Manicures at Home
Beauty, DIY Blog

Foolproof Manicures at Home: Tips to Make it Easy

It always feels so good to have a fresh manicure. However, the the time and cost of those little nail salon trips can add up after a while. But guess what? You can have amazing nails 24/7 right from the comfort of your own house, and for a fraction of the cost. Keep reading to find out how I made it easier to do my own manicures at home, totally foolproof!!

Manicures at Home

Why Manicures at Home Work for Me

As a busy momma regular manicure appointments became more of a hassle to me as I tried to squeeze them into our family’s busy schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I love having my nails done and the hour alone was heaven, until going was more of a anxiety trigger than a relaxing break.

My attendance at the nail salon became sporadic, at best. Before I could make it back to have my nails redone, I always seemed to end up picking my gel polish off (that habit becomes an addiction once you get a single chip).

The problem? I loved having my nails done. I just needed an easier way to do them. A way that fit into my life right now.

The Switch to Manicures at Home

Last spring when stay-at-home orders went into effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic and nail salons all over closed, I decided it was time to create my own little self-manicure set up.

Manicures at home, you say? They are just too hard, you say?

Well, I’m here to tell you that I’ve found the easiest way to do your own gel and lacquer manicures at home. So, although it takes a little practice, don’t be intimidated.

There are a few tools + a few tips that I’ve found to get you your best looking nails ever. Seriously.

Tools + Tips for Manicures at Home

So when I refer to doing your own manicures at home, I’m talking about a basic gel or lacquer manicure (and/or pedicure).

I haven’t gotten into doing any fancy designs or special techniques. I’ll leave those to the pros.

However, I do love to combined colors and to add in a little glitz. But I’ll talk more about that in the polish segment.

First, what you need to get started are some basic tools. Its a small investment up front but will save you big time in the long run.

#1 The Tools

The Lamp

The first thing you will need is a decent UV lamp for your gel polish. I purchased a lamp like this one from Amazon and was pleasantly surprised at how great it is. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical before getting it.

Gel nail lamp for manicures at home
  • Tip: when using a lamp like this one you will likely need to use the full 90 second timer to set your gel polish. While it is a great lamp, it is not salon quality and needs a little extra time.
  • Tip: for the top coat I use the 90 second setting, plus an additional 60 seconds to make sure my Gel polish is completely set.

Easy Timer Guide:

  1. Base Coat–> 90 secs
  2. 1st Gel coat–> 90 secs
  3. 2nd Gel coat–> 90 secs
  4. Top coat–> 150 secs (90 secs + 60 secs)

Easy Removal Set

When I first started doing my own manicures at home it took forever to scrape off the gel polish from my previous manicure because I didn’t have the proper tools.

Once I got my hands on just a few little items it was so much easier! Plus they all came in this single set. Again, it’s an easy order from Amazon (which is a lifesaver these days).

Nial polish remover tool set for manicures at home
  • Tip: To remove my gel polish I first scour my nails with the 100 grit nail file in my tool kit.
  • Tip: You must use a 100% acetone nail polish remover, you can get this from most stores.
  • Tip: I prefer to use cotton balls rather than the cotton pads. I simply rip a cotton ball in half and saturated it with acetone. Then I use the convenient clips in the tool set to allow the cotton ball to set on my nails for a few minutes. The clips are SO much easier than aluminum foil wraps.
  • Tip: After the cotton balls have been on my nails for 3-5 minutes I use the small metal tool to easily scrape off the gel polish.
  • Tip: Next I smooth out my nails with a 180 grit file and a fine buffer. That way they are prepped perfectly for a new color.

The Polish

So my first bit of solid advice when it comes to gel and lacquer nail polish is don’t overdue it! We all know how obsessed we can become about owning every color and before we know it we have 100+ nail polishes, but really only 5-6 favorites.

So start with a few basic colors and slowly expand your collection as you go.

  • Tip: Use Gel on your fingernails and lacquer on your toes. Your toes don’t get as much wear as your fingers so to prevent the added work when removing nail polish you can use a lacquer on your toes and still get the same wear time as your gelled fingernails.
  • Tip: Buy combos (or duos) not sets. What I mean is, don’t buy a set of 6 or 12 different gel colors. First off, you won’t like all the colors AND you won’t have the matching lacquer. Instead buy a combo or duo that has one color in both the gel and the lacquer.
Base and top coat for gel manicures at home
  • Tip: While optional, I find it most convenient to use a quick dry top coat on your lacquer (not gel, you have your gel top-coat for that). It prevents any smudging that may otherwise occur. I think Essie good to go top coat is a true winner.
Essie good to go top coat
  • Tip: Remember gel is wet until placed under your UV light. Maybe it’s not wet forever (although I’ve not tested that theory) but it remains pliable. Which means if you screw up you can quickly wipe off that coat and have a do-over. You can also clean up areas along the side, by your cuticle, or on your skin with an orange wood stick to give your manicure a perfect look.

A few of my favorite colors.

I usually buy my polish from Beyond Polish or Amazon. Two of my favorites lines are OPI and DND. Here are a few of my best-loved shades.

Funny Bunny OPI Gel & Lacquer

Mexico City Move Mint OPI Gel & Lacquer

Black Onyx OPI Gel & Lacquer


Don’t forget the glitter!

I like to accent my color with a touch of glitter, which I usually apply to my ring finger only. However it’s totally up to you how you want to incorporate your glam.

DND duo Gel & Lacquer- Fairy Wings

DND duo Gel & Lacquer- Golden Sahara Star

home gel manicures
Glitter, glitter, glitter!
home gel manicures
Subtle and chic.

Subscribe to get all the updates. Then check out more from our posts below!

Outdoor Projects for Your Backyard
Secrets to Smooth & Toned Legs

Hi, I’m Megan, the creative voice behind DIY Detectives. Within these pages you will find bits and pieces of my life as a wife to a former Marine and a mom to five kiddos. I love sharing tips, trips, and tutorials of all the things we take on at home. After all, life in general is just one big DIY project.

Also, feel free to follow me on Pinterest for more great ideas.

The DIY Detectives love to hear from you. Leave a comment!