dem nails 101

Happy 2016, my loyal so-and-sos! The new year has begun, which means that it is time for me to:

  • Say goodbye to the hot garbage that was 2015, but not before getting right up in its face, screaming “DON’T LET THE DOOR HITCHA,” and launching it out of my life forever via a firm boot to the butthole;
  • Resolve to be be a better, kinder, healthier person for the first seventeen days of January, or until I rage-eat an entire tube of Pillsbury Grands! in one sitting, whichever comes first; and
  • Finally nut up and post the DIY nail tutorial I’ve been promising you guys for many, many moons. A ridiculous amount of moons. An unfathomable amount of moons.

So here we go! I’m gonna show you how to do DEM NAILS!


Okay. When doing a manicure, you always want to start out with clean, dry nails. Which means that if you’re already wearing nail polish, you’ll need to remove it. Any nail polish remover will do, but I prefer the felt pads that are already pre-soaked and individually wrapped. Otherwise, my nail polish removal experience quickly turns into a nightmarish landscape of stringy, sticky cotton balls and puddles of acetone everywhere.

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
I use the Kroger-brand felt nail polish remover pads, because I’m what they like to call a “big spender.”
est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
My nails! *gasp* They’re naked! Quick! Somebody get me 5 very small bathrobes!

Now that your nails are Rated R For Graphic Nudity, you’re ready to shape them. If you’re new to DIY manicures, I recommend first reading a short article courtesy of Divine Caroline called “How to Shape Your Nails.” It’s simple and instructive, and best of all, I didn’t have to write it. Click on the image below to take you there.

Image courtesy of Divine Caroline: "How to Shape Your Nails."
Image credit: Divine Caroline – “How to Shape Your Nails.”

I personally shape my nails in the “squoval” fashion because even though I prefer square nails, I’ve found that the sharp edges can gouge out a bitch’s eyeballs. It’s also been my experience that the corners have a tendency to snap off whenever you:

  • eat
  • sleep
  • breathe
  • do anything at all

So I round those fuckers down.

Now. I don’t necessarily want to take a sticky, unsatisfying crap on metal nail files, or even the old-school Emery boards, but I’m going to anyway. Because they suck. They’re either too gritty or not gritty enough, and they last about as long as a sailor on shore leave. The bottom line is that GLASS FILES ARE WHERE IT’S AT. I use an inexpensive one called the Diamond Deb, and a single file can hang in there for YEARS.

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
The pointy end comes in very handy for scraping that disgusting gray amalgam of dust, face grease, boogers, nostril hairs, and skin flakes out from underneath your fingernails.


est. 1975 PRO TIP: NEVER saw back and forth when filing. Sawing at your nails will weaken them, causing icky-poo flaking, peeling, and breakage. Instead, file in one direction on one side of the nail, then in the opposite direction on the other side. Finish by rounding or squaring off the top.


After you’ve shaped your nails, the next step is to gently push back your cuticles. This keeps them healthy, and also gives your nails the illusion of length. You can use a cuticle removal cream or gel if you like—a variety of brands make them—but I myself don’t bother. I throw caution to the wind and just bareback it with this YCC Clear Plastic Cuticle Pusher.

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor


est. 1975 PRO TIP: NEVER CUT your cuticles, and don’t let a nail tech or manicurist do it either. It’s a fabulous way to contract a Gross ‘N Nasty bacterial or fungal infection. Check out this short article courtesy of Cosmopolitan called “Why You Should Never, Ever Cut Your Cuticles” and walk away schooled.


Now it’s time to paint!

If you have oily nails like I do, I recommend wiping your nails down with rubbing alcohol before you start. This will remove dirt and oil, but it will also help polish adhere to the nail, helping you avoid the super fun phenomenon I like to call “The Manicure That Chips Off in Gigantic Pieces 20 Minutes After It Dries.”

You can also use a nail primer like Orly Primetime Primer Basecoat to achieve the same result.

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
Useful, but it’s basically just rubbing alcohol with an applicator. If you’re in a pinch, save yourself the dollars.

Now apply a rubberized basecoat like Orly Nail Bonder Treatment to your nails. It has a “gripping” effect and does a kick-ass job of keeping nail polish in place, even on oily nails like mine.

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
Like, comment, and subscribe if you think I’m a humongous product whore who deserves a free case of Orly Nail Bonder Treatment in exchange for this post.
est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
A wet coat of Orly Nail Bonder Treatment. Or maybe I just wiped my nails across my sweaty forehead. *I’ll* never tell.

