Beauty and Manicure

Simple 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.

Nail and Manicure

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 still 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 $40 to $65 a pop, plus tip. However, an investment in these six products will deliver many manicures, and pay 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. As a result, I use it almost daily to ward off jagged edges that lead to splitting and peeling. 

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.

3. O.P.I. 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. O.P.I. Chip Skip helps to keep the nail polish (coming up next) from chipping off. 


4. Nail Natural Nail Strengthener

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


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. And O.P.I. offers hundreds of color choices. If you’re curious, currently, my favorite color is Lincoln Park After Dark. Please O.P.I., never discontinue it! You may prefer a color nearer to your skin tone, at least while your nails are recovering.

6. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat

Finally, this topcoat is to be applied right over wet polish. And boy, does it work. More than that, it quickly dries itself and the polish under it quickly to a high gloss. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat is such an excellent product!


There you go, my six secrets for a perfect home manicure. It occurs to 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 (find a Print option button below) from a very happy user of said procedure.

Manicure Prep

Make sure you have been using your Pro Spa Nail & Cuticle Oil at last twice daily for a week or two prior to your first home manicure—or until your cuticles are soft and healthy. Gently massage the oil into your cuticles, gently pushing cuticles back with your fingers. Continue to do this at least once daily.

Step 1

Lightly file and shape nails with the glass file until smooth. Remove nail polish, if any. Wash hands and nails with soap. Dry.

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 two coats of nail polish. Allow to dry for about 5 to 10 minutes.

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.

A close up of a hand



 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 Seche Vite 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. 

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. That’s Cutex Swipe and Go Nail Polish Remover Pads. Love ‘em.

First published: 4-23-15; Updated 9-18-23


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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 . . .)

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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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