Get the Best Ever At-Home Manicure This Holiday Season

It's no secret, every girl feels frazzled around the holidays. Family reunions, in-law commitments, that mixer you have with your favorite hometown buddies before Thanksgiving…all of these things can add up to manicure mania. So how do you pull off the perfect red nail to accompany different occasions? You take our DIY manicure tips for perfecting and removing lacquer so you can be the quick-change artist you were meant to be. Let's get to it then.

The Right Tools

A lot of us "learned" how to do a manicure from our best friends who at age 9 or 10 were hardly experts on the subject. Make sure you've got the right tools to really do it right, and you'll instantly cut down on the time it takes to have a job well done. You'll need: cuticle pusher, glass nail file, nail clippers, buffer, cuticle oil, base coat, enough color for two coats, top coat, old toothbrush, nail polish remover, and the thinnest paint brush you can find. If some of these tools are new to you, don't worry, all will be revealed. Trust us, they're the absolute must-haves.

The Right Prep

Prepping your nails for polish is a step too often skipped in the rush of holiday change-ups for different occasions. While you won't need to do it each time necessarily, start the season off right and take time to prep. In the long run, your nails will look better and more professional. Clean your hands well! Use the cuticle pusher to push back the little area of skin that grows over the base of your nails to expose as much nail as possible. Use nail clippers or cuticle cutters to cut away the excess skin. Cut nails and file them to desired length and shape. Use the buffer on the top of your nails to smooth out the surface for flawless color. Finally, moisturize your cut cuticles, which helps reduce the chance of hangnails.

The Right Method

It's simple really, after everything is prepped, one stroke of color down the middle will start you off right. Then one stroke on each side of the center stripe will cover your nail with color and reduce those pesky mistakes. Use this method with your base coat, each coat of color and your top coat. What if you happen to mess it up? It's okay. That's what the paintbrush is for. Unlike cotton balls or swabs, a thin paint brush is a much more precise way of cleaning up your edges after your mani is finished. If you want to maximize how long it lasts, wait a full two minutes in between coats of color and apply a new top coat every couple of days.

The Right Ideas

You can't go wrong with classic red any time of year, however, you can go wrong with Santa Claus decals and tiny hand-painted ornaments. Here are a few ideas that will give you a chic look without going overboard. Go ahead and buy that clear polish with glitter added. While it may be a bit too youthful for everyday wear, one coat on top of your color can add a perfect holiday sparkle. Want to go green? Try a dark shade of the color to avoid looking too "x-mas-y." Use black as your base color and then follow up with gold metallic or glitter at the tips to recreate a French mani look. A single metallic or glitter stripe down the middle of your nail, on top of your lacquer, adds a simple geometric element. Now is the time to try crackle polish, too. It calls to mind decorations without being too literal.

The Right Tips

Think about planning ahead to avoid anxiety about last minute decisions. Buy all your planned color choices at once and you won't be scrambling to find the color you want during the 11th hour. On a budget? Stick to the colors you already own, but buy just one accent color you can add on top, such as silver metallic. Do a manicure right out of the shower, your cuticles are softened and you can forgo the extra step of soaking them in a bowl of water. Plus, your hands are clean! Before you begin, dip that old toothbrush in nail polish remover to scrub away excess polish that's still clinging to your nails from your last mani.

image: Alice + Olivia Fall 2012, IMAXtree