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Updated manicures for spring

Nailing a Perfect Ten

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It's spring — time to put away the mittens and gloves and show off those pretty paws. Of course you'll have to do something with your nails. With the right supplies, you can become your own nail stylist.

  "The most important part of any at-home manicure is nail prep, which contributes to the salon-quality look," says Karen Hutchison of Urban Suite Salon & Spa (1925 Sophie Wright Place, 522-8545). First, exfoliate hands with a scrub like Mango Hand Peel to reveal soft, glowing skin. Massage cuticle oil into the cuticles, push them back with an orange stick and rub nail polish remover on the nails with a cotton ball. This keeps color from growing out too quickly and prevents chips. Next, clean under the nails with a nail file, shine them with a buffer and file them with an emery board. This prevents snags and gives nails a uniform length.

  "(For a traditional polish-only manicure,) apply a base coat to prevent chips and stains, especially when using a dark polish," Hutchison says. After the base coat dries, brush on nail polish, making sure to swipe the tip of the nail with polish to prevent chips. Use a cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover to wipe off polish that has gotten on your skin. Wait for the first coat to dry before applying a second coat. After the second coat is dry, brush on a top coat to give nails a glossy shine, prevent chips and stains, and smooth glitter polishes so they won't snag.

  To score a creative look, try stick-on nail polish strips, novelty nail polishes, nail stamping kits or nail art pens. Available in fun designs including animal prints, plaids and florals, stick-on strips wear like nail polish.

  "The strips last up to two weeks when used correctly," says Michelle White of My Spa by the Park (6312 Argonne Blvd., 482-2219; www.myspabythepark.com). "Applying a top coat is imperative." In addition to glitter nail polish, try shatter nail polish, which gives nails an edgy, broken-glass look. Nail stamping kits make intricate nail art easy to apply as well as change, and nail art pens offer the most creative control.

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