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Deborah Lippmann’s Ultimate Manicure Guide

Nail it with these expert tips

Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist and founder of her eponymous line of luxe nail products, knows that painting nails is an art, and she takes her art very seriously. Hollywood’s go-to nail expert said she’s often up late before awards show days, going through her namesake lacquers and swapping out color options before the big event. Lippmann has mixed the perfect colors for fashion week, magazine covers and awards shows, perfecting the nails of icons like Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Amy Schumer, Kate Upton, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and countless others. Most recently, Lippmann created Amy Adams’s flawless manicure for the Golden Globes, which she achieved by layering two of her signature colors, Dark Side Of The Moon and Single Ladies. Here, Lippmann shares her tried-and-true steps to a perfect, waterless manicure, so your nails are always red carpet ready, even if you won’t be attending awards season.

First, remove previous polish completely.

Wet a piece of cotton with nail polish remover and hold it on your nail for 5 seconds. Follow by pulling the cotton forward in an “S” shape to get the polish from the corners.

Shape the nails.

File towards the center of the nail from the outer edge. Don’t saw back and forth over the nail, but lightly file parallel to the finger. Follow with a buffer to smooth and shine the nail. Never apply too much pressure to the nail tip.

Skip soaking your nails in water.

Soaking your nails actually makes them expand. If you apply polish to expanded nails, they’ll already be ready to chip once they shrink down to their normal size—hence the development of Lippmann’s Waterless Manicure. Nix the water for a longer lasting mani. 

Replace soaking with this treatment.

Lippmann says never to work on the cuticles without first applying a cuticle remover, like Cuticle Remover Exfoliating Cuticle Treatment. Dollop the formula liberally on each cuticle. The serum helps loosen, soften and exfoliate dry cuticles better than soaking them. 

Don’t tear your cuticles.

Using a cuticle nipper, align the tool with the skin, clamp, then release. Never pull the skin.

Exfoliate for softer hands.

Apply an exfoliator to the top of each hand and rub in a circular motion for 30 seconds. Lippmann recommends her new Marshmallow Whipped Hand & Cuticle Scrub, which you can easily wipe off with a towel or wet wipe. The super rich formula smells amazing.

Make sure to moisturize.

Lather a rich cream on your hands and up to your elbows. Make sure to massage your cuticle area, which increases blood flow to the matrix (between your first knuckle and under your cuticle), increasing cell regeneration for longer, healthier nails. Don’t know which cream to use? We love the smell of rosey Cle De Peau Hand Cream and marshmallow-scented Soap & Glory Hand Food. For the maximum dose of moisture, there is Deborah Lippmann Rich Girl Hand Cream and Chanel Body Excellence Hand Cream.

Prime your nails.

Apply a primer before the top coat to remove every last bit of dirt, oil or residue that might still be on your nails. Follow with a top coat and let dry for 1-2 minutes before adding color. 

Add the color.

Go for two thin coats of nail polish, allowing 1-2 minutes for each coat to dry before applying another. Lippmann says allowing the extra dry time means no bubbles and less chipping. 

Finish with a top coat.

After sealing the color in with the top coat, make sure to give yourself 5 full minutes of drying time. If your nail polish has ever peeled off as one sheet, it’s likely the result of too little dry time. 

Add a finishing touch.

Seal in your hard work with a quick drying oil or add a cuticle repair cream.

Image credit: pinterest.com