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I have always loved how my nails look when they’ve just been painted. The pop of color, the clean lines, and the shine of the lacquer are reason enough to schedule an appointment. Despite this appreciation of mine, I could never quite justify the cost. Even when I was younger, when I would accompany my mom to the nail salon, I knew that the results could be replicated at home -- and now that I'm much older, the cost is much steeper. The last time I had my nails professionally done, I paid around $40 (consider that this was just a simple manicure, with no acrylic or gel treatment). The result was nice, of course, but I felt slightly scammed. As I headed home that afternoon, I decided I would try to paint my own nails instead. How hard could it be?

[bf_image id="q7jvz0-c2guzk-7etupi"] The most difficult part of the process was overcoming my shaky hands. Whether it was caused by the copious amounts of coffee I drink or just plain nerves, it took many attempts and failures to get the more precise lines that I had come to expect (the professionals always make it look easier). Similarly, trying to paint with my non-dominant hand was a nightmare. I could not find the proper angle to hold the brush and would always end up with polish all over my hands. Admittedly, I had a strong inclination to give up each time that I had failed to replicate the results I got.

At some point, though, my journey paid off. I don’t know exactly when or why -- one day, it just clicked. I hadn’t done anything noticeably different, but when I looked at my freshly-painted bright red nails, I felt proud. They were far from perfect and I am sure any professional would scoff at the job I had done. They were mine though. Each messy edge, each fumble of the brush was my own handiwork. That same sense of ownership is why I continue to paint my own nails; and as I sit down every week or so, I question why I had ever paid in the first place for the service with how many reasons there are to do it myself.

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The most obvious being, of course, that it is less expensive to paint your own nails. The largest cost of any at-home manicure is the actual polish itself. The nail polish I am wearing at the moment cost me about $13. Factor in other costs -- a top coat, base coat, cuticle tools, a nail file, etc -- and it will still ring up less than the traditional nail appointment. This unbeatable deal becomes substantially more promising when you realize that the polish and tools are yours forever. Meaning, until they are depleted or unusable, the at-home manicure has a flat cost. I have had the same bottle of base coat for almost a year and a half and it is still going strong!

On another note, painting your own nails can become an act of self-care. It is indubitably difficult to find time in life to take time for yourself. As students, we know this better than anyone. The assignments and readings seem to pile up without respite. This is exactly why penciling out part of your schedule to do something as trivial as painting your own nails can be so important. We all deserve a break. Painting your nails forces you to take a moment, to take a breather; you can’t exactly scroll through Canvas when you’re waiting for the paint to dry. What was once a stressful activity has turned into a pocket of peace in my busy life. I look forward to painting my nails knowing it gives me no choice but to sit patiently and relax for a bit.

I truly love painting my own nails. The feeling of accomplishment from the final product, the recognition that I am saving potentially hundreds of dollars, and the brief withdrawal from my busy life have combined into a moment that I look forward to. When I still used to get my nails professionally done, seeing the paint chip or crack led to a feeling of dread knowing I would soon be scheduling another appointment. Now, that feeling of dread is one of anticipation -- when my nails chip, I know that I get to paint them again soon.

Sydney McKenzie

CU Boulder '24

Sydney is a second year student studying political science. She loves coffee, but not even half as much as she loves to debate with friends.
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