How to Make Your Manicure Last Longer

How to Make Your Manicure Last Longer

Depending on its style, a manicure can look professional, playful, or anything in between. However, no manicure looks its best when nails break or polish chips. A manicure can last for weeks with proper shaping, polishing, and care.
Frequent hand-washing is good for hygiene, but water is the enemy of a long-lasting manicure. Fingernails are made primarily of keratin, a tough, fibrous protein. Like other body tissues, they also contain some moisture, usually about 20 percent in healthy fingernails. When they are immersed in water, fingernails expand; as they dry, they contract. Frequent trips in and out of water cause nails to change shape more rapidly, leading to brittleness and peeling. A long-lasting manicure can withstand soap and water because the polish bonds to the nails more closely, leaving less room for water to find its way under the polish and lift it.
Nail breakage is another manicure killer. Natural fingernails can become brittle or soft, leading to damage from common actions such as reaching for a car door handle or opening a soda can. Shaping nails properly can help keep accidents from spoiling the symmetrical look of a manicure. Nail strengtheners and conditioners may also help build more durable fingernails, but treating a manicure well is the key to its longevity.

Shaping the Nails

After removing any old polish, a fresh manicure begins with trimming and reshaping the nails. Manicurists use two tools for these tasks: nail clippers and emery boards. Clippers quickly take long nails down to size, but with improper use, they can cause damage to nails. Hold clippers at a slight angle rather than cutting directly across the nail. A straight cut bends the curved nail into an unnaturally flat shape and leads to splitting. Use clippers to get nails to the right approximate length and finish shaping by filing with an emery board.
Emery boards feel like stiff sticks of sandpaper and are used in much the same way, gradually filing off rough edges and jagged shapes. When using an emery board, file in one direction instead of a sawing motion. Use the rough side of the emery board first, then use the finer side to create a smoother edge.
Any dramatic nail shape such as pointed or square tips will be more fragile than a basic oval. For a longer-lasting manicure, mirror the natural curve of the cuticle in the shape of the nail's free edge. This shape is not only the most durable option, it is also one of the most flattering. Hold the nail being shaped up to the light frequently to check for symmetry; it is easier to see irregularities in the nail's curve with a light behind it.

Cleaning Nails Before a Manicure

After filing, the nails must be cleaned thoroughly to remove nail dust and any oily residue that may have accumulated on the fingernails. Moisturizers are good for the skin, but they can keep polish from adhering well to the nails, so use a conventional soap instead of a moisturizing formula. Pay particular attention to scrubbing the nails while washing the hands.
Some professional and amateur manicurists soak nails for a short time after shaping and before polishing. While soaking in mildly soapy water makes cuticles softer and easier to push away from the nail bed, it can also cause nails to soften and expand. Those who choose to soak should immerse the nails for just a few minutes until cuticles are softened. Gently push back the cuticles with a towel.
Rinse any remaining soaking liquid from the hands and dry them thoroughly. Finish by wiping acetone-based nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol on bare nails to remove any traces of soap or oil. These liquids evaporate quickly, leaving the nails completely dry and ready for polish.

Applying Nail Polish

Nail polish not only beautifies hands, it can also strengthen nails. A manicure can end with a trim and a soak, but most people who get manicures opt to get a few coats of polish. Buffing is an alternative for unpolished nails, but avoid the buffer if the nails will be polished. A glossy nail bed cannot hold polish as well as a clean, unbuffed one.

Base Coat

Many home manicurists skip this step, but a base coat is essential to making a manicure last. This thin, clear polish smooths surface irregularities, prevents nail polish from staining nails, and helps color adhere. Apply the base coat from the cuticle to the free end of the nail in long strokes. When excess base coat peels away from the cuticle, it can take polish with it, so neatness counts. Let the base coat dry thoroughly before applying polish. This step should not take long; base coat formulas are designed to dry quickly.

Nail Polish

Nail polish comes in a vast array of colors and textures. Manicurists often recommend light, neutral hues for the longest-lasting manicure because small chips and cracks will not show as easily. More vibrant shades may show chips more readily, but they last as long as a more subdued polish, so color preference is largely a matter of personal preference.
Nail polish is available in two formats: conventional polish and gel polish.

Nail Enamel

Traditional nail polish goes on quickly and requires no special assistance or equipment to cure. It is also widely available. A standard drugstore or department store nail polish can last up to a week and a half with proper application and maintenance.
For professional-looking polish, build up the color gradually in thin coats. Two coats of polish are usually sufficient, but some colors look more vibrant with three coats. Apply polish in long, quick strokes to avoid disturbing the polish beneath it. Finish each coat of polish by running the side of the brush along the free edge of the nail. This technique wraps the polish around the tip and helps prevent chipping.

Gel Polish

Gel polish can last for up to three weeks without chipping or flaking, but it requires a specialized ultraviolet light box to bond to the nails. It also needs a gel base coat designed expressly for use with gel colors. The color range for gels is also not as great as that of conventional polishes.
Some gel polishes have a thicker texture than traditional enamels and take some practice to apply smoothly. However, they are fundamentally the same as traditional polishes in application. The chief difference is that gel polish must go under the lamp to cure after each coat. Gel polish kits come with instructions for the home user, so follow the manufacturer's directions for use to get the best results.

Top Coat

Much like a car's clear coat, a top coat provides high shine and a layer of protection for the color coat. Look for products that protect against chipping. Quick-drying formulas can make a manicure much faster while providing the same protection as conventional top coats. Apply the top coat from base to tip as with other polishes and finish by wrapping the clear polish around the free edge of the nail slightly.

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Maintaining a Manicure

Proper shaping and polish application goes a long way toward making a manicure last, but even well-polished nails need a little special care to retain their color and shine.
A day or two after the manicure, apply another layer of quick-drying top coat to refresh the look of the polish and affix any loose edges that may have begun to turn into chips. This step alone can extend a manicure's life considerably.
Washing hands is unavoidable, especially for some professionals who must wash them many times a day. For those whose hands are frequently immersed in water, a gel manicure may be the best option. The gel polish protects the nails from constant swelling and shrinking. Use moisturizer frequently after hand-washing to prevent cuticles from becoming dry. Healthy cuticles contribute to healthy nails.
Misusing fingernails as tools can also shorten the life of a manicure. They should not double as screwdrivers, bottle openers, or staple removers. Whenever possible, use tools to do these tasks and spare the wear on fingernails.
Gloves are kind to manicures. Wear them when working in the yard, washing dishes, or doing other work that can be hard on nails. Gloves also keep hands from developing calluses or blisters.

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Buying Manicure Supplies on eBay

From the All Categories section on the eBay main page, locate the Health & Beauty section. It is also listed as a department in the Fashion section. Find the Nail Care & Polish header on the left side of the page and click on it to bring up an array of manicure supplies.


A professional-looking manicure is an excellent accessory, but only if it is well-maintained. Keep a manicure looking fresh for weeks even without a trip to the nail salon. With practice, the techniques the professionals use to make a salon manicure last can work at home.

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