Professional manicures can be ridiculously frustrating: who among us hasn’t watched her polish chip or smudge within minutes of walking out the salon door? It seems like that—or paying top dollar for gel (a.k.a. shellac) polish, which lasts for two weeks but leaves nails brittle and damaged—is the only option anymore.
Thankfully for those of us who don’t want to fork over $30+ on a super-temporary paint job, the internet offers a plethora of knowledge on DIY manis. Sure, nothing quite beats the few minutes you sit in a nail salon chair and pretend to be rich and famous while someone else worries about your outward appearance for you, but let’s be real: cheaper is often better.
Slapping on a coat of paint isn’t the same as a full-on manicure. So, instead of a quick color update, try this:
Step One: Remove any old polish.
Painting over old polish will never look good; start with a clean slate.
Step Two: Clip your nails, file to an even shape on each nail, buff, and push back your cuticles.
Even if you don’t have time for a full DIY mani, make sure you clip your nails and push back your cuticles regularly. Depending on how quickly your nails grow and how strong they are, the frequency may vary; I pull out my nail clippers once a week, but no matter how often your nails need a trim, get in the habit of a regular cut so they don’t break or grow at different rates. Pushing back your cuticles helps combat potential infections and other damage to your nails.
Step Three: Moisturize your nailbeds.
Moisturizing your hands once a day can help prevent torn cuticles, hangnails, and broken nails. You can take this to the extreme by wearing lotion-infused gloves at night, but a simple lotion, oil (such as coconut oil) or some petroleum jelly will work just fine.
On the same topic, avoid anything that dries out your skin, such as overexposure to water (such as washing dishes without wearing rubber gloves or frequent swimming, especially in salt water), or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Anything that makes your skin feel dry and cracked will have a similarly negative effect on nails. Moisturizing your skin regularly is always important, but for healthier nails, focus on those hands.
Step Four (just for fun): Soak your hands in warm water.
Putting marbles or flower petals in a shallow bowl or dish will simulate a nail salon-level mani. Try this Tumblr post to make a hand soak that’s tailor-made for your nail needs.
Step Five: After drying your hands and nails, choose a polish you love and paint away!
Out of ideas? I asked a few friends to try out various polishes and here’s what they found:
Maybelline ColorShow Nail Polish: Dried to the touch after six minutes; started chipping day three; was ready to remove day four; removed easily with basic nail polish remover.
Essie Nail Polish: Dried to the touch after five minutes (dried completely in under 20); started chipping day three; was ready to remove day six; removed easily with basic remover.
Sally Hansen Double Duty Polish (with Sally Hansen Tough as Nails): “Top and Base Coat” dried to the touch within two minutes, but when paired with another polish, drying time was slow and paint smudged easily; the polish started chipping within two hours due to not being completely dried; was ready to remove after 24 hours because of chips and bubbling; removed easily with basic remover.
Sally Hansen MiracleGel Polish: Dried quickly (approximately five minutes); started chipping day four; was not chipped badly enough to remove until two weeks later; removed easily with normal remover.
No matter what you decide to do, having healthy, strong nails is key for 24/7 fingernail beauty. When you stick to a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, moisturize regularly, and keep your nails trimmed and filed always, you can never go wrong.
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