My Top-Secret Trick for Getting a 2-Week Manicure at Home—No Gels Required

Bobby Bobby
Tynan wears Bobby Bobby y Floss Gloss.

Meet Byrdie Boy Tynan Sinks—beauty writer, makeup experimenter, fragrance aficionado. Ahead, he shares his secret for an at-home manicure that lasts two weeks—yes, really.

Can you believe this? That we’re still quarantined?! I have had it. We've been cooped up for so long that all of my typical beauty routines are out the window. My skin is dealing with stress breakouts. My hair is all types of outgrown. But my nails? My nails look great.

I know you’ve all already soaked/peeled/scraped off your outgrown gel manicures by now because it’s been, how long since we could go to a nail salon? No, don’t tell me. But not all of us get gel manicures! Some of us still use old-school polish—polish that you can’t cure instantly with a UV light. You have to wait for this polish to dry, like our forefathers did.

Yes, we exist.

So, the thing about me is, while I have absolutely no marketable skills, I can nail a great at-home manicure—one that lasts for a full 14 days. It took years of practice and perfecting, but with a few techniques, tools, and the right products, you, too, can have an at-home manicure that lasts.

A 14 Day At-Home Manicure

A 14 Day At-Home Manicure

I’m not a nail tech, but this is what works for me. Before we get into product, here are a few quick tips that help your nail color last before you’re even wearing nail color.

1. Try to grow healthy, strong nails

One big reason that nail polish chips is because, if your nails are weak and pliable, they’re going to bend, and the polish will not bend with it. Chipping is not always the fault of the polish. If you don’t have a strong nail for the polish to cling to, you’re fighting a losing battle. A strengthening base coat is a surefire way to get stronger nails, and yes, they do work. I was skeptical, too, until my nails were hard as hell. We’ll get to my favorite in a sec.

2. File, don’t cut

What I have noticed is that when I want to take down the length of the nail, filing it down instead of using nail clippers or manicure scissors always ends up making the polish last longer. But I think it’s because when you file, there are less hard edges and angles, which makes polish cover the nail edge better, and wear longer. That’s just what works for me. Again, I’m not a nail tech—I’m just gay.

3. Use thin coats

I know that we want to have even, opaque nail color in one pass, but the fact is, going for full-coverage in one coat makes the nail polish too thick to dry down, which opens you up to smudges. Just do yourself a favor and suffer through the first uneven splotchy coat of nail color—the second coat will even things out. I know it may seem simple, but it took me years to figure this out.

4. Orange Wood Sticks

You know those little wooden sticks that have a slanted edge on one side and come to a point on the other? Buy those. They’re stupid cheap and they’re the secret to a clean-looking manicure. They’re the easiest way to clean up the nail if polish wells up onto your cuticle. Just run it around the nail to pick up excess polish and boom– a salon-level manicure from home. I was already decent at doing my own nails when I started using these, but Orange Wood Sticks are what took my nails from an 8 to a 10.

So. Here is the rundown of what I use and why it works (and keep scrolling to find out my secret for a long-lasting manicure).

At-Home Gel-Free Manicure

The Line-Up:

 Tynan Sinks

Duri Rejuvacote Nail Growth System Base Coat, $14

This honestly this sounds way more high-tech than it is. It’s a strengthening base coat and I’ve been using it for years. It’s great! Is it the best strengthening base coat I have ever used? No. Well, let me rephrase. I’ve seen better results, like, freakishly stronger nails, from other base coats. But this one does strengthen, and it’s affordable, and cruelty-free, which is important to me (and not easy to find in nail treatments.)

Bobby Bobby by Floss Gloss
 Tynan Sinks

Floss Gloss Nail Polish, $9

Okay, I’m not going to tell you that Floss Gloss is the only polish that lasts 14 days. Honestly, if you follow these steps, you'll be able to make almost any polish (so long as it’s not like, a really cheap formula) last. Floss Gloss is just my favorite. The brand is amazing, the colors are really unique, the formula is great. I really do think that it has a little more flex to it, allowing it to wear more durably and not chip on you. This is not a claim—this just my opinion, but this is also my article. Floss Gloss is all I wear, and have worn for years. The shade pictured is Bobby Bobby, a light but vibrant powder blue.

Kur by Londontown Gel Genius Top Coat

Kur by Londontown Gel Genius Top Coat, $20

Here’s where you need to start listening. I’ve tried all of the “gel-like” top coats for traditional nail polish and none of them work. You can’t really expect them to wear like gel when they’re…not gel. That said, it's still a big claim to make for a top coat. This one actually works. The Deborah Lippman one is pretty good, too, I used that for a long time. But this took its place.

No, it is not gel but it is the next best thing. It’s pretty thick, so don’t apply a heavy layer or else, again, it will never dry. Just slick a normal layer over your nail and you’ll be good to go. This does take longer to dry than your normal polish or top coat, but it’s worth the wait. I usually give it six minutes. I KNOW—six minutes. What else are you doing? We are literally quarantined.

Seche Vite

Seche Vite Top Coat, $6

Yes, I am telling you to use two top coats. Do you want your nails to last or not?

The thing about the previous topcoat is that, while it really is the plug for long-lasting nails, it stays a little, um, soft, even after it dries down. I started throwing a layer of Seche Vite over it to make things harden up, because Seche Vite dries down to a hard, glossy finish very quickly. That’s when I discovered that layering these is the way you get nails color that won’t budge.

I sort of look at it like Seche Vite is the one that really dries the nails to a hard finish, and is the first layer of protection before the outside world even has a chance to try to chip the nice top coat under it. It protects your nail color from getting smudged or dented immediately and extends the wear of the polish in the long run.

Nail polish enthusiasts either love or hate Seche Vite, and that’s how you know it’s good. Even used on its own, it’s far better than almost any other top coat on the market. It’s also affordable, and (recently?) available in some drugstores. It is really, really worth picking up. Some people claim that it “shrinks” your polish, meaning pulls it away from the cuticle and edge of the nail prematurely, but I’ve worn this for years on its own and never experienced that. Conspiracy theories!

Anyway, that’s it. Easy, right? I literally cannot believe I finally gave away my secret for a two week at-home mani, but hey, we are all at home right now, so it seemed like a good time. And honestly, even though we’re all at home with nothing to do, there’s no reason our nails should be chipping. If you’re going take the time to do them yourself, like our grandparents did, they might as well last.

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