When it comes to at-home manicures, spa-worthy formulas just aren’t enough. You will still end up with fading colour, chipped polish and a messy finish. We hate to break it to you, but these nail polish issues are on your hands—literally. We enlist the advice of Rita Remark, Lead Nail Artist for Essie Canada, and Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, Executive Vice President and Artistic Director of OPI, to determine the most common nail polish sins we’re committing—plus how to correct them now for beautiful nails.
MUST-READ: How to get HEALTHY NAILS now
1. Abstaining from prep work
As the old saying goes, if you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail. "Nails come into contact with our hair, face, lotions and many things that leave oils to interfere with polish adhesion," says Remark. "Before manicuring, scrub your nails with soap and water, followed by a quick wipe with nail polish remover." The result? A clean, natural nail that is ready and waiting for stay-put colour.
2. Filing error
Beautiful nails begin with a healthy canvas to work with. This means proper trimming and filing of the nail before you initiate your manicure. “Be sure to file nails in one direction only, instead of back-and-forth, to prevent splitting,” Weiss-Fischmann says. Using this filing technique post-manicure also helps to keep polish from breaking off in one large chunk.
3. Neglecting your cuticles
You really can’t create beautiful nails if you don’t attend to your cuticles. “Avoid cutting or picking at cuticles, which can lead to red, irritated skin. Instead, push back cuticles with a towel after showering,” suggests Weiss-Fischmann. When it’s time to add colour, you won’t have to fuss over polish appearing uneven against the cuticle line because the skin is already level.
4. Missing cuticle oil
The unsung hero of the at-home manicure, cuticle oil is essential to long-lasting polish. "Dry, flaking cuticles can quickly distract from the pretty nail polish you’ve spent so much time applying," says Remark. "Do your manicure and your nails a favour by always using cuticle oil."
More major nail polish mistakes you’re currently making on the next page…
5. Conveniently forgetting a base coat
Omitting a base coat is a major faux pas (emphasis on major) if you’re trying to design beautiful nails. "For one, all of the hard work you did polishing your nails will have been in vain because it won’t last unless you anchor your polish with a base coat," says Remark. Still not convinced? "Secondly, many polishes contain pigments that can easily transfer and stain your nail plate—specifically shades of red. This will leave your nail tinted and brittle." Yuck!
MUST-READ: 6 unhealthy NAIL HABITS
6. Improper polish application
You probably wonder why your nail polish breaks off before you even finish with your at-home manicure. You can actually prevent chipping by adding an extra dab of polish to areas most susceptible to damage. "Many women forget that they need to seal their manicures. With every polishing step, run the brush along the tip of the nail. As nail polish dries, it shrinks ever so slightly, and by sealing the free edge of the nail, you are essentially locking the formula in place," states Remark.
7. Skipping a top coat
Just like a base coat, nail polish brands don’t make top coats for no reason. They serve a purpose in preserving your at-home manicure. "Aside from losing the longevity of your nail polish, you are actually extending your drying time without a top coat," says Remark. "I guarantee you’ll be able to handle your keys faster with quick-drying top coat than without," Remark adds.
8. Speeding through
With countless texts to send, emails to write and errands to run—letting your nails dry adequately is not a huge priority until now. Giving your manicure time to set—for at least 20 minutes—is imperative to beautiful nails. “Don’t rush! Lacquer can bubble when it’s hot or humid, or when top coat is applied too quickly. Let the coats dry in between each application to avoid this problem,” says Weiss-Fischmann.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter