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It's already hard enough to paint your own nails without getting polish all over your fingertips and cuticles. But once you switch that polish bottle to the other, non-dominant hand, sometimes it feels like all hope is lost. For those of us who were not blessed with ambidexterity (almost everyone), painting nails with the non-dominant hand can feel as stressful as disarming an explosive weapon: make one wrong move and it's over.
Even nail artists admittedly need a little help when it comes to painting their own nails, even though they have a lot more practice than the rest of us. You might already have your go-to tactic for cleaning up nail polish messes, but according to them, there are a few things you can do to prevent those messes from ever happening. Here are three nail artists' tips for painting nails with your non-dominant hand — whether that be your right or your left — so that you don't have to waste your time or energy on elaborate clean-up.
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Keep your non-dominant hand balanced and stable
"When polishing your own nails, especially with your non-dominant hand, the key is keeping your hands stable," nail artist Tom Bachik tells Allure. This is definitely easier said than done, of course. That's why Sigourney Nuñez, nail artist and OPI North American education manager, recommends painting with your non-dominant hand first. "If you get anxious about messing up with your non-dominant hand, try painting with it first," she says. "Get the hard part out of the way so that the rest of your manicure is smooth sailing from there."
Nail artists all have their own little tricks for keeping non-dominant hands steady. Nuñez and Bachik both recommend painting nails on a stable, flat surface like a table or desk so the forearms and elbows can't shake or slip. Otherwise, you can take a page from nail artist Gina Edwards's book: "A great hack is using a yoga block or a shoebox turned upside down to anchor your arm for steadiness."
Another unexpected tool you can use to ensure stability is the little removable cap that comes on top of some nail polish brands. "You can use the cap like a little pedestal to support one finger at a time as you polish," Bachik says.
When it comes down to the painting itself, Bachik advises laying your dominant hand down on your flat surface of choice, making sure it is pointing away from you. Then you can use what Nuñez calls "the fulcrum finger" to stay balanced. Bachik also recommends this technique, which he explains further. "Holding the polish brush in your non-dominant hand, place your little finger down on the surface so you can keep your polishing hand steady and polish with just your fingers to apply," he says. "This will give you greater control versus keeping your hand lifted up and using your whole hand and arm to try and polish.
Have some nail polish remover ready, just in case
No matter how much balance you can achieve, mistakes are still bound to happen. After all, even professional nail technicians keep acetone and nail brushes at their stations just in case. Nuñez advises doing the same to make your entire manicure experience a little bit easier. "Always keep a clean-up brush and nail lacquer remover handy in case you need [them]," she says. "Cleaning up any accidentally overflowed cuticles or sidewalls while you are painting your nails will help give your DIY mani a more refined look."
If you don't have a designated nail brush, she says an eyeliner brush will do the trick, too — just make sure it's one you're not attached to. "Never, ever, use that brush on your face again because you’ll be dunking it in remover," she warns. Additionally, if you have any old shot glasses lying around, you can add it to your at-home manicure kit. "It helps to load a shot glass with remover so you can easily dip your clean-up brush in it to remove any imperfections," she explains. Just like the eyeliner brush, though, this shot glass shouldn't be used for its original purpose once you've exposed it to nail polish remover.
If all else fails, invest in liquid latex
If this sounds like a lot of work to you just for the sake of avoiding clean-up, there is one way you can avoid over-painting altogether. "I highly recommend applying a latex barrier polish around your cuticle for any slip-ups," Edwards says.
Liquid latex, of which there is plenty on Amazon, is basically sticky gel that you can paint around your nails before putting on nail polish. It dries into a stretchy, thin solid that acts as a barrier between your nail polish and your cuticles. After you've painted on your polish, you simply peel the latex off to reveal clean fingers underneath.
More on nails:
- Here's How You Can Stop Biting Your Own Nails and Cuticles, According to Experts
- Everything You Need to Perfect a Salon-Worthy Pedicure at Home
- The 14 Best Manicure Colors of All Time, According to Nail Artists
Now, see how manicures have evolved within the past 100 years:
Originally Appeared on Allure