This week, our very own Victoria asked me a question via text…
“Yo Alle! Whenever I paint my nails or get them done, the nail polish chips immediately. I painted my nails yesterday and already each nail is missing polish at the tips. Am I just too much of a dirtbag to maintain painted nails, or am I doing something wrong?”
The answer is, as I texted back, “Probably a little of both, but not in an accusatory way.”
“No accusation felt,” she replied. “I am a self-proclaimed dirtbag and proud of it.”
So now that you’ve taken a peek into my texting life, let’s talk about how to avoid chips in manicures.
I paint my nails every week without fail. Part of the reason for this is because I consider it my job to be well put together, and the other part is because manicures are integral to my self-care routine. And even though my nails are quite long and I spend at least 10 hours a day typing (not to mention washing dishes and getting my hands chewed on by my dog), my manicures almost never chip.
You read that right. I can count on one hand the number of times my polish has chipped in the last year, and I don’t even need to use all my fingers.
Am I using black magic? Kind of! Let me explain how to live that chip-free life, and what to do if you’re a teenage dirtbag, baby (other than listen to Iron Maiden, maybe, with me).
First: A base coat and separate top coat are ESSENTIAL. You do not want to skip these! Just like you wouldn’t build a house on a crappy foundation and then put a straw roof on it (I assume; I’m from the Three Little Pigs school of architecture), you also wouldn’t spend an hour painting your nails without making sure that polish is gonna last.
Base coats strengthen your nails, fill in any ridges or unevenness, and provide a really nice base for the color to go on top of. They prevent chips by making your nails an attractive surface for polish to stick to. My favorite of all time is Nutra Nail Strengthener with Green Tea. Not only does it strengthen my delicate nails and prevent them from getting stained, it also helps my sometimes elaborate manicures from chipping on me.
Top coats seal the polish and add shine (or give a matte texture) to the manicure. They also strengthen the nails and are your first line of defense against chips. My favorite is Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Top Coat, aka The Red Bottle. This not only gives amazing shine, but it seems to take the layers of polish and fuse them together into one, which is essential when you’re doing things like tea bag wrap repairs. This guards against weak spots in the lacquer, especially along the edges, and yep, prevents chips. I am a ride or die fan for life.
Used in tandem, a good base and top coat prep and finish your manicure respectively and make it less likely that the polish will chip off.
But if you’re not using good quality nail polish as the meat in your base-and-top coat sandwich, nothing is going to help you.
You don’t have to spend a million dollars on a single bottle of polish to get awesome results, but the $2 super-cheapies likely won’t have great staying power. Very cheap polishes are thinner in consistency, which makes them delicate, which makes them prone to chipping. Upgrade to something better, like Essie, OPI, China Glaze, Butter London, Zoya, Deborah Lippmann and Sally Hansen, the latter of which maxes out at around $7.
But BY FAR the biggest and most important aspect of not letting your nails chip is that you MUST let each coat dry completely before applying the next one. Print this out and stick it on your bathroom mirror, write it on a Post-It and stick it to your forehead, whatever you gotta do to remember it: DO NOT apply another coat until the one beneath it is totally dry!
“Almost dry” or “Close enough” does NOT work. Totally dry only. Nail polish is totally dry when you can touch it to your lower lip and it doesn’t feel sticky, tacky, wet, or cold. When it feels smooth and dry, it’s ready. The amount of time this will take will depend on the polish and how many coats are underneath it; cue up an episode of Teen Wolf and zone out while you wait.
So the order in which you should be doing your manicure is: base coat, two to three coats of colored polish, top coat. Make sure that--regardless of nail length--you cover the free edge of your nail with top coat by first applying a horizontal stripe (covering the tip and the back side), then the face of the nail.
Finally, to maintain your manicure, you have to be a little delicate. Since I’m Kermit the Frog in a human body, I tend to flail about quite a lot. This can break nails and chip polish. I’m far more careful about flinging my arms around now, as well as opening cans (I use spoons rather than my nails) and chopping things with large knives. Treat your manicures like the delicate princesses they are, and they will repay you by remaining chipless for much longer!
Now go forth and be as big of a dirtbag as you like--with your fabulous nails, of course. And remember, if you have a question for me, there are SO MANY WAYS to ask! Talk to me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr.
Instead of ending this article with a series of questions about your favorite chip-resisting nail polishes (but I do want to know that!), I’m going to leave you with this video of One Direction singing "Teenage Dirtbag." Happy Wednesday, everyone!