How to Make Your Manicure Last Longer

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Sick of your nails chipping so soon after getting them done? Follow these expert solutions for longer-lasting color.

There’s no denying that getting your nails done can be a relaxing, spa-like experience that makes you feel perfectly pampered. But when you find that your polish has already started chipping within days or even hours of giving yourself a manicure or leaving the nail salon, it’s frustrating, to say the least. If you’ve ever had this experience (and, honestly, who hasn’t?), you’re probably wondering how to make your nail polish last longer. We’ve got some good news: There are some steps you can take to get the long-lasting nails of your dreams!

We’re not guessing here, either. We asked nail experts for their tried-and-true secrets so your nails will look like you just stepped out of a salon for weeks after your appointment. While some of it definitely has to do with the products you’re using—or not using, like the best cuticle oils, which can strengthen nails, making them less brittle and prone to chipping—there’s more to it than that. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your manicure stays in tip-top shape for as long as possible. When you’re up to speed, find out how to do your own pedicure.

Why nail polish doesn’t always last

It’s hard to know how to make your nail polish last longer when you don’t know what’s causing it to chip or flake. Our experts say there are several reasons, depending on the type of polish you’re using—for instance, whether it’s regular lacquer or gel polish. “With regular lacquer, a polish may chip because it was placed on too thick, maybe causing it to chip as soon as it completely dried,” explains Syreeta Aaron of LeChat Nails. “[Or there could be] constant rubbing on the polish, which causes it to wear thin, and then you begin to see through the polish.” A gel manicure, on the other hand, might chip if a person’s nail bumps against something, she notes, but other than that, it will stay put—unless the application wasn’t done properly.

What many people may not realize is that prepping your nails is essential if you want your nail polish to last. If your nail isn’t properly cleansed prior to applying polish, says Brittany Boyce, founder of Nails of LA, there might still be an oil residue on the nail that prevents the polish from adhering correctly. And if you’re doing your nails at home, you should never skip the pre- and post-steps, which include applying a base and top coat. “Aside from one-step nail polishes that specifically say no base coats or top coats are needed, you need to use a base coat to help the nail polish adhere to your nail better,” Boyce explains. “Then you need a top coat to seal it in.” And that’s just the beginning. Follow these expert-approved tips and you’ll end up with an amazing manicure that lasts. You’re welcome!

Woman clipping nails at salonRidofranz/Getty Images

Step 1: Cut and file nails properly

It’s important to cut and file your nails to make sure that the edges aren’t jagged or uneven. Keeping them short can also be effective in helping your nail polish last longer, notes Jessica Tong, a brand ambassador for Smith & Cult. The longer your nails, the more susceptible they are to breakage during your day-to-day activities, especially if you’re someone who does a lot of work around your home, like doing laundry or washing dishes.

Step 2: Cleanse nails and remove oil

In addition to buffing and filing your nails, it’s important to clean up your cuticles and cleanse your nail bed thoroughly. This helps to ensure that there is no oil residue on your nails. “If there are oils or cuticle growth on the nail plate, it will interfere with the adhesion, and your polish won’t stick on the nail as well,” says Darlene Sritapan, OPI North America’s Education & Capability Manager. “The best way to prep is to push back your cuticles gently and then cleanse your nails with a high-grade isopropyl alcohol like OPI’s N.A.S. 99.”

Step 3: Dry nails thoroughly before applying polish

After all of the prep work, wash your hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly before you start painting on the polish. “Our nails shrink and expand in water,” explains Boyce. “Nail polish doesn’t stretch with your nails, so when your nails contract after they’ve dried with nail polish already on top, you may see that crackle, which leads to chipping.”

Step 4: Prepare your cuticles

Orange sticks are great for pushing down your cuticles, but if you’re prone to a messy paint job, this $5 product will save your manicure. Painting a thin layer of liquid latex for nails around your nail beds makes it easy to get a clean, salon-fresh line. Simply paint over it as much as you need, and peel off when you’re done for a perfect manicure!

Step 5: Use the three-step system

Many nail polishes come in a set of three products—the base, polish, and top coat. If so, it’s important to use the full system to achieve the desired results, notes Sritapan. “For example, OPI Infinite Shine is a three-step system—the primer helps to prevent yellowing and promotes adhesion, and the gloss helps seal and protect your color,” she says. “When you combine all of these steps, it’s a recipe for success and a truly long-lasting manicure.” Skipping steps may shorten the life of your manicure.

Step 6: Apply several thin coats of polish

To prevent polish from wearing through, Aaron recommends applying several coats of polish—ideally, three—making sure they aren’t too thick. Make sure you’ve selected from the list of the best nail polish. Aaron has a tip for gel polish lovers, too (apart from using the best gel nail polish): “If you’re using gel polish, make sure to apply each coat very thinly and that the nails are properly cured in the light,” she adds. Down the road, if you can’t get back to the salon, here’s how to remove gel nail polish at home.

Step 7: Add some Dry Drops

No one wants to spend ten minutes without the use of their hands waiting for their nail polish to dry. Enter these miracle Dry Drops from Olive and June. Like all their products, it’s vegan and cruelty-free, and jojoba (pronounced “ho-ho-ba”) oil gives your nails a gorgeous shine. Best of all, it dries nail polish to the touch in 80 seconds! Just squeeze a drop or two onto your nails, wait just over a minute, and voila! You’re good to go.

Step 8: Incorporate a hydrating aftercare

To make your nail polish last longer, Sritapan advises taking extra care to apply cuticle oil and hand cream. “When skin and nails are dry, it makes chipping very easy,” she says. She recommends ProSpa Nail and Cuticle Oil and ProSpa Hand & Cuticle Cream. You should also check out Cuccio Naturalé Cuticle Revitalizing Oil, which has over 52,000 rave reviews on Amazon.

wear gloves to do chores Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images

Tip: Wear gloves while performing chores

Though it’s a little bit of lifestyle adjustment, Sritapan urges her clients to wear gloves when performing household chores such as washing dishes or gardening. “You have no idea how much this can affect the lastingness of your manicure,” she says. These LANON Wahoo PVC Household Cleaning Gloves will do the trick!

Tip: Avoid soaking nails in hot water

A hot bath might be tempting, especially during the cold winter months, but be careful not to let your nails sit too long under the bubbles. When your nails have been submerged in very hot water for long periods of time, it can allow moisture to seep underneath the polish, causing it to start peeling off, explains Tong. After learning all of this info, you may still have one question: What’s the perfect color? Trends aside, that really depends on your preference, of course, but you might be interested to learn what your nail polish color reveals about you.

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Jenn Sinrich
Jenn Sinrich is an experienced digital and social editor in New York City. She's written for several publications including SELF, Women's Health, Fitness, Parents, American Baby, Ladies' Home Journal and more.She covers various topics from health, fitness and food to pregnancy and parenting. In addition to writing, Jenn also volunteers with Ed2010, serving as the deputy director to Ed's Buddy System, a program that pairs recent graduates with young editors to give them a guide to the publishing industry and to navigating New York.When she's not busy writing, editing or reading, she's enjoying and discovering the city she's always dreamed of living in with her loving fiancé, Dan, and two feline friends, Janis and Jimi.