There are days when you have time to hit the nail salon, and there are days when you just have to improvise. Here’s how to get a perfect ten at home fast.
Step 1: Start with a great shape
Even when you’re rushing, don’t just slap on a pretty polish and call it a day—60 seconds with a nail file can do wonders for your manicure. “ No matter what, if the shape is good, your nails will look good,” says manicurist Bernadette Thompson. Working in one direction, file your nails into a classic “squoval” shape (straight at the tips, with slightly rounded edges). Use a nail clipper to even out the length first if you need to. When you’re done, gently nudge back your cuticles with a soft cloth or a cuticle pusher.
Step 2: Do some speedy prep
A base coat gives polish a smoother finish, and protects nails from stains, but the downside is it adds another step. A sneaky solution: “Use a quick-drying top coat as a base coat. It saves you a lot of time,” says Thompson. Apply a thin layer, and let it dry (it should only take a few seconds) before you add color on top.
Step 3: Pick the right hue
When you only have a few minutes to spruce-up your nails, avoid dark lacquer shades—they call attention to mistakes and take longer to dry. Stick with lighter colors or try a textured option like Bernadette Thompson Long Lasting Nail Vernis in Desert Storm. “Polish with sparkles will dry faster because it’s mixed with something like fibers or glitter. It’s not just straight nail polish,” explains Thompson. If chunky gold or silver flecks and your nine-to-five gig just don’t mix, go with a pale polish with a teensy bit of shimmer like Essie Nail Color in Imported Bubbly.
Step 4: Fix little goofs
The trick here is to wait until your nails are completely dry before you clean up the edges with a polish remover-soaked Q-Tip. “If you accidentally bump your nails, the lacquer won’t come off if they’re dry,” says Thompson. All tidy? Rub on a little cuticle oil for extra shine and to fight smudges.
How do you spiff up your nails in a jiffy?