Keep your fingernails shiny, chip-free, and fresh looking for weeks

By Jené Luciani
December 10, 2012

A new manicure is just the thing to help you relax for a few minutes and feel like a million bucks-until a day later when you notice that your fresh coat of paint is starting to chip. You know it's not going to last forever, but you don't have to feel like your mani starts to disappear faster than PSY can thrust his hips. What you do before, during, and after your manicure can boost your polish's staying power-and save money. Follow these easy steps and you'll look like you just left the salon no matter when you actually last visited.

Scrub Tooth and Nail

A toothbrush is the ultimate secret weapon when it comes to beauty, doing everything from exfoliating lips to grooming unruly eyebrows to smoothing down baby hairs when you pull your mane back into a high ponytail. Now add making fingernails pearly white to its who-knew-you-could-do-that list. "Remove dirt and grime by brushing nails clean with an old dry toothbrush and whitening toothpaste for a refreshing feeling that whitens and brightens," says Jenna Hipp, celebrity manicurist and insider. After rinsing and thoroughly drying your hands afterward, feel free to moisturize, but be sure to swipe your nails with vodka to remove any oils that will prevent your polish from sticking. While you're at it, switch from cuticle oil to a water-based balm to keep your cuticles moisturized and your polish in place.

Bypass the Bath

Calling all conspiracy theorists: The relaxing hand soak that most nail salons include as part of your manicure may actually be shortening the life of your polish, causing you to come in more often. "As your nails absorb the water, their natural shape expands," says Faina Ritz, founder and chemist of Duri Cosmetics. "Then the nails are polished, and when that water evaporates, the nail contracts, causing the polish to chip and crack." As soothing as the soak may feel, skip it.

Monitor the Heat

Ultraviolet lamps used at salons help your nails dry faster-and cause them to chip faster too. "Polish takes up to twelve hours to fully dry and harden, and any sort of heat during that time will interfere with the curing process," says Shannon Dalbo, beauty trend forecaster for GBS The Beauty Store. Use your salon's air dryer, which uses cool air, to ensure that you don't leave with wet nails. Then, for the next 12 hours, avoid washing with warm or hot water (use cool instead), using saunas or hot showers, and even blowing your nails with your breath since it's warm, Dalbo recommends.

Establish a Baseline

A good topcoat is key to seal your polish, but the first layer on your nails is just as important as the last. "From a chemical point of view, a base coat adheres to nails better than a nail lacquer, provides a seal that the nail polish can attach itself to, and is fortified with ingredients that smooth nail surfaces, allowing polish to glide on evenly so it lasts longer," Ritz says. Add in the bonus of preventing stained nails-always a threat when you use dark colors such as red-and ingredients such as protein and vitamin E to strengthen nails and prevent breakage, splitting, and peeling, and base coat is a no-brainer.

Be Picky About Products

Hand sanitizer has become a mainstay in most purses, especially during cold and flu season, but while it kills germs, it also kills your mani. "The alcohol in hand sanitizers eats away at topcoat and causes your color to fade and dull," Dalbo says. Exfoliators in body and facial scrubs are also a no-no, as they remove both the top layer of your skin and your polish. Wash your hands with a mild antibacterial soap to avoid colds and germs and preserve your mani, and reach for alcohol-free lotion. "If it has a fragrance, it contains alcohol, which leads to drying and chaffing," says Jennifer Lopez's manicurist, Elle.

Oil Before You Toil

Wearing rubber gloves while you do the dishes or clean the bathroom will definitely help your polish stick around longer. For even more lasting power, apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly over the entire nail bed of each finger before you don the gloves, says Athena Solomon, manicurist and founder of A Beautiful Day Salon in Southfield, MI. "The oil-based product will act as a protective coat to prevent polish chipping and may help prevent chafing near the cuticle." This is an ideal practice anytime your hands are in water, she says.


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