1. Find a work space. Consider:
* Protection. Nail polish and remover can damage many surfaces such as cloth, wood finish and plastic. So, wear an expendable t-shirt and no valuable accessories, sit at a desk or table, protect it with scrap paper (not newsprint, which smudges), and make sure the table itself and anything near it is not particularly valuable or important to keep perfect because there might be a spatter or spill soaking through. You might not want to work near a computer, for instance. * Distraction. Noticing your appearance improve is fun, but watching paint dry is boring. So have a TV, radio or recording playing, or a magazine to both read and protect your workspace. Keep a clock visible, too, to remind you of when to proceed.
2. Remove any old nail polish:
* Use nail polish remover and cotton balls. Some kinds of nail polish remover may dry the areas on your nails and around them. You may wish to find one that doesn't do this as much, but do not be concerned unless you have a severe allergic reaction. Unless you use it once a month or less, don't use a nail polish remover with acetone in it. Though acetone will make removing the nail polish easier, it can damage the nails themselves. * If you have and wish to keep fake nails, such as acrylic, choose a polish that will not remove them, and don't let it soak much.
3. Cut and file nails. Use nail clippers and trim your nails. Don't cut them too short, you should be able to see at least a little of the white tip still, all the way across. Using a nail file, file the nail and create a smooth and clean shape. Gently drag the file across the nail, rather than pushing it. Excessive force or sawing back and forth will weaken the nails and cause them to break. Pivot the hand with the file through each stroke to make a smooth curve rather than angles. Do not file them too short: just clean up any points or roughness left by the clippers. * If you want to remove fake nails, perhaps because they look odd from having grown out too far, * Do not round the corners down into the sides of the nail bed. This can cause the nail to become ingrown. Be particularly careful with the big toe, which, perhaps due to shoes, is more prone to ingrowing.
4. Buff nails. Using a white block of a stick-type nail buffer, or a pad-type nail buffer and buffing powder, buff the surface of the nail a little bit to even out the surface and to smooth out ridges. Remember not to buff too much: you're grinding at the nail; thinning it too much will weaken it. Perfect edge-to-edge flatness is not practical or necessary. A soft, flexible buffer will more easily buff the sides of the nail along with the middle. * You may wish to buff your nails after pushing back the cuticles if there is some residue where the cuticles used to cover, in order to scrape or grind it off in the process. Being thin, soft, and not firmly attached, it should come off easily.
5. Soak nails. Get a bowl or stopper the sink and fill it with warm (not hot!) water and a few drops of soap. Soak your hands only for a few minutes. The water and soap will help to loosen dirt, dead skin, and any dust left over from filing and buffing, and soften cuticles. If you have dry skin or fragile nails you should NOT soak them, only rinse them. Use a nail brush to gently clean your nails and the skin around them. Gently scrape under your nails if necessary to remove dirt (scraping too much will remove a white powder which was actually part of the nail itself, weakening it).
6. Cuticles: Dry nails and apply a cuticle cream. Using a cuticle pusher, also called an orange stick, gently push back the cuticle. Do not force them back. NEVER cut your cuticles. Even if the equipment is sterile, removing the cuticle can cause infection and leaves the then-less-protected margin of the skin vulnerable. Wipe off the excess cream with a tissue or towel in the direction that you pushed (you don't...