Nail Tool Essentials: Must-Have Items For Diy Manicures

DIY (do-it-yourself) manicures refer to manicures done at home without going to a professional nail salon. They have become increasingly popular in recent years for several reasons:

DIY manicures allow people to save money by avoiding the cost of going to a salon. With the right tools and techniques, people can achieve salon-quality results in the comfort of their own home.

Doing your own manicures also provides convenience – you can do them on your own schedule whenever you have free time, rather than booking appointments. This flexibility makes it easy to change up nail art and colors frequently.

DIY manicures allow for creativity and self-expression. You have full control over the nail polish colors, designs, and techniques used. Doing your own nails is fun and relaxing for many people.

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased interest in at-home manicures when salons were closed. While salons have reopened, the convenience and creative control of DIY manicures continues to make them a popular choice for many.

Nail Clippers

Nail clippers are an essential tool for DIY manicures. There are a few different types of nail clippers to consider:

  • Standard nail clippers are the most common type. They have straight jaws and are suitable for most people.
  • Toenail clippers have a wider jaw to make it easier to trim thicker toenails. The handles are also larger for better grip.
  • Angled nail clippers have jaws that form a v-shape. This allows you to get a better view of the nail edge when trimming.
  • Heavy-duty nail clippers have very strong, thick blades that can cut through tough, thick nails.

For an all-purpose nail clipper suitable for both finger and toenails, experts recommend the Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clipper. It has a compact, curved design with very sharp blades made of Japanese stainless steel. Reviewers praise their durability, smooth cutting action, and easy grip handles.

a person using nail clippers to trim their fingernails

Nail Files

A nail file is essential for smoothing and shaping nails. Nail files come in a range of grits, which refers to the coarseness of the abrasive surface. Lower grit files are rougher and are used for shaping nails or buffing down lifted edges, while higher grit files around 180-240 are finer and used for general smoothing and finishing.1 Common grits are:

  • 80-100 grit – coarse, for shortening nails
  • 100-150 grit – medium coarseness, for shaping
  • 180 grit – medium, for general smoothing
  • 240+ grit – fine, for final smoothing and shine

For a versatile option, a double sided 100/180 or 150/240 grit nail file is ideal.2 Nail files also come in different shapes like rectangle, square, round or tapered. Shape preferences are mostly personal, but oval and tapered files allow smoothing nails evenly from edge to center.

Look for high-quality nail files made of materials like glass, crystal, or acetate instead of emery boards which can damage nails. Reusable files like metal or glass will last longer than disposable sandpaper files too. For general manicure use, a standard size of 6-7 inches is sufficient.

Cuticle Nippers

Cuticle nippers are an essential nail tool for properly trimming and maintaining healthy cuticles. Cuticles are the thin skin around the base of the nail, and keeping them neat and tidy helps prevent hangnails and infection.

When using cuticle nippers, grip the tool like a pair of scissors and carefully trim off any excess or loose cuticle tissue. Only trim the dead cuticle and avoid cutting into live skin, as this can be painful and lead to infection. Make small, precise snips rather than large cuts. Disinfect the nippers before and after each use.

Look for high-quality nippers made of stainless steel. Cheap nippers can pinch and tear rather than slice cleanly.
Tweezerman and Seki Edge offer precision crafted nippers designed to slice cleanly without pulling or crushing.

With the proper technique and quality tools, trimming cuticles helps keep nails looking neat, healthy and infection-free.

Cuticle Pushers

A cuticle pusher is an essential tool for pushing back the cuticles around the nails and cleaning up the nail bed before applying polish (source). Pushing back the cuticles helps prevent hangnails and infections while promoting healthier nail growth (source). Cuticle pushers come in a variety of materials like metal, plastic, or glass.

Glass cuticle pushers are a top choice because they are gentle on the delicate cuticles and allow for precision pushing. Glass has a perfectly smooth surface that won’t scratch or tear the cuticles (source). Plastic and metal can be too harsh. Overall, glass cuticle pushers provide the ideal level of control and care for optimal cuticle health.