Got your color ready? Because you’re going to need to apply your first coat while YOUR BASECOAT IS STILL WET so that the rubber can bond to the lacquer. I chose China Glaze’s “Out Like a Light” for this tutorial because China Glaze makes excellent, inexpensive cremes that are very easy to apply.

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
Sorry that this picture sucks. Unlike *actual* nail bloggers, I do not have all of the awesome lighting and camera equipment it takes to take sweet close-up photos of dem nerls.
est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
If you can’t find this exact shade, a nice almost-dupe for this nail polish is China Glaze’s “Concrete Catwalk.” Yes, I have both. Yes, I have a problem. Yes, shut up.

Now, if you’re not used to painting your own nails, applying the lacquer quickly and neatly is going to take you some practice, particularly when using your non-dominant hand (that lazy son-of-a-bitch.) However, in the meantime, here are a few simple tips that can help:

  • GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU START. Nothing fucks up a manicure more easily than an urgent pee, or a deuce that can’t wait.
  • Never shake your polish. This will cause air bubbles to form. Instead, roll the bottle gently on a soft, flat surface.
  • Don’t polish your nails in the same room as a moving fan. This will also cause air bubbles.
  • If you accidentally get polish on your skin, don’t lose your shit. Just let the paint dry and it will wash right off with soap and water.
  • LET EVERY LAYER OF NAIL POLISH DRY COMPLETELY BEFORE MOVING ON TO THE NEXT. And by dry, I mean DRY. Not tacky. Not squishy. Not “eh, it’s basically dry.” DRY. 
  • You should only need to use 2-3 layers of most lacquers to get full coverage.
  • If you struggle with streaks, air bubbles, or flooded cuticles, chances are pretty good that you’re just not painting your nails the correct way. This incredibly helpful article (see image below) from taught me everything I know.
Image credit: Lacquerized – “How To: How I Paint My Nails.”


est. 1975 PRO TIP: If you have gorgeous long talons and struggle with tip wear, try wrapping your tips. It’s a technique that involves putting a little bit of lacquer on the free edge of your nail to prevent wear and tear. For step-by-step instructions, check out this article by The Polished Perfectionist called “How to Wrap Your Tips.”


After you have applied your color, you’re going to need to finish with a quick-drying top coat. One of my favorites is Seche Vite Dry Fast Nail Top Coat. It smells like a toxic chemical spill and it doesn’t play well with non-drugstore polishes, but its high gloss, durability, and time-to-dry are second to none. You must apply it while your final layer of color is STILL WET.

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
This is a miracle product. I’m not even kidding. I think Jesus Himself was involved in the creation of this top coat.

After application, in about 30 to 60 seconds your manicure will be drier than my vaju-vaju after watching my husband get out of the shower and air dry his junk using the “helicopter” method. (If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, consider yourself hashtag blessed.)

So this is what DEM NAILS can look like with a little practice and some pretty reasonably-priced manicure products:

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor

Oh! One more thing. Make sure to keep your nails and cuticles moisturized after a manicure, because the chemicals can dry out your skin. I like the Mary Kay Satin Hands lotion, and indie polish manufacturer Emerald & Ash has an entire line of cool-smelling cuticle oils.

est. 1975 shows the loyal so-and-sos how to do a relatively easy and inexpensive manicure. #nails #nerls #manicure #est1975 #est1975blog #funny #humor
I’m currently using the E&A cuticle oil “Gourmet Dark Chocolate.” On a totally unrelated note, I’m also currently trying not to nibble my fingers off.

And there you have it! Beautiful nails you can do at home. If you have any questions about techniques, materials, or why my cat insists on standing on my boob while I’m trying to write a blog post, put ’em in the comments!


If you haven’t already done so, consider following est. 1975 on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest! I add fresh, hilarious material every single day.


21 Replies to “dem nails 101”

  1. I have never read an entire article about painting nails in my life because I prefer the ‘biting nails’ manicure. But holy shit I want to stop biting and try this out. Your nails look great!
    What’s the story with the bent middle finger? You using that too often and it got stuck in a door?

    1. OMG. It is such a non-story. I broke it at a church lock-in when I was in high school, and I did nothing about it. I don’t even think I told my parents.

      Let’s just say it gives me “character” or something.

  2. Love this! Seche Vite is my favorite topcoat as well. My secret to making it work with Zoya and other non-drugstore brands is to put a clear coat of cheapo Sally Hansen in between. It works really well for preventing shrinkage and the Seche Vite dries everything so fast you don’t need to worry about an extra layer of polish on there. People will mistake my at-home manis for gel when I do this.

