French Manicure At Home: A How-To

The first time I saw a French manicure was on Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher Horowitz from the movie Clueless; of course I was about 15 years old and probably wearing chipped-off green nail polish at the time, but I loved how clean and fresh they looked.


It didn't occur to me at the time that they were gel; I just figured the girl had perfect nails. Since I couldn’t afford to get my nails done back then, I decided to come up with a cheaper solution. I resorted to Sally Hansen nail stickers that I bought at the drugstore, a bottle of white and a bottle of clear nail polish along with a nail file (about an inch thick). The nail stickers are thin strips that help you paint an even white line on your nail making them look more professional.


I've gone through phases where I see gel nails, cave, and make my way to the nearest nail salon to get them done. Anyone who gets gel nails knows that a full set will run you about $50 to $90 depending on where you go, not to mention a $30 - $45 fill every few weeks in order to maintain them. The part that gets me is that the appointments can take up to 90 minutes- I lack serious patience for that.


These days, I'm still doing my French manicure at home. I can't say that my nails are as durable as gel nails or that the paint lasts up to a month- the paint stays on for about a week and a half and your nails may be more susceptible to chipping in comparison to the gel nails, but for me anything beats sitting in a nail salon for more than five minutes.


Here's how I do them:


Nails before filing

1)       I shape my nails with a file so that they are square. This is just what I prefer, but it all depends on your nail bed and your own preference. Click here for different shapes that may work for you.


Nails after filing

2)       I clean up my cuticles a bit by pushing them back gently with a wooden cuticle pusher. I once tried to use cuticle cutters and wound up with blood everywhere, so if cuticle cutters work for you, then you are much braver than I!


3)       Make sure your nail bed is clean and free of oil by giving them a quick rinse of soapy water (the nail stickers won't stick otherwise).


Placing the nail stickers

4)       Line each nail with a nail sticker (I've always used Sally Hansen which I buy at Shopper's Drug Mart and London Drugs, they work great and don’t leave a sticky glue residue on the nail).   When placing the stickers, I always go a bit higher than the actual white tip of my nail to give the illusion that my nails are longer than they really are.


5)       Once all ten stickers are in place, give the white nail polish bottle a shake and start painting below the white sticker. Once you’ve finished the first coat, let them dry for a couple minutes and then paint another coat on top. There are a huge variety of shades of white nail polish out there: from stark white (which I find looks a little like Whiteout correction fluid) to greyish and peachy whites. My preference is the greyish white; I use one made by OPI called “time-less is more”.


6)       After letting the white paint set until it’s dry (usually about 10 minutes), peel the nails stickers off.


Finished manicure

7)       Paint each nail with a coating of clear nail polish. I use “Crystal Clear” Maximum Growth Plus by Sally Hansen. One coat of this usually does the trick.


8)       Let the paint dry and you’re set!



Once you get the hang of it, it becomes super easy and fast. If you want to ditch the white polish, you can always try experimenting with different colours for the tips. The toughest part is painting your left hand if you’re right handed and vice versa, but that comes with practice.


Nice looking, professional nails don’t always have to come with the salon price tag. Enjoy and get ready for compliments!