There's something about having perfect nails that just makes it seems like you have your sh*t together. We all know at least one woman whose nails are perpetually shaped and painted with precision, not a hangnail or air bubble in sight. Meanwhile, the rest of our nails look like they were painted by a kindergartner. Le sigh.
What kind of magic are these girls with gorgeous nails working to get their tips in perfectly manicured shape? As it turns out, it's not magic at all. We spoke to six women with some of the prettiest nails on the planet (so pretty, in fact, that they made a career out of it). Keep scrolling to read their secrets for flawless nails!
1. They Treat Their Hands as Well as Their Faces
"I always recommend using SPF on the backs of hands during the day and also applying a little extra of whatever serums you use on your face at night to the tops of your hands will keep aging at bay. Also, follow up washing and using hand sanitizers with an application of lotion to keep skin from becoming dehydrated. My personal favorite is OPI's Avoplex High Intensity Hand and Nail Cream ($8)." — April Foreman, celebrity nail technician for OPI
"Every couple weeks, I like to give myself a 'hand facial' after a simple manicure. I make my own sugar scrub, apply tons of cuticle oil and lotion, and relax with some gloves on. It makes a huge difference in how my hands look!" — Chelsea King, Revlon global nail stylist
2. They Maintain Their Cuticles (but Never Pick at Them)
"Never neglect your cuticles! Keep them soft and healthy by adding Côte's Organic Argan Oil ($28) after a manicure. For an added benefit, argan oil also keeps your hands moisturized for a more youthful look." — Leah Yari and Mary Lennon, co-founders of Côte
"Did you know that each person has a cuticle type? There are three cuticle types: low-to-no cuticle maintenance (believe it or not, there are some people without dry cuticles or hangnails); self-maintaining cuticles, where you can easily push back cuticles after a shower and trim the few hangnails that pop up weekly; and uncontrollable cuticles, which should be left for the professionals. A weekly or every-two-week manicure is needed to soak, trim, and keep those cuticle at bay. But whatever type you fall into, daily use of cuticle oil—I love Essie's Apricot Cuticle Oil ($9)—will be your BFF.
And please never ever pick or bite your cuticles." — Michelle Saunders, Essie celebrity manicurist
"Moisturizing is key. I like to save moisturizing the cuticles as the last step in the manicure to ensure that there is absolutely no oil on the nail bed when polishing. Personally, I'm obsessed with OPI's Avoplex Cuticle Oil to Go ($9). It comes in a pen applicator with a brush that allows you to add moisture just where you need it while keeping it off the nails." — April Foreman
3. They Always Prep Their Nails Before Painting
"Prepping is essential for a perfect manicure. In order to ensure a long lasting, chip-free manicure, cleansing the nail plate before applying product is key. I like ChipSkip by OPI ($14). It sops up residual oils and moisture to boost the base coat's adhesion to nails." — April Foreman
"It's important to cleanse the nail prior to applying polish to get it to really 'stick.' I recently tried using disposable mascara wands dipped in polish remover to scrub any oil away after seeing it at a salon; it really helps to get the nails clean." — Chelsea King
"Always start with clean, dry nail beds to ensure that your polish sticks and the color stays! We like to start with Côte's Strengthening Base & Top Coat ($21), and continue reapplying every two to three days to extend your wear and keep that finish shiny." — Leah Yari and Mary Lennon
"Once a week, remove all polish and massage a nail oil into the nail plate, cuticle, and nail tips, including underneath the free edge. Let the oil absorb completely then apply a base coat, like this one by Zoya ($12) right over to lock it into the nail plate. It works best if using an oil that starts as a gel and melts down to an oil. This will absorb and fill in any microscopic cracks in the nail plate.” — Rebecca Isa, Zoya creative director
4. They Find Their Most Flattering Nail Shape
"When searching for the ideal shape and length, it's important to remember to match your nails to your lifestyle to prevent breaking or chipping. Is fitness first in your life? Are you the kind of person that can't go to bed without a sparkly clean house? If so, then an active length (barely any free edge) and soft oval shape (no sharp edges) is for you. If fashion and trends are always on your mind and you have more nail polish than your local beauty supply store, you can opt for a longer nail with any shape you like." — Michelle Saunders
5. They Take Nail-Nourishing Supplements
"Nails are mostly made up of keratin, which is the same protein found in hair. I know everyone has heard of hair, skin, and nail vitamins! They work because nails like moisture and should be nourished from the inside out. Even though nails are dead (that's why they don't hurt when you cut them) they are also porous (like hair) and absorb products. So not only should you apply a quality nail oil daily (even if you have polish on), you should take them orally, too, like a good omega-3 ($24). It really makes a difference in the overall health of the nail." — Michelle Saunders
6. They Rely on Nude Nail Polish
"Girls with perfect nails always know their perfect nude hue, and they most likely have two, depending on the season, since skin tone changes. This particular nude will make nails look healthy, glossy, and, well, perfect. OPI's Put It in Neutral, Passion, and Coney Island Cotton Candy ($10) are in constant rotation in my arsenal." — April Foreman
7. They Use High-Quality Products
"Just like anything we use on our bodies, it's important to use reputable products on your nails. Nails can dry out easily, and if that happens, polish will not adhere; it will chip quickly. Most importantly, use a nourishing base coat followed by two coats of nail color and a quick-drying topcoat. Sometimes I use two coats of topcoat to really seal the manicure. Are you a gel user? If so, a proper gel manicure can keep your nails perfect for weeks. Just make sure you go to a quality salon." — Michelle Saunders
“Use one layer of any Zoya Naked Manicure Perfector ($10) underneath your colored polish. It will give a glass smooth surface for your polish to sit on, mimicking the look of a gel manicure. Plus, it extends polish wear and significantly reduces chipping, in addition to long-term treatment benefits." — Rebecca Isa
8. They Never Use Their Nails as Tools
"Have you ever tried to scrape something of a pan while cleaning? Or used your nail as a screwdriver? Don't do those things if you want perfect nails. Here are a few things to keep in your 'protecting your nails' kit: rubber gloves ($5) for washing dishes and other house-cleaning duties; hand cream ($20) for daily moisture; a nail file ($11) for keeping those nails smooth and shape; nail clippers ($9) to keep nails trimmed to a length to accommodate your lifestyle and to remove pesky hangnails; and a good nourishing base coat ($10)." — Michelle Saunders
9. They Don't Skimp on Salon Visits
"Remember this: Nails have best friends; they are called manicurists." — Michelle Saunders
Are you terrible at painting your own nails? These 10 products are meant for you.