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The nail files

Bright eye, lip and cheek make-up was all over the runways like a particularly virulent rash for spring/summer 2010, but what to do if the idea of wearing a turquoise eyeshadow or coral lipstick leaves you feeling a bit queasy?

Why, make like manicure-aficionado Katy Perry, of course! Ms Perry recognises that the nails are a great place to introduce a shot of colour, especially if you prefer to keep the rest of your make-up neutral and, as a result, is rarely spotted with bare talons.

While some of what she wears is not exactly suitable for work, unless you're Lady Gaga, a lick of nail varnish remains one of the easiest ways to shake up your look.

It's also one of the cheapest, with the fashion-forward shades of Rimmel 60 Seconds nail varnish, €5.23, a real bargain, so it's not too expensive to do your own nails properly.

Begin with a bit of prep work: get rid of any lingering vestiges of old nail varnish with a cotton-wool pad soaked in nail varnish remover and use a glass file to shape the nails, working from the outer corners to the centre of the nail.

Glass files are now widely available and far less harsh than metal or emery board files: while the latter are inclined to tear at nails, glass files help to seal the edge of the nail and reduce flaking and peeling when used regularly. They're also washable so you should get donkey's years out of them. I accidentally broke my small Leighton Denny, €18, right, version in half ages ago and refused to give it up because it was an expensive bit of kit, and I'm happy to report that both ends are still perfectly usable.

Next, massage a cuticle oil -- olive or sweet almond oil work really well, too -- into the cuticle and skin surrounding the nail.

This promotes healthy, strong nail growth and will soften the cuticles so they can be pushed back, if necessary. Use a rubber-tipped hoof stick or an orange stick wrapped in a little cotton wool for this job, and be gentle.

(By-the-by, the simplest way to keep cuticles in check is to use your towel to gently push them back after a bath or shower, when they're soft and pliable.)

Wipe a small amount of nail varnish remover on a cotton wool pad over the nail plate to remove any excess oil which can prevent your varnish from adhering to the nail.

Now for the tricky bit: the application itself. If you're right-handed you'll find it difficult to paint the nails on that hand because it means using your non-dominant left, so it's a good idea to do your right-hand first (and vice versa for left-handed ladies.) At least then it's out of the way, you can stop worrying about it. You'll also find that you're less likely to smudge your freshly applied varnish as you continue to work on the left because of the greater degree of control you have when using your dominant hand.

If you're out of practice or a bit shaky, try working at the edge of a table; resting your forearms and wrists on the tabletop will provide extra support.

Applying a base coat won't just prevent staining, it'll noticeably extend the life of your manicure, too. Try CND Stickey, €10.95, right, from salons (see creativeacademy.ie for stockist details), which you can also layer between coats of colour for the ultimate long-lasting paint job.

Speaking of colour, apply two or three thin coats rather than one thick layer. Roll your bottle between your hands before opening it: shaking the bottle is inclined to create tiny air pockets in the varnish which then show up as bubbling on the nail.

As you draw the brush up through the neck of the bottle, swirl the stem against the sides of the neck. This will remove excess varnish, which has an unfortunate habit of dripping down to flipping ruin your manicure just as you start to commend yourself on your work. Wipe the brush itself on the neck of the bottle, too: just aim to leave a bead of colour on one side of its tip for maximum control.

Apply a stripe of colour down the middle of the nail working from cuticle to tip, and then repeat that cuticle to tip motion on either side of the initial stripe.

Hopefully, you'll have enough paint on the tip of your brush to do each nail in one go but if not, simply reload your brush with a small amount of colour and off you go again.

Rather than take your nail varnish all the way to the skin at the base and sides of your nails, it's a good idea to leave a slight gap all around the edge of the nail. This does away with the need for a big clean-up operation of stained skin, gives a tidier, more professional finish to your manicure, and -- supposedly -- makes fingers look longer.

If you need to do a spot of tidying up, try Essence's Corrector Pen, €2.99, available from pharmacies and department stores. Preloaded with nail varnish remover, this brilliant budget buy has a spongey, angled nib to precisely fix any foul-ups.

Some would argue that you could just use a cotton bud or wooden cuticle stick wrapped in cotton wool for this task, but they can end up leaving cotton fibres trailing across wet nail varnish.

Finish with a top coat for shine and durability -- Sally Hansen Insta-Dri, €5.93, left, sets the layers of colour in less than 30 seconds.