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How To Do: At Home French Manicure That Lasts (In-Depth Pic-Heavy Tutorial)


Well-known member
I'm home sick today, so instead of working on research or my thesis I did this tutorial. I'm not a professional nail technician of any kind whatsoever. But this is how I do my nails when I want a French Manicure. My nails are strong so I cannot vouch for the effectiveness of the buffering/filing part of this tutorial if you have very brittle or weak/damaged nails. Be careful and gentle.

So here we go.


1. OPI Nail lacquer thinner - add 2-3 drops of thinner if your chosen polish is old/goopy/inconsistent. Don't over-thin the polish though!
2. Nailene Perfect Tip French Polish Guides (96 in a pack - we want to use 5 in total)
3. 4-way buffer block from Sally Beauty Supply
4. Q-tips
5. OPI Matte Nail Envy (This dries to a smooth matte finish; this is what I'm going to use. Others may want to use a shiny clear polish. The two in the pic are an OPI 'Top Coat' and an OPI 'Start to Finish'. I recommend using anything that has a strengthener if you have weak or brittle nails.)
6. Sally Nail Polish remover with aloe vera
7. Emery boards
8. Cotton ball/wool
9. Stainless Steel cuticle pusher tool
10. White tip colour (you can use any colour you want though)
11. Stainless Steel cuticle nipper
12. Optional Lemsip (I'm ill, remember?)


Start with fingernails that are completely clear of nail polish. After removing the polish, wash your hands with very warm water and dry thoroughly. The water should help to soften the cuticle.


I start with the cuticle pusher tool.


The left-sided arrows point to the area where the cuticle region is. The right-sided arrows just show where there's gunk to clean out. Eww.

If you haven't ever pushed back your cuticle, it will be quite long. Mine isn't there because I do this a lot.


You push the cuticle against the edge of your nailbed. Do not push hard - the area is very sensitive and you do not want to wound the nailbed.


This is the result you're after.


Use the cuticle nipper to gently remove the cuticle you pushed. Be extremely careful - the cuticle nipper is very sharp. DO NOT WOUND THE NAILBED EDGE! If you do, it will bleed and be open to infection. It'll also sting like hell when you apply the polish.


Nip nip nip.




Clean the underside of the nail. Just cuz you're covering it up doesn't mean you should let it get nasty under there. Just sayin'....


File the nail. Use a horizontal motion starting from the centre, moving out to the edge. Do not use an up and down motion as it will weaken the nail. I do not bother to clean up the nailbed area after the nipping because everything will be buffed.

So here's how the buffer works:










Shiny shiny nails:


You should always file, buff and shine the nails before you do the polishing. The polish will take better and stay longer.


Get the nail polish guides ready.


You can cut these to size. I usually use about 5 in total for the entire manicure, and I can usually use every strip 3 times in total. I'm very conservative with them because I'm a cheapskate.


Place the guide in the centre just below the area you want to polish.


Completely finish the manicure for one hand before going on to the next. That way you can avoid too many mistakes. Set up all the nail guides.


This is the colour I'm using. It's a cheap £1.69 bottle from Boots' Natural Collection range. I don't see the point in spending a lot of money on a colour for nail tips because I'll never get through the whole bottle and I often get bored with white tips anyway.




This is Ratty's really good tip number 1. After you've done both coats for the nail tip, take the polish brush and coat the edge of the fingernail - as in, the very edge of the nail. It doesn't matter if you get some underneath. This will help protect the nail edge from chipping. You may get some of the polish on your skin under the nail - don't worry about it for now, and DO NOT go near your fingertips with a nail corrector pen or a q-tip dipped in polish remover. You're more likely to touch the edge you've just coated and ruin the hard work you've just done. Just chill with whatever mistakes you've made for a bit.


It goes without saying that you do nothing while you're waiting for the hand to dry. But you do have the other hand free to do whatever you want, so you're not completely unable to move around. Just be careful.

When you pull the strip, do it very slowly. If you're not careful you can easily rip up the edge of the polish along the nail guide. So do it slowly and gently.


Paint over the nail - including the nail tip. Do one coat and wait for it to dry. Do another coat if you need to - you probably will. Seal the edge of the nail too, just as you did with the nail tip colour. This will help prevent cracks, breakage and chips.


Finished with the painting. Not finished with the hand just yet though.


If you've got spillage on the edges, I recommend trying an emery board first. The reason is that when you're using your non-dominant hand on your dominant hand, you will not have as much (or any) control. The chances of getting acetone on the nails is very high, and that's counterproductive.

The other option is to wait until you're absolutely sure everything is dry and then wash your hands. Nail polish can be easily sloughed from skin just by soaping/washing the finger tips and then rubbing gently into a terrycloth towel.

After you do the corrections, it's time to moisturise. Nipping the cuticle and all the washing/acetone will dry the hell out of your nails. Time to baby them.


In case you hadn't picked up on this yet, I'm a cheapskate. I could buy really nice cuticle oil, but what's the point? It'll get washed off the next time I use the toilet. So anything emollient will work. Many people swear by olive oil or almond oil. The point I'm trying to make is that you don't necessarily have to splash out on expensive products to keep your nails healthy and happy.


Use a cotton bud. It's more hygienic and it's easy to work a q-tip into the cuticle edge.


Be liberal with the amount.


Admire your work.


And you're done with that hand. On to the next hand - same as the first only a little bit harder since it will probably be your dominant hand. The nail guides help a lot though, so hopefully you'll have pretty, perfect French nails and money in your pocket to buy yourself a well deserved scotch afterwards.

If you want your work to last at least a week, follow these suggestions:

1. Do not wash dishes without gloves.

2. If you pick up anything, try to use the sides of your fingers. Do not pick up anything with the nails themselves or on the nail tip edges.

3. If you take a soak in the bath, keep your hands out of the bath. Keep your hands out of water as much as possible.

4. Whenever you do wash your hands, dry them completely - don't drip dry. This helps prevent weakness in the nails that promote chips/breaks.


Well-known member
Originally Posted by mollythedolly
Thanks! If you have a square shape, you can simply use tape in place of the nail guides.

I'm not sure if Nailene makes perfectly straight nail guides or not, but I've used other types of tape (Scotch tape, masking tape etc) and I find the biggest problem is that it leaves traces of glue on the nail that you then have to remove before applying the top coats. The nail guides do not leave any trace of glue so they're worth the money, imo, especially since I can use one guide three times and cut it to shape for 1.5 manicures.


Active member
I love how detailed all the steps are for a DIY (do it yourself) french mani! It makes me want to try it for myself! Thanks for posting this up!


Active member
I love nails buffers! I don't know how I managed to ever live without mine. Haha.

I used to always do my own nails, but they would end up chipping/cracking after a couple days. I'm gonna try putting polish on the edge of my nails now. Great tip!

Thanks for posting this!


Well-known member
Originally Posted by ratmist
I'm not sure if Nailene makes perfectly straight nail guides or not, but I've used other types of tape (Scotch tape, masking tape etc) and I find the biggest problem is that it leaves traces of glue on the nail that you then have to remove before applying the top coats. The nail guides do not leave any trace of glue so they're worth the money, imo, especially since I can use one guide three times and cut it to shape for 1.5 manicures.

I'll try them then! I never really noticed the glue before. Thanks!


Well-known member
It's a year old, but I don't care! This was an *Awesome* tutorial!! I wish you'd do more!! I mean, in all your spare time while the baby is asleep, of course.


Active member
This is such a detailed, terrific tutorial. Thank you for taking the time to create it, it's definitely so useful and helpful.

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