Of all the aspects of our lives that have been affected by the current pandemic, the ability to maintain our beauty routines is pretty far down on the priority list. Still, we’ve found that even a small degree of self-pampering can go a long way, and having nails that look healthy and properly cared for can be a small yet much-needed pick-me-up. To find out how to give ourselves a professional-looking manicure at home, we reached out to Carla Hatler, owner and founder of Lacquer, a luxury nail studio in Austin, Texas. Here, she shares a step-by-step guide, plus a list of everything you’ll need to have your nails looking in top shape.

Have the essential tools on hand. Before you get started, make sure you have everything you’ll need. According to Hatler, this includes the following items (most of which come in Lacquer’s at-home nail kits, which can be purchased here).

  • Cuticle softener
  • 100/180 nail file, for shaping
  • 180/240 grit mini nail file, for finishing
  • Mini buffer
  • Shiny buffer (if you want buff and shine)
  • Birchwood stick to use as pusher
  • Cuticle oil (Hatler recommends Dadi’ oil)
  • Washcloth
  • Nail clippers (if you’d like to shorten your nails)

Prepare your space. To get your workspace ready for your manicure, Hatler recommends putting a paper towel down on the surface where you’ll be working, then setting out all the items listed above.

Clip and shape your nails. If they need to be shortened, trim your nails with the clippers. Then, open the nail file and use the “softer” side to gently file your nail, going in one direction only. Do not saw back and forth—Hatler says this tears the nail, and can cause peeling. Continue filing until you’ve achieved your desired shape for each nail.

Address your cuticles. Get a washcloth and run it under hot water—as hot as you can stand it is best, according to Hatler. Squeeze out the excess water and set it to aside. Apply cuticle softener to one hand, then wrap your hand in the hot washcloth and let it sit until the cloth starts to cool, but do not let the towel get cold. Remove the towel and use the birchwood stick as a pusher to gently push the cuticle from the nail plate (the cuticle is the thin layer of skin that grows over your nail plate). Put a tiny bit of cuticle oil on each nail and cuticle area, then take your mini buffer and gently “buff” any hanging dead skin away. Wash your hands, and repeat the process on the opposite hand. When you’re finished with both hands, add more cuticle oil and rub it into the nail bed and surrounding skin.

TSG Tip 362 from Carla Hatler, owner and founder of Lacquer in Austin, Texas. Lacquer is featured in The Scout Guide Austin.