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How to Make Your Manicure Last

By Shelley Levitt

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

WebMD Feature

Keeping your nails looking their polished best is simple. Good manicure habits will also protect the health of your nails.

Follow these seven steps and your manicure should last seven to 10 days.  

1. Go Shorter.

Talons not only look dated -- they’re more likely to split, break, and may even become detached from the nail bed.  

"The longer the nail is, the more it acts like a lever," says dermatology professor C. Ralph Daniel III, MD, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. "Any kind of force can lift the nail plate upward and away from its bed."

A chic and modern length is a nail that extends ever so slightly beyond the tip of your finger.

2. Shape Them Up.

Slightly oval or rounded nails with the corners left square is the easiest shape to maintain, says Wendy Lewis, a beauty consultant and author of Beauty Secrets: The Complete Lowdown on Skin, Hair and Body Treatments. 

Sculpt your nails with a fine-grade emery board. Look for one in your drugstore or beauty supply shop that has the grit marked (the higher the number, the finer the grit), and choose a grit of 280/320.  

Or try a four-sided buffer, which has surfaces of varying grittiness for shaping, smoothing, buffing, and shining. 

File gently in one direction. If you saw back and forth, you'll weaken the tips of your nails, and that can lead to shredding or peeling.

3. Prep Before Polish.

If you have vertical ridges on your nails, create a smooth surface by applying a ridge-filling strengthener. Or, buff away the ridges with the fine side of a four-sided buffer. 

Use restraint. If you buff too aggressively, you'll make the problem worse by thinning out the nail plate. "A good rule of thumb is if you feel heat or friction, back off," says Julie Serquinia, owner of The Paint Shop Beverly Hills nail salon in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Before you apply polish, swab nails with alcohol to remove any oily residue from creams or lotions. Any trace of oil will cause the polish to lift and peel, says Nancy Reagan, owner of Bella Reina Spa in Delray Beach, Fla.                        

4. Skip the Soak.

Dunking your fingertips into a little bowl of liquid is a standard step in most salon manicures. But it's actually a bad idea.  

Your nail beds expand when you submerge them in water, and then shrink back when they dry, causing the new coat of polish to loosen. The purpose of the water soak is to assist in softening the cuticle, but a better idea is to use a cuticle softener, Reagan says. "These do a superb job of softening the cuticle so you don't need water," she says. 

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