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 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.

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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. 

A close up of a knife

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.

Nail and Cuticle

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. 

Nail polish

4. Nail Envy 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. 

Nail polish


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!

Nail and Color

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 quickly dries itself and the polish under it quickly to a high gloss. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat is such an excellent product!

Nail and Manicure


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 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 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 Polish Remover Pads. Love ‘em.

First published: 4-23-15; Updated 3-24-20


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26 replies
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  1. Penny says:

    This has been a game changer for me. I have 2 nails that split as soon as they reach the ‘skin’ and begin to split from prior damage to the nail-beds. After the last 9 months of following these steps, my nails look great! I give glass nail files as gifts to many people, since I am so happy with the results.
    Thanks, Mary!

  2. KL says:

    How do you apply the products without getting your fingers messy? Even the 3 strokes tip everyone always mentions doesn’t work for me. I love nail polish, but I don’t love the mess or effort it takes to look right and stay clean!

  3. ChefKaren says:

    After years of using drying no-acetone nail polish remover, I found the best smelling and moisturizing polish remover. And, you can buy it on Amazon! It is Karma Naturals Nail Polish Remover – Soybean Oil & Lavender. The smell is so good and your nails feel soft afterwards.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Kathleen, I suggest that you rough your nails a bit with the glass file before applyling Chip Skip. That seems to help others who have particularly oily skin, that can translate to oily nails as well. Hope that helps. Also $50 worth of product will last for many manicures.

  7. 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 🙂

  8. 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. 🙁

  9. 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

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