Uh, About That Salon Manicure. How To Treat Your Nails While You're Stuck At Home.

Are you missing your nail tech as much as I'm missing mine right about now?


Recently, I had to do something that damn near broke my heart. See, for the past couple of years, I've been someone who went to see my nail tech religiously so that I could take care of something that I got from my mother and my mother's mother. It's something that is actually one of my favorite features—my hands, including my nails. They are long, they've got a dope curve to them and, I am definitely the kind of chick who likes to rock all kinds of random color and design combos. But between this quarantine that we're all currently in and also reading the article, "Are your nails too long? A doctor explains why trimming them and removing chipped polish may help prevent the spread of coronavirus" (le sigh), I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and take my powder acrylic and gel polish off. Ugh.

Only those who have mani/pedis on their self-pampering list can truly get that, while there are certainly a billion more important things to be concerned about, that doesn't take away from the fact that not being able to get our nails done can be a real punch in the gut. It's not about being vain or frivolous; it's about making a point to do something that is just for us that makes us feel good. And, if you're used to going bi-weekly to the nail salon like I am, it's about adjusting to this new normal until…who knows when?

If you totally feel my pain and either you're well past a fill-in or your nails look straight crazy right now and you're not sure what to do about it, I've got some DIY tips that can help to get you through—until you and your own nail tech can be reunited once again.

How to Safely Remove Gel (and Acrylic and Powder-Dipped) Nails


It actually took me a while to get onto the gel manicure train. The main reason is, I didn't want to spend the extra coins. But between constantly hacking away on this laptop of mine, washing dishes and, quite frankly, simply being harder on my nails than I need to be, about a year ago, I gave up the ghost; it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. The only thing I don't like is that sometimes, removing the polish can be a beast (some drills are better than others). So, I was kinda trippin' at first when I tried to figure out how to get the polish from my last salon appointment off of my nails.

If that's your current dilemma, all you need is a bottle of 100 percent acetone (something that also works really well for me is ONYX Professional Gel and All Nail Coatings Soak Off Nail Polish Remover Coconut which I got at Walmart), a file (a 180-grit file is probably best), some cotton balls, a glass bowl and some foil.

If you're going to cut down your nails, do that with a pair of fingernail clippers first. Then, in order to remove the top coat of your gel polish, file all of your nails until the polish looks super dull. Cut a piece of foil into 10 strips (one to cover each nail). Now it's time to pour the acetone into your glass bowl and to pull out your cotton balls. I recommend cutting each cotton ball in half; that way, they won't be all bulky when you place them onto your nails. Put half a ball into the acetone first and then on each nail. Then cover the ball up with some foil. Let the foil sit on your nails for 15-20 minutes. When you remove each strip, you should notice that your gel crumbles right off. And what if you happen to have powder dipped nails? The same steps apply. Just make sure that you follow-up the removal process with some nail cuticle oil or jojoba, sweet almond, lavender, coconut or tea tree oil (every day, for about a week) so that your nails won't get dehydrated.

Note: If you plan on removing all of your acrylic too, follow the same steps. Just keep in mind that, based on how many fill-ins that you've had, getting the acrylic off will take considerably longer. Shoot, I re-watched the movie, How to Tell You're a Douchebag (DeWanda Wise, Charles Brice) and some other film before most of it was gone. Plus, I had to use an e-file in order to get the remnants off. But the patience is what prevents you from damaging your natural nails. Besides, during this quarantine, it's not like you've got anywhere to go…right? Might as well get some binge-watching in while you're soaking.

How to Give Yourself a Gel Manicure


Now that I have nothing on my nails (and they are considerably shorter), I'm actually going to let them chill for a while. I can't remember the last time my nails haven't been covered in something and sometimes breaks are good so that nails can breathe. But if you want to keep the gel polish going in your own world, I totally get it. Here are the steps that you need to follow. (By the way, remember that you'll need a cure lamp for this; there are some pretty affordable ones on the market if you don't own one already; click here to check out a selection.)

  • Clip your nails to the length that you want them to be.
  • With a fingernail file, file them into the shape that you desire so that they are smooth and even.
  • Use a buffer to remove any natural oils that may be on the top of your nails (so that your polish will "stick" better).
  • Use a cuticle stick to gently push back your cuticles.
  • With your gel kit (check out "Love Gel Manicures but Hate the Price? Try These At-Home Gel Nail Kits" if you want some suggestions on which one to buy), apply an extremely thin layer of the base coat on one hand. Put it underneath a cure light for 20 minutes, then repeat with your other hand.
  • Next, apply your first coat of gel polish to one hand. If you happen to get any of the polish onto your skin, dip a nail acrylic brush into some acetone to remove it. If you skip this step and the polish remains on your cuticles, your polish will peel a whole lot faster. Place your hand into your cure lamp for another two minutes, making sure to do this same step for every layer of polish that you apply.
  • Apply your top coat and let your hand sit in the cure lamp for 2-2 ½ minutes. Lightly tap the index finger of your other hand onto a couple of your polished fingers, just to make sure that they don't feel sticky and the polish appears smooth. If you don't feel "messiness", you're dry.
  • Finally, soak a cotton ball into some rubbing alcohol and rub each nail; it's what will get rid of any "tackiness" or residue that your nails may have. And you're done!

