09/24/2013 03:26 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Salon Manicures: Can You REALLY Do Them Yourself?

In our new series, Salon vs. DIY, we are challenging the belief that pricey salon treatments are better than what we can do ourselves in our own bathrooms.

I was never very good at coloring inside the lines as a child. Couple that with my short attention span and lack of eye-hand coordination, and it's no wonder I'm terrible at painting my nails. (Check out this photo of some nail art I dreamed up for the Fourth of July, and please don't judge me.)

Admit it. I need help. So I turned to a professional.

The salon experience

Our beauty editor sent me to The Peninsula Spa in New York City. First, my manicurist prepped by filing and buffing my nails, and she cut my cuticles. Then she applied a cuticle treatment utilizing Biologique Recherche anti-aging creams and serums, as mine often end up pretty ragged. After a quick swipe of nail hardener and a bit of basecoat, we got to the fun part.

I was offered an array of Deborah Lippmann polishes, from which I chose Between the Sheets, a shade far pinker than it appeared in the bottle. My manicurist layered with Diamonds and Pearls for some added shimmer.

While the end result was shiny and neat, I was disappointed to find that my mani started chipping within a day -- and the most hands-on activity I did was fold laundry. Perhaps layering two shades made my maincure more prone to chips.

salon 1

The DIY experience

While the spa's offerings were limited to one brand, my personal polish collection is a bit more diverse. Typically, I paint my own nails with only color and topcoat, but this time, I found that using a basecoat made all the difference. (I tried Julep's). Once I moved on to the actual polish -- Zoya Alexa Green designed for Peter Som's Spring 2014 runway collection -- I found the color gripped far better than it does on my bare nail.

After two coats and forcing myself to sit still while the polish dried (a challenge I'll admit I failed at), I applied Essie No Chips Ahead top coat. Then, I soaked a Q-tip in nail polish remover and cleaned up the mess around my cuticles.


The verdict

The most valuable part of the salon manicure for me is being forced to sit in one place while my manicure dries. Maybe my mani isn't as even or as neat, but if I demonstrate a little patience and self-control, I should be able to duplicate the fancy look on my own.

Don't try this at home:

Most Outrageous Nails At NYFW Fall 2013

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