How To Make Nail Polish Last Longer

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Few beauty problems are quite as frustrating as taking the time to do your own nails at home, only to have your manicure chip (or smudge beyond repair) the next day. On the quest to find a solution, Elite Daily spoke with nail artist Georgia Rae, who shares her secrets on how to make nail polish last longer, below. As expected, the causes for a messed up mani are numerous, and can include anything from having oil on your nails before you paint to not giving each coat of polish enough time to fully dry. While following the steps might add a few more minutes to your manicure, the (long-lasting) end results are worth the extra effort.

The Expert

Georgia Rae is a manicurist and minimal nail artist based in London, England. Her expertise in creating clean, healthy nails, combined with her ability to recognize manicure trends, has made her a sought-after source for publications like Glamour UK and Women's Health.

Proper Post-Manicure Care

Getting your manicure to last longer doesn't just come down to your polish technique (though that obviously plays a large part, too). "A major key to making your at-home manicure last longer is in your aftercare," Rae says. "Wear gloves when doing any kind of cleaning [around the house], as detergents can dry out your nails and the polish, causing premature cracking and peeling,” she advises. Painting your nails at home may very well be the perfect excuse to get out of washing the dishes, but it also means that it's best to avoid any activity where prolonged exposure to water is involved, such as swimming or soaking in a bubble bath.

How To Make Nail Polish Last Longer

1. Push Your Cuticles Back

"Before applying nail polish at home, you want to always start with a clean base," Rae says of the importance of prepping your nails. "I would start by gently pushing back the cuticle to remove any dead skin from the nail plate." Tweezerman’s Dual Sided Pushy features a contoured scooper end with buffed edges to allow you to follow the shape of your nails as you gently push your cuticles back. The opposite end of the tool has a smaller pusher that's flat and thin, which is ideal for reaching the corners of your nails. Both sides are made of stainless steel so that you can quickly and easily wipe it down with isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide between each use (which yes, you really do need to do).

Relevant Review: "This cuticle pusher is quality. Works so much better than the plastic one I was using before. The rubber grip is nice when holding it with my left hand, and the pusher forms to your nail bed to easily and effectively get the cuticles pushed back. It is worth it! Buy it!"

2. File & Buff

Next up, you'll want to file your nails to your preferred length and shape. "Keep your nails filed to a length that is manageable for your lifestyle," Rae suggests. "If your nails keep catching on things, chipping is inevitable." She also recommends gently buffing your nails to create a smoother surface. While you probably have a traditional nail file on hand already, if you're in need of a buffer, try the Deborah Lippmann Smooth Operator. The four-in-one tool features a file with four numbered sections — the first section was designed to gently shape your nail tip, the second will buff ridges on your nail's surface, and the third section should be used just before you apply your base coat to completely smooth out your nail. When you don't have time for a full manicure, but still want your nails to look their best, use the fourth section to add a glossy shine (just skip this last step if you're planning to apply polish).

Relevant Review: "Creates [a] smooth surface for healthy nails, and [the] best base for all manicures."

3. Create A Clean Canvas

If this is where you usually reach for a moisturizing hand lotion or oil, don't. Any residue on your nails can mess with the longevity of your manicure. "Finish up your prep by wiping [the nails] with a non-acetone nail polish remover," Rae says, explaining, "This will remove any surface oils without drying out the surrounding skin." Mineral Fusion’s nail polish remover is an acetone-free option that's still strong enough to remove dark colors and glittery polishes. If you struggle with cotton pads leaving lint behind on your nails, which then gets embedded into your polish, switch to lint-free nail wipes.

Relevant Review: "Love the way my nails and cuticles feel after using this (not dried out like with ordinary nail polish removers). Plus, it supposedly preps your nails to extend the life of color, so no need to wash your hands before you put on your first coat."

4. Choose The Right Base

This next part may require a bit of experimenting, as Rae explains that just like our skin and hair, our nails are all different and will respond differently to certain ingredients and products. In general, Rae prefers a base that includes nourishing and strengthening ingredients like argan oil, vitamin E, phycocoral, and silica. Butter London’s Horse Power Nail Rescue Base Coat is a solid option for maintaining optimal nail health, as the base coat is infused with biotin and silica-rich horsetail extract to strengthen your nails, as well as vitamin E to keep them moisturized. Butter London is also cruelty-free, and their base coat is free from 10 potentially harmful chemicals (including formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, and camphor).

Relevant Review: "Since I started using this base coat, my regular color mani stays in place for 10+ days! Doesn't matter what brand of color polish I use on top."

5. Limit Your Coats

How you layer on your polish matters, too, with Rae suggesting you keep it to a maximum of four coats total (one base coat, two coats of color, and one top coat). "Some colors do tend to apply more streaky than others, in which case, you could do three coats of color," Rae says of the exception to the rule. "Polish that hasn't been given adequate time to dry won't last as long, and the thicker it's applied, the longer it takes to dry," she adds of one more essential rule to follow. "Keep the coats thin and glide them over the nail using light pressure, [and] wait approximately five minutes between each layer." OPI Nail Lacquer tends to offer more opaque shades (so there’s less of a risk of streaking), and their wide brushes make it easy to coat your nails smoothly and evenly — even when working with a sheer color like ‘Put It In Neutral,’ the pink-beige shade shown here that you may have seen on Rae's Instagram.

Editor’s note: Check out this expert-curated guide to the best long-lasting nail polishes.

Relevant Review: "I cannot say enough about the true colors and long-lasting effect of OPI nail lacquer. […] OPI lasts longer than any other [nail polish] I've tried. I have multiple bottles of different colors and have thrown away all the other brands I've bought."

6. Be More Strategic About Your Top Coat

"Top coat acts as a seal, and keeping this intact protects against chipping," Rae says of this all-important step. "I find capping the free edge of the nail and reapplying a top coat every two to three days extends the wear of normal nail polish," she shares of one of her top tips for making your manicure last longer. If you haven't found your go-to top coat yet, Essie’s Gel Setter Top Coat is a classic option that adds a glossy, gel-like finish to your nails, though the brand also makes a chip-resistant top coat (as well as a mattifying option).

Relevant Review: "I can't live without this product. I have it on my monthly subscribe and save. With two coats of any color and one coat of this, my nails look professionally done. […] It dries super-fast, too. I reapply it every two to three days and maintain my home mani for about a week and a half without any chipping."

7. Use A Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oils are packed with vitamins and moisturizers that can help strengthen your nails, which is why Rae recommends applying one "as often as possible throughout the day, but most importantly, last thing at night." (The only time you won't want to apply any oil is just before your manicure, as it can interfere with the polish sticking.) CND Solar Oil is a beauty editor favorite for its simple and effective formula that uses a combination of vitamin E and sweet almond, jojoba, and rice bran oils to nourish and strengthen your nails (it's also Amazon reviewer-approved, with more than 15,000 five-star ratings).

Relevant Review: "This stuff is awesome! It smells really good to me, like almond oil. […] I have been struggling with really bendy, peel-y, split nails for the past few years, and have not been able to grow them or keep polish on them. I'm not kidding when I say that this stuff transformed my nails in what felt like overnight."


Georgia Rae, a manicurist and minimal nail artist based in London, England