1. Remove any polish still on the nails. I suggest pure acetone remover. It's a bit harsher on the nail, but it seriously removes polish and, more specifically, lacquer - layers upon layers of lacquer. I am also a big fan of just peeling off the polish. I put on so many layers that I can practically peel off 99% of the polish without damaging my nails. Then, I only have to clean up the leftovers.
2. Use a treatment oil! In my opinion, any brand will do. Lately, I've been using Mary Kay's discontinued treatment oil. The point of using it - moisture and replenishment. It will make your cuticles nice and soft so they are easier to remove, and it will also give life to thirsty nails.
3. Using an orange stick or "cuticle pusher," make sure to push back and remove any excess cuticle tissue. Rub the treatment oil in really well and let it sit after you have done this - for at least 5 minutes. Make sure to wash it off with lots of soap so it is completely removed.
4. If you need to trim your nails, just use a regular nail clipper - be careful not to go crazy and cut too short.
5. Filing and buffing. This is another very important step. In my experience, everyone has always said that when you file, you should only file in one direction so as to avoid stripping the ends of your nails. However, I don't have time for that. I've found that I can file anyway I like, so long as I have my four-sided buffing tool handy. The buffer will smooth out your nail beds and, more importantly, the now scratchy ends of your nails.
6. Give your hands another wash with soap and water and you're ready for polish!
7. Start with a "good" base coat. This is a product you don't want to skimp on. The base coat will not only even out your nails (if needed), but they keep your nails from getting stained. If you've read my blog at all you know I swear by Sally Hansen products for base and top coats. OPI and Essie also make fantastic base coats as well. I usually put on two coats of base. Wait about 3-5 minutes before moving on to color.
8. Color time! I typically stick to nail lacquer as opposed to nail enamel (except for Sinful Colors - they're the exception). Lacquer glides on and settles more evenly than enamel. Plus, it lasts longer and usually just looks better when finished. I always start with one stripe down the middle and then one on each side. It's not easy as a beginner, but you'll master it with some practice. Use 1-3 coats, depending on the thickness and coverage of the color, waiting about 3 minutes between each coat.
9. Let the color sit for a good 5 minutes. At this point, you might be thinking, "my nails are never going to dry!" That's why you absolutely need to use a stellar top coat. A great top coat will dry quickly and "set" and protect your polish. I always use Sally Hansen Mega Shine, always. Two coats of top coat is usually sufficient.
10. Give your nails about 30 minutes to rest before trying to "do stuff." I wouldn't go and open soda cans or do anything that requires the usage of your nails for at least an hour and half. Yes, this sounds like a long time, but it's better to be safe.
So that's MY process. It may sound cumbersome, but after some practice it really doesn't take much time and you'll have beautiful nails!
Please feel free to leave your comments and best practices!