How To Make Your Manicure Last Longer
Updated: Apr 28
We all know the dreaded feeling of seeing a chip on your nails a few days after doing your nails. Do your nails smudge and chip no matter what brand of nail paint you use? Are you unable to keep a manicure longer than 2-3 days? Well don’t worry! Painting your nails following these steps, you’ll be able to make the most of your manicure, be it professionally done, or DIY-ed.
Just like a house stands longer if it’s foundation is strong, your manicure will last longer if your nail polish application technique is correct.
Step 1: File Your Nails
This might seem unrelated, but this is the first step to getting a proper #base to your nails. Nails naturally have ragged edges and micro tears which lead to your nails chipping and breaking, which ultimately ruins the manicure.
HOW: So, starting off with bare nails, #file the edges of your nails in a circular shape. Use a glass nail file as it gives the smoothest finish.
Step 2: Push That Cuticle
The cuticle doesn’t grow evenly, and leads to an uneven edge to your nail polish. Also, if you get any nailpolish on your cuticles, it becomes easy for the polish to peel off, leading to quicker wear and tear of your #manicure.
HOW: Start off by softening your cuticles first, so it’s easier to push them. Use cuticle oils or cream to soften them. Don’t confuse cuticle softener with cuticle remover. The latter is an exfoliant which removes the dead skin. We just want to hydrate them. You can use hand cream or body oil if you don’t have nail oil. Leave it on for 2-3 minutes. Now using a rubberised cuticle pusher or an orange stick (leave the metal one’s to the professional, you might damage your nails by over scraping), gently push back your cuticles so that the nail isn’t as covered anymore. Be gentle, we don’t wanna bruise our nail folds. Once happy, take a cotton pad and wipe off any dead skin that might have come off and the oil/cream.
Do not cut your cuticles! #Cuticles are a toughened layer of skin that protects the area between the nail and the skin from exposure to bacteria. Cutting it off, not only damages the skin, but leaves the sensitive area at a higher risk of infection. Since the cuticle grows back, gently pushing it back is a better option.
Step 3: Wash Your Hands
Now that you have all the nail filings and the oil/cream on your nails front the previous steps, wiping them isn’t enough. Any #oil or dust left on your nails will hinder the texture of the nail paint and prevent it from adhering properly to your nails.
Even if you’re not doing the first two steps, there’ll still be oil and dust on your hands naturally. So it’s important to clean it off and start with a fresh clean base.
Step 4: De-slick & Dehydrate Your Nails
All beauty routines tell us dehydration is bad, so why are we doing this step ? We just washed our hands in the previous step, so is it necessary? The answer is, yes. Nail oil can be stubborn to remove, and most hand soaps contain moisturising ingredients which can leave a thin layer of oils on the nails. This is good for the skin on your hand, but not so much for the nail paint. So by removing the oils, we ensure that the nail paints and base coats get a fair chance to bind to the nail and stay there for as long as possible. Also, if your nails are wet, or you just soaked them, chances are the nails have absorbed water and have swollen. If you apply nail polish onto soaked nails, the nails will later contract after drying leading to cracks in the polish because it doesn’t fit anymore. So having dry nails is very important to prevent this.
Once, clean, do not touch your nails as you will deposit oils from your fingertips onto them once again.
Step 5: Prime That Canvas
Although it might seem like a cumbersome extra step, applying a base coat is very important. Nail paints aren’t really created to bind to the nail surface, but to base coats. Base coats are specifically designed to bridge this gap, by binding to both, nails and nail paint and effectively acting as the glue. There are a ton of base coats available in the market catering to different problems, but the one we are concerned with are the ones that make your nail paint last longer.
HOW: Simply apply a single thin layer of the base coat on your nails starting from the cuticle and upto the free #edge of the nails. #Seal the free edge (see step 7) with what’s left over on the brush. Let dry completely before applying the nail paint.
Just like a primer helps the paint last longer on walls of your homes, base coats elongate the shelf #life of your manicure.
Step 6: Apply Thin Coats
You might think that applying one thick coat of nail paint to get maximum opacity in the shortest time would be a great nail hack, but it couldn’t be more detrimental. When you apply thick coats, you might get more coverage, but the nailpaint won’t dry properly and you’ll end up with smudges and eventually peeling off. Plus, due to the curved nature of nails and gravity, the polish will pool on the sides of the nails rather than giving you an even look.
How: First, shake and roll around your nail paint sufficiently to homogenize the paint so you get even pigment when you paint with it. Start off by scraping half of the nail polish from the brush so that it doesn’t drip anymore, and apply 1 thin layer first focusing on covering the whole nail plate. Let dry completely. Now moving onto the 2nd coat, apply a slightly thicker, but still thin coat of nail paint, this time focusing on getting a smooth finish. If the polish isn’t opaque enough, do 2 very #thin and 1 medium coats of nail polish.
When you apply 2-3 thin layers instead of one #thick coat, you get the same output but the finish is much smoother and the nail polish gets a fair chance to cure and dry.
Step 7: Seal That Edge
The #tips of the nails bear the maximum brunt of daily wear and tear and are the weakest spot when it comes to nail polish chipping. So by having layers of nailpaint at the very tip of the nails, you can delay the inevitable by having multiple layers of nail paint wear off at the tip before any chipping starts running further.
HOW: Whenever you apply a layer of base coat, colour coat or top coat; start from the cuticles and cover the entire nail. Without taking anymore nail paint, continue with the same brush and run it along the free edge of the nails. You will get some nail paint underneath your nails, and that is what we want. This will effectively cap/wrap/seal the tip of the nail.
