How to Fix a Chipped Manicure Without Redoing the Whole Nail

Close up of a manicured hand

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Grabbing your keys, adding to your grocery list, replying to that time-sensitive text. Those all sound like innocuous day-to-day activities... unless you've just painted your nails. Then suddenly, those mundane tasks might as well be backed by a chilling horror movie soundtrack. Because each comes with a major risk of denting that beautiful new mani.

Of course, life happens, and sometimes it happens to your nail polish. Fortunately, it's totally possible to repair a chipped manicure; all you need is a handful of supplies and a few spare minutes. Read on for our step-by-step guide to repairing a chipped manicure, with input from nail experts Sonya Belakhlef, Molly Romah, and Emily H. Rudman.

Meet the Expert

  • Sonya Belakhlef is a celebrity nail artist. They have worked with A$AP Rocky, Kiki Layne, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
  • Molly Romah is a lead nail artist at Chillhouse.
  • Emily H. Rudman is the founder and CEO of Emilie Heathe.

What You'll Need:

According to Belakhlef, you'll want to have the following on hand:

  • A nail file
  • A buffer
  • Nail polish remover
  • Polish in the same color
  • Top coat

How to Fix a Chipped Manicure

Step 1: Survey the damage

Close up of a chipped nail

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Before you begin to fix you're chipped manicure, you'll want to make sure it's even fixable in the first place; sometimes you're better off starting over from scratch. "If the chip is too big or if it's peeling or crackling, it's best to just start over with a fresh mani," says Belakhelf.

Rudman adds that if you've already fixed a chip once, it's best not to go in for another round. "A chipped manicure can only be fixed one to two times at most," she says. "After too many attempts to fix it, the nail might become thick with polish and therefore even more prone to chipping." Indeed, she advises just redoing your whole set whenever possible, if at all possible: "It’s always best to start fresh if you have the time, but these tips are great if you’re in a pinch."

Step 2: Buff the polish on the nail

Woman buffing the polish on a chipped fingernail

Now that you've decided to fix your chip, it's time to buff the edges of the polish that's already on the nail. (As an alternative, you can opt for a touch of nail polish remover.) "When you're fixing a chipped manicure, if it's a small chip you can either buff the edges of the chip or lightly tap nail polish remover around the edge of the chip to flatten it," Belakhlef advises. "This way there's no raised edge that makes it obvious that you were fixing a chipped manicure."

Step 3: Go in with your polish

Woman adds nail polish to her chipped fingernail

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Now it's time to go in with two layers of your polish: "One layer focused in the area of the chip, and a second layer after the first has dried, applied from cuticle to nail tip," says Rudman.

Step 4: Apply a top coat

Woman adds top coat to her freshly re-painted nail

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Unless you want to re-chip that manicure no sooner than you fixed it, you'll definitely want to seal in your polish with a topcoat. "It's an investment in your nails not just for longevity, but also for their color, finish, and overall appearance," says Romah. Belakhlef recommends Orly's Shining Armor Long Wear Top Coat ($15).

Step 5: Dry your nail and admire your handiwork

A final look at the repaired nail among the other polished fingers

Dee Mills / Byrdie

And now it's time to let your polish dry and admire your mended mani.

If your nail does chip again, instead of going in for the fix, consider a little TLC (Tender Love for your Cuticles). "When your nail breaks, it is weak and dry. In this case, focus on the nail more, and you definitely need some self-care at home," Romah recommends. "I suggest using nail oil or serum. I use Chillhouse's On the Mend ($25) kit on my clients who need treatment." She advises removing your old polish, shaping your nails, and applying the serum oil, massaging it into the nail beds and cuticles. Then, buffer the nails; wash your hands if you're going to apply a new coat of polish.

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