Are you dizzy with excitement about nail polish?

First of all, I want to thank you all for following, reading, and just generally being a part of my blog. Second, I want to thank you for being patient with me. :) This is long overdue, but I am now finally writing about my basic nail routine. I will try hard not to get too long-winded, but I fear that that is inevitable here.

When I Paint

My preference is to change my fingernail polish about two to three times a week. Depending on the wear of the polish and the combination of bases and tops I've used, I might change as much as six times a week. I can't stand chipping and I will definitely stay up too late at night if I need to to avoid having what I would consider to be a raggedy looking manicure. Would I like to have the option to wear a mani for 5-7 days if I want to? Oh yes, I would. And I think - I hope that I might get there some day. But for now, it just doesn't seem to be possible based on all of the various base and top coat combination I've tried over the years. I'm also not a fan of refreshing, or re-topping my manicures. Keep in mind that with my job I am very hard on my nails and polish! I have lots of exposure daily to rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer. :(


When I want or need to change my polish, I start by removing the old polish. I like to use either Zoya's Remove Plus, seen in a bad picture I took here...

...or I will use the Target generic brand Up and Up "Scrubby Tub," as I call it, seen here...

I've been a huge fan of the scrubby tub for some time now. It's quite the time saver, you will see. You want to make you sure you get a tub with scrubbers in it, like so...

Note that my scrubby tub has been used quite a bit here and it looking a little less than fresh. It is much loved!! And even after the acetone contained within gets nice and stained and sticky, I will often add a bit of Zoya remover to it and keep using it for a while longer. If Zoya made a scrubby tub, it would be a match made in Heaven! I don't like that the pure acetone in the tub dries out my skin and nails, but I do put up with it, generally speaking, because it takes off glitters and flakes so easily (compared to rubbing at your fingers for what seems like eternity with cottons or whatever).

Speaking of cottons or whatever, I like to use the Graham HandsDown Ultra Professional Nail Pads that you can buy from Sally Beauty Supply when I'm using my Zoya Remove Plus in a traditional manner. I forgot to take a picture of them, but you can easily look them up to see if you are not familiar with them. They are essentially round felts pieces on a thin plastic backing with a grippy piece that allows you to hold the pad without really messing up that hand too much. Very clever! The felt helps you not to have issues with lint and also removes most glitters more easily than a cotton ball or cotton pad would. If it's a light glitter polish, or a heavy shimmer, I'll usually use a Graham pad (one for each hand). Heavier glitters and flakes get the scrubby tub.

I've used the tubs that have sponges inside them and I find them to be awful for glitters and flakes. They work well enough for cremes, jellies, and light shimmers, but I don't really want to stick my whole finger into a pot of acetone unless it's really needed to make my life easier.

I've also used the "tin foil" method for removing glitters and flakes. I won't go into details about it here, but it works well, is very easy, and if I didn't love my darn scrubby tub so much I would be telling you more about it now!


Around once a week or so, I will use a cuticle remover gel, like the blue Sally Hansen stuff. I squeeze out an amount sufficient to cover my cuticle area nicely and just place it on right from the bottle. After I've done that with each nail, I will wait anywhere from 1-3 minutes, depending on how gnarly my cuticles are. Here is a picture of the remover gel, also shown with my Sally Hansen Insta-Fix repair kit...

Yes, it says 15 seconds on the bottle. I think that's a bit of an exaggeration, but if you are using it for the first time ever, I'd probably air on the side of caution and only leave it on for 30-60 seconds or so.

Next, I use a cuticle pusher to gently push back and scrape from side-to-side my cuticles. You end up with a gross mixture of gel and dissolved skin on your pusher. You can just wipe it off on a tissue and carry on. The pusher I like to use is a mini from Tweezerman that came in a little set. It is shown at the bottom of the picture below...

I will use the other end of that pusher to clean under the free edge of my nails, when needed.

The pusher that you see in the middle there is what I like to use to push back my cuticles before painting my nails when I'm opting not to use cuticle remover gel. I guess I like it then because the plastic end is rounded, softer, and more gentle on dry cuticles that haven't been softened.

The nippers at the top are what I use to nip little hanging pieces of skin or cuticles that I have that are really thick and don't go away enough after remover gel. It's very important to be cautious and conservative if you opt to use nippers. You don't want to cause bleeding, which can lead to infection. Nippers also come in handy for hard bits of skin around the edges of the nail, on the sides, near the very ends of the tips.

After finishing with the gel, I wash my hands very thoroughly with soap and a nail brush, to scrub away any remnants of the gel.

Nail Clippers, Buffers, Files, and Such

I clip my nails on average about every 10-14 days. I prefer to clip them when I still have old polish on. I also like to file and shape my nails when I still have old polish on. I got that tip from MUA and it really does help me shape my nails better when the polish is still there. You can see the shape of your nail better that way. Normally I use a little clipper that my Father-in-law got for me from Taiwan...

