I wish I had all of the money I’ve spent over the years on manicures—both professional and do-it-myself. I’d have quite a tidy sum and still be stuck with these horrible nails and even worse cuticles.

Thankfully, after untold trials and errors, I’ve come up with a six-part manicure routine that has turned my nail life around—and keeps me out of the pricey nail salon.

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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 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 has given my nails a brand new life. I’ve been testing this for about six months now and can report without hesitation: This is it—the best do-it-yourself manicure and nail care program for dry, cracked, horrible cuticles and jagged, splitting, peeling nails.

My routine requires one tool and five products. The initial purchase might seem high until you consider that at around $25 a pop plus tip for a professional manicure, an investment in these six items pays for itself in a month or two.

1. Glass nail file. This is the secret to keeping my nails smooth as a baby’s bum. I use it almost daily to ward off keep jagged edges that lead to splitting and peeling. 

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2. Avoplex Nail & Cuticle Replenishing Oil. There are lots of products out there that promise good cuticle health, and I’m sure I’ve tried them all. This is the only one that works for me. I call it miracle in a bottle. I applied this oil twice daily for two weeks and the results were amazing. Now I apply daily for amazing results. 

3. Chip Skip. Another little miracle product, this is like a primer that removes all the oil from my nails, which gives better adhesion for the strengthener and polish. 

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

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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

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6. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat. 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. Such an excellent product!042315image7

There you go, the six secrets to the perfect do-it-yourself manicures. 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:

Step 1: Lightly file and shape nails with the glass file until smooth.

Step 2:  Apply two or three coats of Chip Skip to your nails,  avoiding the cuticles. It will dry instantly and disappear but don’t worry, it’s doing its job.

Step 3: Apply two coats of Nail Envy. Allow to dry for about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Apply one or two coats of nail polish.

Step 5: Apply one more coat Nail Envy.

Step 6: Apply one coat Seche Vite over the still wet polish and Nail Envy. That’s what I love about it. You apply 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.

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By the way, 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 manicures last a long time—sometimes even up to two weeks, which for me is remarkable. 

When my cuticles are healthy, my nails beautifully manicured, something weird happens. I feel better. I do better. I think I even write better, too.

BONUS: CUTEX POLISH REMOVER. When I do need to remove nail polish, I do not want a mess. I don’t want a bottle tipping over and ruining everything in its wake. I want a product that will take 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.

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