I thought it would be easy if I listed the tools I choose to use when doing my manicures and nail art. This is a dynamic list that constantly changes, but I hope it will give you a look into how I usually operate.
Standard Manicure Tools
You can also order these online pretty cheap. Buff only in one direction, using the various grits as described by the instructions for the buffer block. I do this every 3-4 manicures to buff out the ridges that come in as my nails grow. I try and avoid buffing too often because it does thin out the nail and make it susceptible to infection.
I use Sephora’s glass files exclusively. The glass files will not split nails and last much longer than their cheaper, cardboard cousins.
Acetone + Non-Acetone Based Remover
Acetone is the best thing to ever happen to cleaning up your nails. It works super quickly with very little effort. Downside is, it destroys most of what it touches. You need to make up for the drying out of your skin with tons of cuticle oil and you can’t use any plastic tools. They’ll dissolve in the acetone. This is where non-acetone remover comes in. Its much better for cleaning tools and much easier on your nails if they’re brittle or weak.
Clean Up Brush
I clean up most of my manicures with this small lip brush I bought at Sephora that is so old, it’s probably unsanitary to use near my mouth. There is no reason you can’t buy a brush from a regular art supply store but make sure the bristles are natural, not synthetic. Synthetic brushes will dissolve in acetone.
These things are ridiculous. They’re like wizard magic but real. I don’t know how they work, but they freaking do. If I’m doing a complicated manicure with a ton of layering, I can’t finish without these babies.
Word of warning: they do work very well but they’re not infallible. They tend to dry up the top layer of laquer very well, but don’t set the underneath layers. I still give my nails a few minutes in between coats when I use drying drops, it just reduces the risk of damage as I go.
I also make sure to wash off all the oil from the drops in between laquer coats. Something in the oil makes wet paint ripple. The best technique is paint, drops, wait 4-5 minutes (set a timer!), wash with cold water, paint again, etc. A coat of Seche Vite in there can help too, but the drops work quite well on their own. I tend to use them if I plan to do a bunch of layers to avoid over-applying a quick-dry top coat. Too many layers of anything makes for a remarkably chippable nail.
Nail Art Tools
It’s just Scotch Tape. Nothing fancy. Check out all the tips under Tape Mani Tips. Tape makes some really great simple nail art very easy.
I bought a pack of five of these off of Amazon for just a few dollars (buy wooden ones, not plastic ones…the plastic ones will dissolve in acetone). They are remarkably easy to use. The main idea is to keep the right amount of polish on the tip at all times. If you’re making a bunch of the same sized dots, make sure to keep re-loading the dotting tool in between every dot. If you’re making a bunch of dots in decreasing size, re-load the tool on a consistant basis.
Same rules apply as dotting tools. I bought a pack of five of these off of Amazon for just a few dollars (buy wooden ones, not plastic ones…the plastic ones will dissolve in acetone).
These definitely take a bit more practice than tape or or dots because you’re actually using freehand technique. Having a few of these in several sizes can be great for small details.
This tape is this skinny, itty bitty tape that comes in packs of 10 on Amazon. It’s super cheap and makes the most perfect, straight, thin lines. It’s a little tricky to handle at first because it’s so thin, but it’s relatively easy to get the hang of. If you’re having a hard time dealing with it, trying removing it with tweezers while you go. Also, check out Tape Mani Tips. The same rules still apply for the super skinny tape as the scotch tape.
Small, Non-Plastic Dishes
I use these small bowls to hold a tiny amount of acetone at a time, instead of using the bottle cap. I’ve spilt way too much remover all over everything to risk having an open bottle of acetone anywhere near my workspace.
I also use these for cleaning tools and brushes when I’m done, discarding cotton rounds, soaking makeup sponges, etc. They need to be glass or ceramic so the acetone doesn’t dissolve them.
Super easy, super simple laquer palettes. No need to buy one if you have a roll of aluminum foil.
For applying and removing small, hard to handle pieces of tape, jewels etc. They’re also nice to have laying around if a string of cotton or a piece of dust gets caught in your polish.