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Nail It: DIY Manicure Tips and Tricks

Lifting weights, playing sports and even gripping the elliptical can be tough on your tips. Our quick secrets will put softer skin and prettier nails in the palms of your hands.

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Claire Benoist
Bright nail polishes
Claire Benoist
Claire Benoist
Claire Benoist
Claire Benoist
Claire Benoist
Claire Benoist
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Hand Helpers

Give ragged cuticles and rough spots some TLC with this at-home treatment from Donna Perillo, the owner of Sweet Lily Natural Nail Spa in New York City.

Step 1

Remove old polish and trim and file your nails into the desired shape and length.

Step 2

In a small bowl, combine one teaspoon of sea salt with one cup of chamomile tea that has steeped for five minutes. Soak your fingers for three minutes to soften cuticles.

Step 3

Mix together one teaspoon of sea salt, one teaspoon of olive oil, and a half teaspoon of chamomile tea leaves. Take a scoop of this scrub and rub it in a circular motion on your hands and fingers to soften rough spots. Rinse and apply a shea butter lotion. Our new favorite: St. Ives Intensive Healing Hand Cream ($4, drugstores).

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Top Coats

Go for the bold. These of-the-moment colors flatter all skin tones.

Bright Strawberry

Splurge: Dior Vernis in Plaza ($23,; shown)
Steal: OPI Nail Lacquer in Kiss Me on My Tulips ($9, Ulta stores)

Taffy Purple

Splurge: Nails Inc. London Nail Polish in St. John's Wood ($10,
Steal: Wet n Wild MegaLast Salon Nail Color in On a Trip ($2, drugstores; shown)

Peach Sherbet

Splurge: Illamasqua Nail Varnish in Purity ($14,; shown)
Steal: Essie Nail Polish in A Crewed Interest ($8,

Vibrant Teal

Splurge: Estée Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Teal Topaz ($19,
Steal: L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche Nail in Now You Sea Me ($6, drugstores; shown)

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Manicure Must-Haves

We tested the newest creams and cure-alls to find these hands-down winners.

Sephora Collection Instant Nail Polish Remover ($10,

"Ditch the cotton pads. Simply slip your fingers into the sponge inside, which has been soaked in the remover, and lacquer will disappear."
-- Eleanor Langston, beauty director

Revlon Crazy Shine To Go ($4, drugstores)

"This ultracute portable tool gives my nails a brilliant glossy sheen in just 10 seconds."
-- Marla Horenbein, fashion assistant

Sally Hansen Ultimate Shield Hand Creme ($6, drugstores)

"The nongreasy lotion gets under your skin in all the right ways: It absorbs in seconds and gives parched hands instant hydration."
-- Wanda Rosa, beauty intern

Nutra Nail Naturals Nail Growth Serum ($6, Whole Foods Markets)

"My nails feel stronger after less than a week of twice-daily use. So far the keratin-rich serum hasn't helped them grow, but it's definitely made them look healthier."
-- April Franzino, associate beauty editor

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Look Polished Pronto

For the prettiest fingers, follow these on-the-go shortcuts from Jenna Hipp, a celebrity nail stylist in Los Angeles.

—If you have time for only one product, apply extra-virgin coconut oil to damp hands to lock in moisture. The oil contains the same fatty acids as those in skin.
—If your nails are uneven, don't file them, which is time-consuming. Instead, cut them precisely with clippers.
—Apply cuticle oil before your commute. The product will have time to sink in and repair hangnails while you're en route.
—Keep a travel toothbrush in your gym bag. A quick scrub with warm, soapy water will refresh dingy nails. Try whitening toothpaste if yours are yellow.

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Special Effects

Wake up your mani with one of these easy tip tricks from Julie Kandalec, a celebrity manicurist in New York City.

Crescent Moon

Paint on two coats of a base color, like fuchsia, and let your nails dry. Using an accent color, like orange, swipe a half-circle. (Imagine your nail as a clock and paint a crescent-moon shape from the 1 to the 5.) Finish with a topcoat.

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Ultra Violets

Choose three shades in the same color family. Paint the medium shade down the center and then immediately paint one side with the lightest shade and the other with the darkest. Finish all 10 nails; repeat and add a topcoat.

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Glitter Galore

Apply two coats of sheer pink and allow them to dry. Holding the brush parallel to the nail, dot a glitter topcoat -- China Glaze Nail Lacquer in Ray-Diant ($8, Ulta stores) is a good one -- onto the tip and finish with a topcoat.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2012.

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