, so don’t stress if you don’t get super close to your cuticles! Usually, I would do two coats of polish and definitely wait at least five minutes between each coat."

"To get that perfect line, the last step is to dip our Clean Up Brush in nail polish remover, and you can fix any smudges or uneven lines."

Step 5: Shine

"Wait another five to 10 minutes. Then apply a thin coat of super-shiny topcoat. For a truly long-lasting mani, apply a thin layer of topcoat every two to three days. This will really extend the life of your mani by acting as a layer of defense against everything your hands are interacting with."

"And lastly, definitely apply cuticle serum every day (twice a day!) to hydrate the skin around your nails and cuticles. Not only will it make your mani look like you just stepped out of the salon, but it will also make sure you don't pick (or bite!) around your nails, which always looks like your mani needs to be redone."

Shop Olive & June's chic polishes and tools:

Three must-haves for nailing your at-home mani, including the Poppy, a nourishing sheer glossy polish, and the brand's signature topcoat.

The easiest, fastest, and tidiest way to erase old polish or prep nails for painting.

The Clean Up Brush is made for exactly what it sounds like: cleaning up stray polish or creating straight lines and edges.

Ideal for hydrating skin around the nails and preventing you from picking and biting.

With a comfy grip for more control, this universal nail polish bottle handle makes painting your own nails easier, faster, and better than ever. 

This sage green is fast becoming our new favorite neutral.

An energized orange to put us in the summertime spirit.

A toasted neutral that's universally flattering.

A gorgeous fresh lilac from the brand's Zeba Summer collection.

A favorite of our beauty editor Erin Jahns. This buttercup yellow has earned her the most polish queries and compliments she's ever received. 

A cool white-gray for a modern and contemporary look.

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