It’s really hard to social-distance while getting a manicure at a salon, so it’s a good idea to learn how to do one at home. Here are the basic tools you’ll need to master DIY nails in your own living room. 


Anyone who’s ever been nicked by a partner’s toes at night knows the value of a good set of clippers. Experts suggest using a separate pair for your finger and toenails since the latter tend to be thicker and need a tool with more heft. Generally speaking, rounded blade clippers are used for fingernails and straight across blades work better for your lil piggies. You want to get clippers that are sharp on the nail and ergonomic to hold in your hand. Beauty gurus sing the praises of this brand, but you may want to schedule a quick consultation with your favorite nail Pro to get their take. 

Nail File

Here’s a fun fact: nail files, like sandpaper, have different grit values that determine how coarse a file you’re going to get. Different grit values work better on different nail styles. The rule of thumb (or index or ring finger) is:

  • 100 grit or less works for acrylic nails
  • 180-220 grit helps shape thicker artificial nails or toenails
  • 240-600 grit is fine enough for finishing natural nails
  • 600 + grit is used for buffing or shining the surface of the nails 

Nail files also come in a variety of textures from glass to metal to ceramic and more. Ask your nail Pro to recommend their tool of choice. 

Nail Buffer

This tool is particularly important for applying gel nails at home, since that polish needs a rougher surface to latch on to. Buffers also come with a grit value but the good news is most have multiple grits in one, so you can experiment with which texture helps shine your nails the best. 

Cuticle Nipper

The cuticle is a little bit of clear skin at the bottom of your nail that helps keep bacteria out of your body. Cuticles grow like nails do, so it’s your job to try and keep them under control without obliterating this helpful bit of skin (nothing cute-icle about that!)

A cuticle nipper is a gentle cutting device, similar to a nail clipper. Experts say you should find one with a small jaw size so that you can make more precise cuts rather than whacking away. Since there’s a tiny chance that you could accidentally draw blood during this step, it’s a good idea to sanitize your nippers between each mani.

Cuticle Pusher

Nails can grow stronger and healthier if their cuticles are well maintained, and this tool can help with that. There are two basic types of pushers, metal ones and wooden ones. The metal pushers are most effective for dealing with hard or tough cuticles and wooden pushers are gentle on sensitive cuticles. 

Cuticle Oil

Between washing, polishing, buffing, filing, and pushing our lil cuties can get really dehydrated. Quench their thirst (and avoid scary dry witch hands) with a little dab of cuticle oil. There are fancy shmancy versions but some Pros swear by a tiny dab of coconut oil. See which one your nail Pro prefers.

Armed with all these tools, you’re ready to make the most of your at-home manicure!