Ollinka/Shutterstock
Ollinka/Shutterstock

Keeping your nails in good shape during your engagement is worth the effort for a few reasons. People will be paying more attention than ever to your hands, so a nice manicure (or at the very least, a quick coat of clear polish) will help showcase your ring in all its sparkly glory. More importantly, this means you'll have an excuse to treat yourself to regular manicures or new nail polishes as often as you want. Since social distancing regulations have closed many professional nail salons until further notice, you might be feeling a little frustrated with the current state of your nails, especially if you're not used to doing manicures at home. But with a little patience and practice, you can get the next best thing—not to mention the sense of accomplishment you'll feel for pulling off a manicure by yourself. Whether you're looking for a classic nail color that goes with everything or you're in the mood to try something new and trendy to boost your quarantine spirits, at-home manicures have come a long way from basic polish.

Try your own manicure at home with the help of these creative (and easy!) ideas. 

Build your at-home manicure kit

No matter what nail design or polish you choose, there are a few basic tools and products you'll want to have on hand if you don't already—or consider this your chance to replace any worn-out tools you've had for a few years. Here's a list of what we'd recommend: 

  • Nail polish remover: Acetone-based formulas are necessary for removing powder, acrylic, gel nails, and some glitter polishes, but for normal nail polish, an oil-based formula is much less drying. 
  • Cuticle softener: You can always soak your fingers in warm water to soften your cuticles, but an exfoliating cuticle treatment also comes in handy. 
  • Nail clippers: Chances are you already have a pair of nail clippers, but now could be a good time to restock if they're worn down. 
  • Cuticle kit: A slanted cuticle trimmer is much easier and more delicate than using standard clippers.
  • Nail file and buffer: Use an emery board or glass nail file to shape and a buffing block to smooth.
  • Base coat and top coat: A two-in-one formula means one less nail polish bottle to keep track of. 
  • Hand cream: Soothe dry or damaged hands with a thick moisturizer to restore the skin barrier.
  • All-in-one kit: Need to stock up on everything at once? Consider an all-in-one manicure kit
 
 
 
 
 
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Smiley faces

You might not want smiley faces on your nails for your wedding day, but your engagement is a perfect time to try out this cheerful '90s-inspired idea. Start by coating each nail with a clear base coat, then use the tip of the brush to carefully add two yellow circles as the faces. Once the circles are dry, you can use a super-thin paintbrush (like an eyeliner brush) to draw the eyes and mouths. Finish with a top coat to seal everything together.  

What you'll need: 

  • China Glaze Electric Lights lacquer in Daisy Know My Name, $9, Amazon
  • Sally Hansen Hard as Nails polish in Black Heart, $2, Amazon
  • Bdellium Tools fine-point eyeliner brush, $8, Amazon
 
 
 
 
 
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Classic neutral 

Neutral and skin tone hues are our go-to colors for at-home manicures. They're classic, versatile, and flattering for all engagement ring types—plus, they're the most forgiving colors if you have accidental smudges or streaks. Apply one coat for a sheer, low-maintenance look, or apply multiple coats for an opaque finish. 

What you'll need: Essie Expressie nail polish in Crop Top & Roll, $9, Target

 
 
 
 
 
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Rainbow stickers

Say hello to your newest mood-booster: rainbows on your nails! We're loving this colorful, 'grammable idea for your next manicure at home. Painting a rainbow onto each nail requires a lot of time (and precision), but with stick-on gel polish decals, you'll have it done in no time. The best part? There's no actual nail polish or drying time involved, making this option a no-brainer if you normally have trouble painting your own nails. 

What you'll need: ManiMe stick-on gels in Luna Rainbows, $25, ManiMe

 
 
 
 
 
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Pink with a twist

A pinkish-purple color is a pretty alternative to blush or hot pink polishes, especially for spring and summer. This lavender polish is universally flattering: it looks gorgeous against all skin tones and metals, from platinum to yellow gold.

What you'll need: Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro Nail Color in Chantilly Lace, $20, Nordstrom

 
 
 
 
 
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Ombré nails

Recreate these trendy ombré nails for your next manicure at home by using a different color on each finger. You can choose polishes in the same color family—for example, dark blue to light blue—or go for a totally mis-matched look, which is just as fun. 

What you'll need: 

  • CirqueColors nail polish in Pastel Peach, $14, Etsy
  • CirqueColors nail polish in Arabesque, $13, Etsy 
  • CirqueColors nail polish in Robin, $13, Etsy
  • CirqueColors nail polish in Trompe L'oeil, $13, Etsy
  • CirqueColors nail polish in Pistachio, $14, Etsy
 
 
 
 
 
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Baby blues

Pale blue polish is fashion-forward and calming at the same time. Look closely: this mani actually features a blue base with a light pink line down the center of each nail, creating a playful cotton candy-inspired effect.

What you'll need:  

Abstract lines

Tap into your artistic side with a geometric-inspired mani featuring dainty dots and lines. We love the blush and black combo pictured here, but you could easily recreate this design with any color palette that speaks to you. A fine-tip brush gives you precision when adding the details.   

What you'll need: 

  • OPI nail lacquer in Stop It I'm Blushing!, $11, Amazon
  • Revlon nail enamel in Knockout, $6, Amazon
 
 
 
 
 
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Tortoiseshell effect

If you're feeling non-committal, press-on nails are a great way to experiment with trends when you're doing your manicure at home. This eye-catching tortoiseshell pattern isn't your average mani—leave the nails on for a few hours or a few days anytime you want to switch things up. 

What you'll need: Static Nails reusable pop-on manicure kit in Tortoise Shell, $16, Urban Outfitters

 
 
 
 
 
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Two-tone polish

Here's another way to hop aboard the mis-matched nails trend. Instead of ombré nails, choose two different polish colors—one for each hand. We recommend colors that are completely contrasting, like this lime green and terra cotta combination, for the most noticeable effect.  

What you'll need: 

  • Essie Expressie nail polish in Taxi Hopping, $9, Target
  • J. Hannah nail polish in Saltillo, $19, Need Supply Co.
 
 
 
 
 
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French tips

French manicures are experiencing a rebirth. This time around, the focus is on extra-long, oval-shaped nails with a softer finish. Give this a try if you're looking for a manicure that's chic and minimalistic. 

What you'll need: 

  • Kiss acrylic nails, $7, Target
  • Essie nail polish in Waltz, $9, Amazon
  • Blulu French manicure stickers, $7, Amazon

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.