This Classic Trick Can Help You Achieve The Perfect At-Home Mani, Every Time
Whenever I get up the gumption to attempt an at-home manicure, it looks like two very, very different people painted my nails. See, one hand looks near-perfect—nary a smudge in sight, if I do say so myself—and the other? Let's just say I've colored outside the lines. I'm surely not alone: Painting with your nondominant hand is hard! Your fingers shake, the angle feels strange, and the result, well, it's less than cute.
I realize a dented coat of nail polish does not rank high among life's pressing issues, but it's worth bringing up if it bothers you, too. Plus, there's a quick and easy fix experts swear by for salon-grade polish every time.
The classic trick for a smudge-free manicure.
First, prep your nails for polish as you normally would (clip, file, cuticle oil, the works). But before applying your base coat, you'll want to trace the perimeter of your nails with a jellylike balm—especially working it into those cuticles. Then as you sweep on the polish, any wide strokes should land right on top of the balm.
It's a tried-and-true expert hack: The jelly substance acts as a barrier between your skin and the nail, so if you smudge a little polish into your cuticles while you paint, it'll wipe off afterward with ease, as opposed to taking a cotton swab soaked in polish remover to clean up the stray polish after the fact, which can accidentally nudge all your hard work off the nail plate.
How to do it.
Many proponents of this mani trick tout Vaseline (a popular traditional occlusive), but you can use any clean jelly you like, so long as it's oily enough to repel the pigment—Pipette's Baby Balm mimics the feel of Vaseline almost perfectly.
Once you have your product of choice, just apply the substance around the nailbed, using a cotton swab to spread it out. "After polish application, wipe it off using a cotton swab, and it will clear away the polish residuals," says Amy Lin, the founder of sundays—a nail care brand focused on wellness.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but you'll want to wait until your nails completely dry before swiping away the balm. Try to clock in seven to 10 minutes of dry time (10 to 15 minutes if you've got nail art), or you may nick the polish with the cotton swab.
For your most immaculate at-home mani yet, try outlining your nail plate with a jelly balm before using polish. The oily substance creates a barrier between the pigment and your skin, so any polish mistakes won't stain your fingers. Just wipe off the balm when you're done, and it's like you never made any errors at all—we'll never tell.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.