How I Do My Manicures at Home

Is there anything better than a fresh manicure? Okay, don’t answer that. PLENTY is better than perfectly polished nails, but I think most of us can agree that manicures bring joy. You’ve got 30-45 minutes of peace and quiet and 7+ days of great looking nails. I’m all about it.

Before Maxi I rarely did manicures at home. It was messy. I didn’t like how they turned out. I had ample free time, so why not treat myself? And I was able to make it work a little bit after I had her as well. I’d pump just enough milk so I could go enjoy a manicure, rush back home and feel like a new mama. But life gets busy and that ritual rarely fit into our schedule after a few months. She also went from a sleepy little newborn to a girl who was playing all day, so I hated to be away from her to get a manicure. I also added up how much I spent on manicures in a year and I was mortified.

So I called my girlfriend Amy Beth because she knows the most random beauty tips and tricks. She is the one that got me hooked on natural deodorant and she always has a new product for me to try. She had been doing manicures that looked like gel manis for months, so I had her spill her secrets. She’s also done a post like this, but she didn’t care if I shared the knowledge, too!

I went down to Ulta, came home, organized everything in this precious little Packed Party Confetti Bag and got to work. I would say it took me about two separate tries and I had it down. It lasted me a week with no chips and I’m changing diapers, washing dishes, messing with my DSLR camera 24/7. I’m not nice to my nails. But the best part was that it healed my nails. I’d been getting gel manicures religiously since college. Throw in a dip manicure or two and my poor nails were in awful shape. They honestly hurt when I didn’t have gel on them and it freaked me out.

Products Needed:

  • CND Cuticle Eraser: Now this is a product I’d been using for quite a bit and it’s the only cuticle eraser that really works for me! I apply it and can use a wooden stick to gently push back my cuticles or just skip that step and I still find it works well.
  • Nailtiques Formula 2: This is the healer! This base coat is going to fix your weak little nails from gel or dip and your fingers will thank you in as little as 7 days. I sound like an infomercial, but I would go on an infomercial and brag on this product. It’s that good.
  • Gelous: This is a bit harder to find and I did have to order it on Amazon. I don’t even know what this polish is, but Amy Beth calls it the glue. It’s essentially the bonder to your polish and makes your regular polish feel like gel! It’s what is going to make your polish last so long, but the great part is you don’t need a UV light to set it.
  • Essie Polish: Honestly, Essie is the polish that lasts the longest on me! I did a bunch of testing throughout this and Essie won the battle! My favorite shades are: Fiji, A-List [what I’m wearing here], Licorice, Between the Sheets [the cream one I wear]
  • Seche Vite: Drying was the biggest reason I hated at-home manicures! I needed a gel manicure because after I gave birth I needed to go home and be able to undo my nursing bra and not smudge my nails. My mom used to use Seche Vite when I was little and Amy Beth reminded me of it! This dries your nails in 1 minute and you do NOT get sheet smudges. I repeat, you do not get sheet smudges. I paint my nails on Sunday evenings before bed and then wake up and my nails look great.
  • Colleen Rothschild Face Oil No. 9: About a year ago, a reader told me to use skincare on my hands. Who would have thought?! But your hands do show damage so easily and they are always exposed to the sun while driving/walking around. She told me to mix 1 drop of a skincare favorite into my regular hand lotion and this has made a world of difference. I am no longer getting hangnails or messy cuticles. I prefer to use a drop of my CR facial oil in my hand cream at night before bed. I shared back in this post. Now you can definitely use your favorite facial oil or thicker skincare product, but I wanted to share mine since it is 30% off this week with code BFRI30 at checkout.
  • Beautycounter Hand Lotion: This is what I keep in my purse as it’s really light and you don’t get greasy hands. At night I mix my Face Oil into my TULA Hand Cream as it is a bit thicker. The TULA is on sale this week for 25% off with code KATEY25 at checkout.
  • Essie Cuticle Oil: I also use this every other night along my cuticles before I go to sleep and before I apply the lotion/skincare combination.

Manicure Steps

  • Remove polish as usual, trim & file nails to your preference.
  • Apply cuticle remover, let sit, push cuticles back with soft wooden stick, rinse off. I also take a cotton pad of nail polish remover and apply that to my nails to remove all residue.
  • Apply 1 coat of Nailtiques to help heal nails.
  • Apply 1 coat of Gelous to act as a bonder for polish.
  • Apply 2 coats of Essie A-list.
  • Apply 1 coat of Seche Vite.
  • Paint at night, wake up and apply lotion with skincare drop mixed in. If you have extra time, apply cuticle oil as well!

Maintaining Your Mani

I truly do love these products because it helps me last 7 days without having to redo the process. However, the one downside of regular polish is that chips do happen sometimes! Here is how I maintain my manicure so it can last long!

