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How To Do A Professional Manicure Step By Step [The Guide]

Today I’m going to show you how to do a professional manicure treatment. This will provide you with a step by step tutorial of how to create a stunning Mani. You can use this guide if you are a Nail Technician/ Manicurist with clients, or you want to do this on yourself at home.

So, how do you do a professional manicure step by step? The process steps to do a professional manicure include nail preparation, filing, soaking, pushing back the cuticles, massaging, applying a base coat, the polish and then finally a top coat. 

There is nothing better than a fresh new pristine Manicure. But only when they are done right! There are a lot of things than can go wrong, and a lot of things than can ruin the appearance of your new nail design. Let us know take a look at whats involved, some recommendations and what you need to do!

I’m going to use a selection of products which I will reference throughout. These are the products that I regularly on myself and on my clients at the salon.

What You Will Need

  • Anti-Bacterial Spray/Soap
  • Fine Emery Board
  • Nail Cutter (Optional)
  • Cuticle Cream
  • Orange Wood Sticks
  • Cotton Wool
  • Disinfecting Fluid e.g. Barbicide (Optional)
  • Hand Lotion
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Lint Free Wipes
  • Base Coat
  • Nail Polish
  • Top Coat

Step One: Preparation

If you are working on clients, it’s important to make sure that you sanitize their hands before you start. I recommend that you spray both of their hands and arms with an anti-bacterial spray and use a piece of cotton wool to wipe over.

If you are working on yourself at home, just make sure that you’ve washed your hands thoroughly with warm water and a gentle soap. Ensure that your hands are completely dry before proceeding further.

Step Two: Filing

The first thing that you want to do in your professional manicure is to file the nails. Start with one hand and use a fine Emery Board (like this). You want to make sure that it’s not too rough for the natural nails.

When you file natural nails, it’s important to start on one side and file in one direction heading towards the center.

And then repeat this from the other side of the nail with direction back to the center. This is to prevent the nail from breaking and splitting.

It’s good to use the full length of the nail file while you do this. If you do file back and forth in a soaring action, this will cause the nails to weaken and split.

If you are working on nails with a lot of length that you want to remove, you can clip the nail before you start with a nail cutter.

You can also Bevel the nails to remove excess bits of nail along the edges. Bevelling is where you file downwards with your nail file to remove any excess.

Step Three: Apply Cuticle Cream

The next step is to apply Cuticle Cream to the Cuticles (the best one I have ever worked with is the Onyx product). This will help to soften the cuticles before you put them in the hand bowl to soak.

Next, dip an Orange Wood Stick into your Cuticle Cream so that you can apply it to the nails.

Dot a little bit of the cream along the cuticles on every finger and then go into massage the cream into the
cuticles applying  firm pressure.

Step Four: Soak

You are now going to need a nail bowl that’s been filled up with warm water and a little bit of hand soap. If you are doing this on yourself at home you can just use any old regular bowl.

Take the clients/your hand and place it into the bowl. Allow the hand to soak for a couple of minutes in the bowl.

If you’re working on a client, whilst the hand is soaking, you can then start to perform steps one through to three on the other hand.

By the time you’ve repeated that process on the second hand, the first hand will be ready to come out of the water.

Once you have removed the first hand, place the second hand into the bowl and let that soak.

Whilst the second hand is soaking, place the first hand onto a dry towel to dry off the fingertips. You also want to massage the cuticle cream in to the nails to reinforce and ensure it penetrates the nail.

So at this stage, you’ve removed the first hand from the bowl, thoroughly dried it off and also reinforced the cuticle cream.

Step Five: Push Back the Cuticles

Next, you are going to push back the cuticles using an Orange Wood Stick wrapped in Cotton Wool.

The reason for the Cotton Wool is because if you use just the orange wood stick on its own, its too harsh and you can cause pain to your client/yourself.

To wrap the stick, open up a Cotton Wall pad, and twisting the Orange Wood Stick into the Cotton Wool like Candy Floss.

This Cotton Wool will just provide a bit more protection for the clients/ your own fingertips

Now, using the Orange Wood Stick, you’re now going to gently push back the cuticles.

By pushing back the cuticles this will enable the finished nails to look a lot better. The polish application will also be a lot easier.

You’ll find that the nail plate appears a little bit longer once you have pushed the cuticles back effectively.

Now, use a pair of Cuticle Nippers to tidy any excess cuticle you have. Be very careful with these nippers to avoid
nipping your client.yourself.

Only remove any excess cuticle if there is any present. If you are working on neat cuticles, you may not have to remove much if any at all.

Be careful and just remove any excess cuticle. Again this will just make your polish look much better when finished.

The other thing you’re looking to remove with the cuticle nippers are any loose bits of skin that hang off at the side of the nail. These are known as Hang Nails. You want to nip those to ensure they have been removed.

If you are using metal tools on clients it’s important that you regularly clean and ensure hygiene procedures are in place. Make sure tools are regularly sterilized by leaving them in disinfecting fluid such as Barbicide. This may not be necessary if you work on yourself and it’s just your own tools. 

Step Six: Repeat for the Second Hand

The next thing to do is to remove the second hand from the soaking bowl. Again dry the fingertips thoroughly with a dry towel and massage the cuticles.

So you’ve repeated the process from the first hand on the second hand. By now you have:

  1. Cleansed both hands
  2. Filed both hands
  3. Applied Cuticle Cream
  4. Pushed the cuticles back and
  5. Removed any excess Cuticle

Step Seven: Massage

Now, its time to move onto a hand and arm massage. This is nice for you to be able to perform on your clients,  yourself at home or on your partner, friends and family. It’s nice to know some basic massage movements that you can add to your manicure to make it professional.

