How to Build Your Own Nail Kit


Can you build it? Yes…you can.

If you’re a new nail technician, you may be wondering how to start building your kit and what needs to go into it. Lucky you, I’m in a generous mood today and willing to share my knowledge with you!

From this list, select items you plan on purchasing. Once those items are purchased, search for a large tackle box that has enough space to accommodate all of the items. Tackle boxes work best because they are usually made of thick plastic. Any monomer or primer that may spill will only cause minimal damage to the material. (Also, tackle boxes are more economical than professional kit cases. If something happens to your tackle box, it will be a lot less devastating than if something happened to a $300 kit box.) Quality tackle boxes will also come with compartmentalized cases, which are great for separating tips and other equipment.

Core Items

  • Acetone & non-acetone polish remover for removing polish and soaking off enhancements, if necessary.
  • Cotton & lint-free pads for removing polish and/or enhancements.
  • Files & buffers. There are many grits, shapes, and sizes available. Generally, the best grit file to use is 100/180. (100 grit on one side, 180 on the other.) They’re suitable for use on natural nails and artificial enhancements. Files that are bent (commonly referred to as “banana” or “boomerang” files) are great for reducing strain on your wrists. Buffers should be a fine grit to avoid damaging the natural nail plate.
  • Towels.
  • Cuticle remover. This product is applied to the cuticle and used to loosen the skin from the nail plate.
  • Cuticle pusher or orange wood sticks for pushing back cuticles and removing excess polish from the free-edge. Metal cuticle pushers are great because they’re easily disinfected and reusable.
  • Cuticle nippers. These can be used to remove excess cuticle and hangnails. Care must be taken to not cut live tissue.
  • Callus eliminator works well to break down dead skin quickly.
  • Fingernail and toenail clippers. Toenail clippers are larger with straight blades, fingernail clippers are smaller with concave blades.
  • Hand & nail sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should be used prior to every service. Nail sanitizer should be applied to the client’s nail beds prior to applying polish or enhancements.
  • Base coat & top coat. Base coat protects the nail bed. Top coat protects the polish from everyday wear.
  • Exfoliant is great for removing dead skin from the hands and feet. It comes in many scents and with many different bases. Some are made with sea salt, some are made with sugar, and some are made with crushed walnuts.
  • Lotions for performing hand and foot massages.
  • Foot files. You can buy either a metal foot file, which is easily disinfected and reusable, or as a board with replaceable sandpaper stickers. The stickers stick on to the board and can be removed and replaced after each client.
  • Alcohol for wiping down surfaces.

Acrylic Enhancements

  • An electric file & bits. These items aren’t required if you prefer to file by hand.
  • A kolinsky sable brush for applying acrylic nail enhancements. These come in many sizes (0-25) and shapes (round, flat, oval, square). Handles also come in many lengths. The type of brush you purchase is all about personal preference. Avoid buying brushes with a gold colored ferrule. The gold plating tends to melt off and into your product, creating enhancements with a yellowish tint. Brushes are also available with a hollow handle that doubles as a brush cover. They’re extremely convenient.
  • Tips, nail glue, and tip cutters. Make sure to have several tips in each size. Some clients will require three of the same size for one hand!
  • Sculpting forms for sculpting acrylics.
  • Dappen dishes to hold your monomer and powders. These come in many sizes and styles. There are stainless steel dishes (with lids) that come in a stainless steel tray that keeps them from tipping over in your kit. The stainless steel dishes are much more durable and easier to clean than other types of dappen dishes.
  • A bottle of monomer. This is also known as “acrylic liquid.”
  • Powder polymers. These are the powders you use to make acrylic enhancements. There are tons of brands out there and the powders are available in a multitude of colors.
  • Brush cleaner. Find a cleaner that is specifically for kolinsky brushes used by nail technicians.
  • Nail prep & primer. These products dehydrate and sanitize the nail bed as well as increase the product’s ability to adhere to the nail bed.
  • Paper towels. These are used to wipe your brush clean.
  • Aluminum foil & cotton. If your client has a break or needs to soak off a nail for whatever reason, you can soak a cotton ball in acetone, apply it to the enhancement, and wrap it in aluminum foil.
  • Acetone. For removing nail polish and soaking off acrylic product.

Gel Enhancements

  • Gel products. Base, builder, and topcoat. Gels come in tons of varieties and just about every professional nail company makes a line.
  • Gel lamp. In order to cure the gel, you’ll need a lamp.
  • Replacement bulbs. Because you never know when one will go out!


  • Silk/fiberglass material.
  • Small stork shears.
  • Builder. Building product is usually a resin or glue.
  • Curing agent. Curing agent is sprayed or dropped on and almost instantly cures the builder.

Nail Art

  • Rhinestone wheels.
  • Fimo canes can be glued to the finished nail or embedded under an enhancement.
  • Mylar flakes can be applied under the enhancements.
  • Skeleton leaves can be applied under the enhancements.
  • Glitters.
  • Laser lace are fibers that come in many metallic colors and can be applied to the nail or under the enhancements.
  • Stamping plates & stamper. You can use these to create flawless, intricate designs.
  • Brushes.
  • Craft paint. If you’re good at mixing your own, carry with you white, black, and the primary colors. You’ll save space in your kit this way.
  • Dried flowers. These can be applied under the enhancement.
  • Sculpted art. These can be glued on to the finished nail. If you can sculpt flowers and 3D nail art yourself, you can save space in your kit by omitting these items and creating them when necessary.
  • Hand drill. You can use this to drill holes into the free-edge of the nail and inserting jewelry.
  • Nail jewelry. There are many rings, studs, and chains available on the market.
  • Magazine clippings. These can be applied under the enhancements for a truly unique look.
  • Etching/pearling tools. These can be used to etch designs into the acrylic. You can then fill the etched areas with a different colored acrylic or with glitter.

Good luck making your own kit! If you’d like to tell us about yours, post in the comments!

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.



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