10 Easy Steps for the Best At-Home Mani-Pedi

While it’s absolutely possible to get your nails done in a salon at this point, many of us aren’t there yet. The beachy, airy, heavenly clean salon Cote in LA is now open to sell supplies but is not yet offering services: “We want to feel sure when we do start taking clients,” says Cote cofounder Mary Lennon. “The salon has a patio that will be great to use, too.” But a really good manicure or pedicure at home is easier than you think—particularly once you get these tricks from Lennon and cofounder Leah Yari. Read on for their secrets on how to steady your hand, make polish last longer, and even protect your nails from turning yellow.

  1. Cote Nail Polish (No. 36)
    Cote Nail Polish (No. 36) goop, $18


Clean Polish Remover Really Works

“People are quick to insist that nonacetone polish removers don’t work for them,” says Lennon. “If they’re not working, it’s usually because of user error.” Here’s the secret: “Hold a remover-soaked cotton ball over your nail for a few seconds, instead of going straight for the wipe,” she continues. “This gives the remover a chance to seep in and break up the pigment. So hold, wait a few seconds, then wipe it off.” The alternative, instant-wipe acetone—the active chemical ingredient in paint thinner along with conventional nail polish remover—is linked to neurotoxicity. It also strips nails and skin and can leave fingers and toes coated in chalky residue. Cote’s commitment to clean (the salons as well as all the formulas avoid ingredients known or suspected to cause harm to health) is of course reflected in their polish remover. “It had to work, first of all,” says Lennon. “And leave your nails healthy and hydrated, too. We use rose and geranium essential oils in the liquid remover. The to-go wipes are made with orange oil and smell so fresh that I’ve taken polish off on an airplane with them and no one around me even looked up.”

The clean formula is better for the whole household, points out mom-of-three Yari: “My youngest is six, so I love that it’s easy to wipe our Cote remover off my oak floors—it doesn’t take the finish off.”

  1. Cote TakeOff Polish Remover
    Cote TakeOff Polish Remover goop, $18
  2. Cote TakeOff Towel
    Cote TakeOff Towel goop, $14


Clip, Don’t Cut

Whether you paint your nails or not, keeping them trimmed not only looks fresh; it protects against the bacteria and dirt that can accumulate under longer nails. “Whether you prefer a curved, square, or rounded shape, the easiest thing (that always looks good) is to follow the contour of your natural nail line as you trim,” Lennon says. “Clippers give you control for a nice precise trim, plus they’re easier and safer to use on yourself at home. With scissors, there’s more room to move around and more room for error.”


Prevent Hangnails

Prevent ragged cuticles and hangnails (is a hangnail not its own special hell?), by moisturizing the cuticle, so you can more easily push it back with a nail file or an orange stick. “The hand and foot massage you get at the nail salon doesn’t just feel good; it’s moisturizing,” says Lennon, who adds a few drops of nourishing oil to her hand cream before giving herself a hand massage at home. “Make hand and foot massage part of your at-home ritual—do it yourself or get your spouse in on it. It makes your hands and feet look better, and it’s an amazingly relaxing thing to do right now.”

  1. Sea Buckthorn and Calendula Hand and Body Cream

  2. Sangre de Fruta Garden of Earthly Delights Hand and Body Lotion
    Sangre de Fruta Garden of Earthly Delights Hand and Body Lotion goop, $93
  3. Coconut and Hibiscus Body Oil

  4. Balmyard Romantic Call Body Oil
    Balmyard Beauty Romantic Call Body Oil goop, $82
  5. Shea and Tea Tree Foot Cream

  6. Lavido Thera-Intensive Foot Cream
    Lavido Thera-Intensive Foot Cream goop, $28


Get Rid of Every Bit of Moisturizer

You don’t have a shot in hell at a decent polish job if you don’t start with oil-free nails. “When you’re done massaging and moisturizing, clean off the nail with remover or rubbing alcohol. Oil is the sworn enemy of basecoat and polish,” Lennon says. “Not starting on clean nails causes premature chipping and peeling.”


Base Coat Is Everything

Base coat is more than worth the extra minute it takes to swipe on: “It extends the life of your manicure or pedicure, plus it protects your nails against yellowing—putting polish straight onto the nail lets the pigment bleed into and yellow the nail bed,” Yari says. Made with lavender and ginseng root, Cote’s base coat leaves nails instantly shiny, sleek, and nourished. “I’ve been on a colored-polish break during COVID,” says Yari. “I do just a base coat, and I love the hint of shine and smoothness.”

  1. Cote Resurface and Repair Basecoat
    Cote Resurface and Repair Base Coat goop, $21


Go Pale until
You’re Sure-Handed

“Choose a forgiving color to give yourself leeway if you paint outside of the lines,” Yari suggests. “Go for a soft pink like the bestselling goop x Cote shade, or a barely there peach.”

  1. goop x Cote Nail Polish (G10)
    goop x Cote Nail Polish (G10) goop, $18


Rest Your Painting Hand against Something

“It really helps if you anchor the hand that’s holding the brush by resting it on the table, rather than keeping it floating in the air as you paint your nails. It gives you a little added leverage to eliminate wobbles,” says Lennon. “You know how everyone has an easy hand and a hard hand? This is especially great for the hard hand.”


Layer (and Wait)

Applying multiple coats helps polish last longer. “First apply a base coat, which dries super fast because it’s thinner than pigment,” says Lennon. “By the time it’s going on the last finger or toe, you’re ready for the first nail polish layer. Wait five minutes between the first layer and the second layer of polish, though: The waiting is the key—it helps with pressure dings later on. The more time you give the polish to dry between layers, the longer it wears.”

  1. Cote Nail Polish (No. 36)
    Cote Nail Polish (No. 36) goop, $18


Keep Polish Layers Thin

Less polish is more. “Get a medium amount of polish on the brush by wiping off about half of what the brush naturally picks up against the rim of the bottle,” Lennon says. “For the most precise application, paint one wide stripe down the middle of the nail, and then (without redipping), pull that same dip of polish across the rest of the nail.” The last step, she adds, is top coat. “It seals it all in, and one quick horizontal swipe across the tip of the nail significantly helps with chipping.”

All-in-One Kit

You get base and top coat, polish remover, a nail file, and three gorgeous nail polishes in this cute pouch.

  1. Cote Traveler Gift Set
    Cote Traveler Gift Set goop, $38


Don’t Keep Polish in the Bathroom

“Polish gets gooey fast when you keep it in a room that constantly heats up when you shower or blow-dry your hair, then cools down. Think of it like storing wine,” laughs Lennon. “Store it in a cupboard in the bedroom—not the bathroom, not the kitchen.”