I wish I had all of the money I’ve spent over the years on salon manicures. It would be quite a tidy sum.  And perhaps I wouldn’t have had such horrible nails and even worse cuticles. Thankfully, after untold trials and errors, I’ve come up with the perfect home manicure routine that has turned my nail life around—and keeps me out of the pricey nail salon.


Finger nail paint with glass file


By way of a little history, over the years I’ve done the acrylic thing (don’t even get me started on what years of that did to my natural nails). I’ve endured wraps, gels, hot oil, dipping powder, and superglue. 

My cuticles have been snipped, nipped, ripped and clipped. I’ve purchased expensive lotions, potions and nail notions but to no avail. Nothing has ever worked long term. 

I’d just about given up completely on finding a reasonable and workable solution for my nails when finally, I put together a routine with specific products that have given my nails a brand new life. I’ve followed this routine for years and can report without hesitation:

This is it—the perfect home manicure and nail care program for dry, cracked, horrible cuticles and jagged, splitting, peeling nails.

My routine for a perfect home manicure requires one tool and five products. The initial purchase might seem high until you consider that a professional salon manicure can run anywhere from $25 to $65 a pop, plus tip.  However, an investment in these six items pays for itself in just a few months.

1. Glass nail file

This is the secret to keeping my nails smooth as a baby’s bum. As a result, I use it almost daily to ward off jagged edges that lead to splitting and peeling. 

Glass file

2. O.P.I. Pro Spa Nail & Cuticle Oil

First of all, there are lots of products out there that promise good cuticle health. I’m sure I’ve tried them all. However, this is the only one that works for me. I call it a miracle in a bottle. To start, I applied this oil twice daily for two weeks and the results were amazing. Now I apply O.P.I Pro Spa (formerly Avoplex) daily for maintenance. 

Bottle of O.P.I. nail and cuticle oil

3. Chip Skip

Similarly, another little miracle product is a primer that removes all the oil from my nails.  It also promotes better adhesion for the strengthener and polish. Chip Skip helps to keep the nail polish (coming up next) from chipping off. 

Bottle of chip skip

4. Nail Envy Nail Strengthener

There are lots of competitors out there, but Nail Envy Nail Strengthener is the only one that has ever worked for me. Therefore, when I say “worked” I mean unbelievably so. 

Bottle of nail strengther

5. O.P.I. Nail Lacquer

Of all the brands of polish available, this is the one that I can count on to not get thick before its time. Together with the products above, it doesn’t chip or fall off like a bad wallpapering job. If you’re curious, currently, my favorite color is Lincoln Park After Dark. Please O.P.I., do not ever discontinue it!
Bottle of nail lacquer

6. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat

Finally, this top coat is to be applied right over wet polish. And boy, does it work. More than that, it dries to a high gloss. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat is such an excellent product!Bottle of nail top coat


There you go, my six secrets for a perfect home manicure. It strikes me that these six products, beautifully placed in a small box or basket, would make the best gift ever for Mother’s Day, a Bridal Shower, Graduation or Birthday. You could even include the following instructions from a very happy user of said procedure (I’ve placed both a Print and a .PDF option at the end of this post.)

Step 1

First of all, lightly file and shape nails with the glass file until smooth.

Step 2

Brush two or three coats of Chip Skip onto your nails,  avoiding the cuticles. It will dry instantly and disappear.  Don’t worry, it’s doing its job.

Step 3

Next, apply two coats of Nail Envy. Allow nails to dry for about 5 minutes.

Step 4

Apply one or two coats of nail polish.

Step 5

Next, give your nails one more coat Nail Envy.

Step 6

Finally, apply one coat Seche Vite over the still wet polish and Nail Envy. That’s what I love about it. You brush Seche Vite over wet polish to make it dry instantly. It will, however, remain soft for about an hour; so take it easy.

This may look like a lot of steps, but the routine is quick and easy. And the results are so worth the effort.

quick dry nail topcoat


Furthermore, Nail Envy instructions suggest applying an additional coat every day or two—right over the top. I also reapply another coat or two of polish and top coat as necessary between manicures. This way, my perfect home manicure lasts a long time—sometimes even up to two weeks, which for me is remarkable. 

As a result, when my cuticles are healthy, my nails beautifully manicured, something weird happens. I feel better. I do better. And, I think I even write better, too.

Bonus: Polish Remover

When I need to remove nail polish, I do not want a mess. Above all, I don’t want a bottle tipping over and ruining everything in its wake. Likewise, I want a product that will take the polish off all ten nails with one disposable pad and in less time than I would expect. Bam! That’s Cutex Polish Remover Pads. Love ‘em.

First published: 4-23-15; Updated 6-9-19

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