Ladies and gentlemen, we've been bamboozled. By who you ask? Sex and the City. Girlfriends. Basically all of Hollywood. They made us believe that we'd be 24 living it up in super nice apartments with a never ending wardrobe of nice clothes and enough money left over to treat ourselves to the spa after a long week and daily brunches at that pricey but super Instaworthy café. The truth?

Most young adults can't even come close to affording those luxurious apartments that we always see on TV and struggle to have enough money to get our nails done once a month, let alone visit some bougie spa. And everyone on TV clearly had 3 hour work days because there's no way you can fit in a brunch date in a realistic work schedule.

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If this is you, it's okay. We're with you, and so are the majority of your peers. Most of us now realize that we were scammed by Hollywood and those ultra nice things more likely come to us later in our lives. But even though we're not living in Hollywood's version of young adult life, we gotta find ways to still treat ourselves without dropping so much money. Just because we're not filthy rich does not mean we shouldn't be able to enjoy the nice things in life. We just have to be smart with how we go about it.

When you can, try doing things yourself instead of paying someone else to do them. Especially your nails. A lot of us can't go without having nice nails but this 'necessity' comes with a price. Prices vary wherever you live but if you like having your nails done all the time, it's probable that you'll be dropping at minimum $30 every 2 to 4 weeks. And let's be honest. That’s the low end of the price spectrum. So what to do? Well, you can always try DIYing your nails. Nowadays, there are tons of nail kits and supplies that you can buy that will help you accomplish the salon look without spending so much. And you don't have to stop there. You can treat yourself to a full salon experience right in the comfort of your own home.

Unlike the nail salon where you're surrounded by people, your home can be your personal oasis. Turn on your favorite music, pour yourself a glass of bubbly, and lounge around in your most comfortable pajamas. Set up a little station before starting with all the essentials you'll need. Remember to include an old towel or newspaper as a mat to paint your nails on in case you spill anything. If you're into the essential oils life, now's the time to get them going.

One of the things that salons do to get your manicure looking so nice is actually putting in the prep work. A good way to start off the process is with clean hands. If you're going to be showing off your nails, you'll also want your hands to look good so do like the salon and a use hand scrub before starting to remove dead skin and then replenish your hands with some hand moisturizer.

  

Nails naturally tend to have some ridges and uneven surfaces which can result in uneven nail polish application. Just like a painter would want to start off on a clean, flat surface, so would you. Make sure to buff out your nail surfaces to get rid of all those uneven. But keep in mind, buffing too much or too often will result in thinner nails so if you struggle with thin nails that break often, buff your nails sparingly!

Another way to lessen the chance of breaking your nails is by filing properly. Always file in one direction instead of back and forth. When you file in different directions, you're not only leaving the tip jagged, you're increasing the chances of your nail breaking or peeling. If you really want to do like the professionals, stick to only filing your nails rather than clipping them. Clippers also lead to splitting and breaking so opt for a file with a higher coarse surface to adjust the length and shape of your nails.

Protect your cuticles. Use oil or lotion to moisturize your cuticles and prevent hangnails and other unsightly dryness. When you do get hangnails because they're bound to happen at one point or another, clip them off, don’t tear them off. And that’s the only thing you should ever clip! Despite the common practice of clipping cuticles at salons, it's actually a pretty bad idea to do so. Cuticles protect the space between your skin and the nail from bacteria and fungus that could get in otherwise. Cutting them exposes you to these elements and on top of that, will progressively grow back looking more frayed and uneven each time. Instead, use a cuticle remover and orange stick to push them back. You'll get the same clean look without the all the health risks.

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Also, use the right nail polish remover. Acetone is extremely drying to your hands so whenever possible, opt for non-acetone remover. This isn't a good to peel or tear off old polish though. Peeling off polish will oftentimes take the top layer of your nail with it and that's going to weaken it and create a more uneven surface.

If you don't want to have yellow nails, you need to protect them by using a base coat designed to nourish your nails. Not only are base coats good for your nails, but they can also even out the surface and help polish stick to your nail better.

Now, that you've done all the prep, you can get into the actual process of painting your nails. As you probably know, painting them requires a certain level of precision that not all of us were blessed with. For those of us who might have a harder time coloring within the lines (so to speak) consider using a nail painting barrier that will help you stay within the actual nail. You can try Vaseline, Elmer's glue, or buy a product specially designed for the job. A bonus when using Vaseline is they'll help moisturize your cuticles. These can help get that clean, professional look. 

 

Don't be afraid to use various tools. If you watch the nail pros paint masterpieces on your nails, you'll notice that they don't accomplish the job with just the brush that comes with nail polish. They have a whole arsenal of brushes and other tools. So think about doing the same. Get different sized brushes so you can easily get better precision. Striping tape is that super skinny tape that can help you get cleaner straight lines and designs. Even at-home things can be of use. Bobby pins, needles, regular tape, these can help you accomplish a clean design on your nails.

 

Lastly, practice makes perfect. You already know this. You've probably grown up hearing this. That's because it's true. No one was born an expert in anything. Leonardo Da Vinci was not a great painter when he first started. Lionel Messi did not come into the world as the world's best soccer player. And you're not going to start out a pro nail painter. But you can become one. Just keep practicing, try out a lot of different designs, and maybe even offer to paint friend's nails. Before long, you could become good enough that nail techs will be asking you to paint their nails.

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