It took me long enough to work out how to stop biting my nails but once I got nails that were worth painting I also struggled to keep them looking good. I’d paint them a beautiful color and within a day or two they’d look a mess – sometimes the chipped nails looked more of a mess than when I was biting them!
A bit of research and few experiments later, it seems all is not lost as there actually is a combination of tips that work well to achieve “no chip” nail polish. And so here’s how to enjoy a long lasting manicure and nail color (although if you’re like me you won’t be able to wait a week or so for the polish to chip before trying out a new color!)
Prepare Your Nails
Unless you remove every trace of grease from your nails, the polish is bound to chip, so don’t apply a layer of hand cream and then your nail polish and expect it to stick around for long.
Acetone nail polish remover is great for removing grease but it will damage your nails if you use it too often.
I generally use a non-oily formula remover and then rinse and dry my hands and fingertips thoroughly to remove all traces of the remover. If you’re not already wearing polish, you can just wash your hands, but be sure to get rid of any soap residue and dry them before you proceed to paint your nails.
Don’t Soak Your Nails
Though soaking nails often seems to be part of the procedure when you go for a standard manicure at a salon, it is one of the worst things you can do. It will soften your nails and make them absorb water so that you don’t have a solid base for painting but a very flexible one! And flexibility makes it all too easy for polish to flake off.
For the same reason, don’t paint your nails straight after a hot bath or shower. Give them a chance to harden first. (It is a great time to cut them though as they will be easy to cut then even if you have tough nails).
Always Use a Base Coat
A base coat lets the color glide on smoothly and it will make sure strong colors are not absorbed by the nail surface (giving you weird looking nails when you remove the polish). The base also gives a firmer surface for painting. It strengthens and hardens the nail, further reducing the flexibility factor.
Use Two Thin Coats
Painting the nail color too thickly is a prime cause of chipping. If you want more depth of color, paint two thin coats of polish instead.
Apply a Clear Top Coat
A top coat will protect the color and will be the first line of defense against any chipping. If the top coat chips it won’t be visible and you will be able to renew the top coat every two or three days (even every day if you have time) to continue to protect the colored polish.
Apply Top Coat Around the Nail Tip
Rather than just painting the surface of the nail as usual, run the brush with the top coat, over the very tip of the nail and coat the back of the nail a little too. It is the nail tip that tends to chip the most (as it is the most exposed and gets the most knocks) so more protection here helps a lot.
Don’t Be Impatient
You can’t have a manicure in a rush and expect it to last. That is partly why a salon manicure lasts longer than a home manicure. We are always in more of a rush at home. A manicurist will always wait for each coat to dry before proceeding. So give your base coat long enough to dry before adding the color and each layer of color long enough to dry before adding the next layer. It’s a great beauty treatment to carry out when there’s something you want to watch on TV so you’re not tempted to rush off and smudge your nails.
Don’t Use Your Nails as Tools
We are our own worst enemies when it comes to chipping our nails. We use them to scratch off sticky labels or lift the ring pulls on cans and then expect the nail polish not to chip. The less you use your nails the better. When typing get used to using the pads of your fingers only and make sure nails don’t make contact with the keys. This may involve keeping them slightly shorter than you might like but it is better than longer, chipped nails if you have to use a keyboard.
Protect Your Hands
Even after you paint your nails, the less they are exposed to being soaked in water the better. Harsh chemicals just add to the problem. Use household gloves to prevent prolonged exposure to anything that could damage your hands or nails.
Look After Your Cuticles
Once the polish is on, avoid interfering with cuticles, as pushing them back can chip polish at the base of the nail. It is fine to rub in a little of your hand cream after you wash your hands though as long as you don’t actually push them. The time to gently push cuticles back is before you apply the polish as cuticle skin on the nail surface makes it difficult to get a smooth line to the polish and it can cause a bit of chipping, if you overlap the cuticle even slightly with polish.
Avoid Quick Dry Nail Polish
Although quick drying nail polishes sound like a good idea, given you have to wait for each layer to dry, they are the worst formula for chipping as the surface they create is softer and more prone to denting than standard slow drying polish. It is OK to use a drying spray over your slow drying top coat however if you want to speed things up though it may dull down a high gloss finish.
Choose A Long Lasting Nail Polish
When reading reviews to find the best long lasting nail polish, I saw a couple of brands that came up over and over again as being more lasting than others. The first was Revlon Colorstay nail polish. This has limited availability but I found it on the Amazon US site here and can be shipped elsewhere.
If you can’t find either of these or you already have a polish you love, don’t worry, as long as you follow the other steps here, your manicure should last. In any case, it doesn’t seem to matter how much you pay for nail polish. The expensive Chanel polish seems to chip as quickly as the drugstore brand if you don’t apply it correctly.
Don’t Double Up on Base Coat and Top Coat
Although you can get away with cheap polish, don’t skimp on base and top coats. Many of us tend to make do with any old clear polish but you are better off choosing specific products designed for each job.
“How can you tell the difference between a base coat and a top coat? Base coats should dry matte or dull with a tacky finish. They also dry fast. Top coats should dry shiny and smooth and they dry much slower than a base coat.”
The best base coat products feed the nail with ingredients such as protein, aloe Vera, vitamin E, or calcium as well as provide the perfect surface for painting with colored polish. The best top coat has a high gloss shine and dries hard to protect your nail color.
Long Lasting Shellac Nail Polish
Although this article is about giving yourself a lasting home manicure, you may be wondering about the long lasting gel and shellac polishes that are everywhere these days. Most people have shellac applied at a salon or nail bar but you can buy DIY shellac nail kits if it is something that you would like to do yourself at home. The equipment you need includes a UV drying device as well as the special polish to do this, and so it will cost well over $100 and probably nearer $200 to paint your nails the first Time with shellac.
It depends how often you like to paint your nails and whether you have the skills to use it whether it is worth it as the kits are expensive. You will probably cover the cost with in a few months if you have regular salon treatments anyway – I just prefer to use loads of different polishes and a manicure that lasts a week is enough for me – by that time I need a change!