    1. Readers – LISTEN TO THIS ADVICE. If you’re seeing that Seche isn’t drying your nail polish fast (it should only take 30-60 seconds) or is leaving “squishiness” or bubbles, then chances are the nail polish you are using is from an independent maker, or vegan, or what’s known as “4 Free,” or some combination of these. A brand of topcoat called Poshe or the RED bottle of Sally Hansen Insta-Dri are good top-coats that work with these brands. And Saci is right… you can still use Seche Vite on the top.

      Saci is also right about Seche Vite causing “shrinkage” – a situation when you have full coverage of the nail when you start, but as the topcoat dries, it “shrinks” the polish, leaving a white tip. Wrapping your tips helps, as does her advice of using Sally Hansen or another clear coat first, then using Seche on top.

  3. Between the “just bareback it” and the helicopter drying maneuver lines, I am having trouble breathing over here. HOW ARE YOU SO FUNNY AND CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE ME SOME OF THAT?!

    I love this so hard, I cannot wait to piggyback it with a post all about how you became my Nail Yoda even though I’m super lazy and really wanted to just go pick up power converters at Toshi Station.


  4. Jesus Christ, I just read an entire post on how to paint my nails! I guess i can use these tips when the 4 year old asks to have his painted next, so there’s that. Lol.

    You have lovely nails by the way. Nails aren’t boobs, but I guess it’s cool that they get some attention too.

  5. You look like you have nice, strong nails to begin with. While reading the section about shaping the nail I was thinking “Ha! That would be nice to actually choose a shape.” I end up with a combo of all of the above because my nails are always breaking and peeling. I just do the best I can with the mess of each individual nail. But your other tips are super useful and I like that the products you recommend don’t cost a fortune. And, yes, you should totally get compensated for this tutorial.

    How long do your manicures typically last? When did your obsession with nails begin, and do you have any theories about what deep psychological issues you are trying to work through via your perfect nails?

    1. Actually, my nails are actually pretty weak (doing your nails regularly usually makes them weaker, not stronger.) They definitely go in cycles where they all break off and I have to start from scratch. When that happens, I give them a break and I try to take Biotin every day and that helps.

      My manicures typically last 3-5 days depending on some factors. First, I have oily nails and that limits the time polish will stay on. Second, if I’m cleaning or doing a lot of work with my hands, that will cut down the length of the manicure significantly. Third, the products always affect how long the manicure lasts. You have to experiment and figure out which ones work best for you.

      Obsession with nails began about 3-4 years ago, I think. I’m sure My Girl T can correct me if I’m wrong. She’s my nail BFF.

      Deep psychological issues: CONTROL ISSUES. BEAUTY ISSUES. Also, it is surprisingly meditative and relaxing to do nails.

  6. Now that you are my instant nail guru, I’m going to ask what you recommend for cuticles that are a hot mess. I don’t polish my nails but I do file (yaay glass files! I still have mine from high school and it’s still working for me) and give them all the attention naked nails could expect. But in the winter my cuticles go all achy breaky dry and look like someone hacked at them with a pair of scissors. Help! Sarah, what do I do?

    1. Do you push them back and keep them moisturized? If I don’t push them back, they grow over my nails instantly and then I pick at them and tear them up. If you’re pushing them back, keeping them moisturized, and you’re still having problems, I would recommend Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream or LUSH Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter.

  7. I cannot sit still while the coats are drying. I’ve considered getting a gel nail kit. You know with the gel polish and the lamp (the kind that doesn’t give you cancer). Ever consider one of those?

  8. First, you have bee-yoo-tiful hands. What!!


    You say to leave you base coat wet, but the little instructional thing says to let it dry. Who is lying here?
    Also, I have Seche Vite and it has never dried my nails that quickly. I use good shit! (I think).
    Great. Another thing to be obsessed about. Thank you.

  9. This is amazing and I’m so sad now. I started biting my nails about 3 months ago, and they are TERRIBLE. Like, my husband cringes when he sees them terrible. You’ve inspired me. I want my long nails back. How long with it take nails which are approximately 2 millimeters from the cuticle to grow back?

  10. I got “THE RING” for Christmas this year, and I absolutely *had* to have a manicure, so we forked over the money for acrylic/gel manicure. I know my nails will look like hell when I finally have them taken off, but I needed perfect nails in a hurry.
    Eventually my nails will come back and I will be able to have my own healthy beautiful nails.. if only for a day or two. (I’m so rough on my nails)

  11. Thank you so much for writing about the nail polish remover pads. I went out and bought two boxes of them after reading your post. They work wonderfully! They even take off polish that gets into the edges and cuticles. I’ll use these pads from now on.

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