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New Year, New Nails! Tips to Improve Your Naked Nails

Manicure Tips for Naked Nails via @alllacqueredup

New Year, New Nails!

The first #NailGlossip chat of the year focused on bad habits and solutions to help your nails look better in the coming year. The best place to start is by nailing down (pun totally intended) a set manicure routine and scheduling a regular nail date with yourself.

To inspire you, I’ve teamed up with Sally Hansen to share the manicure steps that rescue my genetically weak digits from looking a hot mess. Using these simple tips, you can proudly take your naked nails in public.

Push and Trim Cuticles

They say that brows frame your face and, in the same respect, cuticles frame your nails. You may be wearing a Picasso on your hands but raggedy cuticles will wreck the overall picture.

Start with clean, dry nails. Apply cuticle remover and let it sit for a minute. Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover is a fan favorite for its ability to dissolve even the toughest skin and calluses. I’ve been using it for over a decade.

Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover via @alllacqueredup

Apply Cuticle Remover

After the remover has a chance to work, push back cuticles to create a smooth, curved shape. I prefer rubber-footed cuticle pushers, like the Sally Hansen Push-N-Trim, because they are more gentle than an orange wood stick. If you push too hard, the soft nail that lies beneath can grow out with ridges.

Sally Hansen Push-N-Trim Cuticle Groomer via @alllacqueredup

Push back cuticles

Remove the excess skin that grows onto the nail bed by gently pushing the metal side along the sidewalls.

Sally Hansen Cuticle Groomer via @alllacqueredup

Remove Excess Skin

Buff Away Ridges

If you are blessed with naturally smooth, ridge-free nails, you can skip this step. I am not that fortunate.

Buffing helps achieve a smooth finish but can cause damage if you do it too often or press too hard. To avoid that, I apply cuticle oil (Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil) to my nail surface before lightly buffing with a 240 grit buffer. The oil protects and moisturizes the nail bed.

Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil via @alllacqueredup

Buff Nails with Cuticle Oil

Even Out Tips

Because I paint my nails so often, I like to give them a break from polish every now and then. But my tips are pretty uneven and discolored. So, when my nails go naked I pull out a nail whitening pen to fill in the odd spots.

Dip the Sally Hansen 2-in-1 Nail White Pencil in water to activate and run it under the free edge. It won’t turn yellowed nails bright white but it will even things out.

Sally Hansen 2-in-1 Nail White Pen via @alllacqueredup

Even out the free edge

As you can see, after these simple manicure steps, my nail beds are smoother, my cuticles less ragged and my free edge is brighter and more even.

Naked Nails - Before & After via @alllacqueredup

Naked Nails – Before & After

Protect, Strengthen & Shine

Finally, add a tinted strengthening treatment, like Sally Hansen Nail Rehab, to protect and add gloss to the manicure. I’m on my second bottle, it’s that good.

The bonus of Nail Rehab… its milky, slightly thick consistency has a ridge-filling effect so it’s a great treatment to wear under creme nail polish. I often use it as a base when I swatch cremes.

Sally Hansen Nail Rehab via @alllacqueredup

Sally Hansen Nail Rehab


What are your key steps to a flawless manicure? How often do you let your nails go out naked? 

Sally Hansen products are available at drugstores and mass retailers nationwide. For more info, visit

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Sally Hansen, who provided samples of the products featured. All opinions are my own. For more info view my Disclosure Policy
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There Are 32 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Lisa N. says:

    Very helpful to know and learn. Thank you!

  2. Sandie says:

    Just curious how often you do this? Thanks

  3. Aleta says:

    I’ve been eyeing the Nail Rehab since you mentioned it in July! Wondering if you have any issues with ridges making it looking streaky? My nails are a bit worse than yours, and things like Essie Mademoiselle and Butter London’s Nail Foundation never look perfectly smooth, even with two coats of a good base.

  4. Arathael says:

    Naked nails!? Madness! :D

    The pencil and nail rehab are interesting…

  5. deerstop says:

    I advise against buffing, because ridges are actually the strong part of the nails. So you’re removing the strongest part when you’re buffing.

    • I’ve never heard that ridges are the strong part of the nail. Do you have a link to back that up? I agree that too much buffing is a bad thing and can cause damage. And I only do it as needed but, if you have grooves or pits in your nails, a light buff isn’t that bad.

