Earlier this year, I noticed my nails were looking especially thin. I looked down and saw translucent brittle nails.
I decided to start a nail care routine at home because I wanted to maintain a clean, natural look. I’m too indecisive to pick a color to stick with, and finding the perfect nude color was a battle I lost.
Plus I just found myself picking the nail polish off, and I liked how my nails looked with nothing on.
That and a regularly scheduled manicure at a salon just wasn’t something I wanted to spend my money on, so I decided to invest in the basic nail care products instead. I needed it to be something super simple so I would have no excuses to skip it, and it’s actually become quite a nice ritual for me.
My Nail Care Ritual
I keep my nail care products together in a drawer organizer container in my nightstand. This way, I can pick it up, do my nails in bed or take it somewhere else to sit, pop on YouTube videos, a TV show or movie, and do my nails in silence.
Something important when I’m creating new routines or rituals is to take out any “blockers’ or anything that makes my task more difficult, and I add something I enjoy to it. Things I picked up from one of my favorite reads this year, Atomic Habits.
This is what has turned my nail care routine into a ritual. It’s meditative in a way that I don’t have to think too hard about the task and can do something I enjoy.
Who knew doing my nails with a basic clear nail polish would bring me so much joy?
On top of that, my nails have improved drastically with this at home nail care routine so thought I’d share for any others out there going for a natural look. So you won’t find any nail art here, but definitely check out these sparkly nail designs if that’s your thing!
The Natural Nail Trend
What some might call a clean girl manicure fitting within the TikTok clean girl aesthetic trend, but not my favorite term or trend as it has some problematic tendencies.
That said, I like some of the minimal, low maintenance beauty practices that have come out of it on my FYP.
I’m someone who doesn’t wear makeup (and hasn’t for many years), and I’ve spent the last couple years digging into how I can improve my well-being with things like building a solid morning routine, a weekly bath ritual paired with hair care and a monthly cuticle care routine.
The natural nail look is nothing new. I remember when it was all the rage in the early 2000s to have a french manicure with light pink nails and white tips. French tips emphasize the look of a natural nail, and was created in 1975 by Orly International President and CEO Jeff Pink (a man, yes).
It was created as a solution (and later a marketing/business opportunity) for actors and models who needed nails to match multiple outfits, and was deemed a “French manicure” after being used in Paris fashion shows.
Hailey Bieber nails have been the latest take on the clean nail looks. The celebrity style features a neutral chrome glazed donut shine that everyone wants and you’ll now find shared all over Instagram.
What You Need: 10 Nail Care Products
You don’t need a bunch of nail care products for healthy, strong nails. To be honest, I figured out what I needed by paying special attention during my pre-Paris trip manicure, and exploring the nail care aisle at Target.
Here’s what I found works for me plus a few other items I think could improve the experience.
Strengthening Nail Polish Remover
I specify strengthening because anything I can do to strengthen my nails is a win. Any store brand strengthening nail polish remover will do, but if you want to go the extra mile, consider this Vitamin-Enriched Jojoba Nail Polish Remover from ella+mila or tenoverten The Rose Soak Nail Polish Remover.
Reusable Makeup Remover Pad
Reusable makeup remover pads are a great addition for everyone’s medicine cabinet. Even though I don’t wear makeup, I use them to apply skincare products like toner or remove my clear nail polish.
It’s an easy way to reduce waste, and they’re super easy to throw into the washer. These even come with a little machine washable bag to make it even easier!
Nail Clippers, Nail File, Cuticle Pusher & Trimmer
These nail tools are all a given, and you likely already have at least a nail clipper, but as someone who put minimal effort into my nails, I didn’t have anything else.
So when I purchased all my nail care goods, I got the basics: a package of cheap emery boards, wooden cuticle pushers and a pretty basic cuticle trimmer.
And they’ve served me well, so no hate for it. But if you’re wanting to invest in solid tools, here are some great manicure kit options for the purpose of a natural nail look:
A crystal nail file is also a good investment for your nail care routine with benefits like being long-lasting, easy to clean and providing a smoother filing process.
Nail Buffer Block
I remember playing around with nail buffer blocks when I was a kid. I don’t really understand how it works, but it does make a real difference on your nails. Giving it a smooth shine so the nail polish goes on smoothly.
Again, I’m not an expert, so I don’t exactly understand the magic of cuticle oil. But it’s a really important moisturizer and helps to maintain the health of my cuticles.
I noticed a real difference each month of this routine that there was less and less work to be done on my cuticles.
There’s a LOT of cuticle oils to choose from. I use the tenoverten The Rose Oil Nourishing Cuticle Oil and it smells really good, but here are a few others to consider:
If your cuticles are especially dry, consider investing in a good cuticle cream as part of your nail treatment from brands like Dior, Burt’s Bees and Mario Badescu.
Nail Strengthener Polish
Since we’re going with a natural, clean look, a clear nail polish is key. Again, looking for something that will help strengthen your nails.
These are typically used as a base coat, but we’re giving them time to shine!
I use the tenoverten The Shield High Shine Protective Top Coat, but also have my eye on the OPI Nail Strengthener, ella+mila Nail Care Nail Strengthener and Typology Hand & Nail Serum.
Another given, but necessary nail care product. I always have a bottle of lotion on my nightstand to moisturize before bed, and just use that during my nail care routine because my hands are a bit dry afterwards.
6 Step Simple Nail Care Routine
So let’s get into it. My simple 6 step nail care routine that I swear by after a year of doing my own nails.
1. Prep Hands
Wash hands thoroughly and clean under your nails (I use an old toothbrush, but a nail brush isn’t a bad investment). I also use the cuticle pusher tool to scrape it clean.
The reason I keep my nails short is because I hate seeing dirt under my nails.
2. Cut Nails & Remove Nail Polish
A rough cut will do since we’ll be shaping them up in a bit. Just enough to get close to the length you want, but not too much so you don’t have enough space for shaping!
Now that you’ve removed the excess nails, remove any nail polish you have on (even if it’s a clear coat)!
3. File & Buff Nails
Now it’s time for shaping your nails, and there’s lots of nail shape options like square, round, oval and almond. This takes a bit of skill, so I attempt a simple round shape.
I’ve gotten a bit better over time, but again simple!
Using the nail buffer block, smooth out and add shine to your natural nail plate. Each side of your buffer should be labeled to know which order to go in!
4. Take Care Of Those Cuticles
My not so favorite part is messing with my cuticles after getting nicked at a salon. It’s a super sensitive area, but pushing back and trimming the cuticles is key for nail health and what makes your nails look the best!
After you’ve trimmed your excess cuticles very carefully with the cuticle trimmer (it doesn’t have to be perfect!), apply cuticle oil and let it sit for a bit.
Take a stretch or walk break, tidy up the house, do a 15-minute yoga session or just binge a show.
5. Paint Nails
Now it’s time to get that clear polish on. Carefully apply, but again it’s clear so lots of room for error. Painting your dominant hand is always such a pain!
In my experience, the clear polish dries fairly quickly, but again give it some time to do its thing before the final step.
If color is your thing or you’re wanting to add just a pop for a special occasion, you can obviously apply colorful nail polishes too at this point of the process!
6. Apply Hand Lotion
I’ll sometimes wash my hands one more time before rubbing in some lotion. The hand washing and acetone in the nail polish remover can be drying so apply a good amount of lotion.
And that’s it! This whole routine is so simple, it seems silly to write an article, but I didn’t know what I was doing when I started.
I scoured lots of YouTube videos, blogs and articles on how to do your nails at home and pulled what I found worked best for me!
If you have any questions or suggestions, add it to the comments below. We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for naked nails.