Nailed It Salon

Nail Prep

Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I'm going to let you in on a few secrets.  You don't need me to polish your nails.  Shhh!!!!!!  Keep your voice down or they'll kick me out of the awesome nail tech club!!!

I think most people already know that they don't have to pay someone to paint their nails, you can easily do it at home.  Professional paint jobs tend to last a little longer, and look a little neater, but probably not enough to justify the price for most women. 


Now, I'm a realistic professional.  I became interested in nails because of my desire to save some money doing my own.  I don't really expect you to lavish me with cash for something I wasn't willing to spend money on not so long ago.  Come to me when you want to be pampered with pretty smelling soaks, scrubs, masques, and massages, then fee free to paint your nails on your own between salon visits.  I promise I won't cry or yell. 


On and off I'll be posting some tutorials here to help you spruce up your hands and feet between mani's and pedi's, and to help you keep a few dollars in your pocket.  However, the most important part of any thing you do is preparation, and your nails are no exception.  So today we'll go over the basics of nail prep, which is the foundation of any good nail service.  If you want your polish to last longer than it usually would, nail prep is the key.


The first thing you need to do is gather your supplies.



You will need:

  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Cuticle Sticks, or a Cuticle Pusher
  • Cuticle Nippers
  • Nail Wipes or Cosmetic Pads (no cotton balls!)
  • Cuticle Remover
  • Cuticle Oil
  • Alcohol or Nail Dehydrator

Edit: I've been informed by my proof reader (AKA my husband John) that I need to define a term I use a lot within this post.  The Nail Plate.  The nail plate is just a technical way of saying fingernail.  The nail plate is the hard material (keratin) that is found on your fingertip (also referred to as the nail bed).

Step One: Remove Old Polish

Use nail polish remover and nail wipes to take off any old polish remaining on your nails.  Do not use cotton balls!  Spend the extra dollar and get something that won't leave little fibers all over your nails.  No matter how much time you spend picking them off, you won't get them all, and they will mar your paint job later on.


For polishes that are stubborn, like reds, blacks, and glitters, soak a nail wipe thoroughly, and hold it to your nail for a minute or so before wiping the polish away.  If a little pigment remains, repeat with a clean pad soaked in remover.

You can file your nails now if necessary, but do not buff the nail plate, not even if you have ridges on your nails (instead use a good quality ridge filler like Ridge Out by CND).  Buffing removes layers of your nail, and can thin and damage your nail plate.  Occasionally a very light buffing is necessary, but should be left to a qualified nail technician.  Always use the fine side of an emery board to file your nails, never the coarse side, and file from the outside of the nail towards the center; don't see-saw back and forth.  This will prevent your nail from flaking and splitting later on.


Step Two: Remove Cuticle

Before we get started on this step, I want to clear something up.  Cuticle is NOT the band of tissue at the base of your nail.  That is called the eponychium, and is living tissue that should be treated with care.  Cuticle is a film of dead tissue that grows out from under the eponychium to cover the nail plate.  Cuticle can become detached from the nail plate, and will cause your polish to lift and peel, so removing it is an important step if you want your polish to last.

You can soak your nails in a bit of warm soapy water to make this step a little easier.  However, don't soak for more than three minutes please.  If you do, the water will soak into your nails, and cause your nail plate to expand.  When it contracts a few hours after you've polished your nails, your pretty polish will begin to chip and crack.  So set a timer if you need to, or keep a close eye on the clock. 


Now, take your cuticle remover and place a dollop at the base of each of your nails.  Then, spread it across your entire nail with your cuticle stick.



Let it sit for as long as the manufacturer recommends, and then begin to scrape the dead tissue off your nail plate with your cuticle stick.


(sorry for the blurry pic, I haven't figured out my camera's timer yet)

While you're scraping off the dead tissue, very gently push the eponychium back if necessary.  My eponychium will grow over my nail if I let it, while my husband's always stays in a nice little line at the bottom of his nails.  If yours is like his, leave it alone; if it's like mine, be as gentle as you can to avoid damaging the nail matrix which is located directly underneath that area.


Once you have removed your cuticle, and pushed back your eponychium, wash your hands to remove the cuticle remover.  This is important as many removers have a mild acid in them that will continue to eat at your nail if not washed off.  Dry your hands with a soft towel, and while you're drying use the towel to gently push against your eponychium to set it into place.


Use the cuticle nippers to nip off any remaining cuticle tissue on your nail plate.  Do not cut your eponychium!  It's living tissue, and can bleed and become infected, which could damage your nail matrix.  Feel free to skip the nipping if it's not necessary, or your hands are not steady.


Step Three: Apply Cuticle Oil.

I highly recommend CND's Solar Oil as a top quality cuticle oil.  This stuff is like liquid gold for your nails and should be applied daily, right over polish or enhancements, to strengthen and condition your nails and surrounding skin.  Daily oil is really the key to beautiful, healthy nails and skin!


If you can't get your hands on Solar Oil, other oils are available at Sally's or your local make-up counter, and will work, though not as good.


Apply the oil to the base of your nail, being sure to cover the eponychium.  Massage it into your nails and surrounding skin, and then let it sit for a minute before moving onto the next step.


Step Four: Clean the Nail Plate

The last step is to clean and dehydrate the nail.  I know you just put oil on there, and it seems silly to take it back off, but the oil should have penetrated down into the nail by now, and we're just taking off the little bit that's left on top so that the polish has a nice clean surface to stick to.


Take your alcohol, or nail dehydrator if you have it on hand, wet a nail wipe with it, and scrub your nail.  Scrub hard; scrub like you're trying to remove tar that your husband tracked onto your clean kitchen floor with his nasty work boots. 


You should now have a clean, slightly dull looking, fingernail that's ready to be polished!


Step Five: Polish

A while back I made a quick video that will give you the basics on how to polish your nails.  Note: In this video I refer to the eponychium as the cuticle.  This is the first and last time you will hear or see me do this on my blog, as I don't ever want you to confuse the two.  It's an important distinction, and  you should know the difference.


I still recommend CND's Sticky basecoat, and my all time favorite top coat is Seche Vite.  I've also added Zoya Polishes to my list of favorite colors.  You won't be disappointed in any of those products!


Now go add some color to the world and pretty up those pinkies!




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Nailed It!
333 Main Street
Racine, WI 53405
Phone: 262-633-1555