I always say that manicure prep is the top top top most important thing to focus on when doing your nails. Without *flawless* manicure prep, your manicures won’t last for very long, and (sorry to be blunt) they won’t look good! This post is going to be the first in my manicure essentials series where I go over the most important things I like to focus on when doing your nails/client’s nails, and we obviously need to start with manicure prep!

Manicure prep is truly essential for making your manicure last, because in a lot of cases, if you have skin/cuticle left on your nails, your gel will lift. Or if you have oils left on your nails, your polish will chip. Also, I think it’s so important to clean up your cuticles and expose more of your nail bed to get the cleanest polish application possible! I’ve been lazy before when I leave my overgrown cuticles when painting with polish, and it just floods and it’s so hard to remove to make it look good and I should have just spent some extra time beforehand to make the outcome better!

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My Process:

There are a bunch of steps that go into manicure prep, but I want to keep this simple with a nice little checklist that you can refer to when doing manicures. This is exactly what I do with every manicure and what I always keep in mind:

** I always do a DRY manicure. There is no cuticle remover or water present. I think this helps A TON with retention.

  • Remove previous manicure

    • If I’m using gel, I will usually do a fill, so I’ll remove the top layers and debulk my apex — More info on this later!

    • If you want to read more about how I remove various manicures, read this blog post!

  • Analyze your nails

    • How are they doing? Is there any lifting gel? Are they peeling? Are there any concerns? Are they stained? Make sure to attend to any concerns before moving forward!

  • Cuticle Prep

    • My favorite part of the manicure! It truly makes the biggest difference

    • Push cuticles back

    • Gently buff nail surface to lift up and remove loose cuticle

    • I love using my e-file for precise as heck cuticle work

    • Learn my e-file removal process here and take my course here

    • Nip off and dry skin

  • Prep the nail surface

    • I like to gently buff my nail surface to remove ridges if there are any from the e-file and also remove shine

  • Cleanse and Dehydrate

    • I personally like to use 90% isopropyl alcohol because it does such a good job dehydrating and removing debris from all of the prep above! It’s also not mixed with other oils (which we do not want anywhere near our nails anyway!)


The Products:

I have tried a ton of different prep tools over the years and I’ve narrowed it down and selected only my favorites here for you!

Click this image to get all of my faves in one document!

Learn my *exact* process!

I have had so many messages recently from people saying that they’ve really damaged their nails with their e-file, or they don’t understand how to use it. This is why I always always always recommend watching my course and doing your research before using these tools, and honestly before doing ANYTHING to your nails. There’s a reason why this is a professional career that requires hundreds of hours of schooling and continued education after all. I’ve made my manicure prep courses easily digestible and packed with information that I’ve learned throughout my career so that you can quickly learn how to safely use these tools and products on yourself. I’ve helped hundreds of people learn how to safely and effectively do their nails with them and I highly suggest checking them out if you are curious!

If you want to learn how to use the e-file for manicure removal and prep, check out my E-File Basics Course!

If you want to learn how to prep your nails professionally without any special tools, watch my Dry Manicure Prep Course!

View all courses here! And don’t forget you can use code sign up for my newsletter for 10% off any course!

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and stay tuned for the next post about gel manicure essential info (i.e. safety, gel allergies, and how to know which products are good for you!)

OK BYE! :)



Kara from Kara Nailed It’s Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

1 comment

  • I just wanted to pass along how much I enjoyed your efile course! It was easy to follow, moved at a great pace, and provided many great tips on how to make the process simple and safe. I also really enjoyed the PDF that went along with it and how easy it was to click on the links for the products you use. Kokoist was new to me and I’m so glad to have tried it. LOVE IT! And I love watching your videos. You are so creative and helfpul and you make them really enjoyable to watch!

    Shannon Peterson

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