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How Home Nail Kits Work

This is a more complicated question than you would imagine. That's because at-home manicure sets come in a wide variety, ranging in skill level, tool options, and accessories provided. So, consumers can decide if they want the basic manicure set to keep their nails and cuticles looking neat and clean or if they want something more involved, a DIY manicure set that includes a polish, buffer, and top coat. Maybe you want the full spa experience, in which case you'll opt for a manicure set that goes all out, providing everything you need to pamper your nails and yourself for the day.

Whichever option you choose, at-home nail kits all have the same basic structure initially:

  • Browse the various brands available (be forewarned, there are a ton of options on the market today!)
  • Select the one you like the best, and place your order. Luckily, this is an online process, so you don’t have to waste your time going into a store.
  • When the kit arrives, you can give yourself a beautiful at-home manicure.

At-home Manicures 101: How to Use Your Kits

Congratulations! Your kit has arrived, and you’re ready to pamper yourself with an at-home manicure. We recommend setting yourself up on a clean, flat surface. If you’re in the mood to make it a nicer experience, turn on some fun music or choose relaxing tunes and turn down the lights slightly to create a more spa-like atmosphere. 

When you’re ready to start, have all the items you need laid out in front of you. Ready for some fun? Follow these steps:

  • Remove any previously-applied materials from your nails

This might be polish, nail hardener, clear coat, or anything else. Take it all off! You can use acetone-based or non-acetone based polish removers depending on your preference.

  • Cut and shape nails

Cut your nails using the nail clipper and shape your nails using the file. Rub the nail file across the edges of your nails gently to create the desired shape. Squared or rounded are the most commonly-used shapes, but you're not limited here. You can also use a buffer in order to smooth out the tops and sides of your nails slightly (don't go crazy here, too smooth nail surfaces are not ideal for nail polish adhesion).

  • Soak your nails

This is the most relaxing part of the manicure, at home or in-store. If your manicure set doesn't come with any solution, you can easily make one yourself. Put warm water and just a little bit of shampoo or face cleanser into a shallow bowl, just deep enough to rest your entire nails (cuticles included) in. While you might enjoy this part immensely, don't overdo it. Three minutes is the max here, or you'll damage the skin.

  • Cut the cuticles

Very gently, push the cuticle back off the nail using the cuticle pusher. Not too far! For the healthiest and most professional results, use a liquid cuticle remover before you cut away the cuticles with the cuticle cutter tool from your kit. You can also use this tool to remove any small calluses around your fingertips or nail beds. Never take off too much cuticle, they’re there to protect your nails.

  • Apply moisturizer

Another spa-like step, you’ll want to apply some moisturizer to hydrate the skin. Rub the creamy goodness all over your hands, particularly over and around the cuticles. Massage the cream into your hands thoroughly, and then wipe away any excess residue from your nails to prep for the polish stage.

  • Apply polish

Once you're sure your nails are COMPLETELY clear from any residue, oil, etc., you can start to apply your nail polish. You can start with a clear base coat to smooth out any ridges you have on your nail bed. Now, apply a layer of your preferred nail polish color. Wait for this layer to dry before applying a second layer. Most colors will only require two, but if it's extremely thin or light, you may want to add a third layer, allowing the lower layer to dry before you apply the next one.

  • Apply top coat

Top coat gives your nails a beautiful glossy finish, so by all means, add this layer to complete the look. Make sure the nail polish layers are dry before applying the top coat.

  • Clean up time

Even pros make mistakes, drip polish, or let some top coat leak out on the sides of your nails. So, don’t feel too bad if you’ve done the same. Now’s the time to clean up those small imperfections. Gently wipe away excess polish for a perfect manicured look.

  • Reapply moisturizer

When your nails are completely dry (this takes a while!), reapply moisturizer to keep your hands and nails healthy and soft.

Ready to beautify those tips? Check out 10 of the best manicure sets on the market to keep your hands with that salon-finish for a fraction of the price:

1. Le Mini Macaron

If you love the look and feel of gel manicures but don’t love the price tag or the long visits at the nail salon, Le Mini Macaron is the perfect solution for you. On a mission to make these beautiful, vivacious manicures available to more people, Le Mini Macaron launched an entire line of at-home gel nail kits. Long-lasting, top quality, and in a range of exciting colors, Le Mini Macaron manicure sets give you everything you need to get that salon look from the convenience of your own home, including an LED lamp, remover wraps, and cuticle sticks. From the Le Maxi series to the Rose creme gel manicure kits, Le Mini Macaron kits are the real deal.

2. Red Carpet Manicure

From the VS Angels all pretty in Silk Slip to the diamond-encrusted tips of Rihanna and Katy Perry, you've probably seen Red Carpet Manicure manicures in the news. It has several manicure sets, including gel nail kits and remover kits, for a professional finish. The Red Carpet Manicure starter kit costs just $30 and includes everything from max adhesion prep coat to base coat, seal and shine top coat, and gel nail polish remover. Red Carpet Manicure kits also come with important revitalizing solutions, including nourishing cuticle oils and pre/post application cleanser to keep your skin and nails healthy all the time.

3. Olive & June

Olive & June is easily one of the most popular nail salons in the LA area, but you don’t have to be from Cali to enjoy the benefits of these talented manicurists. Olive & June offers several manicure sets, including The Tool Box ($42), The Studio Box ($50), The Everything Box ($80), and The Into You Box ($88). These kits are great for anyone who wants a beautiful manicure from home, and come complete with everything you need, including the limited edition Poppy polish bottle handle brush, your choice of polish, top coat, cuticle serum with cactus flower, clean-up brush, polish remover pot, flat-edge clippers, dual-grit file, nail buffer bar, and tutorials to help you along. (FYI, always vegan and cruelty-free.)

4. Sally Hansen

With more than 500 shades, Sally Hansen is no stranger to nail polish, which is why it’s not surprising that this brand has a great manicure set for those in search of an at-home solution. The Salon Pro Gel Starter Kit comes with cleanser pads, base coat, color of your choice, top coat, remover, LED light, cuticle stick, butter, and alcohol cleaning pads. All products come with the traditional Sally Hansen standard of quality. Not into gel nail kits? Sally Hansen also has a ton of individual products you can piece together to make your own kits. Grab a Fabulous Fingernails set for less than $5,