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Natural-looking French Manicure — DIY

After I quit stripping, I stopped polishing my nails (or wearing fakes). I polished my nails as a teen and it was a never-ending cycle of smudging the polish before it dried or having perfect polish chip within a day. I like the natural-nail look and found a buffing paste that really made my nails shine. Of course, they stopped making it within a couple years of my discovery.

My nails in their natural state

My nails in their natural state

I started using a white nail pencil under my nails but without a shine on top, it wasn’t that impressive. I still wanted shiny nails, but natural. Polish wasn’t the answer because I wasn’t kind to it (and paying for a professional polish was a waste of money). I’m not someone who likes acrylics or the new gel manicures. And I hate the very strippery look of the typical French manicure you get in a salon.

I like to let my nails breathe. They’re strong and healthy — I don’t need to ruin them with chemicals. I wanted an elegant solution.

P-Shine

My P-Shine Regular kit

My P-Shine Regular kit

About four years ago, I griped about my nail woes to a girlfriend and surprisingly, she had the answer. P-Shine! It’s a classic buffing kit for fingers and toes. Yes, this means there are 2-4 steps (depending on your needs). Yes, they include detailed instructions. Yes, it takes about an hour to do your hands start to finish if you have to do every step. Be prepared to have little crumbles of the buffing clay and polishing powder all over the place when you’re done.

But the mega-shine is so worth it. It looks like you’ve applied clear polish. Unlike polish, it never chips. It does fade and you need to do the pink “polish” step every 2-3 days to maintain the gloss (that step takes five minutes, at most). As your nails grow out, you can see the dull, unbuffed edge that you eventually buff out when you’re tired of looking at it.

Nails after being P-Shined

Nails after being Pshined

After buffing, it’s important to moisturize your cuticles because the buffing dries them out. Though lotions and oils appear to dull the surface of your newly-buffed nails, just give the nail a gentle rub with the pink buffer or the hem of your shirt and problem solved.

Please note there’s no need to go crazy with the process. You’re not trying to punish your nails, cause pain, or create friction heat. Though the process starts by roughing up the surface of the nail, then smoothing it out; the idea is to even the surface of your nail, not restructure it. Then you polish that even surface to create shine. That’s it. If you have pain or nail breakage, you’re overdoing it.

I bought the regular kit and it last a long time. I’m still on my first kit, though I have to admit I don’t P-Shine weekly. It’s actually a very cheap investment for years of naturally beautiful nails.

White Nail Pencil

To pump up the glamour and enhance your nails, use a white pencil under the tips. The difference is subtle, though not quite as subtle as it appears in these pictures. Short nails can use the pencil too.

Buffed nails with white pencil under tips

Buffed nails with white pencil under tips

Though I’ve been using the Sally Hansen pencil for years, there are other brands out there. Use whatever you like. The principles remain the same. Wet your nails under water, then blot dry without rubbing too much moisture from under your nails. Wet the end of the pencil. The end doesn’t have to be super-sharp to work. Paint under the tip of your nail until you achieve the color you want. Wait several seconds for the color to dry a little, then take a damp q-tip and wipe up the excess white along the sides of your nail and on the pad of your finger under the nail. If you’re coloring the tips of very short nails, expect to do a lot of wiping.

After a couple minutes, the pencil you’ve applied will dry. It generally lasts through a couple hand-washings, though it fades with each one. The look is instantly-healthy nails. Your tips appear naturally super-white, without verging into the territory of an obvious manicure. It’s the no-makeup look for your nails. It’s cheap and an easy DIY project.

White Nail Pen

Recently in a pinch without my trusty pencil, I bought and used the Sally Hansen French Tip Pen. What a surprise! With a fresh P-Shine and the pen under my tips, my nails looked like a gel French manicure. It’s actually over-the-top for my everyday use, but great for photos. (The picture here doesn’t properly convey just how white the tips really appear.)

Buffed nails with white pen under tips

Buffed nails with white pen under tips

Follow the instructions for getting the white polish into the tip. This is nail polish, which means to clean up you’ll need nail polish remover and a q-tip. The polish comes out a little more liquid than you might expect, so apply carefully and evenly under your nails. Once you get used to it, it only takes seconds to do the whole hand. Wait a minute for it to dry, then go back and remove stray white polish with the q-tip dipped in remover. Short nails might have problems with the pen because the tip is chunkier than the pencil.

All Done!

That’s it! Do your nails and go! You get glossy nails that look like you naturally grow white tips. It’s easy, goes with everything and requires no serious short-term upkeep. No worries about smudges, chips or the dullness that lotions can give to topcoats. Natural nails are always in style and much more Town & Country than stripper nails. It’s also a lot cheaper than shelling out $25-60 for polish that may not last or harmful chemicals that end up destroying your nails.

Extra Photos

Sally Hansen White Nail Pencil

Sally Hansen White Nail Pencil

Sally Hansen French Tip Pen

Sally Hansen French Tip Pen

pencil under nails

pencil under nails

White pen under nails

white pen under nails