In this picture, you also see the buffer that I occasionally use (up top). I got it at Sally Beauty Supply. I only use it to smooth out peeling areas, which, thankfully, I don't seem to have too many of any more. I also use it, when needed, to buff out glue and dust from the Sally Hansen Insta-Fix nail repair kit that you saw three photos up. That little kit is awesome for when you might have a broken nail where it's broken so far down that you can't possibly clip your nails short enough to fix it or where you have a break but don't want to clip or file them down and sacrifice length. It's similar to Orly's Nail Rescue, which I've also used before and like.

My favorite Sephora glass file, cuticle oil, and nail polish corrector pen are also shown above. Glass files are great because they work so well and smoothly. They can take down a lot of length quickly, if you like. They also last forever, assuming that you don't drop and break them on your ceramic tile floor about five times or so, as I may have done.

Base Coats

For quite a while, I used and liked Sally Beauty brand Gelous as my base coat. It goes on smoothly and easily. It seems to add strength to the nails, and it prevents most staining. In the picture below, you will also see the nail drying drops that I currently use near the very end of my routine.

I've tried tons of different base coats and won't go into all of them here, but I luckily stumbled into Palladio Fuse fairly recently, thanks to a coworker, and am pretty much madly in love with it. I noticed immediately that it helps keep my polish on better and longer. You'll see it below, next to it's buddy, Palladio Nail Brilliance top coat. It does not prevent staining whatsoever, I am sad to say. But, I forgive it, because I love it so (and because my now terrifically stained nails do stay painted at all times)!


Immediately after painting the base coat on, I start painting the polish color. I always go from my right pinky, working from right to left and finishing on my left pinky. I like to wrap the tips with my polish and my top coat. Sometimes I get lazy and don't wrap the third or fourth coat of polish (if I'm doing that many coats), but I always wrap at least the first coat of polish and the top coat.

Wait...you don't know what "wrapping the tips" is?! Okay, no worries. I will try and help you out. You want to get the very end part of your nail painted - the very edge and just a tiny bit underneath, too. Take your brush and with just a little polish on it and swipe it sideways across the end edge of your nail (the free part that is touching the air). Then, go ahead and paint your coat on as you normally would. You can also wrap after you've painted the coat. Before or after, it won't matter much, but don't wait too long to do either, so that the wrapping part melds in seamlessly with the actual coat. I try to wrap just prior to my actual coat because that way I am less likely to see a seam or line across the very top of the tip area.

Why wrap? It helps extend the wear of your manicure and also helps with any shrinkage you might have with a quick-dry top coat - even if it shrinks on you, you are much less likely to notice or have white, bald areas. It also paints the very ends of the nails, which is especially nice as your nails get longer to not have that part looking white when you glance at the ends of your tips! If your nails are very short, you can still, carefully, wrap the tips. I know it gets a little messy sometimes and that's okay. Just clean up a little if you need to.

I paint my nails at a desk in the kitchen. I use a small, cheap lamp from Ikea to help provide great lighting for me. I also rest my hands/wrists on the desk surface as much as possible to provide stability. I don't typically wait in between coats, although I've been known to if the formula is thick, holo, or at all finicky. I don't typically wait to apply the top coat, either...

Top Coats

I have used Poshe the most in the past few years. I love it because it is so unbelievably glossy, shiny, and hard. It also dries pretty fast. I've also used Seche Vite a good amount. One of the things I love about it is that it levels itself and can decrease the bubbles you might see in the polish layers. It dries the quickest of any top coats I've ever tried. Gosh, I have tried a few. Some day, for a good time, I will list them all for you! If I'm painting my nails late at night, especially if I have a good amount of total coats going, I have to use Seche Vite or I know I'm never going to get sleep!

Now for the down sides. With Poshe I do occasionally see little bubbles inside the top coat, on the nail. It's very sad when you have a lovely jelly or creme finish polish and there are bubbles in your top coat! It helps to keep the Poshe thinned with nail polish thinner, but even still, I do have bubbles from time to time. Also, it can dry a little slower than I'd like, depending on the polish I use underneath or how many coats I have on. If it's not thin enough, it can shrink back from all edges. With Seche Vite, I've had similar issues. My biggest complaint with it, is that it's never as hard or shiny as I'd like. It dents/scratches too easily in the days after. It can also shrink back from the edges of your nail if it's not kept thin.

I've been testing the Palladio Nail Brilliance top coat and here are my initial impressions. The texture is thin, smooth, and lovely! I haven't seen any bubbles in it yet. It dries to the touch pretty quickly (quicker for fewer coats underneath it). It does seem to take longer to dry completely all the way through. However, I had an incident where I bumped my nail on something, dented it, and it leveled itself out pretty well after! Very cool! Once it's completely dry, it is very glossy and hard. And, best of all, I've been getting better overall wear time! I'm finding I get from 2-4 days, depending on the manicure. The coolest part is that my tips are staying wrapped much longer, as well. With Poshe or Seche Vite, usually the very ends of the tips and the underneath part get chipped off within the first day. With Palladio, they are looking nearly perfect at three days. I'm convinced this helps prevent further chipping/lifting.

