How To Give A Professional Manicure

Learning how to give a professional manicure can be the foundation of a rewarding career in cosmetology. With each great professional manicure you give, you will create a satisfied customer who spread the word. Before long you will have a created a successful lucrative career.

To give a professional manicure, you will need:

  • Polish remover
  • Cotton balls
  • Sterilizing solution
  • Washable Emery board
  • Cuticle nippers
  • Orangewood stick
  • Soaking dish
  • Mild liquid soap
  • Cuticle remover solution
  • Nail polish
  • Clean hand towels or disposable table mats
  1. Wash your hands with soap and water. Spread a clean towel or disposable mat over the work area in preparation of giving a professional manicure.
  2. Remove nail polish. Dampen a cotton ball with polish remover and apply it to the polished nail for 5 seconds to dissolve the nail polish. Wipe off the polish with even strokes until the nail is clean. Repeat on each nail until all the nail polish is removed. Have your client wash both hands with soap and water before giving a professional manicure. Fill the soaking dish with warm water and a small amount of mild soap.
  3. Begin filing the nails on your client’s left hand. The way the nail is shaped and the length should be discussed with your client before filing. Shape all nails on the left hand and place the hand in the dish for soaking while you file the nails on the right hand.                     
  4. Push back the cuticles. Remove the left hand from the soaking dish and cradle it in a clean hand towel. Place the right hand in the soaking dish. Apply cuticle remover in a horseshoe shape around the cuticle. Gently push the cuticles back away from the edge of the nail using an orangewood stick. (Metal cuticle pushers can me harsh, painful, and damage the nail.) Use light pressure to avoid damaging the nail or causing pain as you push the cuticle off the nail bed. Repeat the steps with the right hand.
  5. Clip hangnails or ragged cuticles. Use sterilized cuticle nippers to remove any hangnails or torn cuticles. Do not cut or shorten all the cuticles. This will make them jagged. Remove only problem areas of the cuticles. Repeat these steps on the other hand.
  6. Hand massage. Use a light lotion to gently massage the fingers, palm, and wrist of each hand. Be certain to rub lotion into the cuticles of each nail. After a relaxing massage, use a clean towel dampened with clear water to clean lotion from the surface of the nails before polishing. Your client may choose to wash both hands in soap and water to remove the excess lotion.
  7. Polish the nails.  Always begin by applying a clear base coat. This rule applies to men or women clients. The base coat will protect the nail from stains caused by colored nail polish and create better adherence to the nail. Apply base coat, 2 coats of polish, and a clear quick dry top coat. For men, apply one coat each of a base coat and clear top coat. Start by applying polish at the cuticle and drag the brush down the left side of the nail in an even stroke. Do the same on the right side of the nail and finally down the middle of the nail to get an even application. Allow polish to dry for at least 2 minutes between each coat. Nails should be thoroughly dry in 15 to 20 minutes depending on the type of polish used.


  • Sterilize the emery board, orangewood stick, and cuticle nippers in a liquid sterilizing solution for 20 minutes before using. Wash each item with soap and water after each use and sterilize again. Clean and sterilize the table before using.
  • Never use non sterilized manicuring tools on anyone. Germs and disease can be easily spread by using dirty nippers during a manicure. As a professional, it is your responsibility to know the cosmetology laws, nail diseases, and to inform your client about any nail disease you discover.
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