  6. Molly P-H says:

    I’ve read that if I buff my nails, Polish doesn’t adhere as well. Is that a myth? Great post! I’m in grad school now and don’t find time for full polish but I’m trying to help my natural nails look better and better. Thanks!

    • Actually, buffing the nail helps polish adhere, since you are roughing up the surface. If you’ve ever seen false nails applied, you see the nail tech roughing up the nail surface with a buffer. That’s why. But you want to be gentle with buffer. Just a light touch with oil on the surface to protect the nail. The only time it would prevent polish from adhering is if you are using a super smooth, finishing buffer.

  7. Ariadna says:

    Thanks for the tips!! They really come in handy and at the perfect time! I have two questions. 1. The push and trim stick that you showed, the metal part specifically, I used to use it to trim my cuticles (bad I know! I stopped, I swear) but you used it to push the cuticles back as well. Can you please explain that better? I’m not sure I’m understanding how to use it. 2. My nails are pretty curved so when they grow out they start to crack at the tip and split and peel, will the treatment that you mention help with that or could you recommend something else? Thanks for all your tips, I recently found your blog but I’m enjoying going back and reading your old posts when I have a little bit of free time. :)

    • Hi Ariadna! I tend to get hangnails and dead skin in the sidewalls of my nails so I use the metal part to push out the excess skin. I just gently place it in the crease between my nail and skin and, starting at the bottom, push the excess skin up and off my nail.

      One of the best ways to prevent splits is to avoid submersion in water and make sure you seal the edge with a glass or sapphire file. The finer the grit of the file, the smoother the edge will be. A properly sealed edge will prevent water from seeping in to cause peeling.

  8. Jessica says:

    Am I a bad blogger if I’ve never heard of the nail white pencil thing? That’s pretty freaking cool!

  9. Sierra Delta says:

    Would you share your buffer brand with us please, Michelle? Thanks!

    • Hi Sierra, I have a bunch of buffers but the easiest to get your hands are the Tropical Shine ones at Sally Beauty. I prefer ones shaped like emery boards more than blocks and my favorite is by Dashing Diva, sold at (formerly TransDesign). The most important thing is to look for a high grit number.

  10. Mary says:

    I’ve been looking for a process like this for my horrible nails (inherited from my mother). I’ve decided to pick up one or two of these products each time I’m at the drugstore. Today I got the cuticle remover and a 240 grit buffer. Thanks so much for this post!

    • You’re so welcome, Mary. Just go easy with the buffer. It can be so satisfying to buff the heck out of your nails. They feel super smooth. But, over time, too much buffing can damage nails. The oil definitely helps keep you from taking off too much nail.

  11. RANDOMiss says:

    I love all of your tips! Definitely some things I have to try for my nails!

  12. Oil on cuticle before removing the old color, wash with warm suds, hand cream, remover on the nail to get rid of the lotion (but knuckles are comfortably moisturized), cushiest base coat I can find since my nails look like the siding on a haunted house, color, clean-up with a brush, gloopy top coat, more hand creme!

  13. kel says:

    lol i never do any of this stuff.

  14. I definitely got the cuticle oil tip from you, and it’s genius! I probably got most of my tips from this blog (so thanks). The only thing I do that I haven’t seen any other blog specifically recommend is washing hands then putting on lotion BEFORE the manicure. I hate to have dry hands while I paint. I know lotion isn’t usually advised pre-mani because the oil makes polish peel. I just make sure to prep the nail bed with Zoya Remove Plus (steering as clear of my cuticle and skin as possible) so polish will adhere.

  15. Merlin says:

    Your post is very interesting, but I must admit, I never leave my nails naked :p
    I have to at least put some base coat on, otherwise they end up peeling and breaking.

  16. Kathy says:

    great tips for taking care of nails. I know I remove and repolish too often. Sometimes if I smudge or decide I cant stand the color I will re-do my nails the same day. My nails look great because I use tons of oils and different conditioners and strengtheners. Occasionally I remove the polish at night and put tons of thick creme on my hands and wear gloves to bed. I even put oil on the gloves so the gloves add more oil to my skin and nails during the night. Then I repolish ASAP. I am afraid to go without polish.

  17. laura says:

    Does the nail rehab actually help the health of your nails, or just a basic base coat. I know what it claims to do but figured I would ask you and does it smell strong thanks please reply

    • Hi Laura! I recently used up my bottle, so I don’t have it handy to comment on the scent. Though, the fact that I used it up, tells you how much I love it. I do see improvement in my nails from using it regularly.