A manicure that chips merely hours post-painting can leave you feeling — no pun intended — unpolished. It’s especially annoying when lacquer flakes before an important meeting, which seems to be the case more often than not. If you’re a proponent of the DIY manicure, you might be all-too-familiar with this specific frustration. Moreover, it’s not a coincidence that salon manicures tend to last longer than ones performed over the kitchen sink. Below, Rita Remark, Global Lead Educator for essie®, shares insider secrets for quelling the chip.
Prep Before You Paint
It’s no wonder manicurists meticulously shape and buff: “On a scale of one to 10 in importance, [prepping] is a 10,” asserts Remark. In fact, she calls an unprepped nail the “leading culprit” for a prematurely chipped manicure. “Our nails carry natural oils, along with all of the residue that we acquire throughout the day,” Remark explains. “These interfere with [polish] adhesion, leaving you with a manicure that will undoubtedly last you no more than an evening, regardless of the long-wear claims of the polish you use.”
Similarly, make sure your nails are free from any oil or hand lotion. If you suspect your nails are particularly slippery, swipe a little bit of nail polish remover or 100 percent acetone over the nail’s surface before you paint.
Use the Right Tools
A nail file can create a myriad of nail shapes, but it can also create nail problems if it’s of subpar quality. “An abrasive file can aggravate the tips of your nails, leaving them jagged and worse off than before,” explains Remark. Furthermore, rough edges make polish more prone to chipping. Instead of a coarser file, she suggests snagging a file with a high grit count. “The higher the grit number, the softer the file,” Remark explains. “Any file between 150-240 grit is a sweet spot for most.” Should you have super-sensitive nails (such as those damaged by gel manicures!), you could opt for slightly higher counts.
Don’t Forget the Basics
A basecoat is more than just an extra product; it’s what Remark calls “an absolutely necessary step in a longwearing manicure.” This is true for a few reasons. First, a strengthening formula (such as essie Grow Stronger Basecoat, $9) can improve nail health, which allows for a smooth canvas that’s less prone to peeling. Second, basecoat helps to create “an even stronger polish seal” onto the nail, says Remark.
Steer Clear of Matte
Just as super-matte lipsticks can flake from your lips, matte polishes chip significantly more easily than their glossy counterparts. Says Remark, “the ingredients cause the [matte] lacquer to dry slightly more brittle than other polishes, [ultimately] causing chips.” So, while you might love the look of a powdery finish, it’s best to avoid if you’re aiming for maximum longevity.
Count Your Strokes
There is no “magic number,” of polish strokes for preventing chips, but Remark says there should be no need for more than three or four on each nail. That’s especially true thanks to the “wide, contoured brushes,” of today, which can cover an entire nail in a single swipe (try the Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure®, $6 or Essie Gel Couture, $12). Plus, “polishing with too many strokes makes for a thicker, uneven application which definitely causes chips,” says Remark. “The thicker the polish, the quicker it will separate from the nail and chip, so I'd never recommend more than two coats of color,” she says. “If you can achieve the desired coverage with one coat, even better!”
Lastly, make sure you’re “capping” each nail (i.e. painting horizontally along the top). While it goes without saying that every manicure should end with a clear top coat, Remark suggesting recoating your manicure every few days: “This will re-stabilize your polish and add strength.” That means, those extra slicks of top coat may just extend your manicure’s life.
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Products may have been gifted to the author for the purpose of writing this article.