How to Apply and Remove Nail Polish Like A Pro

Perfectly Polished: How to Apply Nail
Polish Like A Pro & Remove it Easily After


If you love the glamour that comes with perfectly polished nails but have neither the time nor the money to get a professional manicure at your local nail salon, why not splash out on one of this season’s biggest nail polish trends and pamper yourself with a mani and pedicure at home this weekend.

There are some fabulous salon quality nail polishes available today for those who like to DIY, with big named brands such as Shellac, OPI, and Morgan Taylor all offering premium nail colours that you can apply at home, without the use of an LED lamp. Richly pigmented and designed to provide up to 2 weeks of lasting perfection, these nail polishes are a great investment for the modern woman, and with many shades costing less than £10, you can afford to have gorgeous nails throughout the year.

The Perils of Nail Polish Application

If, like me, you were never very good at colouring in as a child, finding it virtually impossible to stay within the lines (much to the frustration of my perfectionist brother), then you probably dread the thought of applying nail polish at home. 

Getting that perfect uniformed finish is not as easy as it looks, and no matter how sterile your environment, you can all but guarantee that a stray hair or piece of fluff will attach itself to your nails before they have fully dried. Other hazards of at-home nail polish application include shaking the bottle with the lid unscrewed (only did it once, but of course, the polish was bright red and left my bedroom looking like a massacre had taken place) and replying to Facebook messages while the varnish is still wet, leaving your phone and your fingers covered in Magenta Mischief or Berry Boudoir.

But practice really does make perfect when it comes to applying nail polish like a pro, and once you have mastered the art of application, you may never return to a nail salon again.

How to Apply Nail Polish

I cannot stress the importance of good quality nail polish such as VINYLUX™ by CND (the makers of Shellac) or Infinite Shine by OPI. You may be tempted to buy bargain nail varnish from your local drugstore or beauty retailer, but they are generally much more difficult to apply, and often last only a day or two before those unsightly chips start to appear, and so it really is false economy. A good bottle of varnish should give you at least 10 long-lasting manicures, so take that into consideration when shopping for nail polish online.

To achieve flawless painted nails at home, you need seven key items:

  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file (optional cuticle stick)
  • Nourishing base coat
  • Good quality nail polish
  • Top coat
  • Nail varnish remover
  • A slim brush (old clean makeup brushes work well)



Step 1: Prep Your Nails for Application

Remove all traces of old nail varnish, clip and shape your nails with a nail file to achieve your desired shape (there are lots of tutorials on how to do this online), and if necessary, gently push back your cuticles with a cuticle stick for an even finish.  Once you are happy with the shape of your nails, wash your hands in warm water and dry thoroughly.

Step 2: Apply Base Coat

Many people skip this step, but it is essential to prep your nails with a thin layer of base coat if you are to achieve a salon-professional finish. All you need is a single coat, and it should be as thin as possible. To do this, shake the bottle vigorously, wipe the brush on the side of the bottle, and then apply in three stokes, the first down the middle, and then one either side to completely cover the nail. Allow to dry.

Step 3: Apply Your Chosen Nail Colour

Now the fun begins. Shake your nail colour for a few seconds, before removing the applicator and wiping one side of the brush on the side of the bottle to remove as much varnish as possible from that one side.  Then, using the other side of the brush, you should:

  • Place the brush in the middle of the nail approximately 2mm from the cuticle.
  • Push the brush down towards the cuticle to get the polish as close as possible, without touching the skin, and then glide the brush up towards the tip of your nail in a smooth even line.
  • Place the brush in the same starting position, but this time, curve it to match the shape of your cuticle as you stroke upwards towards the tip of your nail. 
  • Repeat this action on the other side of the nail for full coverage.

Allow the first coat of polish to dry completely before applying a second coat in exactly the same way. Leave to dry fully before proceeding to step 4.

Step 4: Tidy Up

To ensure a clean finish between your nail polish and your cuticles, use a fine round-tipped makeup brush dipped in nail varnish remover to remove any uneven edges. TIP: dab your brush on a paper towel before applying it to the nail to remove excess varnish remover. A little bit goes a long way, and too much could be disastrous. 

Step 5: Apply Top Coat

To give your nails that freshly polished salon shine, apply a thin layer of quick-drying top coat.

Step 6: Finish with Cuticle Oil

Finally, add a drop of cuticle oil to each nail and gentle massage in to restore moisture levels before sitting back and admiring your handiwork!



Removing Nail Polish without Damaging Your Nails

You’ll find multiple weird and wonderful suggestions online on how to remove nail polish without using nail polish remover, but if you want to remove all traces of polish without damaging your nails, you shouldn’t cut corners.

If you are using a gel polish such as Shellac or OPI, use the brands' own nail polish remover system, which generally includes foil wraps soaked in remover, which you apply for up to 15 minutes before removing final traces of varnish with a reusable cuticle stick.

For regular nail polishes, standard acetone nail polish removers work very well, but if you have dry or brittle nails, it is recommended that you choose a remover without acetone.

  • Apply a liberal amount of nail polish remover to a cotton pad and wipe across the nail using a gentle circular motion.
  • Once most of the polish has been removed, use a fresh cotton pad (with remover) to lift final traces from around the cuticle, using a cuticle stick (gently!) if necessary.
  • Wash the hands in warm water, dry thoroughly, and apply cuticle oil to prevent dryness.

For darker pigmented nail polishes, you may need to soak your nails in varnish remover for 3 – 5 minutes to remove all traces, however, this can usually be avoided by using a base coat during application.

So, there you have it, perfectly manicured nails at home!