Six Secrets for the Perfect Home Manicure

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

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.

This oil is not used in the manicure itself (the 6 steps that follow). It is instead to be used to get your cuticles healthy and then to keep them that way. 

To Use: For dry, cracked and damaged cuticles, apply twice daily for two weeks. Then once each day 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

More Ideas You’ll Love:

House Rules for Cleaning Silver in the Dishwasher

How to Break the Acrylic Nail Habit and Help Your Nails Recover Beautifully

Should You Repair or Replace a Broken Appliance?


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38 replies
  1. Charla says:

    My problem is getting polish all around the nail and on the cuticle, can someone please clarify, do you put the cuticle oil on directly before the manicure? Worried the polish won’t adhere to the nail properly or does the Chip Skip deal with this?

  2. Michele P. says:

    I’ve always had nails that were slow to grow. They would split, crack and peel. Over the years I’ve tried all the growth and cuticle products recommended here. In addition to having problem nails I live in a dry climate with hard water plus wash my hands frequently. Giving up nail polish has helped my nails. My favorite productsfor upkeep are A&D ointment (found in the baby section) applied nightly on nails and cuticles and Aquaphilic blue label (contains carbamide, the secret ingredient) as a hand cream. Great for healing spilt skin. Both products consistently produce excellent results. Protein drinks with at least 20 grams of protein help both skin and nails.

  3. Betty says:

    After many years of having brittle nails that wouldn’t grow I started taking 1000 mcg of Biotin every day and I have healthy nails that grow!!

  4. Jerrie says:

    I’ve bought the classy lady glass file in the past. When I tried to reorder, in the reviews, recent reviewers said they make the files differently now and they don’t work as well. Do you know if this is the case?

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I don’t know personally, as I haven’t ordered for a long time. But I did read the review you refer to and I am not convinced. I don’t find negative reviews to be overwhelming! There are still 85% 5-star reviews. However, if you were to order and then be not satisfied, Amazon has an excellent return policy. Im going to order one myself to find out if there’s a problem.

      • Kimberly says:

        I have been using a Classy Lady file for a long time. I recently ordered one as part of a gift for a friend and it was exactly as wonderful as my old file.

  5. Sandra Wallace says:

    I tried this procedure and it lasted about four days before the polish started peeling off. I type on a computer everyday, play the piano and violin.

  6. Arlene Hester says:

    I purchased the nail tek nail recovery kit from Sally Beauty. It contains a three-step process to recover your nails from gel or acrylic damage, it’s about $30. It contains a ridge filler, a strengthener, and a cuticle oil. You use it daily, and I’ve been happy with the results. It comes in four different levels so that you can choose the one that best matches your nails.

  7. Susan Martin says:

    If you don’t want to polish your nails, you might want to look for a 4-way nail buffer at your beauty supply store but I first bought mine at k-mart for less than $2. If its numbered step #1 is file, step #2 is smooth, step#3 is buff, and step #3 is shine. It really does a great job of putting a shine on your nails and doesn’t take alot of time to do it.

  8. crabbyoldlady says:

    There is an updated product I must mention. I have switched from Seche Vite to Seche Vive which gives a beautiful gel like finish and almost as quick drying time.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Yes … but it is different in that Seche Vite goes over wet polish to make it dry fast, where Seche Vive must be applied to dry polish. But … I do like what I reaaad about the Vive option. So maybe I’ll test this over the top of everything … to give that awesome plumped appearance because Seche Vive is a gel product.

  9. Teresa Kelley says:

    I did the nail routine for over nine years and decided it was a habit I needed to break. It’s been three months now since I quit and it feels great. I get tempted occasionally because I liked the perfect nail look (for a week). I’ll stand strong now that I read this message.

  10. M.Martin says:

    OK, I have to be honest, I was skeptical at first. I expected this to just be a commercial for the products you recommended. But your nails looked so great I thought I would give it a try. I’m 47 years old and have NEVER, EVER, EVER been able to grow my nails out naturally. I’ve used artificial nails since I was 16 years old. So, with some reservations, I bought the products you recommended (except for the chip-skip stuff) and removed my fake plastic nails. My cuticles and nails were so damaged and horrific looking I thought there was no way to make them look nice. But I tried it. It’s been three weeks and my nails have never looked better. My cuticles are healing and looking much better. My nails are growing and look awesome. I simply can’t believe it. I know it’s going to take time for the damaged nail areas to grow out, but at least I have hope and am excited about having my natural nails for the first time. The Nail Envy is amazing, the avoplex oil is so nourishing and quenches my cuticle’s dryness immediately. The OPI nail polish doesn’t chip or peel off. The Seche Vite dries my nails enough that I don’t have to worry about messing up all my hard work. Last week I added two products to my nail regime: Avoplex exfoliating cuticle treatment, and Avoplex high intensity hand and nail cream. I also found a bottle of Nail Envy that has color in it – Hawaiian Orchid. It’s so pretty I don’t need additional polish. So, I just wanted to thank you for helping an old woman reach a life-time goal. I’ve always wanted natural nails and now I’m well on my way. I threw out all of my old nail supplies (two large plastic bins worth) and now have a very easy, quick, and VERY EFFECTIVE nail routine. Two thumbs up, thank you so very much!

    • Terri says:

      Your result sounds amazing! How does the Avoplex fit into this process? Do you apply it 2x per day over the top of the polish etc? How often did you remove polish? Appreciate your assist and any other recommendations!

