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Getting The Perfect Dark Mani Without The Mess: Nailing It

Operations associate, Loren, has a thing for nails- and we can’t blame her. We love reading about new finishes and fun techniques, so we thought we’d give her a weekly slot on our blog to wax poetic about all things manicure (and pedicure!) related. Check back every Thursday for Nailing It, Birchbox’s dedicated polish series.


Now that we’re getting closer and closer to winter, it’s only natural that I find myself being drawn towards darker nail colors. As a DIY manicure gal, I save money by applying polish mylself — and I use my savings to buy my favorite shades. Problem is, when I am applying a black or dark red lacquer, staying inside the lines is a challenge. Even though I have pretty steady hands, I’ve spent years trying to perfect the art of the flawless dark mani. Here are my best tips for getting clean results:

Tip 1: As with everything else in life, practice makes perfect, but a super-reliable manicure helper is good ole Scotch Tape. Just place a few pieces around each nail (this especially helps on the sides where the tape can align precisely) and this will really help you to minimize the mess.

Tip 2: I recently tested out a new product from Kiesque called Liquid Palisade that’s basically a fool-proof way to get the perfect dark mani. A liquid product that comes with a fine-tip brush applicator, you trace it along your cuticles to create a temporary paint-on barrier that keeps you from getting polish where you don’t want it. Once it’s dry after a few seconds, you start painting on your color. As soon as you’re finished with your polish, just peel the Liquid Palisade off to reveal a flawless finish. It’s that easy.

Tip 3: Even with these tools, some clean up is always inevitable. My go-to tool for touch ups is usually a Q-tip, but a stiff, angled brushes does a much better job. Dip either one of these items in your remover of choice and carefully erase any mistakes.

What are your tips for cleaning up a dark mani?

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