Mastering manicures at home

August 1, 2013 

There was a time when at-home manicures were as fun as, well, watching paint dry.

The process involved arduous wait times, in addition to applicator brushes that were a perfectionist's worst nightmare. Not to mention a color selection confined to shades of pink and red.

But much of that has changed, thanks to a growing array of user-friendly, affordable options -- available within fingertips' reach.

Since I can't always make it to the salon, I scoped out the hottest trends in the world of at-home manicures. Here are some of the options dominating shelves this summer.

No-dry options

We live in a culture with little tolerance for wait times, and the beauty world has responded accordingly. Manufacturers now offer a wide variety of sticker-based nail art options.

The good news? Since there's no paint involved, you don't need to allow for any dry time. But don't expect an entirely seamless process. Arguably, the required nail filing is the toughest part of this new beauty frontier. After you've applied the sticker, you must file it down to match your desired length. For newbies, this step is often harder than it sounds.

Looking for some starting points? Sally Hansen Salon Effects nail polish strips offer a good testing ground for beginners. Essie Sleek Stick nail stickers are especially resilient and include eye-catching designs, like the silver-studded blue option I modeled for this article. L'Oréal Colour Riche Nail Lingerie includes clear, glittery stickers that can be applied to enhance the look of standard nail polish.

Maybe stickers aren't the only thing dominating the no-dry world. Are press-on nails making a comeback? Sure, the label generates memories of retro fashions and nasty chemicals. But with an endorsement from celebrity Nicole Scherzinger, Impress Press-On Manicure by Broadway Nails might gain a loyal following.

The press-on nails, available in many drugstores, require no glue and claim to rival "the best gel polish."

Standard polish

When it comes to traditional nail polish, many of this season's trends center on optical illusions. Sally Hansen recently unveiled two popular lines: "fuzzy coat" and "sugar coat." The fuzzy option makes your nail resemble a wool sweater, while the sugar look transforms your nail into an inedible Sour Patch Kid.

Hologram-inspired styles also seem pretty hot right now. If you want to experiment with this look, Sally Hansen offers a nice Lustre Shine line, and Maybelline's Color Show Holographic line is also very user-friendly.

Also, don't end your summer without showing your nails some neon love. I'm especially fond of the Neons 2013 collection by essie.

Mastering manicures at home

After excessive trial and error, I've learned base and top coats are often what separate successful at-home manicures from disastrous ones. The application adds some time to the process, but ultimately it's worthwhile in extending your manicure's lifespan.

A base coat was also key in solving my biggest at-home manicure crisis: air bubbles. Frustrated, I scoured the Internet for advice. The base coat tip helped, as did this nugget of wisdom from Sally Beauty Supply's website: "Don't shake your polish bottle to mix the polish; beads in the bottle can create bubbles. Instead, roll the bottle between your hands."

Finally, you've probably noticed the growing variety of gel polishes on drugstore shelves. If you're opting for this route, make sure to check the product's label to see if it requires a UV light, which is generally sold separately.

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