  11. Alicia Stacy Kitts says:

    I absolutely love the process! I have been purchasing the items for gifts for friends and family. I would love a PDF that could be printed to accompany them with your instructions. I didn’t want to “steal the glory” by making one up without your permission.

  12. Kris Moore says:

    Question>> On step 3 do you dry each coat for 5 min.?
    Question 2>> On step 4 do you apply anything between the polish coats?
    I have tried steps 1-6 and the results are great. I just wanted to make sure I was passing the info onto others in the proper way.

  13. Kathleen says:

    I ordered all the items through your direct link to Amazon. I must be doing something wrong as my nail polish continue to chip and now comes off in thick sheets. Anyone offer suggestions as I spent $50+ on these products.

    • crabbyoldlady says:

      My daughter and I agree that OPI polishes chip easily. We have had great success with Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure. I love Seche Vite too, but there is now a newer topcoat called Seche Vive that dries almost as quickly and leaves a great gel looking finish on your nails.

  14. Nancy Malone Tallman says:

    I finally ordered all the items, and gave myself a manicure according to your directions. That was 9 days ago and my nails still look beautiful – no chipping or wearing away on the tips. I’ve never had a manicure (even professional) last perfectly for more than a couple of days. AMAZING! Tonight I’m going to put another coat of polish and Nail Envy on to see how long this will last. Thank you so much for your post 🙂

  15. Liddy Dover says:

    I excitedly ordered the OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener after reading your article, with high hopes for it strengthening my thin, weak nails. However, when I received it, I saw in the ingredient list that it contains formaldehyde, which is a known human carcinogen. 🙁 I never would’ve expected to find that in a product that’s applied directly to nails and cuticles. So disappointed to not be able to use this product that I’d had such high hopes for. I’m hoping I can return it – if not, I’ll have to take the loss and throw it out. 🙁

    • Gehugh says:

      Formaldehyde has always been in nail polishes until recent formulations came about. The reasoning used to be that since your nails are dead (well, if they are dead why are they growing?) then it was okay to coat them with loads of unhealthy carcinogenic pretty colors. I cannot speak on the newer formulations as far as durability. My intolerance of nail products, in general, has led me to do without. My nails are just fine.

    • crabbyoldlady says:

      Unfortunately, any of the nail hardeners that work have formaldehyde. I use Nailtiques, which works amazingly well, and try not to think about the nasty stuff in it. If I don’t use it my diabetic nails crack the long, vertical way, leading to bleeding. So, I go with the lesser of two evils.

  16. Ruth C. Adams says:

    Tried this method and after a few stops top find all of the products now have the best do our yourself manicure ever. Thanks

  17. Gehugh says:

    I’ve become intolerant of nail polishes on my fingers, but not my toes (TG!) over the years. So now I just file and use either Smith’s Rosebud salve or Doctor Burt’s Res-Q-Ointment EVERY night. This works for me. I tried using vitamin e capsules, but they were a little messy. I broke all of the glass files my mother-in-law gave me, so I never got comfortable using them. What I have noticed is as I get older, the nails don’t grow as fast and they used to and they are not as paper thin as they were when I was younger. I remember pre-natal vitamins made my nails the greatest during the childbearing years.

  18. mgibbs says:

    Could this be my answer? I have not ever been able to use nail polish without it making my dry, splitting, peeling nails worse. I tried professionals and that’s even worse. Never tried acrylic, but did try gel and that was awful. I tried OPI polish alone with the same result. Maybe, just maybe, this formula could be the answer to my problem(s). I have dry skin all over, so there are usually hangnails, but I found a nice little clipper to get those before I rip them off into the quick…lol. Thank you so much for this article.

  19. Jacqueline in Atlanta says:

    GREAT MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEA!!! Thanks a million. My mother and I both love nail polish. She will be thrilled when I send her a beautiful box filled with these goodies. And I have been so busy, I had not even thought of Mother’s Day yet. (I know, I know . . .)

  20. iTracie says:

    I have used the OPI Nail Envy for several years with out much else. People regularly comment on how nice my nails look and ask where I go to get my nails done. $15 is what I usually pay for a bottle that lasts about a third of the year. If you can only do one of these products – I suggest this one!

    Oh and I made your Coffee cake last night with the Master Mix – Rave Reviews from the office once again!

    Thank You!

  21. Pamela Newhart says:

    Thanks for the tips. My salon trips are few and far between, and the last one made me swear off entirely. I can do everything they did myself better and cheaper.

  22. Birgit Nicolaisen says:

    What do you do with the cuticle oil? DD’s skin around the bottom of her nails is red and sore and the skin is “shredding” (for want of a better word).

    • Pamela Newhart says:

      If you don’t mind me chiming in here, I had the same problem with cuticles. I put the oil on every night before bed, just a drop on each nail and lightly rub into the cuticle. I also used cuticle nippers to remove any dead skin. The oil soaks in as you sleep. Makes the skin soft and hydrated so it does not peel. I also had to discipline myself to stop picking at it. That was the hardest part, lol! Using a had cream several times a day helps too. Starting her on good habits early in life will keep her hands healthy throughout her life. Good luck! She is lucky to have such a good mom!

  23. Connie says:

    Mary, you are reading my mind! It is a bit scary but oh, so rewarding! You are fast becoming my go-to advisor for almost everything!


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