Who doesn’t want a perfect manicure? Well-taken-care-of hands can really pull your entire look together. If only it didn’t take so long to get a professional manicure, and the results lasted more than a few days.
I’m one of those girls that refuses to pay other people to do her nails. I have a huge nail polish collection at home, and after years of doing my own nails, I’ve picked up a lot of tips for getting it done faster and better. Despite working in an Intensive Care Unit and having a 2-year-old at home (you can only imagine how many times a day I wash my hands), I can get my manicure to last 7 days, chip-free. I’m not doing anything you can’t do at home either.
Here’s exactly how I get a professional-looking at-home manicure!
7 Days Chip-Free 1 of 23
Step by step, exactly how I get my manicure to last 7 days without a chip!
Clean It Up 2 of 23
When you're getting ready to do a manicure, it makes sense that you need to remove old polish. But, it pays to be as complete as possible. While it might be tempting to leave those little bits of polish that are stuck near your cuticle, for a longer lasting manicure you need to remove them! The fresher your nail bed is for your manicure the longer it will last. If you have problems with your nails splitting, use a non-acetone remover. Both the Cutex and Zoya removers pictured here contain ingredients to help moisturize and nourish your nails while removing polish.
Shorties are Stronger 3 of 23
When shaping your nails, you should chose a shape for nail strength. Longer and pointed shapes aren't as strong, and when your nail flexes so will your polish. That's a set up for a chipping or peeling manicure! Shorter nails that are slightly rounded will be stronger.
File With Care 4 of 23
Yes, it really does make a difference how you shape your nails! Using a clipper is likely to split the nail. Throw away all of your clippers now so you're not tempted to use them!
You should be filing your nails down instead. While it is ok to use an emory board style file initially, you'll want to be sure to use a crystal file toward the end of the shaping process. The emory boards do tear at the nail plate, but a crystal file leaves a much smoother surface. File in 1 direction, not back and forth.
Moderate Buffing 5 of 23
Everyone wants a smooth nail surface, but you should only buff a little. You're removing the top surface of your nail, which is not exactly a set up for healthy nails. Buffing your nails to a perfectly smooth and shiny surface removes any surface for your polish to grip, it will peel right off! So, if you must buff, do so very lightly. I rarely buff, and when I do it is only to help smooth down ridges.
Skip the Soak 6 of 23
Soaking your nails in a little dish is an integral part of a salon manicure. But at home, skip this step. Your nails will absorb the water, which causes swelling. Expanding and contracting the nail isn't good for your polish and will cut down on manicure life by quite a bit!
A Little Sink Time 7 of 23
Since you're skipping the soak, you'll need to spend a little extra time at the sink instead. While there, you'll be fixing your cuticles and washing away any dirt and oils on your nail surface.
I like to use a fast-acting cuticle remover, Sally Hansen. Put a small bead on your cuticles and let it absorb for about 15-20 seconds. Run a nail over your cuticles and gently push back your cuticles with the nail or an orange stick. Next grab a nail brush and simply wash your hands, being sure to remove anything under your nail tip and around the edges.
Moisture 8 of 23
Even though our nails are basically plates of dead protein held together by chemical bonds, their moisture level is very important! Dried out nails tend to split and crack. Dry cuticles are also a great place for an infection to start. You should moisturize your cuticles with a cuticle oil or a thick cream. Give it a few minutes to absorb.
Remove Residue 9 of 23
As a last step before applying any base coat to your nail surface, you need to remove all residue from the nail surface. You can wipe them down with something that not only will remove the residue and dry quickly and completely, but also won't leave its own residue. White vinegar, rubbing alcohol and pure acetone (but not nail polish remover) all work well for this step.
It’s All in the Base Coat 10 of 23
I've found that the most important product for a long lasting manicure is the base coat. You should never skip this step! A good base coat will grip both your nail and the polish, making a manicure last days longer without chips! It will protect your nail surface from staining as well. Try a base coat with a bit of an adhesive surface for a little extra time without chips.
Wrapping the Tip 11 of 23
When applying coats of base coat, nail color or top coat, the free edge of your nail is always the most vulnerable point. You can minimize chips by wrapping the tip as you polish, wrapping every layer of product will produce the best results. Run the brush along the edge of the nail and then apply to the nail surface. It will all blend together to create one layer of product.
