**Let the record show that I took some fabulously informative photos to accompany this article but due to a technological kerfuffle, they are not yet on the interwebs. Useful diagrams coming soon, I swear!
I recently wrote about the esteem that comes with tinted talons on the Fashionoclast. Pristine pointers garner a lot of comments but more importantly, home manicures are the best way to justify 60 solid minutes of ANTM or that new documentary on the New York Times. Plus, it's way way cheaper (and less stinky) than hitting up a salon.
So kickback and coddle your claws. Here's my usual game plan:
1. Ready your arsenal.
Polish - Sometimes I splurge on expensive polish and sometimes I buy the cheap stuff. I haven't seen a great correlation between staying power and price tag except when it comes to OPI. That crap lasts.
Also, just like cottage cheese and threesomes, nail polish can go spectacularly bad and you won't realize it until you've slathered a sticky glob onto an unsuspecting tentacle. I've read that you can put your polish in the freezer to make it last longer but 1) I don't like to mix my toxic chemicals with my Snickers ice cream bars and 2) I love an excuse to buy new polish. I usually toss it out when it starts to smell weird or the consistency gets too thick.
Polish Remover - I buy the cheapest possible nail polish remover (yay, dollar store) and try to opt for something somewhat "nourishing." I once bought an inexpensive bottle of straight-up acetone from Target and regretted it thoroughly... Way harsh, Tai.
Cotton pads - Not maxis. I always buy the astoundingly expensive makeup-removing cotton pads to ply the remover because it's infinitely more enjoyable than trying to wrangle a cotton ball or napkin. And I loathe those reusable sponge-filled nail polish remover tubs. While I salute conservation, those things are nasty and ineffective.
Nail clippers - My mom usually gets me a nail kit every year for Christmas. Cute, right? I don't buy fancy clippers. When the ones I'm using start sucking, I replace them. NBD.
Nail file - I'm a total nail file snob. I hate the cardboard/sandpaper deals and opt for metal files that come to a nice, thin point. I've read that these shouldn't be used because they're too harsh blah blah blah but they last forever, do a great job, and double as the perfect tool with which to remove the dried blood under your nails. What more could you want?
2. Remove the old residue.
Scrub every scrap of old polish of each digit. Wash your hands after to clean off any lingering chemicals and help the forthcoming coat of paint endure.
3. Recon and refine.
Ogle each individual nail and give it a good once-over. Trim nail, if need be. File it smooth. Push back your cuticle with your nails or whatever poking tool is handy. Look at your hand vainly. Pretend you're a bored receptionist in a movie from 1962.
I read somewhere that you should only file your nail in one direction instead of that fabulously efficient back-and-forth nail excoriation because it's somehow less damaging to your talon. I find that this is a pile of crap and makes the manicure process 928% less enjoyable.
4. Ply the polish.
And now we've reached the anal-retentive portion of the program. I can't explain why I'm so particular about this but when you've done something approximately 928 million times, you get a routine going.
First, I shake the crap out of the polish bottle to mix up any separated substances. I think you're supposed to roll it between your hands to avoid creating air bubbles but I'm a rebel, Dottie. A rebel.
I open the bottle and carefully, swipe it on the side of the rim so that there's a glob of polish only on one side of the brush. I place the glob just above the cuticle in the middle of the nail, push down to the cuticle and swipe upward, creating a perfect strip in the nail's midsection. Without re-dipping the brush, I then swipe on either side of the nail and then once more in the middle, for good measure. Repeat nine times or eight or seven, depending on the number of years you've worked with farm equipment.
Let dry for five full minutes. Don't cheat. Admire Tim Gunn's adorabililty. Ponder Tyra's fear of dolphins.
Apply coat number two in much the same fashion. Hang out for ten minutes while it dries. Seriously, do nothing but watch What Not to Wear or you risk injuring your pristine polish.
Now you are beautiful.