DIY Manicure Must Haves | On the Daily EXPRESS


DIY Manicure Must Haves

While I do like getting salon pedicures every few months for some extra pampering, for the most part I do my tips and toes myself because it saves time and money. Over the last few years I've found some favorite products in the home nail care department that I purchase over and over again so today I'm sharing those staples.

Cuticle Remover: This is pretty self explanatory: after I remove old polish and am preparing to apply new color to my nails, I put a small drop of this on each nail bed and let it sit for a few seconds. Then I use the removal tool (bottom row) to push back my cuticles and completely clean any old polish completely off the nail bed. I also use this combo (cuticle remover + removal tool) in the shower if I'm preparing to do a pedicure. (I'm sure it would work great for a manicure that way too, but the timing for that doesn't usually work out for me.)

Base Coat: A base coat is my first step in painting my nails, and I usually give it about a minute to dry (with the assistance of a hair dryer to speed up this process) before going on to add my nail color. This Revlon Base Coat is actually discontinued, but it's my all time favorite. I still purchase it on eBay and will continue to do so until it's no longer available anywhere. At that point I'll go back to Creative Nail Design "Stickey"...or just ask around to see what my friends are loving in that category.

OPI Infinite Shine Beyond the Pale Pink and It's Pink P.M. After my base coat dries, I'll apply two coats of nail color, letting each one dry for about a minute in between. And once again, I prefer to use a hair dryer if possible to speed up that process. So far, OPI Infinite Shine has given me the longest lasting manicures of any products I've tried. My two favorite colors are very similar, with this one having slightly more white and "It's Pink PM" having slightly more pink (the latter is what I've been wearing in blog photos for the last month or so). And both of them are opaque in two coats (I hate when a color requires more than that to get the desired result). But they're both still in the pinkish whites/whitish pinks family, which I find the most flattering on my skin tone, easiest to match with any outfit, and least likely to show minor chips. I do think these colors can look completely different on people depending on their skintone, so it may require some trial and error to find the perfect neutral pink/white for you. I've had different favorites over the years, e.g. Sinful Colors Easy Going and OPI Let's Be Friends, but I've been using Infinite Shine exclusively for over a year since the lasting power is so much better for me.

Essie Polish: Flowerista: If I could only have one pedicure color, it would be this! I do switch to some darker shades for fingers and toes in the fall and winter and some brighter pedicure shades in the summer, but this is always a favorite. Occasionally I'll do a manicure with this, too, but mostly I stick to neutrals for those.

Removal Tool: I bought this when I was doing gel manicures at home since it was needed for removal, but once I stopped doing those I found I still liked using it for pushing back cuticles and removing any stubborn spots of polish from my fingers and toes. There are other cuticle pushers you can buy designed specifically for the task (like this), but this works well for me so I haven't seen a need to replace it.

Essie Speed Setter After I apply my base coat and two layers of nail color, I wait another minute (using the hair dryer on low power this time so I don't cause any of the polish to shift) and then apply one thick coat of this quick dry top coat. I can't even imagine trying to do my nails at home if not for quick dry top coats! They cuts the final drying time way down. Seche Vite is always a top rated top coat, but it causes "shrinkage" on my polish, meaning it pulls the color back from the tips of the nails so it looks like I'm in need of a slight touch-up even though I just painted my nails. I don't have that problem with Essie Speed Setter so it's replaces Seche Vite as my favorite.

Essie Gel Setter: And last but not least, a gel top coat! I wait a minimum of one hour after the quick dry top coat before applying this to my nails. Usually I paint my nails at night then add this coat first thing in the morning when I'm doing my coffee + computer time. It only takes a minute to apply and dries completely in less than five minutes. Prior to discovering this plus OPI Infinite Shine, my manicures would last 2-3 days max. Now they last about a week, which is amazing for me. I've tried a couple of other gel top coats (e.g. Sally Hansen, CND Vinylux) and neither of them lasted quite as long for me as this.

Nail Polish Tub: This removal tub comes in handy anytime I'm doing my nails and make a mistake on a single nail. It allows me to remove the polish on just one nail without ruining all the rest of my nails, which was always a problem before I discovered these. I remember seeing these tubs in the nail polish remover section for years before I ever tried one. I just didn't realize they had a different opening/function so I didn't know I needed it! I also use this during the week if I have just one or two fingers that are showing wear and need a redo (my pointer finger and middle finger are the most likely culprits here), but the rest of my nails are fine. Sometimes redoing 1-2 nails here and there throughout allows me to go a few extra days before I need another full manicure. 

We'll be talking nail care on my Instagram Story Challenge on Wednesday, but when I'm talking about this many products in detail, it's always easier for me to type it up on a computer and have a full blog post as an anchor point. And of course, I don't like to leave my blog-only readers out of any Instagram content that fits in here as well! So thanks for reading no matter which platform you prefer!

Linking up with: Laura | Erika | The Blended Blog | JoLynne



  1. I just had a mani/pedi on Saturday but that's not something I do often - I don't like spending the money (it was $50) but I really don't enjoy the time spent - it's not terribly relaxing to me. I prefer to take care of things on my own when I can.
    I'm going to pin this for the next time I need my nails done!

    1. Ha, I know what you mean about it not being entirely relaxing. I tend to be stressed out the entire time I'm there thinking "this is taking much longer than if I did it myself and I have other things I should be doing!"

  2. I love these colors. I love the light pink nail polish!

  3. That Sally Hansen cuticle remover is the best! I use it about once a month and makes my nails look so much nicer! I have really dry hands so I have to be careful about not using harsh products. I still get gel on my nails, but I skip the manicure. My girl just files and paints, I do the rest on my own to save time and money :) Great post Gina!

    1. You are totally right about the cuticle remover! It is harsh. And I totally forgot to mention my favorite moisturizing product for cuticles here! It's Lansinoh ointment. It's intended for breastfeeding mom but it works wonders on post-manicure fingers tips after they've been dried out with polish remover and cuticle remover. A little goes a long way and I usually try to use it the day after I do a manicure to replenish the cuticles a bit.

  4. Great tips and product recs, thank you!

    Using the dip polish remover thing for a mistake on just one nail is such a good idea!

    That Revlon Colorstay base coat...the corresponding top coat is actually my all-time fave and I was so sad when they discontinued it. I could probably still buy it elsewhere but I figured I'd better just try to move on. I use the Sally Hansen insta-dri but it does the shrinkage and cracking bit that the Seche Vite does. It sure is fast though! I need to try the Essie one you showed here!

    Also a great idea to add another layer of top coat the next day. I have a friend who worked in a nail salon and she said that's the #1 trick is to add a second layer of top coat a day or two after your original mani to prolong the wear!

    1. Ha, I tried to do the same thing (move on to another product) after my base coat was discontinued but I just didn't like them as much so I decided to just enjoy them as loooong as I can from eBay and move on when I have to. I can't believe how many years they've been around despite being discontinued!

      And yes - Sally Hansen Insta-Dri is a good one too! I have that in my travel bag for nail emergencies since it's a little more budget friendly. I agree that it does the same shrinkage thing, unfortunately. Definitely worth trying Speed Setter to see if it works!

      I know a few gals who add yet another top coat layer 2-3 days post manicure to get extra lasting power, but 1) I usually forget unless I'm in "manicure mode" and 2) my nails just start to feel too thick at that point!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I always appreciate your feedback!

  5. I use Orly as a base coat and like it! I am a huge fan of Essie polish too. Their gel nail polish stays on my nails like no other polish can!


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