‘Seal the free edge’, ‘wrap the tip’ and ‘cap the edge’ are all different terms for the same practice of applying a layer of nail paint to the tips of the nail.
Step 8: Clean The Edges
No matter how carefully you apply your nail paint, you are bound to paint out of the lines and get some of it on your skin; we are only humans after all, even nail techs. You might think leaving it on as it will eventually wear off, you shouldn’t though. The nail paint which is on your skin won’t bind and will peel off in some hours, but it might take away some of the nail paint from your nails too. Hence it’s important to clean the edges so that no polish remains on the skin, plus it looks neater and more professional that way.
HOW: After every layer of colour coat you apply, use an orange #stick or a toothpick to scrape off the excess nailpaint. Wipe it onto a tissue between each nail. If the nailpaint has dried and won’t come off with a dry stick, you can use a cotton bud or wrap some cotton onto the toothpick and soak it into some acetone to get the dried excess off. You even get specialty clean up brushes, which are flat synthetic brushes you can use dipped in acetone for clean up.
Don’t use your nails, because you might want to paint it next or ruin an existing manicure. If you’re doing it on another person, it’s fine, but you’ll still have to clean up your nails. So I wouldn't recommend the use of nails.
Step 9: Give Some Dry Time
No I am not talking about the obvious dry time needed at the end of completing your manicure, but the dry time between the layers of polish we are applying. If you don’t let the individual layers dry and then seal it with a top coat, what you will end up with is a hardened and dry top coat with soft malleable layers of nail polish underneath which are more prone to #smudging and peeling off. So #dry time is very important if you want a perfect manicure that lasts long.
HOW: After every layer of nail polish you apply, wait a minute for it to dry. Thin coats of the polish will help them dry a lot quicker (see step 6). If you wanna test if the layers have dried, just bring together the pinky nails and touch them to each other. If they stick and/or are tacky, you need some more time.
If you are in a rush (which you shouldn’t be, painting your nails should be a relaxing experience), use a #quick dry nail paint and topcoat, which will reduce the dry time, not eliminate it though.
Step 10: Apply A Top Coat
Most people paint their nails with a colour and call it a day. No wonder the polish chips so soon. There is nothing protecting it from the daily wear and tear. When you apply a top coat, not only does it make your nails look shinier, it forms a protective shell around the nailpaint. So now the clear layer of topcoat is at the frontline and bears the brunt. The layer of top coat has to first chip away before the colour can start fading. There are tons of top coats available in the market, but we are concerned with the quick drying ones that claim to make manicures last longer.
HOW: Once your last coat of colour polish is dry to touch, apply a nice thick layer of topcoat and don’t forget to seal the edge. I know I said thin layers earlier, but that was for the colour coats, where you need to apply 2-3 coats. Top coats are much thinner in consistency than colour coats, plus a thick layer of top coat will form a nice thick shell giving you a rock hard finish and a thick protective shell that's hard to chip.
Also, if you use a quick dry #topcoat, it’ll help your nails dry faster and better, which will ultimately lead to a properly set long lasting manicure.
Step 11: Dry Your Nails Completely
We’ve all seen the ‘Get Ready Montages’ in movies where the person paints their nails while getting ready and then steps out of the house for their day? Yeah that doesn’t happen. Not only are you 100% gonna smudge those nails, you might get it on your outfit and ruin your clothes too. Normal nail polish requires at least 3-4 hours to dry and #cure properly; whereas quick dry nail polish can do the same in 30 minutes to an hour. I’m not saying the nails will be dripping wet for four hours, but instead, soft and malleable which makes it easy to bump and get a dent or a smudge. Applying thin layers of the colour coat and applying a quick drying top coat will help drastically reduce the dry time. Also, if possible, avoid doing anything with your nails (eg. scratching, opening, etc) for at least an hour to give your nails a fighting chance.
Beware of the ‘Soak Your Nails In Ice-Water’ hack going around on the internet. Nail polish doesn’t freeze and harden doing this hack. It just brings the temperature of the nail polish down and thickens it, which gives the false impression of dry nails. The solvent in the nail paint has to evaporate for the nailpolish to actually dry and #water defeats this purpose. You may use an air dryer at the cool setting to fasten this process, but air drying is the way to go.
Now that you have the perfect manicure, how do you preserve it? Just follow these steps to make your nail polish last till the end of time! Well, till your nails grow out or you decide to change them really.
Step 12: Oil Them Up
From day 2 onwards of getting your nails done, apply a nail oil/ cuticle #oil to your nails daily at night. This helps keep the skin around the nails and the nails hydrated and strong which prevents breakage and flaking of the nails, ultimately preserving your manicure.
If you don’t have nail oil, you can use a hand #cream or jojoba oil instead. Baby oil is a good alternative too, but it won’t be as effective.
Step 13: Prevention Is Better Than Cure
It can be very tempting to scratch using your fabulous talons, or to open something with your nails. That not only might break your nails, but cause quicker wear of the nail polish at the tips. So avoid using your nails as tools. Substitute them or use the actual tools. Avoid water as much as possible, because soaked nails will absorb water and expand causing the nail polish to crack. Wear rubber gloves while dealing with water to reduce the damage.
Step 14: Re-Apply Top Coat
No matter what steps or products you use, regular nail polish will start weathering due to the frequent usage of hands. Once your manicure is 4-5 days old, clean your hands and re-apply a thin layer of topcoat onto your nails. This will help refill and replace any loss of the protective topcoat so that the nail colour stays protected and doesn’t have to come in direct contact with the environment.
You can use this trick for gel nails and #acrylic extensions too.