  • Every 2-3 days apply a top coat of Seche Vite regardless if you have chips or not!
  • Skip hand sanitizer! This breaks down polish causing it to chip more. Soap doesn’t do that.
  • If you do have a chip, first apply a very thin coat on the chipped spot. Act as if you are concealing a blemish, and don’t paint the entire nail just yet. Then, take another thin coat and paint the entire nail. This way you aren’t adding too many layers to the entire nail.
  • I can’t underestimate the power of cuticle oil! Apply it every other night!
  • Be careful where you get nail polish! If it gets on your cuticles it causes the polish to lift and can lead to chipping. In order to do this, take a small eyeliner brush or thin makeup brush and dip it into nail polish to touch up any areas where you may have gotten polish on your cuticles. I normally use the eyeshadow brushes that come in palettes for this!

So grab a little confetti pouch, organize your nail polish and try these tips out next time you need a manicure! In the time it takes you to sip an iced coffee out of a disco cup [I couldn’t not include these in the photos, isn’t it so cute?!] your nails will be dry. I painted my nails during this shoot and then grabbed Peaches 3 minutes after! That’s how fast my nails dry with this combination and I love it! I will say, I do still get a gel manicure every few months as a treat. But it’s nice because I’m not piling gel polish on top of already damaged nails. Are you a manicure girl or do you just keep it polish free?!

Blonde Sweatshirt: Nordstrom, Brunette Option | Blonde Sweatpants: Nordstrom [TTS], Brunette Option | Confetti Pouch: Packed Party [c/o] | Disco Cup: Packed Party [c/o] | Chair: Ballard Designs | Art: Jenn Thatcher Art [c/o]

Photography by: Madison Katlin

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  1. I’ve never had a manicure before because I’m too stingy, so doing it myself is the way to go. Thanks for the tips, and I love your pink Pjs!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  2. I love this post! I’m going to have to try Gelous. Have you tried Essie Gel Couture? It has been my favorite thing to use for my at home manis and pedis!

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Yes, I love it! Xoxo

      Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  3. Kim Anderson wrote:

    Thanks this was awesome!

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  4. Tess Felber wrote:

    You have to try Essie Gel Setter for your top coat! Makes your nails so shiny for at least 2 weeks with zero chipping! I never feel the need to pay for a manicure when I have 78 bottles of nail polish at home..yes 78!!
    xx Tess |Sequins are the New Black

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      I have that! Love it!! All of Essie is just too good! Xo

      Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  5. Amenah wrote:

    Thanks so much for sharing! Love this post!

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  6. Katie Riley wrote:

    Great article! Great tips! I have had luck with all of these products! I do Gelous, color, Gelous, color, Gelous, Seche Vite and get great results. I will have to try adding the healer underneath to keep my nails healthy- also making sure I’m reapplying top coat. One thing I’ve noticed is it is so important to “wrap” the polish around the nail tips to make the color last- just use a brush dipped in remover to clean up the ends if it gets on your skin. Also, I think its important to use a higher quality color brand- I tried it with some cheapies and it didn’t adhere to the Gelous as well…not sure if the formulas are different or what. Also this works much better for me than Vinlux, or the OPI or Essie at home “gel” kits.

    Happy Thanksgiving! Love keeping up with you and your family!

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
    • Ashley wrote:

      Yes – I always heard that Gelous goes in between coats of the color too. I’ll have to give the Seche Vite a try – Never heard of it!

      Published 22 Nov 17Reply
  7. Bree wrote:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m definitely a manicure girl but the damage to my nails is horrible! I’m in the process of trying to get my nails to grow and look healthy again. I cannot wait to try this routine!!
    Xoxo , Bree

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  8. Sarah wrote:

    Thanks for sharing! I always have a DIY manicure on my nails. I have found Essie Gel Couture to be the best for me. I can get 5 days and that is great for me! I am however intrigued by the products you shared and I will be placing an Amazon order! haha

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  9. Heather wrote:

    Love love love this post!!! I always love your nail colors

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  10. Ashley M wrote:

    You can also by Gelous at Sally’s Beauty supply if anyone is wondering!! They carry Seche Vite too!

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  11. Cecilia wrote:

    Thanks for sharing your tips! I only ever do at-home manicures (college girl budget over here) but I find that I can’t touch anything for an hour because of chips. I’ll have to try your routine out!

    xoxo, Cecilia //

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  12. Emily wrote:

    I just bought everything in this post. Thank you for enabling me. I really needed the recommendations!

    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  13. Hannah wrote:

    Love this post Katey!! I have that Gelous polish and it is phenomenal! I’m not sure if this is true for all of these stores, but I believe you can actually get it at Sally Beauty Supply, as that’s where I got it :)) Happy Thanksgiving Girl!


    Published 21 Nov 17Reply
  14. Lindsey wrote:

    Thanks for sharing! Have you tried the CND Vinylux polish and top coat? If so, I’m curious how you think this routine compares to that line. That is the best line I have found for long-lasting polish!

    Published 23 Nov 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Lindsey! Thanks for reading! I have! This lasted about 2 days longer for me! Xo

      Published 23 Nov 17Reply
  15. Jeanie wrote:

    I can’t wait to try these steps! As a stay at home Mom it’s hard to get anything to stay on my nails!
    I also love Julep cuticle essential oil, it smells amazing and is in a roller ball bottle!