I like to use the Puracy Organic nourishing Hand Lotion and undertake some basic massage movements.

Start by massaging the Lotion into your own hands to start to warm it up. Make sure the clients arm and
elbow is supported – the client shouldn’t be having to hold her hand up herself. By supporting it, your client becomes fully relaxed.

The first movement you can do is called Effleurage. Its a stroking movement used in all types of massage (back  and head massages etc). What you need to do is stroke up and down your clients arm, from their hand to their elbow.  Apply gentle pressure and repeat the movement about six times.

The next movement you’re going to do is called Petrissage which is a kneading movement. To do this, you want to massage with small circular movements with your thumbs. You want to go up the forearm and when you get to the elbow, simply drag back down. Do that around 3 times – working up the arm.

Now, you can do the same circular movement around the wrist bones.

Work onto the hand, using thumb circles again (Petrissage movement) working all the way over the hand. Apply good pressure for this to be effective.

These kind of movements increase the blood circulation, which in turn encourages new cell renewal and growth.

Lastly, you want to finish up by moving onto the fingers and thumbs. Use your thumbs and similarly to before, use a circle motion to massage. Work up and down each finger and thumb.

Turn the hand over, and again massage in the palm of the hand using thumb circles all. Do this over the palm of the hand.

By holding each each finger, you can use what are known as passive movements. This is when you rotate all of the fingers and thumbs in a circular motion (three times in one direction, and then three times in the other direction). This kind of movement helps joint mobility and is good for clients, friends and family that may have arthritic or joint problems.

Again you should be doing the work for the client, they should be fully relaxed.

You can finish with the starting movement on the forearm, The Effleurage. This stroking movement will ensure all of the hand lotion is fully absorbed.

You then would repeat those massage movements on the other hand and arm. You’re now ready for polishing!

Step Eight: Use Nail Polish Remover

Before you polish the nails, it’s important that you remove any grease from the creams and oils that you’ve used as part of the manicure.

So to do that, its best to use a Natural Nail Polish Remover on a Cotton Ball and go over all of the nails.

In my manicures, I always use Lint Free Wipes  – this is because Cotton Wool can be quite fluffy and it can be left on the nail. This will then show up as part of a polish. The lint-free wipes make sure that nothing is left on the surface at the nail.

I always use an Acetone-free nail polish remover when working on natural nails. This ensures less damage to the nails.

Just go over each nail, give it a good rub on top and underneath of the nail to make sure nothing’s on there that will affect the polish.

Step Nine: Apply a Base Coat

Before you go ahead and put your polish on it’s important that you apply a Base Coat.

The base coat that I like to use is called Sache Clear. This works alongside Sache Vite which is the Topcoat (you can buy both bottles together at a discounted price on Amazon)

Seche clear is a Base Coat and the reason you want to use a Base Coat is to prevent any staining to the nail from your polishes. This is particularly important if you use a red nail polish or a dark polish. These are known to cause staining to the nail plate.

With your Base coat, and just like any bottle of polish, try to keep the bottle in your hand.

If you’re keeping it away, it means that you’re having to go back and forth which can cause drips and spillage on your working area. So if you can, keep the bottle in your hand.

Support the finger you want to paint with your thumb little finger. Apply the Base Coat to all of the nail plate. You are going to want to repeat this on all five nails.

Step Ten: Paint Your Nails

The Polish I like to regularly use is the China Glaze color called China RougeI use China Glaze polishes in the salon all the time because its  very easy to paint with.

The reason I’ve chosen a red to paint in this tutorial is because if you can learn to polish with a red or a dark color,  then you can learn to polish with any color. This is because a red/dark color will show up any imperfections.

Now, dip your brush into the polish, wipe one side completely and halfway down on the other side of the polish bottle rim. I’ve found that this is about the right amount to cover the nail.

The first coat that you do is purely a guide to cover the nail.

So place your brush into the middle of the nail plate and push down towards the cuticle. This is to try and ensure a nice smile line and then pull back.

You don’t want to go too close to the cuticle because you want to avoid flooding the cuticle so that it looks nice and neat.

And you’re trying to apply in three coats.

When you’ve done the whole nail plate, cap the free edge. This is to prevent against chipping.

So again, go in the middle of the nail plate and push down towards the cuticle. You want a hairline gap between the polish and the cuticle.

Don’t worry too much if you got any nail polish around the skin of the nail; that can be removed.

Remember to place your brush in the center of the nail plate, push towards the cuticle and pull back.

A good polish application should have a hairline gap between the polish and the cuticle at the end, a nice smile line, and it should be smooth without any bubbles.

You always do two coats of any color polish.

That will be your first coat on the first hand. You will then then move over to the second hand and apply the first coat on that hand using the process outlined above.

Now, you will need to apply the second coat of polish. This is to ensure that you get the coverage and ensure
that the final look is slick.

Step Eleven: Apply a Topcoat

Once you have finished the second coat on all ten fingers you will now finish with the Topcoat. I always recommend the Seche Veet Topcoat because it’s very good at evening out any little imperfections that you may have.  It’s
also quite fast drying.

The Topcoat is also very good at providing a high shine finish.

Ensure that you cover everywhere that you’ve polished.

Step Eleven: Tidying Up

At the end of the manicure, when you finish your polish, if you find that there’s any polish around the nail or on the skin that you need to tidy up, here’s what you need to do.

Apply a Cotton Wool wrap around the end of an Orange Wood Stick and dip it into Nail Polish Remover.

You can then use this as an eraser to get rid of any little bits of nail polish. So just gently work around the nail on the skin. There might be little bits under the free edge, so be sure to clean them up. This will ensure that your look is complete at the end of the manicure.

To finalize, you just need to apply Topcoat to the second hand and that is your professional Manicure complete!