With all top coats, you want an easy texture to apply. As your top coat gets thick, please add thinner! Thinner is life changing. I usually add somewhere around 8 drops of thinner to my Poshe and Seche Vite about every second or third manicure. After you add the thinner, just gently roll the bottle in your palms to disperse it through. Currently I use Seche Vite Restore in my Seche Vite and Poshe brand thinner in my Poshe. I've also used the Sally Beauty Secrets brand thinner, too, and it seems to work fine.

Normally I just apply one coat of quick-dry top coat. If I have lots of glitter or flakes, I will sometimes do more than one to get a smooth and even finish.

Clean Up

I tend to do my clean up as I go. I use the Sephora nail polish corrector pen shown four pictures up. It's like a marker with nail polish remover in it. I love it! Sometimes if I have a little tiny mess up right near the very side edge of my nail or cuticle, I'll go at it with the sharp end of my little pink handled Tweezerman file (I did not get a picture of this) and just scrape off the excess polish. As you get more experienced with painting your nails, in general, you will find that you need to clean up much less! Practice makes perfect - almost. :) I try to paint my polish as close to the cuticle as I can without it touching the skin. Some people prefer to leave more of a pronounced gap as this helps them to avoid cuticle pooling and the need for clean up.

After the Paint

When I'm done applying top coat and cleaning up any lingering mistakes, I apply 1-2 drops of drying drops to each nail. I'm currently using Nicole by OPI's, shown in the third picture up. I find that they help to dry the polish a tiny bit quicker and also provide a little protection in case you accidentally touch or bump your nails. Then, I apply cuticle oil using the Sephora pen shown in the fourth picture up. I like the Eucalyptus and Lavender ones. They have a nice texture where the oil is almost gel-like, so it doesn't run all over the place. It's a click pen where the product comes up through the end of a little brush and then you just paint it wherever you want. They smell lovely, too!

Last? Waiting! Trying not to mess them up. :) Possibly taking pictures.

Other Things

I have a nice hand scrub from H20 brand that I like to use, when I remember! It leaves the hands very soft and smooth...

I also really like the H2o Hand and Nail Cream. It has a lovely texture (mid-weight) and absorbs in nicely. I get them both from Ulta stores. I probably moisturize my hands anywhere from 1-10 times a day. Caudalie has a wonderful hand and nail cream, too...

It smells light and fresh, is rich, yet absorbs very well. I get it from Sephora. The Poshe cuticle cream you see above is great to use at night because it hydrates, smooths, and exfoliates the cuticle area. I just squirt a line along my cuticles and then gently massage it in. It's available at Sally Beauty, Ulta, and other stores.

Yube cream is another gem I like to use. I get it from sephora.com and it's a fabulous cream that you can use anywhere on the body. I prefer it for hands, feet, elbows, and cuticles. It's thick and medicated (smells like Vick's). It leaves the skin feeling very soft, silky, and protected. It's wonderful for very dry or chapped skin.

I take 5 mg of Biotin every day. I get mine from CVS, and it is Nature's Bounty softgels. I've definitely seen that taking Biotin helps my hair and nails grow much faster! This is terrific. I love it.

Final Thoughts

If you've made it this far, congratulations!! This post has taken me several days to put together and complete. I want to thank the Nail Board on Makeup Alley for providing me with countless tips, tricks, and for being great friends. Probably at least 3/4 of the information I've shared here has been gleaned from there. They are goddesses!!! XOXO

10 dizzy comments:

Great Post!
Thank you very much for taking your time and sharing all this information.

Carolina - not a problem! Thanks for reading! :) I hope it is helpful.

do you break out from the biotin? I've heard of people getting cystic acne from it :(

anna - great question! I haven't noticed any worsening of acne or blemishes, no. I have, however noticed that little hairs on my face and other areas of my body are longer and grow a little crazier/faster. Yikes! Glad to have good tweezers. :)

Neat, I always enjoy reading about everyone's methods and seeing their supplies :) Good tips!

This was great to read! Thanks for putting it all together for us. :)

Great post L! I used to buy the Yu-bee for DH, maybe I should buy it again, since he stole my Lemony-Fluffer

Great Post Awesome Tips. I Usually paint my nails a few times a week and have been having some issues with my nail polish remover. I will try one of the ones you suggested. Also I usually do my nails at night and in the morning when my hands are wet I can scrap any I got on my cuticles or fingers off but the pen seems much more logical. lol I will absolutely have to try that too, that way I can take pics right away too! Again, GREAT post!

maesbeauty - thank you! I'm so glad you found it helpful! Since I did this post I've started cleaning up my manis with pure acetone and a small brush (the ELF concealer brush that's $1 at Target). I was reluctant to try this for so long, but now that I've been doing it for a while it really is a breeze and gives an even better result (especially for macro pictures)! The marker style clean up pens are very handy, though, and I used them solely for years. :)

This was very educational! I will be referring to this countless times. Especially to put my nail care shopping list together!

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This Is Me!

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I love color, beauty, creativity, animals, and being care-free. I'm not care-free, in reality, but would like to think it's an attainable state of being! I do like to bend the rules when it serves a greater purpose and I'm all about being authentic. Here I am, take me or leave me! I suppose I'd call myself a sensitive soul. I think I feel things more deeply and ponder things more thoroughly than your average bear.


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