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.
5. Moisturize Your Nails Nightly.
Dehydrated nails are more likely to break and split, while moisture-starved cuticles can become ragged, leading to those unsightly pieces of dead skin called hangnails.
The most efficient way to nourish parched nail beds and cuticles is with nightly use of a cuticle oil, says Jill Weinstein, MD, an instructor of clinical dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Keep a tube on your bedside table, suggests Weinstein, and apply a couple of drops around each nail, massaging into the cuticle. This simple step will help your manicure last longer, since brittle nails chip more easily.
6. Use a Base Coat.
Applying a base coat will help nail polish stick and wear longer.
When you move on to lacquer, keep your brush strokes to a minimum and your coats to two. The fewer strokes you use to cover your nail, the less chance of streaks, Lewis says. You'll also avoid creating the air pockets and bubbles that can be caused by thick layers of polish, Reagan says.
7. Add a Topcoat.
Defend against chips by applying polish and topcoat across the top edge of your nails. This is called a "seal."
Maintain the manicure by putting a new topcoat on the entire nail every other day.
Still, even with the best defense, chips happen. Fix chips by soaking a cotton swab in nail-polish remover and dabbing it on and around the scratch or nick to even out the surface, Serquinia says. Apply a thin coat of nail polish and follow with a topcoat.