Extending the Life of Polish

chippedThere’s nothing worse than chipped nail polish. It’s embarrassing, it’s unprofessional looking at work and if you’ve spent hours doing intricate nail art it’s down right heart breaking. So how can we extend the life of our manicures and prevent chipping? I’ve collected a few tips over time and thought I would put them together into a blog post.

Before applying polish:

  • First ensure the nail plate is free of oils – some fragranced or ‘nourishing’ polish removers contain oils or glycerine that will prevent a fresh polish from adhering properly so do check the ingredients list. Wash your hands thoroughly with mild soap and water or clean the nails with a nail cleanser solution. White vinegar is a good household substitute for this if your remover is not a more ‘basic’ one.
  • Filing your nails into shape using the correct technique can help prevent nail breakage which will prolong the life of your manicure, check out my post on how to file your nails for a full explanation of filing.
  • If you want to push back your cuticles at home I suggest a hoof stick rather than an orange stick or other implement, the hoof stick is softer and you’re less likely to do yourself any damage. Never ever cut your cuticles! If your cuticles are a mess, see a manicurist.
  • Gently buff the nail with a 4-way or block buffer to remove the shine – this dries out the nail plate slightly which improves adhesion. Don’t be tempted to use a nail file instead of a buffer, it will take off too much.
  • Don’t shake the bottle of base/polish/top coat as this will form bubbles which will affect the look and life of the manicure. If the polish contains a mixing ball hold it by the lid and gently move the base in a circular motion. If there is no mixing ball rub it gently between your palms as if rolling a plasticine sausage.

Base Coat:

Don’t be tempted to skip on the base coat. Base coat protects your natural nails from staining and is designed to ‘grab’ onto the nail plate in a way that polish its self is not. Apply a second coat at the tips and don’t forget to seal the free edge (do this with every layer, as illustrated below.)


Yes, I sacrificed a nail for you guys! The unsealed nail will likely chip or wear while the others will last much longer.

A good quality base coat is important. My favourites are Morgan Taylor’s ‘Stick With It’ and CND ‘Stickey Base Coat’.
Another brilliant idea I have to credit to a friend who plays wheelchair basket ball is using OPI ‘Nail Envy’ as a base and top coat. This has the added benefit of being good for your nails at the same time!
If you want to be really thorough, apply OPI ‘Bond Aid’ before your base coat.

Applying Colour:

  • When you apply your colour apply two thinner coats rather than one thick one. This is more effective and less likely to peel off.
  • Try to use as few brush strokes as possible on each nail, no more than three to cover the nail plate. The best technique is considered to be one stripe up the middle and then a stripe up each side of that to complete. Cap off/seal the free edge with polish as above.
  • Avoid getting any polish on the cuticles, the polish doesn’t adhere to the skin as well as it does to the nail plate so having the edge of your polish on the cuticle will cause lifting and peeling.
  • Leave the polish to dry properly before applying top coat. Polish takes longer to dry than either base or top, in fact to dry out completely it can take up to 24 hours! I’m not going to ask you to wait that long, but do try to wait a few minutes until the polish is firmly set and not merely ‘touch dry’. This will not only help the life of your manicure, it will also prevent you from accidentally ruining nail art with streaking or contaminating the clear top coat with bright colours.

Top Coat:

A good quality top coat can work wonders or if you have the time you can set a special gel top coat such as Ciaté Geltox over your normal polishes. For regular polish top coats I recommend Seche Vite or try out my friends tip and use the OPI ‘Nail Envy’ as both base and top coat. Again, don’t forget to cap off the tip!

After they’re done:

  • Wear gloves for household jobs such as washing up or cleaning, having your hands in and out of water a lot significantly shortens the life of polish.
  • Stop using your nails as tools! Using your nails as tools not only causes chipping and peeling but can actually damage your nails themselves causing problems such as onycholysis (nail separation).
  • You can apply another layer of topcoat every two to three days to help prevent chipping and re-enliven the shine. Even if you don’t cover the whole nail, do seal the tips.
  • Avoid hand sanitiser. Alcohol based hand sanitisers ruin top coat, they also dry out the skin on your hands. Wash using a mild hand soap instead and follow up with a good hand cream.
  • Regular application of a hand & nail cream or a nail oil will help keep your nails in good condition and prevent breaking and flaking and thus prolong the life of your polishes.
  • If the very tip of your polish does chip or wears off, fear not! Gently file the exposed nail down to the polish and seal in with a new layer of top coat OR simply add a contrasting French tip and seal that in. Ta dah – brand new mani!

I hope this list of tips helps you make the best of your polish, if you have any other tips do add them in the comments!

One thought on “Extending the Life of Polish

  1. Great advice, I hardly ever do mine (in and out of the water too much) but am hoping to for next week – I shall be sure to see my tips sealed, thanks!

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