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How can I make my at-home manicure look pro?

The question

What are the secrets to applying perfect nail polish at home and what products should a novice be using?

The answer

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For my own DIY manicures, I always make sure I have enough drying time to avoid smudges and nicks, but even then I wind up with not-so-perfect looking tips. So I asked Rita Remark, lead nail artist for Essie Canada, for help.

Remark has painted the nails of models and celebs and can turn any mani into a work of art. Her first tip: Polish your dominant hand first. "Nothing is trickier than applying polish with your non-dominant hand when your polish is wet," she says. It's also important to work on a sturdy surface and clean your nails with a little polish remover just before application to strip excess oils (this will help your lacquer adhere).

As for products, never underestimate the power of base and top coats. "After all of your hard work, it'd be a shame for your at-home mani to chip within a few hours," Remark says. Essie's Good To Go top coat helps polish dry in a flash and ensures a high shine.

Lastly, Remark suggests a neat trick to clean up any mistakes (yes, they happen to the pros, too): Use an angled eyeliner brush dipped in nail-polish remover as an "eraser" to keep edges clean and neat.

Bahar Niramwalla is a celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert who has appeared on CTV, Global TV and City. Follow her on Twitter: @baharniramwalla. Have a beauty question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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