Here, common mistakes standing between you and a longer-lasting manicure, plus, simple tricks for nailing a DIY job every time.
You cut your cuticles
Cleaning up the little pieces of skin around your nail is one thing. But when it comes to your cuticle—or the thin, delicate skin that sits at the base of your nail bed—keep those snippers away. First, it’s fruitless labour. “The more you cut them, the more they grow,” says OPI’s co-founder and executive vice president Suzi Weiss-Fischmann. But even more importantly, cuticles are technically scarring tissue that keeps bacteria and other contaminants out of your nail bed, and cutting them could break that important barrier. Yikes.
Nail it: Next time you feel the urge to snip, simply apply a few drops of nourishing cuticle oil and push them back with a cuticle pusher or your towel after a warm shower. “Your cuticle is very fine skin and it’s hard to keep it moisturized, especially in the winter,” says Weiss-Fischmann. “If they’re not moisturized they can crack and tear, which, as you probably know, can be extremely painful.” Keep a bottle of cuticle oil at your desk or on your bedside table and add a few drops whenever they feel dry. Or for a DIY option, swipe on some coconut or olive oil from the kitchen after the dishes are done.
You skip the base coat
Ever notice how much nicer your lipstick goes on when you start with a swipe of balm? The same goes for base coat. “It prepares the nail surface to receive a nice, smooth first layer of polish while preventing staining,” says Weiss-Fischmann. And since it acts as a sticky middleman between your polish and your nail, your favourite shade will last a lot longer.
Nail it: Paint a very thin layer of base coat on freshly buffed and filed nails, and immediately follow with polish (base coats are designed to dry very quickly, so no need to wait). If you’re only fixing one nail, apply the base coat and wait 60 seconds before applying polish.
You file back and forth
The tip of your nail is the oldest, most fragile part, and filing back and forth can create splitting, peeling, or even breakage.
Nail it: File in one direction. Rest the edge of the file on one outside corner of the nail and sweep the file across the tip, stopping at the middle. Repeat in that direction until desired shape is achieved, then switch sides.
You start painting after you apply lotion
Finishing your pre-polish manicure with an indulgent dollop of lotion is the key to healthy, young-looking hands. Unfortunately, it creates an oily barrier between your porous nail plate and your polish.
Nail it: After you moisturize, soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and swipe over your nails just before adding base coat or nail hardener.
You go overboard with the buffer
Buffing is an essential step in your manicure since smoothing out ridges erases polish stains and helps polish adhere. But scrubbing too hard with the buffer can make nails more pliable or even break them.
Nail it: You only want to smooth out the top layer of your nail. Using a four-sided buffer, lightly buff the entire surface of the nail with the coarsest side, and follow with the next three sides until they’re nice and shiny. Then paint on a nail hardener to help bolster nails.