Nail Care

One Woman Found a Surprising Mental Health Benefit in a Simple at-Home Manicure

Allie Flinn

Confession: my at-home manicure routine is mostly me painting over my chipped nail polish right before I head out the door. I’m always in a rush to do it, and it comes more from a place of necessity than self care. When everything is go-go-go, it can be difficult to remember that it’s necessary to slow down and take a breather, but I’m feeling inspired to do just that after watching the self-care ritual of Maya Feller, RDN. For her, an at-home manicure is a way to bring levity to a job that can be demanding.

Feller works with patients who have diet-related chronic illness. “Because I deal with diet-related chronic illnesses, sometimes work can be serious,” she says in our latest episode of Self Care Nation. “I really do like to have a little bit of fun with my nails and make them bright and colorful. It’s just a way of showing my patients it’s not all serious.”

What began as a way to stretch out the length of her salon manicures (which: same) eventually evolved into a self-care practice that Feller absolutely loves. The key is in small touches, like running a diffuser with calming essential oils and using a hand cream that feels thick and luxurious.

“Now that I have a family and kids it’s really interesting, because when I go to the salon everyone’s like, ‘Oh it’s mommy time give her some space,'” Feller says. “But what I’ve actually discovered is when I do the manicure at home, I get the same kind of ‘[feeling], and I can create this whole salon-like feeling in my home, and it’s extraordinary.” Let’s hear it for making acts of self-care work in your life…wherever you are.

Brittney Boyce, nail artist consultant at ORLY, says you should do your nails about once per week.

“You want to maintain your cuticles to prevent any hangnails from forming,” she says. “Filing your nails at least once a week also helps to maintain shape and length.”

Find the steps for an at-home manicure below.

How to do an at-home manicure

1. Set the spa vibes

To get that spa feeling at home, Feller adds a few drops of the Now Foods Peace & Harmony Calming Blend ($10) to her essential oil diffuser. Feller then soaks her fingers in water mixed with a few drops of the Now Foods Rose Water Concentrate ($9). Be sure not to do this for too long, because Boyce says this can shorten the life of your manicure.

2. Hand scrub

For this step, you can use a dedicated hand scrub, like this Sephora Collection Hand Balm & Scrub ($5), or any type of body or face scrub you have on hand. Rub the mixture on your hands and then rinse it off.

3. Hand cream

Follow up with your favorite hand cream, to keep your hands soft and moisturized.

4. Prep your cuticles

Boyce says to avoid cutting your cuticles on your own, because it’s easy to accidentally remove too much. Instead, she says to use a cuticle remover like the ORLY Cutique Cuticle and Stain Remover ($11), and then push your cuticles back with a cuticle pusher. “You’ll see the excess cuticles gently lift up quite easily,” says Boyce. “Wipe off the remover with a water-soaked cotton pad.”

5. Buff

Apply a cuticle oil, like ORLY Argan Cuticle Oil Drops ($15) and then buff your nails. Boyce says this helps to nourish and hydrate your nails.

6. Carefully trim

Next, Feller loves to get in there and trim her cuticles. Again, Boyce says to be cautious with this step, and if you’ve used a liquid cuticle remover, it’s not necessary. If anything, Boyce says to clip your hangnails.

7. File

“Unless you’re drastically changing the length of your nail, I recommend just filing it your nails to the desired shape,” says Boyce. Both Feller and Boyce recommend going for an oval or almond shape. To achieve that, “start by filing the right side of your nail in a round motion only going to the top center of your nail,” says Boyce. “Then move to your left side and repeat back and forth until you achieve a nice almond shape. In between shaping you want to look at your nails in two different positions to look for evenness.”

8. Cleanse and apply a Base coat

Cleanse your nails with alcohol or nail cleanser before applying any polish. “You want to make sure you are applying to a clean surface without any oils so your mani last longer,” says Boyce. “Let the nails completely dry before moving on.” Next, apply a base coat, which Boyce says helps the polish stick better.

9. Color coat

Apply your favorite shade in thin even layers, and try to apply each layer with the least amount of strokes possible, explains Boyce. “I recommend applying one stroke down the middle, then one on each side of the nail,” she says. “That should give you just the right amount of coverage per layer.” Let the first layer dry a bit before applying the second layer to get more even coverage, says Boyce.

10. Top coat

“Finish by applying a top coat to help extend wear and add shine,” says Boyce. Pro tip: you can apply a clear top coat every 2 to 3 days to help extend your manicure.

11. Quick dry

Feller finishes off with a few drops of quick dry, like the Essie Quick-e Drying Drops ($10). This helps your nails dry faster.

Ready for more? A face mask queen shares her two simple self-care rules. Then, get inspired by this makeup artists morning routine

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