This $8 Nail Product Will Give You Salon Level DIY Manicures

Struggling to paint your nails at home? This $8 nail product will get you salon level results.

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Over the years, I’ve tried and failed to regularly paint my nails at home. I love the polished look of a freshly painted manicure, but I could never achieve the clean lines that professionals delivered at the nail salon. If I painted really slow, I could achieve decent results with a sheer pink nail polish. But darker hues like red and black were an absolute mess of uneven cuticles and smudges around my nail beds. Shelling out for a professional manicure at the nail salon always seemed like a better use of my time (though my bank account might disagree).

When the vast majority of beauty salons closed due to COVID, I had no choice: If I wanted nice nails, I’d have to learn to do them myself. From years of failed at-home nail experiments, I thought I already owned everything I needed for a manicure: orange wood sticks for pushing back cuticles, a crystal nail file for shaping the tips, a high-quality nail polish, and a glossy top coat for that all-important just-polished shine. But even with practice and patience, my nails still looked messy with dried polish stuck to the cuticles.

I turned to YouTube for DIY manicure answers—and OK, for nail art inspiration—and noticed that the nail artists always started their manicure process by painting a layer of liquid latex for nails around the edge of their nail beds. Ah-ha! Liquid latex for nails is the secret for salon-level manicures at home.

Liquid latex, sometimes called latex tape, works as a barrier between your nails and your skin. I picked up a bottle of Pueen latex tape for less than $8. In my very first attempt to use liquid latex for nails, I managed to pull off a bold red holiday hue that I’d never attempt without the liquid latex.  You’ll want to know these other nail polish tips to make your manicure last longer, too.

Essentially, liquid latex acts as a temporary protective coating around your nail beds. The liquid latex comes in a nail polish bottle with an applicator brush, and you apply it much like regular nail polish. Except, you’ll paint around your nail beds—anywhere you don’t want nail polish to accidentally end up. After you apply the liquid latex and let it dry, paint your nails with nail polish as usual. (You’ve probably heard about a Russian manicure. Learn whether or not it’s safe.)

When the second coat of nail polish is dry, use a tweezer or your nails to peel off the liquid latex. It should lift off easily, taking all the sloppy extra nail polish with it. Clean up any missed spots with a brush dipped in nail polish remover, then paint your top coat. Perfection!

When I paint my nails using the liquid latex, I’m not concerned about making a mess. It lets me concentrate on evenly distributing nail polish and it’s OK if my hands aren’t completely steady. I’ve even upgraded to nail stamping and ombre shades which are impossible to do without a barrier like liquid latex. (Even the YouTube nail pros use liquid latex for nails.)

Me! Doing nail art! Now that I have liquid latex for nails, the hardest part of my manicure is choosing which color polish I want.

A few things to keep in mind when using liquid latex for nails

  • It doesn’t smell good! My 10-year-old niece described the scent of liquid latex for nails as “rubber garbage,” and she’s not wrong. Thankfully, the smell only lasts while the latex is wet. After a minute or so, the smell fades away.
  • When you apply a layer of liquid latex around your nail, be careful not to get the latex on the surface of your nails. If you paint nail polish over the latex, you’ll have a noticeable bump.
  • Wait for the liquid latex for nails to dry completely before you start painting your nails’ surface with nail polish. It should dry in a minute or two, depending on how thickly you applied the product.
  • Don’t let your fingers touch while the liquid latex for nails is drying! Otherwise, the latex adheres together and pulls off your skin. It’s not serious, but it’s messy and annoying—you’ll have to reapply the latex.
  • Store your bottle of liquid latex in a cool, dry place. The steam and heat from the bathroom shower can cause liquid latex to seize and dry up prematurely. I keep my bottle in a dresser drawer.

Now, check out the best nail polishes for the best manicure. Or, if you’re more into press-ons, check out our picks for the best press-on nails for a gorgeous (and quick) manicure.

Megan Wood
As Deputy Affiliate eCommerce Editor, Megan Wood helps Reader's Digest readers find the best products to make their lives better, easier, and more joyful. She has 10 years of service journalism and product review experience across a variety of national websites. When she’s not tracking down the best sales and deals, you can probably find her walking her dog.