Manicure Basics and our hands are one of the most overworked parts of our body; it’s only natural that we give them the love and care they deserve. Yet, ironic as it may seem, most of us aren’t equipped with the right tools nor knowledge on how to do a proper, well-executed manicure.
So let’s get down to the Manicure Basics.
What is a manicure?
A manicure is a cosmetic treatment that focuses on two things: groomed fingernails and moisturized hands. The premise sounds simple, but the process can be confusing for beginners, which can naturally throw them off. You’d have to clean, file, shape, buff, and polish—that’s a lot to take in! Add to that some other optional steps such as massaging or doing nail art; it can be a complete mess to try and follow through.
But we’ll make it simple for you.
Types of manicures
At its core, a manicure can be done in two ways: e-filing and traditional manicure. Both styles give similar results but do so with different tools.
A traditional manicure is done manually; it does not involve any type of machinery in order to groom the nails. Here are the tools commonly used to conduct a traditional manicure:
- Fingerbath (bowl of warm water)
- Cuticle nipper
- Cuticle pusher
- Nail file
- Nail polish tools
- Nail art tools
Electric filing, on the other hand, is a newer type of manicure technique that has recently become popular in the UK. It can sound a bit foreign to use machinery for the nails but trust us, it really works.
In essence, electric filing follows the same process of a traditional manicure; you just have different tools to use for it. Below are the basic tools for e-filing:
- Nail drill/handpiece
- Control unit
- E-file bits
When in the topic of e-filing, always keep in mind that there are thousands of nail bits attachable to your nail drill. They come in different shapes, sizes, and textures which all serve different functions. Remember that for every step in the manicure process, there is a corresponding bit appropriate for that.
Steps for doing manicure
Be it an e-file or traditional manicure, the rules are pretty simple: always prioritize safety above all. In order to achieve that, follow these steps below if you’re planning to DIY the process.
Gather your tools
Before starting your manicure, be sure to have your tools and supplies at the ready; carrying tools you’ve left out won’t come easily once you have soaked, flaky hands from all the manicuring.
Remove old polish
How you should remove your old nail polish depends on the type you have on. For previously applied gel polish, this is what you have to do:
- Prepare one cotton ball large enough to accommodate all fingernails
- Break up the cotton balls into small pieces
- Soak one tiny piece in acetone
- Place the soaked cotton on top of your nail plate; as much as possible do not let the cotton come in contact with skin to avoid drying
- Repeat until each finger is covered with cotton
- Wrap aluminum foil on each finger; this is to let the acetone set in your nails faster
- Wait for 5-10 mins
- Scrape off gel nail polish with a nail cleaner
On the other hand, standard nail polishes are fairly easy to remove. You simply need cotton and nail polish remover. Be sure to choose an acetone-free polish remover.
Cut and file
Clip your nails if necessary or preferred. Once you’ve done that, file your nails into shape. A little tip; if you want oval-shaped nails, it’s best to start from one side and swoop your way down the center in a curved motion. Repeat on the opposite side.
If you want square-shaped nails, simply press on the nail file down the center, applying gentle pressure towards your cuticle. Remember to stroke the nail file in one direction only so as to avoid damaging the nails.
Quick fact: There are three types of nail files: metal, emery, and glass. Both metal and emery nail files are porous and can, therefore, transfer dirt onto your nails. Glass, on the other hand, is the most hygienic option if you’re ultra-conscious with cleanliness. The only downside with glass is that they are easy to break.
For e-file users, you can attach a cylinder-shaped nail bit on your drill to file your nails or even easily change the shape. A cylinder bit is a good option when you want to make a drastic shape-change onto your nails.
Buff the nails
Buffing is a lot like nail filing but with a different purpose. While nail filing shapes the nail, buffing is prepping the nail plate in order to create a smooth surface. This allows for the base coat to smoothly glide onto the nail later. It also makes your nails shiny; works excellently with clear nail polish!
Not all the time you need to buff. If you have weak nails, it’s best to skip this step as it may expose you to a higher risk of damaging your nails. Avoid buffing if you also have chipped or brittle nails.
There are buffing bits specifically for e-filing. Buffing bits tend to be soft, making them safe for when you accidentally glide onto the skin, which is expected to happen during buffing with an e-file.
Soak the nails
The next step after buffing is to soak your nails in warm water for about 3 mins or less. An added option would be to apply a cuticle softener before soaking the nails. This will make it easier for you to scrape the dead skin off the nail plate later.
Keep in mind that while soaking your nails is an important step to refreshing the nails, it’s also crucial not to over-soak them.
Push back or remove the cuticles
Once the soaking is done, it’s time to remove the dead skin cells off your nail plate. Do so by pushing back your ‘cuticles’, and by cuticles, we actually mean the eponychium (if you find that confusing, check out our in-depth article about the cuticles here).
For a traditional manicure, you can simply use a cuticle pusher or an orangewood stick to do the job. If you’re looking to e-file your cuticles, you can use a rounded cylinder or a flame bit. Between the two, it’s better to use a rounded cylinder if you’re a beginner as the flame bit has a more pointy tip that can easily wound the inexperienced.
Moisturize (and massage)
Probably the best part of manicuring is moisturizing and massaging the hands! Not only is this relaxing, but it also improves blood circulation around our overworked hands.
You can use a creamy oil for the hands and cuticles before proceeding to massage them. Don’t be afraid to put a little product on your nails as well.
Prep the nails for polish
Moisture inhibits your nail polish from completely attaching onto the nail plate; you’ll need to wipe off any trace of moisture on your nails with a nail polish remover. To do so, simply use a lint-free cotton pad, soak it with nail polish remover, then dab it on your nail plates gently.
Note that this is a very important step as it will make or break the look you’re about to come up with. Leaving your nails even with the slightest hint of lotion can significantly ruin the longevity of the polish; so take your time with this one.
Choose your polish!
The basic rule of applying polish is this: base coat, polish coat, and topcoat. Applying all three will ensure your nail color will last a long time, more so with a gel nail polish.