Nail Brushes

A nail brush is an essential tool for cleaning the nails and removing debris. Nail brushes have stiff bristles that can scrub away dirt, bacteria, and dead skin around and underneath the nails (1). Using a nail brush regularly helps prevent nail infections and keeps nails looking clean and healthy (2).

Look for a nail brush with firm, durable bristles. Nylon or boar bristles work well for scrubbing and removing stubborn dirt and grime. The brush should also have an ergonomic handle that allows you to thoroughly clean each nail. It’s handy to have separate nail brushes for hands and feet to avoid transferring bacteria.

To use a nail brush, hold it at a 45 degree angle against the nail and make gentle circular scrubbing motions. Make sure to scrub the tops and undersides of nails. Aim the bristles gently around the cuticles as well. Rinse the brush thoroughly after each use and allow to air dry.

Base and Top Coats

Base and top coats are essential products for DIY manicures. Base coats provide a smooth foundation for nail polish and help prevent staining of the nails. Top coats seal in color and provide a shiny, protective layer. Using both a base and top coat helps extend the life of your manicure.

Base coats fill in ridges and imperfections in the nails, allowing for smoother application of polish. They also prevent pigments from staining or discoloring the nails. Top coats seal in nail polish and create a glossy finish. They help prevent chipping and increase shine. Using a quick-dry top coat can help speed up drying time.

For a multipurpose option, many brands offer formulas that work as both a base and top coat. Using a single product as both can help streamline your manicure routine. OPI Natural Nail Base Coat and Essie Here to Stay Base Coat are popular multipurpose options.

No matter which products you choose, using a base coat and top coat helps nails look their best. The small addition to your routine makes polish look more professional and last longer.



Nail Polishes

When it comes to DIY manicures, using a long-lasting nail polish is crucial for avoiding chips and maximizing wear. Some of the top brands known for long-wear polishes include Essie Gel Couture, Deborah Lippmann, Butter London, and Static Nails.

Look for polishes labeled as “no chip,” “long-lasting,” or “gel-like” on the bottle. Formulas that contain polyurethane resins help create a flexible, chip-resistant coat.

Must-have long-wearing nail polish colors include classics like berry tones, nudes, pinks, reds, and neutrals. These versatile shades can be dressed up or down for any occasion. For a French manicure look, a sheer beige or pale pink polish will complement tips done in a bright white.

Nail Art Tools

Nail art can seem intimidating for beginners, but it’s easy to get started with just a few basic supplies. Here are some nail art tools that are ideal for DIY manicures:

  • Dotting tools – These tools have different sized metal balls on the tips that can be used to create polka dots and other patterns. Start with a basic dotting tool kit like this one from Harper’s Bazaar.
  • Striping tape – Striping tape allows you to create straight lines and geometric patterns. Use it to make chevron designs, color block patterns, and more. Washi tape can also be used.
  • Nail decals – Pre-made nail stickers take the work out of nail art.Flora nail decals are an easy way to add designs like flowers and abstract shapes.
  • Top coat – A good top coat like Seche Vite can help nail decals and striping tape stay put.
  • Nail art brushes – Tiny angled brushes allow you to paint on delicate designs. This affordable set from BYRDIE has five brushes for different effects.

With just these supplies, beginners can create artistic manicures. Easy nail art ideas include polka dots, tip designs, color blocking with tape, and floral decals. Have fun and start simple!

Nail Oil

Nail oil is an essential product for healthy nails and cuticles. Applying nail oil regularly provides many benefits (source):

  • Softens and hydrates cuticles – Nail oil moisturizes dry, cracked cuticles.
  • Promotes nail growth – The nutrients in nail oil help nails grow longer and stronger.
  • Prevents hangnails – Daily nail oil use can prevent painful hangnails from forming.
  • Reduces brittle nails – The hydration from nail oils keeps nails flexible and less prone to breakage.

Look for nail oils containing nourishing ingredients like vitamin E, jojoba oil, and essential oils (source). Apply a drop of nail oil to each nail and cuticle 1-2 times per day. Gently massage in until absorbed. For extremely dry nails and cuticles, apply a thicker layer before bed and wear cotton gloves overnight.

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