Easy Steps to Perfect Nails

As a nail biter (I know, gross), if I don’t go to a salon, my nails constantly look horribly picked-at. But with the help of Roxanne, a nail technician and an educator for the nail-care brand CND, my nails have gone from shabby to chic in just a few weeks. I needed some at-home tricks to fix me up when I can’t make an appointment, and her suggestions have quickly nipped my bad habit in the bud.

Here are Roxanne’s four quick tips and two must-have products (which I now carry everywhere):

1. Apply a small dot of CND’s Cuticle Eraser ($11, cnd.com for locations) on each nail, and rub in. The eraser will exfoliate dry skin—it contains a high dosage of citric AHAs and glycolic acid—then heal with aloe vera extract, plus moisturize with vitamin E, all of which will help prevent hangnails.

2. Soak hands in a bowl of warm water for no more than three minutes to help lift and loosen the cuticles. Roxanne insists that the longer your nails are, the less time you should have your hands in the water, which can swell the nail bed, change the shape, and ultimately make the polish chip.

3. Instead of going to town with the nipper, hold back and buff with a file to smooth out dry skin and callused areas. Any loosened dry skin around the cuticles should melt away. Let the professionals do the cutting.

4. Last, apply a few drops of CND’s Solar Oil ($11.50 for .5 ounces, cnd.com for locations) before adding polish. The super-hydrating blend of oils (jojoba, vitamin E, rice bran, and sweet almond) will condition your cuticle skin and prevent your nail beds from becoming brittle.

Even when you don’t have time to soak and buff, these products are great to keep in your purse or car for applications on the go–especially if you’re constantly at your nails as I am—or was, anyway. Just three weeks in, I have longer, stronger nails.

What are your must-have products for an at-home quick fix? Share your own tricks below.