There’s nothing better than a fresh manicure. But with every day that passes, you’re biding your time until your nail polish starts chipping away, and you need to schedule a new appointment. Time is a factor, of course, but taking showers, washing dishes, and even opening packages can all contribute to a shorter life span for your mani.
Your goal, then, should to be to go on the offense from the outset. Approach a fresh set of nails like an investment (because let’s be honest here they can get pricey) and take the necessary steps to ensure longevity. So what can you actually do to make your manicure last longer?
These six manicurists and nail gurus say it’s a combination of making sure your manicure is created to last in the first place, and avoiding activities that are harsh on your nails. Celebrity manicurist Lisa Logan suggests wearing gloves “whenever your hands are in the water.” Brianna Sanders, founder of B-Clawed press-on nails, advises that we should always apply a top coat for a lasting “salon-quality finish.”
And if you’re getting a gel manicure, be sure to dry your nails with acetone or alcohol first, or “you will notice it lifting very early on,” says Brittney Boyce, founder of NAILSOFLA. Well, that explains why my at-home manicures haven’t quite been hitting the way they need to. It’s not just how you start the manicure, but how you finish it.
Ahead, find 11 more expert tips to keep your nails looking great longer.
How To Make A Manicure Last
1. Make sure your nails are clean before you start the manicure.
It all begins with the preparation process. “The prep step is the key to keeping your manicure looking fresher longer,” says Brittney Boyce, founder of NAILSOFLA. “You have to thoroughly cleanse your nails, and use an alcohol or acetone wipe to remove any oils so the nail polish can adhere to your nails better.”
2. Avoid soaking your nails as water leads to premature cracking.
Water can actually work against you when prepping for your manicure. “Make sure your nail is dry. If you soaked your nails before applying the manicure, you could have waterlogged nails that makes the nails expand a bit, and that can actually lead to the nail polish cracking once it dries and goes back to its natural size. If you’re doing your own manicure at home, don’t soak it.”
Rachel Apfel Glass, founder of Glosslab, adds that you should ask for a waterless manicure when you get your nails done professionally. “All services at Glosslab are waterless, but you can always request a waterless service at any salon,” she says.
3. Choose a subtle color that makes chipping less visible.
Another trick is to skip the bold hues and go for a subtle nail polish color. “Consider sheer or skin-toned shades,” advises Tracy Luong, Smith & Cult director of product development. “I prefer these when I paint my own nails because any imperfections are harder to spot. My go-to shade, ‘Ghost Edit’ by Smith & Cult, always makes my nails look salon-perfect.”
4. Wear gloves for daily activities that are tough on your nails.
Protecting your nails against harsh activities will go a long way toward extending the life of your manicure. One tip celebrity manicurist Lisa Logan swears by is “wearing gloves when your hands are in the water, like doing the dishes,” as the warm temperature weakens the polish and makes it more susceptible to chipping.
Even opening the boxes containing the goodies you ordered online can impact your manicure. Says Boyce: “Don’t be too rough with your nails when you’re opening packages. Instead of your fingernail, use scissors or a blade to open that Amazon box.”
5. Try press-on nails instead that can last up to 14 days.
You can also ditch polish altogether in favor of press-on nails, a manicure hack that’s becoming increasingly popular during quarantine. “Press-on nails will give your natural nails a break from polish and acrylics,” says Brianna Sanders, founder of B-Clawed press-on nails. “Prep your nails correctly and press-on nails can last up to 14 days and longer.”
How To Make Nail Polish Last Two Weeks
1. Use both a top and a base coat.
To make your nail polish last 14 days, don’t underestimate the power of a great base and top coat. “If I want a bulletproof mani, I start with a base coat like Smith & Cult’s “Basis of Everything,” followed by two to three thin coats of color, and finish with a top coat like Smith & Cult’s “Above It All,” says Luong.
Logan also recommends a top coat, and says to take it a step further with an extended care version. “An extended wear top coat like the Retinol 45 Second Quick Drying Top Coat from Nails Inc. works with the UV in the sunlight to help the top coat act like a gel,” she says.
2. Don’t forget to cap your nails.
Capping your nails is an expert trick that most people skip when doing manicures at home. The practice involves painting the end of the nail and underneath with shaded polish. “Skipping this step leaves the part of the nail most vulnerable to chipping exposed, and then it shows up on the nail plate first,” says Luong. “Capping gives a little extra protection, plus it just makes your manicure look more legit.”
3. Remember that upkeep is just as important as the initial process.
Luong advises reapplying the top coat every three days, “to keep the color glossy and protected from chipping and cracking.”
Along with the top coat, invest in a cuticle oil to extend the life of your manicure, recommends Yani Diaz, licensed nail artist and VaultBeauty member. “Keeping the cuticle area moisturized after a manicure will help prevent product lifting around that area.”
Also, keep a nail file at home “in case there is lifting at the free edge,” says Diaz. “That way you are able to file your nails to a point where there is no more lifting, instead of biting or forcing the product off.”
How To Make Your Gel Manicure Last Longer
1. Start with dry nails.
Similar to regular manicures, keeping your nails dry during the preparation process is important. “For gel, if you don’t dry your nails beforehand with acetone or alcohol, you will notice it lifting very early on,” warns Boyce, who also sells press-on nails that look like gel manicures. “You want to make sure that the gel is properly cured when you’re applying it,” she says.
2. Hydrate and protect your gel manicure at home.
Go the extra mile at home by nourishing your nails and hands, and protecting them against everyday wear and tear. “Use a lot of hydrating products like cuticle oils and hand creams to make it last longer,” Boyce adds.
Gel manicures can be damaged by daily activities like taking showers and washing dishes, too. Sanders says, “Try to avoid too hot water, and wear gloves when doing hard labor with your hands.”
3. Don’t peel, no matter what.
It’s tempting to start peeling your gel manicure off when it begins to lift. But by doing so, you’re damaging your nails and sabotaging your next manicure. “It’s harder for gel to adhere to damaged nails, which shortens the life span of your gel manicure,” says Boyce. Instead, use a kit like the Glosslab Gel Eraser Kit for gel removal. “This is acetone-free and non-damaging, and you can use it at home,” says Glass.