Attempting to recreate the salon experience at home is much easier said than done, especially when it comes to doing your nails. The challenges arise even before attempting to that impressive DIY nail art, wondering how you'll get your overgrown cuticles, hangnails, and dull nail beds under control first. It may be intimidating, but it's important for the overall health of your nails and hands — and thankfully, it's not all that hard with the right tools and guidance.
"I'm a firm believer that your nails will be healthier when your skin is exfoliated and hydrated, cuticles are pushed back and dead skin is removed," Celebrity Nail Tech Mar Y Sol — who has worked on the hands of Kim Kardashian, Ashley Graham, Jourdan Dunn, and more — tells NYLON. "When you've properly manicured your nail bed, then everything else is easier. Paint application is smoother, your manicure will last longer, and there are less chances for hang nails to pop up and ruin your day."
Ahead, Mar Y Sol and Deborah Lippmann, longtime celebrity manicurist and founder of her namesake nail care and polish line, share their expert tips and tools to care for your cuticles at home.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Nylon’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Prep Skin With Exfoliation
For Mar Y Sol, exfoliating the hands before pushing back the cuticles is preferred if she isn't doing a dry manicure. "If you don't have a hand or body scrub, you can easily make one with products you already have in your kitchen," she says, calling out ingredients like avocado oil, olive oil, brown sugar, honey, lemon, or essential oils of your choosing. "Get creative! They're all great to combine, and will leave your hands (and feet) feeling divine." You'll want to then rinse your hands before moving on to your cuticles and dead skin.
Cleaning Cuticles & Skin Requires Caution
When it comes to your cuticles, longtime celebrity manicurist and founder of her eponymous nail care and polish brand Deborah Lippmann suggests that you leave the cutting to professionals the next time you can make it out to a salon. Instead, using cuticle removing tools — like the new Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover Pen ($24), or a simple orange wood stick ($8/50 count) to push them back if you have short length — will clean up the look of your nails. Whichever method you chose, Mar Y Sol stresses the importance of sanitizing your tools before and after each use, and moving with extreme caution as to not damage or pierce the skin.
"If you have a little piece of skin hanging, just barely attached, use cuticle nippers," Lippmann adds. "Eyeball that piece of skin. Place the head of your nipper at the base of the hanging skin. Close and open the jaw in the same spot, but do not pull, simply place the cuticle nippers on the extra skin and open and close."
From there, you'll be able to move onto gently buffing, filing, and shaping the nails.
Hydration Is Key
According to Mar Y Sol, using cuticle oil is an essential step in nail care, and should be included in your everyday beauty routine. "I always say cuticle oil is to your nails what face serum is to your face. I feel a common misconception is that all cuticle oils leave your hands sticky," she says. "If you're looking for something that is quick [to] absorb, try using Revlon's Essential Cuticle Oil," Mar Y Sol suggests, noting that the product is rich with Vitamin E and Almond Oil.
Regardless of what oil you choose, the celebrity tech notes that when applying, you'll want to be sure that you go around and under your nail bed. "If you have no polish on, then also brush it onto your actual nail bed. Once you've brushed on your cuticle oil, massage it in using small circular motions to ensure maximum absorption."