Do Your Own Damn Nails

Or, how to get a salon-quality mani-pedi that’s also 100 percent guilt free

Here’s a message for anyone who read the New York Times report on nail salons in horror: The easiest way to get a mani-pedi without having to worry about some salons’ unethical practices is to do it yourself. I for one rarely see the inside of a nail salon—yes, because I’m suspicious of anything that’s too fast and cheap—but also because I get impatient when I’m stuck in a salon chair for an hour. As a matter of fact, I’m re-touching my pedi as I type this post now thanks to these tips shared by Cote co-founder Leah Yari, who says she doesn’t have much time for a salon manicure herself between chasing her three kids and running the salon. (For those who do, it’s worth noting that Cote conducts independent testing on its polishes to be sure they are toxin free.)

Here are Leah’s five quick steps to nailing an affordable DIY routine:

  • Start with a clean slate
    It is very important to clean the nails beds completely. Any residual lotions or oils will interfere with polish sticking to the nail and affect how long the manicure/pedicure lasts.
  • Prep the Nail
    For nail polish to go on smoothly, it’s necessary to carefully file and “seal” every nail. Many people are unaware that nails are several layers thick. It’s important that each nail is buffed with a polishing stone to avoid any splitting or peeling.
  • Check up your cuticles
    To have a perfect manicure you need healthy and hydrated cuticles. To avoid painful hang nails, apply Argan oil daily.
  • Re-apply topcoats between mani-pedis
    Applying a strengthening topcoat every two to three days refreshes the shine and ensures the color will last. For quick and easy touch-ups, côte created a travel-vial of topcoat to keep in your purse at all times.
  • Include skin care in your routine
    The best compliment to a fresh manicure or pedicure is healthy, glowing skin. Don’t forget to apply SFP to your hands and feet as they are often exposed to the sun.


An obsessive beauty lab rat, I know from experience that using good-quality basics also makes a difference. Here are my top home mani-pedi picks:

dyodnailsSally Hansen sells the best hard-as-a-rock base coats. The $4 Diamond Shine Base & Top Coat prevents my (otherwise constantly peeling) nails from splitting. Kiesque Liquid Palisade Peel-Off Nail Polish Barrier ($22) is like painter’s tape for nails that helps prevent a mess. Just apply the barrier, paint with polish, and peel away the sloppy side job. Two coats of Butter London Patent Shine 10X Nail Lacquer ($18) in Broody gives me the staying power of a salon-quality polish. The raspberry shade is currently in heavy rotation because goes on evenly and looks insanely chic on hands and on toes peeking through espadrille wedges. Finally, for a glassy, chip-free finish that lasts and lasts (and lasts), I use Nails Inc. Kensington Caviar Gel Effect Top Coat Nail Polish ($18). It provides the intense shine and endurance of a gel treatment but without the annoying UV light cure or the damage that follows an intensive acetone-based soak.