If you are someone who is more of a visual learner, some YouTube sistahs can walk you through this entire process. Check out some how-tos here, here and here. If you'd prefer to powder dip your nails instead, this video has some tips that I thought were super helpful.

How to Do Your Own Acrylic Fill-In


Yeah, this one right here, I don't have nearly enough patience to attempt on my own. But again, right now, we've really got nothing but time, so if you're down to do your own fill-in, I'll include a list of what you'll need, along with a couple of links to YouTubers who can walk you through how to do fill-in your own nails.

  • Cuticle Remover
  • Cuticle Pusher
  • Buffing Block
  • Acid-Free Primer
  • Nail Dehydrator
  • Dappen Dish
  • Acrylic Brush
  • Acrylic Powder
  • Acrylic Liquid
  • Top Coat

You can also stop by a local drugstore to pick up a fill-in kit like Kiss Her by Kiss Acrylic Fill Kit for Nails. Here's the video that can walk you through how to DIY this.

How to Make Press-On Nails Last


I'mma tell y'all what—these upgrades in press-on nails truly boggle the mind! One place where you can check out a variety of lengths, shapes and styles is Etsy. If you want yours to last longer than just a couple of days, make sure to apply them with nail glue (a lot of people are super fond of Mia Secret Super-Jet Strong Glue) instead of the adhesives that they typically come with. Speaking of, a YouTuber that I enjoy due to her straight-to-the-point-super-chill delivery says that using that particular glue helps your press-ons to last a whopping three weeks at a time. Her name is Korryn J and she even has her own line of press-on nails. Go here to check out her instructional video and visit Her Fave Boutique to see her signature nail section.

How to Maintain Natural Nails


Even if you decide to go without doing any of this for the time being, that doesn't mean that your nails have to be out here looking a hot and crazy mess. Here are a few things that you can do to keep your natural nails looking beautiful while you're at your crib.

Exfoliate your hands. Dead skin cells can have your hands looking drier and older than they should. A half cup of sugar (brown or white), one-fourth cup of olive oil, and five drops of your favorite essential oil will create a hand scrub that will make your hands feel and look at least a couple of years younger (no joke). Using the scrub while you're in the shower is one of the easiest ways to apply and remove it with as little mess as possible.

Moisturize your hands, nails and cuticles. Please don't be walking around your house all ashy. Remember the cuticle oil alternatives that I mentioned earlier? Apply those on a daily basis so that your hands, nails and cuticles can remain soft and smooth.

Keep your natural nail tips clean with baking soda. Do you want to rock the totally au naturale look? If so, something that will keep the tips of your nails super white is to brush them with baking soda. Just dip them into water, sprinkle some baking soda on an old toothbrush and gently scrub underneath each nail. It will get all of the gunk out while lifting your nails up a shade or two (once a week is more than enough; otherwise, you could dry your nails out).

Vicks to the rescue for (minor) nail fungus. If after you remove your polish or tips, you happen to notice some fungus, applying Vicks VapoRub will help to heal it within a matter of days. (Oregano oil and tea tree oil will too.)

Petroleum jelly can help you to "stay between the lines". Does it seem like, no matter how hard you try, you always seem to get polish on your cuticles (and everywhere else) when you polish them yourself? One way to avoid this is to dip a Q-tip into some petroleum jelly and outline your cuticles with it before applying your nail polish. That way, the polish will not get onto your actual skin.

Vinegar makes your polish last longer. If the last thing you want to think about is painting your nails again any time soon, pour some white vinegar onto a couple of cotton balls and apply them to your nails before you put on your base coat. It will remove any oils or residue, plus it will help your polish to last longer.

(Another hack: If your polish seems to have a hard time going on smoothly, try putting it into the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. That should fix the problem.)

Ice alleviates chipping polish. One reason why I don't personally polish my fingernails often is because I am super meticulous. If I see a mere chip of polish on a nail, I'm over-obsessing. If you can totally relate, but you want to paint your nails anyway, soaking your hands into a tub of water that has several ice cubes, after you've painted your nails, will help to set the color and prevent chipping. Just make sure to let your nails dry on their own for about seven minutes before placing them in the water (making sure not to hit the ice cubes).

Whew. I know I didn't cover everything but hopefully, this will tide you over. At the very least, you don't have to hold onto polish or fill-ins until…who knows when? You now have a few hacks that can make your nails look presentable. No need to thank me. We're all in this together. I got you, sis.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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