How to Ditch the Nail Salon


I’ve been a constant presence at my local nail salon for the past six years. I go in every few weeks for a gel manicure. I have a favorite technician who I will text whenever I need an appointment. Even the owners know my name. To say I enjoy having a fresh manicure would be putting it lightly.

But lately my faithfulness to the nail salon has been wavering. I simply no longer want to take the time out of my weekend and away from my busy toddler to get my nails done. Getting regular gel manicures is also a pricey habit, even though I keep it simple. No Kylie Jenner nails over here!

So in an effort to save time and money, I decided it was time to ditch the nail salon.

Getting Started

Once you’ve decided to ditch the nail salon, you’re going to need a few tools to give yourself the same quality manicure at home. Here’s a list of some of the items you’ll need:


Even as a seasoned nail salon patron, I was a little lost the first time I painted my nails. I knew what needed to be done but had never mapped the steps out. To save you the trouble, I’ve put the steps together for you. Be sure to have all your supplies out and ready to use before you begin painting!

  1. File and buff your nails to desired length and shape.
  2. Soak your fingers in a bowl of warm water.
  3. Push cuticles back (trimming them is optional)
  4. Wash and dry hands.
  5. Apply base coat on one hand and dry under UV lamp. Repeat on other side.
  6. Apply desired color on one hand and dry. Repeat on other side. Typically need to apply 2-3 coats.
  7. Apply top coat on one hand and dry. Repeat on other side.
  8. Dampen cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and wipe over nails. This will remove the stickiness of the top coat.
  9. Use nail file or cuticle clippers to remove any excess nail polish.

how to ditch the nail salon


I will admit that I’m terrible at removing my gel polish. As a former nail bitter, I can’t resist the urge to pick my polish off. I know it’s terrible. I’ve tried to stop. Please don’t come at me. We all have our flaws. I don’t recommend you use my removal method. So instead, follow the steps below to properly remove your gel nail polish.

  1. Buff your nails.
  2. Soak cotton balls with acetone.
  3. Apply cotton ball to each nail and use clamp to hold in place. You can also use foil to wrap around your fingers and hold the cotton in place.
  4. Soak nails for 5 – 10 minutes.
  5. Using cuticle pusher, scrape nail polish off each nail. If polish is not coming off, soak for additional time.
  6. Proceed to application steps.

Tips and Tricks

There are a few learning hurdles you have to overcome once you ditch the nail salon. You don’t need to be ambidextrous (though that would make things easier). But you will need to be patient. Practice makes perfect, and it will take a few times before you get the hang of it. Here are some other tips and tricks to keep in mind:

  • Start with lighter colors. They are more forgiving.
  • Soak your nails before using the cuticle clippers.
  • Clean up excess polish on your skin BEFORE you dry the polish under the light.
  • Speaking of excess polish. Paint your thumbs last. This leaves you with a free finger to wipe off any polish that didn’t end up on your nail.

Overall, the startup cost of doing your nails at home is going to set you back about $100. This is significantly less than what you’d spend if you were getting regular manicures.

So if you’re looking to ditch the nail salon, or maybe your salon is currently closed due to coronavirus, I hope this gives you the confidence to give yourself a gel manicure at home!

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how to ditch the nail salon

Originally published April 2020.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.