From glittery to graphic, nail art is showing no signs of slowing down just yet (
see our favourite celebrity nail art in this gallery). But getting your nails looking worthy of a close-up (with
nail art or without) calls for more than a visit to your favourite nail artist or sitting down with your polishes and tools to create a masterpiece. You need to start with strong healthy nails and cuticles (for that you’ll need to use your cuticle oil, file and base coat diligently)—and these habits could be damaging your digits. Your nail rehab starts now.

Bad nail habit #1: Abusing your hangnails

You’re sitting on the subway and notice a hangnail and absentmindedly start tugging at it until it tears off or use your trusty teeth to bite it off (gross, we know, but we’ve all done it. Admit it). It might seem harmless and it gets the job done, but you could be risking getting an infection. Wait until you have a nail clipper or cuticle nipper handy and snip it off cleanly and safely, says Scratch My Back Nail Studio’s Laura Merzetti. “And hydration is the best way to prevent hangnails—
use a cuticle oil such as CND Solar Oil daily,” she adds. “Many people get their nails done every couple of weeks and think that’s all they need to do to maintain their nails, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth.” Using cuticle oil not only benefits the skin surrounding your nails but the nail plate itself, she says, helping to keep the nail flexible (which makes them much tougher). “You wouldn’t dream of getting your hair coloured and not using conditioner on it—think of cuticle oil as conditioner for your nails. It’s a huge investment with huge returns,” says Merzetti.

Bad nail habit #2: Skipping base and topcoat.

You’re in a hurry and what you really want from a manicure is the nail colour so you often skip the basecoat and the topcoat. But you’re only wasting time and nail polish if you do this. “A basecoat does two main things: it acts as a barrier to prevent colour staining your nails and it helps colour adhere to your nails, ensuring a longer lasting manicure,” says Merzetti. She compares basecoat to the primer you’d use on a wall before painting a room. As for topcoat, it’s your best bet for a durable, shiny finish—so unless you’re a fan of chipped polish (and we don’t think you are), you should invest the time to apply this to finish your nail job.

Why you shouldn’t be picking off your nail art gel manicure at home and why you need to ease up on the buffing on the next page … 
Bad nail habit #3: Peeling off your gel-hybrid manicure.

Your Shellac or Gelish manicure has started to lift and you simply can’t resist picking at it (your nail art suddenly has taken on a more shattered look than before). Or perhaps you simply don’t have time to get into the nail bar to have it removed. But picking at your gel polish could lead to long-lasting damage. “These are called soak-off gel polishes, not peel-off!” says Merzetti, who also works with CND as an education ambassador. “We see this bad habit regularly at the salon. All nail products are formulated to bond only to the keratin layer of your nails, which is found in the top few layers. Peeling off your polish removes these layers and it will cause less than stellar future applications,” she says. Your nail will be thinner, weak, prone to peeling and cracks, breaks and infections, adds Merzetti. So keep your hands off of them, and help falling victim to it by keeping a regular maintenance appointment at your nail salon.

Bad nail habit #4: Overbuffing

You love the shine off of your smooth, buffed nails—but there is such a thing as buffing too much. “Overbuffing causes nails to become thin, weak and prone to breaking, peeling and infection,” says Merzetti. Buff with restraint. “If you’ve ever felt that ‘hot spot’ when buffing your nails, you’ve thinned them out too much.”

Bad nail habit #5: Using at-home gel nail systems carelessly

While an
at-home gel nail system may seem simple and a cost-effective way to have great nails, it’s critical to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and removal (don’t force the product off your nail – see Bad nail habit #3 above). “Limit overexposure and understand that you are working with chemicals,” says Merzetti.

Bad nail habit #6: Leaving on your gel polish for more than three weeks

Just because you can rock your gel polish for longer than two to three weeks doesn’t mean you should, says Merzetti. “The longer your polish is on your nails, the longer it may take to soak off and the more likely you’ll be tempted to pick it off,” she says. You can resist temptation by booking your follow-up manicure appointment when you have the gel polish applied.

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At-home pedicure essentials

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