A great manicure and pedicure can really set your mind right for the week. Personally, I get my fingers and toes done professionally because I live in NYC and it’s utterly convenient — and cheap. But there are times when your budget and your proximity to a good salon may be limited. In this case, it’s great to have a handle on these 8 secrets to perfectly polished nails.
Moisturize your cuticles
Dry, peeling cuticles can be both ugly and painful, especially when they turn into hangnails. Keep cuticles moisturized, especially in dry, winter months, with a good cuticle cream or oil. (See my list of thebest cuticle oils and creams). Once cuticles are softened, you can use an orangewood stick covered in cotton to push back the cuticles.
Don’t have cuticle oil on hand? Use a rich hand cream or even lip balm.
Choose the shortest nail to cut by
Not sure how short to clip nails? Choose the shortest nail as your guide. Once you’ve clipped, line each finger up with its opposite, cuticle-to-cuticle, to ensure you cut short enough.
Prep nails by filing
After you clip nails, file them into an oval shape mimicking the curve of your nail base. Some women prefer square nails. My hands happen to look better with oval nails, but other women swear their look better with squared nails. It’s really your preference.
Remove oils from the nail before polishing
It’s important to wipe nails with a nail polish remover before applying polish even if you don’t have nail polish to remove. Oils left on the nail (like the hand cream or lip balm) will keep polish from sticking.
Wrap the tips of your nails with polish
When applying polish, be sure to bring it over the front edge of the nail and slightly under the tip. This helps prevent chipping.
When polishing, 2 thin coats are better than one thick coat. You’ll find it dries faster. If the polish chips, it’s best to remove the paint from the nail and start over. If you don’t have time, dip your finger in nail polish remover and smooth over the chipped area and re-apply a topcoat.
How to maintain fresh polish
Keep your mani/pedi looking fresh by adding a new layer of topcoat every other day. A proper manicure should last 1 to 2 weeks. A pedicure should last 2 to 4.
How to deal with smudges and stains
Smudged your polish while painting? Try this trick: dip your finger in nail polish remover and use it to smooth the surface, repainting with a topcoat.
The secret to keeping nails from smudging is proper drying time. Surfaces will feel dry to the touch after 10 minutes, but don’t be fooled. It actually takes an entire hour for nails to completely dry.
Fingers stained from nicotine, berries or too dark polish can be fixed with whitening toothpaste like Rembrandt. Then brush the skin or nails with a toothbrush.
How to deal with a broken or torn nail
When a nail breaks, the best thing to do is to cut it off. But here’s a trick if the break is low down (and painful, undoubtedly): cut a tiny strip of gauze from a teabag, place it over the tear and the paint over with polish.