Chips are for potatoes, not nails!
May 16, 2008 2:06 PM   Subscribe

How do I get the same long-lasting result with an at-home manicure that I do when I go to an upscale salon?

When I get my nails done at a nearby upscale salon, they look lovely and the polish won't chip for a good long time. When I do my nails myself at home, sometimes the polish starts chipping the next day! What am I doing wrong?

I use my hands a LOT (typing), no longer can get away with the Punk Rawk chipped-polish look, and can't afford to get a professional manicure every time. What can I do to make my paint job last? (I've already learned that OPI brand polish is The Best.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Thin layers of polish, don't just heap it on. And, most importantly to make it look professional, a base and top coat. (I don't know anything about brands, though...a quick google gives me this; maybe it's a good place to start.)
posted by phunniemee at 2:27 PM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, OPI is the best/longest lasting for me as well (although my sister swears by Essie). Try both, and pick a fav brand. They both have bajillions of colors. (but woo! OPI!)

Ok, this is what I do. Not that often. Because I bite my nails sometimes. But it works for me when I need it to!

Don't just file your nails to the shape that you want, but get yourself one of those 3- or 4-sided nail buffer things, and use it to buff the surface of each nail. I wouldn't use the side that makes your nails shiny though, the color will "stick" better to nails that have a rougher surface. The most important step of any good self-manicure (for me) is a nice hand wash/exfoliation (I use the same stuff I use on my face) and then some good hand lotion. Let it soak in and rub it into your cuticles and skin surrounding each nail. Then wait 10 minutes or so so your nails aren't greasy. Don't soak your nails in water before you do your nails - your nails will absorb the water (and expand) and then the water won't have anywhere to go. Do 2 coats of color and a clear topcoat. No more. I used to put a clear coat on every day or two after a manicure, but then I found that it just made the whole thing thicker and more prone to chipping/peeling. Then let it dry for as long as you can stand before using your hands again. (I've read that it takes a few hours for nail polish to fully set, so maybe carefully pop a dvd in, or catch up with a friend on the phone using a headset?)

Worst case scenario - it does chip, but you have to color that your nails were painted, instead of that bottle sitting on the shelf in a salon! So touch it up, and once it's dry, put a bit more of the clear coat on and around the chipped area to kind of "connect" it to the original color.

(I am not a pro manicurist, so maybe my advice isn't "right", but it's what works for me. Also I think this is my girliest Ask answer ever.)
posted by AlisonM at 2:33 PM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's good that you already buy a good brand. The other things that make polish last longer, in my experience, are:

-Making sure your nail polish is not too old (buy from a beauty supply store instead of a convenience store which might not turn over the product as often)

-Use a topcoat (also of good quality polish)

-If you are really serious, you can get one of those UV hardeners that they use in salons
posted by rmless at 2:34 PM on May 16, 2008

Oooh, yes phunniemee speaks the truth. Two thin coats is a million times better than one thick coat.
posted by AlisonM at 2:34 PM on May 16, 2008

Always use a base coat and a top coat. The base coat will give the polish a smooth surface to go on, and it also protects your nails from the discoloration that polish can sometimes cause (especially the darker colors). The top coat will protect the polish itself. There are different varieties of top coats, take a look at the packaging to see what they are. Some are more geared towards a high-shine finish, others facilitate a faster drying period, etc. My favorite is by Sally hansen, and for the life of me I can't remember the specific name but it comes in a silver-chrome bottle.

Agreed that two thin coats are ideal, rather than one thick one.

I have found that light, pale colors hide chipping better than darker ones. A single tiny chip on red nail polish is really obvious, but a small one on, say, a very pale pink, will be less easy to notice. That can buy you a couple of extra days. When I wear bolder colors it's with the understanding that I'll have to do more maintenance.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 2:50 PM on May 16, 2008

I firmly believe it's the roughing-up of the nail that makes the polish stick like that. After all, you do the same to paint non-porous surfaces. Those buffers that AlisonM mentioned really are the bomb, though you can buy the same foam buffers the salons use at any beauty supply store. You have to be really good at getting the cut ends of your nails buffed to just the right buffyness, though, or you end up chipping.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:54 PM on May 16, 2008

Everything AlisonM said, EXCEPT wipe the surface of your fingernails down with alcohol or some other astringent after applying the lotion, or the polish won't adhere.

The biggest difference in wear for me in professional manicures seems to be that they rough up the tops of my fingernails before applying base coat & etc., which I never do.
posted by GardenGal at 3:01 PM on May 16, 2008

I will 2nd what everyone else has said, as well as recommending products. These are kind of expensive if you buy them in-store, but cheap online, and they are all awesome and totally worth it.

For basecoat, if you are going to be wearing a sheer nailpolish or just want to cover up ridges in your nails, I cannot rave enough about Barielle Nail Camouflage. The best way to make the polish stick to your nails for longer is to have a "rubberized" base coat -- I think the best two are CND Stickey basecoat and Orly Bonder. Stickey started to make my nails peel and I switched to Bonder, but other people don't seem to have this problem. Basecoat is the #1 thing that makes my polish last longer.

For topcoat, you want something that makes your polish dry FAST and SHINEY. I have two recommendations for really nice fast-drying, self-leveling (no lumps) glassy topcoats, but there a bunch of options. My favourite is Poshe topcoat but other people like Seche Vite topcoat (on the same page). Apply them thick, and they'll seal into a glassy, hard finish in a matter of minutes. I wouldn't wash dishes directly afterwards - but they are dry to the touch.

Good luck! Nailpolish is awesome.
posted by emyd at 3:24 PM on May 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

While this doesn't directly answer your question, it may solve your problem. I have been using Incoco dry nail polish and really like the fact that it lasts forever (nearly twice as long as a salon manicure and probably 3-5 times longer than when I attempt it at home). And my nails look as good or better. My nails look great for about 10 days, though they claim up to 14. And I am pretty rough on them, like you. The polish is flexible, not hard like liquid polish, so I think it adapts better if your nails bend or take any pressure like typing. Because it's dry polish, there's no chance of messing it up smudge-wise or anything, which was always a problem for me. Also, if one does chip, there's a few extra in the pack you can just "stick on" a new one and it takes no time at all. The only downside is that Walgreen's is the only place that sells them. They are not like Lee press-on nails or anything like that, it's actual pre-painted nail polish (with base, color and top coats) that adheres to your nail. I swear I don't shill for them, I'm just really happy with the product.
posted by ml98tu at 4:42 PM on May 16, 2008

Lots of good advice on here already, but I'd like to add that if you use a light, sheer color (my favorite right now is an opalescent pale pink), any chipping will be less noticeable.
Also, if you want some dry nail polish like ml98tu recommended, Avon sells them.
posted by LolaGeek at 5:56 PM on May 16, 2008

To get the pro look at home you have to do the work and use the same tools. Soaking is a great way to soften the cuticles then file and shape. You must use one of those buffers sparingly as they thin and weaken the nail. Then exfolate and mosturize. Use nail polish remover to clean the cream from the nails then apply a thin base coat, two thin coats of colour and one top coat. Wait a few minutes between coats and when done put a small drop of cuticle oil on top. This keeps the cuticle moist and gives you protection against smudges. Polish takes over 3 hours to cure so take it easy. Also I agree with OPI, great product. I have soft nails that tend to chip and this procedure lasts the longest for me.
posted by saradarlin at 11:15 PM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

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