    Published 23 Nov 17Reply
  16. Kay wrote:

    What polish remover do you use to take off your polish? Thanks!

    Published 24 Nov 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Kay! I usually use whatever brand I have on hand, which is normally the Target brand! But I also love the Essie brand of polish remover! xo

      Published 26 Nov 17Reply
  17. Bailey wrote:

    I am a total manicure addict, but I am headed back to grad school and things like manicures aren’t in the budget. As a mani addict, specifically next gen and gel, my nails are wrecked! I ordered everything from this, and just received it and gave myself a mani! I am SO impressed. My nails look and feel amazing. I can’t wait to see how they hold up. I know my wallet is hopeful they will! ☺️

    Published 24 Nov 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Yay!! So happy you tried this! I hope you love it! xo

      Published 26 Nov 17Reply
  18. Amanda wrote:

    This is THE BEST post on manicures ever. I have the worse nails, thin, weak, and don’t grow unless I go get dips or something. It’s costly and time consuming. I’m like the girl in your IS message that said she wasn’t straight in her painting but no more streaks. I’m on my second week and they need to be redone but not bad looking and they are growing. Thanks a million!!! P.S. I want you to have lots of kids since I’m a teacher, lol, but I don’t want you to quit blogging either.

    Published 05 Dec 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      You are so so sweet!! I’m SO thrilled this worked for you! Thank you for such a sweet comment! haha! Too funny!!

      Published 12 Dec 17Reply
  19. Pam B. wrote:

    I swear by Seche Vite – it’s the only topcoat I use when I do my own nails. Lasts forever & crazy shine! Great tip about the Gelous. I’d never heard of it, but next time I do my own nails (I currently get dip manis done) I’m going to pick it up. I will also add that if your nails are damaged, try a non-acetone polish remover. It’s much gentler on your nails, especially if your natural nails tend to dry out & peel or crack.

    Published 06 Dec 17Reply
  20. Sandy Johnson wrote:

    Oh my goodness!!! Just tried these manicure products!!! They’re amazing!!! Just like gel nails and dry in an instant!!! Thanks????

    Published 07 Dec 17Reply
  21. Chandler Glover wrote:

    How long do you typically wait between each coat?

    Published 14 Dec 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Just as long as it takes me to paint the other hand! Probably 1 minute! xo

      Published 17 Dec 17Reply
  22. Hi Katey! I love painting my nails but I cannot stand when they chip! I was so happy when you posted this because your nails always look gorgeous. Just added all the nail necessities to my amazon cart! Can’t wait to do my nails! 🙂

    Published 02 Jan 18Reply
  23. Jennifer Wilson wrote:

    Hi, I used this method twice and my nails peeled right off. I think because there were so many layers? What am I doing wrong!? Help 🙁

    Published 11 Jan 18Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi girl! Oh no! Hmm I haven’t ever had them peel off. How thick is your coat of Gelous? It may be the products don’t work with your nails :(. I’m sorry, I haven’t heard of that happening!

      Published 11 Jan 18Reply
  24. Kelsey wrote:

    Ok love this post! I’m religious about painting my nails and have found that using the Essie gel top coat on top of regular Essie polish lasts longest for me. But now I want to try Gelous underneath! Thank you!

    Published 09 May 18Reply
  25. Charlotte wrote:

    I started using this exact method a month ago, except my holy grail top coat is Essie Gel Couture top coat. I usually add an another layer of the Essie GC top coat after my manicure is completely dry. I don’t have to worry about chipping for at least a week, or until I decide I must have a color change 😉 I have been giving myself manicures since I was a young teenager and these steps and products give me best manicure I’ve ever had.

    Published 28 May 18Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Thank you so much, Charlotte! That makes me so so happy to hear! You are so sweet! xo, Katey

      Published 31 May 18Reply
    • Charlotte B wrote:

      Katey, this is an excellent routine and has worked amazingly for me for the last 5 months. Thank you for your post!!! I also prefer Essie Gel Couture top coat as my HG top coat and add an additional coat when dry (as the other Charlotte does:). I just recently switched from Nailtiques to Quimica Alemana and with that change, my nails have totally transformed and my manicure lasts well over a week. I know the Quimica Alemana has some controversial ingredients but it’s been the only thing that has stopped my nails from peeling.

      Published 22 Sep 18Reply
      • Katey wrote:

        Hi Charlotte! That makes me so happy to hear, thank you for sharing! 🙂 I’m going to go buy the Quimica Alemana! I have had some nail peeling lately, so I hope that works. Thank you again for sharing! xo, Katey

        Published 23 Sep 18Reply
  26. I love Essie products. I occasionally use OPI but Essie is best!

    Published 09 Jan 19Reply
  27. Bianca wrote:

    Thanks Katey! Great tips, can’t wait to try it!

    Published 05 Sep 19Reply