The DIY Manicure Mistakes You May Not Know You Are Making

Miracle Sleeping Cream


For a hot minute this past winter I started getting into a routine of getting my nails done. It was such a nice little treat that I enjoyed.

Now with the boys, and the rest of the busyness in my life, I’ve resorted back to home manicures. They never last as long as the gel manicures I would pay for, but they get the job done.

I have a few tips to share that I’ve learned throughout years and years of home manicures. It makes a huge difference if you prep your nail bed so if there is only one thing that you take away from this post, let it be #1.

1. Always prep the nail bed. Use a cuticle remover (Vanish is my all-time favorite) and make sure the entire bed of the nail is clean and free of any skin. I use a metal cuticle pusher and nipper to clean everything up!

2. Make sure you file your nails in only one direction. “Sawing” your nails as you file, aka going back and forth, may cause more peeling at the tips. Pushing one consistent direction will help the ends stay a bit more structured.

3. Wash your hands, and consider using a prep treatment before polishing. OPI makes Bond Aid, which is great for prepping your nail beds.

4. Work with thin coats of polish. Globs of polish, from base coat to color to top coat, are more prone to leaving bubbles on your nails. Plus it takes much longer to dry!

5. Don’t press the brush against your cuticles at the back of your nail. Leaving a little gap between where the color starts and your cuticle area will look more professional and lead to less peeling from the back.

6. Allow adequate dry time upon finishing. EVEN with quick dry top coat (which tends to be the most chippy for some reason). Quick-Dry drops, like this one, are helpful but simply cannot do the work that time does!

The quick tutorial for the heart nail as pictured above can be found here. Happy polishing!


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Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life says · 05.12.15

Great tips! I do my own manicures at home all the time and definitely agree with you on these. I’m really bad about #2 though…

Joy says · 05.12.15

Recently purchased Essie Good To Go Top Coat Rapid Dry and I LOVE it! Dries my nails in record time. I usually do my nails after my little one has gone to bed and I would go to bed soon after and the next morning I would end up with sheet print on my nails…not good! :)~

Jenny says · 05.12.15

I always skip the cuticle one. I haaaaate that feeling! *Cringe* But that’s probably why my polish chips the same day I paint my nails? I’ll have to suck it up and try this out to see if it solves that little problem! Thanks for the tips. Loved that little heart mani!
Jenny // Mish Mosh Makeup

Kim says · 05.12.15

This is a great post! I needed these tips. My problem is that I cannot file my nails! The scratching freaks me out haha!

Kim .. Cheap teeth whitening!

Kellee says · 05.12.15

Thanks for the tips, Kate! A few years ago, I decided to buy the Red Carpet gel kit from Ulta. With all of the time spent bathing my two boys, cleaning bottles, etc… my nails were constantly chipping. With the home gel kit, the manicure actually stayed for a while, and the ability to have completely dry nails when I was done was huge! Don’t mean to sound like a walking advertisement, just wanted to share something that worked for me with 2 little boys!

Trinity says · 05.12.15

Where did you get that mug?

Julie says · 05.12.15

I’ve started using Jamberry nails (I’m not a consultant, but I really do love them). My friend sent me some samples and I ordered immediately. If you always have chipping or problems with regular manicures, you might want to check out Jamberry. The only downside is that they last for so long that I’ve started getting bored of the color. LOL

Meg O. says · 05.12.15

GREAT tips! Thin coats of polish is ESSENTIAL for me. If I don’t, my polish practically peels off in two days!

Whitney @ Come Home For Comfort says · 05.12.15

Great tips! I polish my nails at home once a week. I knew you weren’t supposed to “saw” with the file, but I never knew why. I will be more careful with that from now on!

Kristi Craig says · 05.12.15

Great tips! I’ve definitely learned the importance of taking my time and using thin layers. Also, having my hand on a flat surface rather than lifting it to paint is crucial for me not getting my polish everywhere.


Marjolein says · 05.12.15

Great post and some good tips that I will definitely use!

X Marjolein

Kelly says · 05.12.15

Have you ever sprayed PAM on your nails after they dry for 1-2 minutes? It really does help them dry! Your hands obviously get greasy but it helps! Thanks for the other tips!

carissajade says · 05.12.15

Great tips! I’m terrible at doing my own nails. Hopefully this will help 🙂

Ameerah@ Valiantly Varnished says · 05.12.15

The way to get a perfect line around the base of your nail is to use an angled eyeshadow brush. Dip it in acetone and then clean up around the edges where any polish has gotten onto your cuticles or the sides of you nail beds.

Also – use a fast dry top coat. You won’t have to worry about how thick or thin your nail polish coats are!

Glossyfinds says · 05.12.15

We always forget to do these! Thanks for the great tips (and reminder!) <3

sharon / says · 05.12.15

thin coats changed my life! back in the day!

Julia says · 05.12.15

Yes, I have noticed that quick dry polish does result in the most chips, but it’s just so so practical when I’m in a rush! And I did not know about filing in only one direction, that’s something I will have to start doing ASAP. Great post, and thanks for sharing 🙂


Christine says · 05.12.15

My sister gave me some Julep Vanish for Christmas last year and it is the best stuff!!! I use it on my toes as well. I am currently using Sally Hansen top coat (in red bottle) and it is wonderful for quickly drying your nail polish and leave your nails shiny. Thanks for the advice!

arnella kajtezovic says · 05.12.15

I totally make the mistake of filing my nails in like every direction! oops, need to quit that!! Oh gosh I get so impatient and never let anything dry properly!

Heather says · 05.12.15

For about the price of 1.5 salon gel manicures you can order a light, gel base and top coat and a colored gel polish on amazon, it will last a long time…and the next time you want to pay for a salon mani you can order a new bottle of polish for fraction of the price. I love getting my nails done, but it adds up and I don’t always have time to go when salons are open. I’ve done at least 2/3 of my own gel mani’s for the last 5 years and can usually get 2 weeks out of them. I’m also a fan of vinylux because it isn’t a hassle to take off.

Rachel Ang says · 05.13.15

Great tips! Im so bad I saw my nails all the time! Haha!!

Rachel x

Elainea says · 05.13.15

Ooops — looks like I have been making lots of mistakes, hah! Thanks for sharing 🙂

Saprina says · 05.15.15

Great tips! I never knew #2


Stephanie Peterson says · 06.02.15

The BEST quick dry top coat I’ve ever used is Revlon’s! It really is dry to the touch in a minute, and I can go to bed an hour after nails drying without them smudging in the sheets. My manicure lasts about 10 days. I also always use one of those white buffer things to do a quick scratch of the nails before painting to let the paint adhere. It seems to help. Lastly, I use a lighter color polish so that when they start to chip, it doesn’t bother me until it starts to get really bad. I gave up painting my nails years ago but once I found that top coat, I started painting them all the time!

Leena says · 10.20.15

Nice! Thanks fro such useful tips.