5 Nail Tools You Should Know

By: Julia Layton

If an at-home pedi is a regular thing for you, you might be ready to invest in some new tools.
If an at-home pedi is a regular thing for you, you might be ready to invest in some new tools.
Stockbyte/Getty Images

The mani/pedi is one of those beauty treatments that crosses style boundaries. Women who put on no other makeup at all are wearing polish on fingers and toes alongside those who walk the red carpet in the grocery store. Even men go in for the occasional scrub and buff. And while the spa version is heavenly, lots of people are doing up those pretty nails at home.

And why not? You can pick up the essential tools where you buy your groceries, and the DIY mani/pedi will almost always cost less than going to a pro.


Most of us know the standbys: clippers, file and polish, and maybe extras like ridge filler and cuticle scissors. (Incidentally, you might want to chuck the latter, but we'll get to that in a bit.) There are, however, some less-common tools that go beyond the starter kit and are worth a trip to the beauty store, although that probably won't be required.

Here, five handy tools to take your manicure up a notch. Some are time savers; others are about results. One even makes the process healthier.

Let's start with increased speed (and the only power tool on the list).

5: Power File

Sure, it's not that hard to file bare fingernails. Shaping the fancier types, on the other hand, like artificial or gel, can take some time and elbow grease. Toes, too, can give that old nail file a run for its money.

Powering up can make the job faster and easier. Many electric nail files come as kits with interchangeable heads providing various grit grades, for heavy-duty and light-duty jobs and different manicure types, along with heads for buffing, smoothing and cleaning along cuticles and nail beds.


Prices start around $10 and go up into the hundreds for professional-grade equipment.

Next, great cuticles, no cutting.

4: Cuticle Softener

Little-known fact among mani/pedi enthusiasts: Cuticles serve a purpose other than getting in the way of perfect nails. That layer of skin at the nail base protects new nail growth from bacteria, and cutting it can lead to infection.

Instead, grab a non-invasive cuticle cream or lotion. These products safely soften and lightly loosen cuticles so you can clean under them, wipe off any dead layers, and gently push them back (with something soft, like a wash cloth), all without tearing or cracking them or rendering them useless as bacteria guards.


Next, easier touch-ups ...

3: Correcting Pen

It's nothing new, but not everyone has one: The polish-removing clean-up pen is a brilliant invention. Lots of us still use pointy sticks or cotton-tipped swaps, the former not holding polish remover very well and the latter being terribly imprecise.

Correcting pens, on the other hand, release nail-polish remover into a firm, flexible, angled tip so you can precisely target stray polish, and they're easier to control than a wooden stick. Correcting pens are an effective way to clean mess-ups under and around the nail.


Look for one that is refillable, so you can choose the remover product, as well as one with replacement tips so you can start clean when you switch colors.

Next, so you can get up and go in minutes ...

2: Quick-dry Oil

Drying time -- the long-time bane of the mani/pedi world -- can hold you up, bore you to death and possibly ruin everything. Few of us haven't smudged a perfectly beautiful outcome because we simply couldn't wait the full (gasp) 15 minutes, give or take, to allow the polish to completely set.

Fast-dry polishes and topcoats are a godsend, shortening that time to more like 2 to 5 minutes, but there's another tool many people don't know about: fast-dry drops and sprays that go on last, over the topcoat. These oil-based products dry your polish almost instantly to the touch and to a hard finish in minutes. Some people don't like the oily feel of these liquids, but if you don't mind the slippery sensation, you might find they reduce the frequency with which your shoes or gloves obliterate your perfect nails.


And finally, a drying tool you may have thought was only for salons ...

1: Curing Light

If you're tired of waiting for your nails to air-dry, a curing light can dramatically speed up the process.
If you're tired of waiting for your nails to air-dry, a curing light can dramatically speed up the process.
Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Few of have a curing light at home, but all of us could. These lights can dry your manicure to a hard finish a lot faster than air-drying -- often twice as fast.

Curing lights come in both UV-light versions, which are a particular miracle for speeding up the drying process of gel nails, and LED versions. Both can help to quickly dry any kind of manicure. And they're affordable for home use: You can find a good one for well under $50.


Of course, even the best deal on a curing light may not pay off if you're the manicure-a-month type. On the other hand, you may find yourself indulging more often once you've got some great tools in your kit. Makeup lover or not, it's tough to resist a power tool that makes you pretty.

For more information on manicures and pedicures, beauty tools, and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

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More Great Links

  • Folica. (July 10, 2012) http://www.folica.com
  • Revlon. (July 10, 2012) www.revlon.com/
  • Sally Beauty Supply. (July 10, 2012) http://www.sallybeauty.com/
  • Ulta Beauty. (July 10, 2012) http://www.ulta.com/
  • Walgreens. (July 10, 2012) http://www.walgreens.com/