The Sandwich 12 of 23
When applying polishes that are prone to chipping, sandwiching in the color can make your manicure last much longer! I first learned about this technique about 7 or 8 years ago on the Makeup Alley Nail Board, at the time it was the Stickey Sandwich, named for the CND Base Coat. The technique also works with with other base coats and even top coats. Apply a base coat layer, then polish, repeating the alternating base coat and polish coats until you reach the opacity you want.
If the polish you're using is a glittery or holo polish, apply base coat and then begin alternating polish and top coat until you reach your desired opacity. The top coat sandwich will show off the shimmer much better than a base coat sandwich.
Chose Your Polish Carefully 13 of 23
Some shades and finishes of polish are notorious for chipping quickly. Neon colors, matte finishes, the pretty holos -- they're all hard to wear. If you need a longer lasting manicure go for a cream or shimmer finish.
China Glaze Nail Polish in Turned Up Turquoise and Pool Party, $7.50
Baby Your Polish 14 of 23
Nail polish rarely goes bad, though it can thicken over time as the solvents in the polish evaporate off. You can revive your old polish! Use a nail polish thinner from a beauty supply, never acetone or nail polish remover, both of which have the wrong volatility to suspend the nail polish and will ruin your bottle (read more about why you should only use nail polish thinner to fix clumpy polish). Add thinner a few drops at a time until you reach the results you want.
In addition, you don't need to store your polish in the fridge. A dark area without temperature fluctuations (like a closet) is perfect.
More Is Not Always Better 15 of 23
While it is pretty tempting to try and get full coverage with your nail polish as soon as possible, it's better to apply thinner coats of polish. 3 thin coats of polish to opacity will last much longer, and look more professional, than 2 thick coats.
Be Patient 16 of 23
It pays to wait a little extra. Super speedy top coats have a shorter life span than a regular top coat, so if you have the time to wait a bit longer you'll be happier in the long run. Note that the most recommended top coat (and my favorite) is Seche Vite, which is fast-drying, but takes roughly 10 minutes to be dry to the touch instead of 90 seconds. If you need to speed things up, you can use quick drying drops or a spray. You'll still get the better wear from a slower top coat but with less drying time.
Cleaning Up Cuticles 17 of 23
Even a professional can't do a manicure without getting some on the skin! I like to clean up my manicures right away, I use a stiff, slanted brush dipped in acetone. The brush can get under the nail edge easily and can still grab the polish. Avoid using a cotton ball or swab, as the extra lint will drag in your fresh manicure.
You can also wait until the next day; often polish can be easily scrubbed off of the skin once fully cured.
Fix Smudges 18 of 23
I can't even tell you how many times I've smudged a manicure right after I'm done with it. At the salon the nail tech will often fix it with acetone or nail polish remover, but this is tricky to do at home. Instead, you can apply 1-2 drops of cuticle oil to the surface of the nail, then rub very gently with a finger. This will smooth out the smudge and help anything else to slide off the surface of the nail.
Q-Tickles Cuticle Oil $2.99
The Waiting Game 19 of 23
Drying time can vary quite a bit depending on the products you used, how many layers of polish you have applied and even the weather that day. While your nails might feel dry to the touch 10 to 20 minutes later, it is best to wait a full 2 hours before doing a lot with your hands. Including sleeping! You might think your nails are dry, but you'll wake up with sheet marks the next day.
It takes a full 12 hours or so for nail polish to fully harden and cure, and avoiding water submersion and heat during that time period will add a few days to your manicure. To get around these time limits, I usually complete a manicure about 3 hours before I plan to head to bed. The next day is a shampoo-free day, so I spend less time in the shower and I'm not using heat appliances on my hair.
A Nail Is Not aTool 20 of 23
It takes a bit to get used to, but you need to stop thinking of your nails as tools. Instead of scrapping the tag off your new picture frame with a nail, pull out a coin or spatula. Use rubber gloves when your hands are immersed in water if you can, and avoid hot tubs and swimming.
Reapply 21 of 23
Even if you can't see them, your top coat will collect small smudges, cracks and imperfections. Reapplying your top coat every 2-3 days will seal over these imperfections and help your manicure last longer. When reapplying top coat, it is ok to use a fast-drying product.
Moisturize Again 22 of 23
New Products 23 of 23
While I can get a week from more traditional products, there are some great longer-lasting nail polish products out now! CoverGirl, Sally Hansen, CND and Formula X all have products that promise a week or more of lasting power.