How to Do Your Own French Manicure

Updated 03/30/19
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The French manicure is an eternally elegant look, and it's perfect for a lunch meeting or a semi-formal dinner. But you almost always have to go to a nail salon to get one. However, you can do it yourself at home—you just need to know how.

First, wash your hands and remove old nail polish with an acetone-free polish remover. Only use an acetone remover for darker shades, as acetone damages the nails. Zoya's acetone-free nail polish remover is great. If you need to, use an orangewood stick with the end covered in cotton and dipped in nail polish remover for the edges. 

Give your nails a "squoval" shape, as long, squared nails that look fake can be kinda tacky, and super square nails can look dated. To get the perfect squoval, clip your nails straight across, then grab a file and round the corners. Make sure to soak your cuticles in oil before pushing them back. After pushing them back, exfoliate your hands with a body scrub, and then apply hand cream. Soak a cotton ball with nail polish remover and swipe it across your nails in order to remove any hand cream from the nails.

Now onto the actual painting of your nails. For a French manicure, you'll need 2 shades of color: one for the nail, and one for the tip. You can have all sorts of fun with French manicures. You can keep it classic and choose neutral shades approach, or you can choose bright colors. You can also go with the stark white tips, as it's something that will never go out of style.

Keep a few things in mind when painting nails: thin layers are best, and roll the bottle between your palms instead of shaking it, because it mixes the polish without causing air bubbles. You'll also have a steadier hand if you hold the brush between the thumb and middle finger, while resting your forefinger on the top of the cap.

Start with a thin layer of basecoat, starting with the pinkie finger and then apply to all ten fingers. Apply a thin layer the main polish down the middle, then one stroke on the left and one on the right. After the first coat dries for a couple minutes, repeat. Then paint the tip of the nail. In traditional French manicures, this white strip is straight across the nail, but if you let the polish curve with your natural nail, your nails will appear longer. Prevent chips by brushing the polish over the edge and wrapping the polish under the nail. Clean up any stray polish with a q tip soaked in nail polish remover, and finally finish with a thin layer of topcoat. 

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