Good morning, it’s Friday!

People frequently ask me what kinds of products I use for taking care of my nails and hands. How do I get my manicure looking so “perfect”? Well it’s really no secret! There are a few things you need, the right products and practice. That’s it!

One of the first things I do before I paint my nails is shape them. My favorite nail files are the glass ones, like this one by Sephora.

Glass nails files are great for two reasons. First off they are really gentle on your nails and don’t leave raggedy edges like others can. Secondly, they never get dull. If you buy one once, you don’t ever have to get another one again (unless you break it)! This one was around $6.00, but you can find them for around $2.00 at Sally’s Beauty Supply and online.


A good base coat and top coat are absolutely essential if you want your manicure to last. I know people who don’t use either, then complain when their manicure chips in a day, hello!! A base coat helps the polish adhere to your nail, so this is pretty much a no-brainer. Also it keeps the polish from staining your nails.

My favorite base coat is Nubar’s Foundation because it dries quick, has a slightly “sticky” texture and is vegan and Peta approved (meaning no big-3 chemicals, and won’t wreck your nails).

Along with the base coat, you must have a good top coat, unless you are using a matte polish. This is just as important as the base coat as far as helping to keep your manicure intact. I prefer ones that dry super quick and are very shiny. Some good ones are Seche Vite, Poshe and Nubar Diamont. I prefer Nubar Diamont because theirs seems to help my manicures last a little longer than other top coats, when mixed with their base coat. Also I have a weird issue with Seche Vite. It’s so thick and shiny that scratches show up on my nails really quickly.

Hand lotion is super important also. I use hand lotion all day long, after every time I wash my hands. I always put it on before I go to sleep as well. I tend to have super dry skin on my hands, and this helps my hands not look like I am 97 years old. 🙂

I don’t have one brand that I always go to, I am what you might consider a hand lotion whore. I have about 20 various tubes all over my house, desk at work and purses. Some of my favorites are from Bath & Body Works, CND Almond Lotion and Jaqua Pink Buttercream Frosting. A word of warning, the Jaqua lotions tend to be like smearing actual frosting on your hands, they are greasy and make your hands shiny. But I still love them.

Probably the most frequently asked question I get it “How do you get your polish looking so perfect?”  The answer, my friends, lies with this little brush you see here. I got this non-descript brush at Sally’s Beauty Supply (or Michael’s, I cannot remember for sure) a couple years ago for like $2.00. It has a slightly tapered head and soft pliable bristles.

When I am finished painting my nails, I dip this into polish remover and go around all the edges and cuticle area cleaning up the excess. Works like a charm! Remember, the more you paint your nails the better you will become at it, and the less clean-up you will have in the end.

There are other cuticle clean-up products out there that I have tried and not liked much. Essie has a Corrector Pen which has these little tips on it filled with polish remover. You use it to go around your nails and clean up. However I have found that these aren’t very precise because the tip is hard and a little thick, so you can’t get into the little groves around your nail very easily. Not to mention that they are much more expensive than this $2.00 brush!


Another essential for keeping your hands looking their best is cuticle oil. There are some that seem to work better than others, but really, even olive oil would work if you could stand that on your hands! Some of my favorite ones are from Deborah Lippmann, Boots, China Glaze and CND.

I use the Lippmann one when swatching because it’s the least oily one I have and I don’t have to worry about it getting on my nail bed and ruining the swatch photos as much as more oily ones. It has a great coconut scent also. The one from Boots is great also, and I got it at Target, so it was cheaper than the Lippmann for sure. It has a great bottle dropper applicator and a fabulous rose scent. China Glaze Orange oil is another great one that isn’t excessively greasy feeling and has a nice orange scent. And finally one of the “old stand-by’s” out there is CND’s Solar Oil. I also use and love this one and the smell of sweet almond oil (like the aforementioned lotion) scent is one of my very favorite scents in all the land.

There are other cuticle products out there also.  Sally Hansen has a cuticle oil treatment pen. It is definitely convenient because you can put it in your bag and not worry about it spilling. However I have found it to be too thin to work all that great.

I have also used some of the cuticle balms in the past and don’t like them that much. I tried CND’s Solar Oil Balm for awhile which comes in a little tin, but one day it got too hot in my bag in the sun and turned into a weird waxy consistency, so I had to toss it. I have also used Burt’s Bee’s Lemon Balm, but found it got really dirty from dipping my fingers in it.

I don’t apply cuticle oil on my hands anywhere near as much as hand lotion mainly because I type all day at work and don’t want greasy fingers. I usually apply it at night before bed only.

A nail polish remover that isn’t too harsh is ideal. I’m not getting into the safety debate here about polish remover, you can read about that online and decide for yourself.

There are tons of different ones out there that are non-acetone, acetone and even vegan! I highly suggest not using 100% acetone simply because it dries the hell out of your nails and cuticles. This type is usually found for a couple bucks in the drug stores, and always leave a tell-tale white chalky finish on your nails, ick.

I much prefer ones with a mild acetone formula and that have a more pleasant lavender scent. Two of these I can vouch for are OPI Expert Touch and Zoya Remove. I have yet to find a non-acetone remover that works as well as acetone ones, but I want to try Orly’s Gentle Nail Polish remover when I run out of the ones I currently have.

This may seem obvious, but in all honesty, I never used cotton balls for my remover until about 3 or 4 years ago. I had always just used toilet paper, which sucked! But there are differences in cotton balls so buyer beware! What you don’t want are linty ones. I have been stuck with linty ones a few times after buying them at Target. I found the ones from Rite Aid to be FAR less linty though, and I much prefer them.

Tip: rip them in half! They are usually fairly large and I like to use one piece per nail (or two), otherwise the polish tends to spread around and get on my cuticles. So basically one cotton ball will take polish off of two-four nails. It’s a good way to economize! 🙂

I hope you find this information helpful, let me know your thoughts!

-VV

Written by Kelly
Vampy Varnish is dedicated to showing high resolution makeup and nail polish swatches, and providing honest product reviews.