Nail Polish Tips to Make a Manicure and Pedicure Last Longer

a woman with a manicure on the beach

Jakob Owens / Unsplash

When it comes to manicures, there's nothing more annoying than a chipped nail or botched manicure. Luckily, there are a few effective ways to keep your nails looking good for longer. We've got a secret—or eight. Here are our nail polish secrets on how to make a manicure last.

How to Prep Nails for Polish

Prepping nails for polish is just as important as the manicure itself. Here are six prep steps to increase the lifespan of your mani.

Moisturize Your Cuticles

Dry, peeling cuticles can be both ugly and painful, especially when they turn into hangnails. Keep cuticles moisturized, especially during the dry, winter months, with a good cuticle cream or oil. (See my list of the best cuticle oils and creams). Once cuticles are softened, you can use an orangewood stick covered in cotton to push back the cuticles.

Don't have cuticle oil on hand? Use a rich hand cream or even lip balm in a pinch.

Use the Shortest Nail to Guide Your Length

Not sure how short to clip your nails? Use your shortest nail as your guide. Once you've clipped, line each finger up with its opposite, cuticle-to-cuticle, to ensure everything's even.

Prep Nails By Filing

After you clip your nails, file them into your desired shape. Consider filing them into an oval shape, mimicking the curve of your nail base. But you can also opt for a square, coffin, or almond shape. It's really your preference!

Remove Oils From the Nail Before Polishing

Should you moisturize nails before polishing? Yes, but it's important to wipe your nails with a nail polish remover before applying polish—even if you don't have nail polish to remove. Oils left on the nail (like the hand cream or lip balm) will keep polish from sticking.

Wrap the Tips of Your Nails with Polish

When applying polish, be sure to bring it over the front edge of the nail and slightly under the tip. This hack helps prevent chipping.

Two Coats are Better than One

When applying nail polish, two thin coats are better than one thick coat. You'll find it dries faster! If your nails chip, it's best to remove the paint from the nail and start over. If you don't have time, dip your finger in nail polish remover, smooth over the chipped area, and re-apply a topcoat.

How to Maintain a Fresh Polish

Keep your manicure or pedicure looking fresh by adding a new layer of topcoat every other day. A proper manicure should last one to two weeks. A pedicure should last two to four weeks.

How to Deal with Polish Smudges and Nail Stains

Smudged your polish while painting? Try this trick: Dip your finger in nail polish remover, smooth the surface, and repaint with a topcoat.

The secret to keeping nails from smudging is proper drying time. Your nails might feel dry to the touch after 10 minutes, but don't be fooled! It actually takes an entire hour for nails to completely dry.

Fingers stained from nicotine, berries, or dark polish can be fixed with whitening toothpaste like Rembrandt. Brush the skin or nails with a toothbrush.

How to Deal With a Broken or Torn Nail

When a nail breaks, the best thing to do is to cut it off. But here's a trick if the break is low down (and painful, undoubtedly): Cut a tiny strip of gauze from a tea bag, place it over the tear and the paint over with polish. What broken nail?

How to Fake Longer-Lasting Pedicures

Want your pedicure to go the extra mile? Cheat by painting your nails with a neutral or clear polish. Pedicures can last more than a month without obvious chips if you opt for a light pink nail color. It looks great with a tan, and it isn't obvious as the weeks wear on that you haven't had a pedicure in a while. Bright pinks or reds are more obviously show nail growth and chips.

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