So you want a long-lasting manicure, but you don’t want to get acrylics. It can be confusing figuring out what practices will extend the wearability of nail polish without causing damage to your nails, especially with durable, long-lasting, but potentially nail-damaging gel and UV-dried polishes gaining popularity. Do try new things to keep your nail polish looking better, longer, but don't worry; we’re here to help.
- DO follow a good nail care regime. But DON'T over-wet or over-buff.
Use an oil-based cuticle softener and cuticle pusher to gently press your cuticles back, creating an edge around your nails. Lightly smooth your nail surfaces with a fine grain buffer. Even if your nails are naked, wipe them with nail polish remover or distilled white vinegar; otherwise, dirt and oil may prevent the polish from fully adhering.
Avoid soaking your nails. Nail beds absorb moisture and expand when soaked (like sponges). Even if you dry your hands afterward, your still-damp nail beds introduce moisture under the polish and contract as they dry, causing lifting and chipping. Also avoid over-buffing the nail surface, which thins the nail plate causing brittleness. If you still have ridges, bumps, or pits after a quick buff, apply ridge-filler to create a smooth surface.
- DO apply multiple treatments. But DON’T get rushed, heavy-handed, or use non-compatible products.
Use a base coat to max out the adhesive strength and flexibility of your nail polish. For extra-long wear, apply two layers of base coat to the tips where chips form fastest. After the base coats dry, apply two coats of your chosen nail color using 2-3 smooth strokes from cuticle to tip (including the free edge). Follow up with a gel-like top coat when your polish is almost dry. A top coat hardens and protects, and application while the polish is still damp enables it to penetrate the color. Apply top coat to the free edge, too; this seals the edge and adds extra staying-power where it shows the most damage.
Be careful not to apply any coat too fast or too thick. Wait two minutes between coats and keep them thin. Thicker layers take longer to dry, increasing the chance of trapping moisture or air bubbles between coats (both cause lifting). Also remember that mixing B3F and non-B3F polishes (including base and top coats) can trap moisture and cause uneven drying and smudging. Using products from the same brand can prevent mix-ups.
- DO take care of your nail polish. But DON’T sweat it if you can’t always.
Though nail polish seems dry within minutes, it can take 24 hours to dry, harden, and set. That’s why professionals recommend not submerging freshly polished nails in hot water for at least 6-12 hours.
Even after nail polish has set, some everyday activities can reduce its wearability, including soaking your hands in hot water and exposure to alcohol-based products (like perfume, hairspray and hand sanitizer). To prevent damage, wear rubber gloves to hand-wash dishes, and blanch your nails in ice water then towel dry and moisturize after showering or hot-tubbing. Wipe any alcohol-based products off your nails quickly and gently with non-abrasive cloth. If you lead a particularly nail-damaging life, you should apply top coat every 2-3 days to reseal your nail polish.