How To: Stop Your Nail Polish Chipping – The Ultimate Guide

Chipped nails. Do we need to do a big introduction about how annoying chipped nails are, how ugly they look, how one chip can ruin your day, etc etc. No? You’re with us? Good. We’re going to tell you why your nails chip, and how you can stop your nail polish chipping in future. Thank us later.

The problem: Water

Nails need to be completely clean and dry before you start. According to our resident expert, celebrity manicurist Gerry Holford, nails expand when they are wet. “If you soak your nails first, they will expand in the water. If you paint them while they are in their expanded state, the polish will chip as your nails contract back to their original state.”

The solution: Make sure nails are 100% dry before you start painting. Even a quick wash of the hands can affect the nails, so leave it an extra few minutes. Also, avoid the water after your paint job – let someone else do the dishes.

The problem: Oil

If you use any sort of cuticle oil or moisturizer, then good for you, because you’re doing a Very Good Thing. BUT having oily nail beds before you start painting is a slippery slope to chip-ville (which sounds yummy, with doritos and salsa, but is actually not).

The solution: Give your nails a wipe over with nail polish remover before you start painting. That will clean away any debris or oil on your nail, and dehydrate the nail to prep it for base coat.

The problem: No base coat

What are you doing not using base coat?! Come on guys, have we taught you nothing? Base coat not only protects your nails from staining, but it acts an a primer to your polish, giving it a smooth, even canvas.

The solution: Base coat. Not some cheap and nasty two-in-one, but a quality base coat. It’s like underwear – don’t skimp just because no one sees it! Our favorite is butter LONDON Nail Foundation Flawless Basecoat

The problem: Thick, gluggy coats of polish

It might seem more efficient to slap on one thick coat of polish, instead of two or three really thin coats, but sadly it’s not. Painting polish on thick means there is more chance of air bubbles developing in the blobs, plus it will take longer to dry, upping your risk of smudges.

The solution: You’ll get a streak free manicure when you do two or three thin coats, and those thin coats means that your polish will dry properly between coats. Dry polish = less chance of bubbles; less bubbles = less fractures and cracks in the polish. Always, always allow yourself enough time for the polish to dry properly. Always!

The problem: Wear and tear on the edge of your nails

Typing on a keyboard, taping on your desk, clicking your nails on your iPhone…the edge of your nails cop the brunt of nail-related abuse, and they’re usually the first place to crack and chip. But it’s not like you can stop typing or using your phone, right?

The solution: Something called capping the tip. If you have had a manicure in a salon, you might have seen your nail tech doing it. “The polish is wiped across the edge of the nail, essentially sealing the edge of the manicure and preventing tip wear” says Holford.

The problem: Not sealing the deal

You didn’t seal the deal? Awkward. We of course mean top coat. Using a hard-wearing topcoat will extend the life of your manicure, and guard against cracks and chips.

The solution: We love the Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat. Make sure you wrap your topcoat around the tip (see above) as an extra barrier against chipping.

The problem: Shaking your polish bottle

Shaking your polish bottle like a maraca, while fun, is pumping air through the liquid. These bubbles mean your polish won’t apply smoothly and evenly, and we know what that causes…chips!

The solution: Roll the bottle between your palms. The little metal balls down the bottom of the bottle will help gently keep the polish moving, without gooping up the formula.

The problem: Air

You might be in a rush, but plonking your nails down in front of a fan to try and speed up the drying process, especially if you did a thick coat of color, is the wrong move. Same goes for blowing on your nails, or waving them around and shaking your hands. The air blowing against your nails is going to cause bubbles and lead the polish to dry unevenly – don’t forget polish dries from the outside in. If your polish dries unevenly, it’s likely to chip.

The solution: Slow and steady wins the nail race. As mentioned above, two or three thin coats, with ample drying time, is always your best option.

Do you have any other great hints for stopping your nails from chipping? What are your favorite base and top coats?

Elise Wright

Elise is a social media strategist from Sydney, now living in NYC, who has a long standing love affair with the beauty industry- especially the nail industry!

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