The art of the self manicure

Some of my Nails Inc sale coloursI’ve always been a fan of painting my nails. From the peel-off polish of my childhood to today’s 3D effect glitters, I reckon I have probably owned at least one bottle off the stuff at any time over the last 30 years. In fact, one of my few scars is from trying to open a bottle of nail varnish where the lid was so tightly stuck that I shattered the glass. The moral of that story was to throw your old bottles out before they get to that stage! These days my collection is bigger than ever and, as a result, I’m learning more and more about the art of the self manicure.

I don’t go for falsies, so a manicure for me is purely about the shape and polish. As a result it’s usually a job that I do myself, but my choice of colours was rarely interesting until I got chatting with some friends last year. One let me select from her vast collection of polish to paint my nails while we chatted. I chose OPI’s The Living Daylights and four base colours that appeared in the glitter. Another friend introduced me to the delights of nail stamping and gave me a beautiful geometric floral pattern. Seeing their collections made me realised just how few interesting nail colours I had of my own and so, inspired by a post-Christmas get-together with them both, I spent some birthday money in the Nails Inc sale and increased my stash.

My "big gay rainbow" manicureThe first thing I realised was that a proper base coat does wonders for my nails. Mine grow quite fast but, after a week or so, the top layer would start to split and they would inevitably break and end up cut short again. Once I treated them to the Nails Inc Caviar base coat, they just kept getting stronger! I have tried out most of the colours from my haul now, and even the sturdy glitter polishes don’t seem to have destroyed my nails too much (although I gladly welcome tips on how to remove theose more easily!), but my second revelation was the one that really changed everything. I discovered the best top coat in the world… Seche Vite.

I was used to having to leave a long time to paint my nails. Doing them before I went out resulted in smudges or only one coat due to lack of time. Doing them before bed meant that I would wake up in the morning with some nails the texture of the bedsheets and others sporting the imprint of my hair. Seche Vite somehow manages to ‘set’ your polish, making every layer solid (and not just touch dry) in minutes. I haven’t timed it yet, but it’s fast! After all my friends recommended it, and said that Amazon sell it for less than a tenner, I had to get a bottle of my own. As Amber Butchart said on a recent Instagram manicure shot of mine, it’s a total game changer!

My "Iron Man" inspired manicureSo, now I can change my nail colour almost as often as I change my outfit. My friends and I are getting together about once a month to use each other’s colours, swap tips and spend an evening creating something fun (my “Iron Man” inspired manicure on the right came from our most recent meet up), so my Instagram feed will no doubt be filled with even more manicure shots than before. I plan to try out different techniques, like the gradient I atempted for the first time last night, and start to come up with my own designs. Not sure I’m ready for full on nail art quite yet though!

I love that your nails can be like another accessory – either subtly coordinating with your outfit, or standing out like a statement necklace. I love how manicures can be stylish and trend-led, or quirky and irreverent. Depending on who you are, they can be: a conversation starter; a flashback to a younger and more carefree self; the only splash of colour on you; perfection itself; or a big “fuck you” to gender norms. Also… who doesn’t love a bit of creative DIY spirit once in a while?