How to Make Your Manicure Last

Tips, Tricks & Expectations!

Ah, where to begin! I've been wanting to write down my thoughts on this subject for awhile now and am happy to be getting to it. Educating clients about what to expect and how to care for their nails is something I do every day. Below you'll find information on how to extend the life of your manicure, how to handle minor chips and some background information on why I work the way I do. Let's start with the latter, shall we?

Back in my day of strip-mall-salon-gel-manicures (usually Shellac or OPI brands), I expected my polish to last at least ten days without chipping, lifting or peeling. It was kind of a wash. Sometimes I got three weeks, sometimes I had chipping within the first five days. Consistency is one of the greatest compliments you can give a business so obviously the inconsistency of my manicures became irksome. One of my first lightbulb moments while in nail school came when discussing the way gel polish adheres to the natural nail plate. I'll get back to this mega important point shortly but for now, let's just say that water and gel polish are not friends. 

When I finally began going to see my mentor, bling-babe and friend Rachael Waggoner, I was psyched that my manicures lasted 3-4 weeks without any major problems. I drove my ass to Lakewood once a month ON THE REG to get my nails done and was blown away by her technique and skill in applying and removing gel polish. My nails stayed healthy and it felt 'worth every penny'. I knew there was a better way to manicure than what I was used to seeing in walk-in shops - the proof was in the pudding. 

Fast forward a year or so to starting nail school at Westland Beauty Academy and my lightbulb moment. One of the biggest considerations in application and the most basic preventative measure to lasting gel manicures is avoiding water before and during your appointment!

Below is the nail plate. Yep, pretty self explanatory. Hi, I'm your nail plate! Hopefully you're covered in beautifully applied gel polish and are getting plenty of sweet, cuticle oil lovin'. I digress. 


Think of your nail plate like a stack of sponges. There are layers upon layers of nail plate that make up your nail - kind of like layers of skin. 


What happens when you add water to sponges? They expand, get bigger and absorb water. It only takes ten seconds for your nail plate to absorb enough water to negatively affect the adhesion of gel polish. If your nail plate has absorbed water before your gel polish manicure (it takes A LOT more than ten seconds for a nail plate to 'dry'), your nail technician is essentially applying product on a surface that will shrink again and/or trap water between the gel and natural nail. 

Think about nearly every gel manicure you've had at a walk-in salon. Do they soak your finger tips in water before trimming your cuticles and applying polish? Almost always. This has a massive impact on the lasting power of your manicure and is the reason that I do not soak or use any water at all in my services.

How can you prevent the impact of water on your manicure before, during and after your appointment?

    • Don't shower or wash your hands before your appointment!
      • Even if you already have gel polish on, the grow out between your cuticle and your gel polish is exposed and can absorb water! 
      • If you need to use the bathroom during your appointment, use hand sanitizer instead of washing your hands.
    • If you are going to a walk-in salon, ask them not to soak your fingers.
    • If you have trouble with your manicures lasting, look for a nail technician or salon that performs dry manicures or does not use water on the nail plate. 
      • If you're coming to see me, no need to fret! I use dry manicure techniques that require no water at all.
  • AFTER:
    • Oil the crap out of your cuticles and nail plate. EVERYDAY. More than once :)
      • If you think back to the sponge analogy and imagine drenching them with oil before throwing them in a sink full of water, you'll understand why nail technicians recommend cuticle oil DAILY. If there is an oil barrier regularly present, your nail plate will absorb much less water.
      • Any cuticle oil is better than no cuticle oil. I sell the stuff I make in the shop - it absorbs quickly and smells amazing. If you're a 'problem lifter' and have not been using oil.....use oil. Better yet, use Aquaphor 2-3 times a day for 3 weeks and marvel at the difference it makes!

A few more aftercare tips:


  • Don't use your nails as tools. The usual suspects include, but are not limited to: crackin' beer cans, putting a key on a key ring, peeling off stickers from IKEA, gardening, any prying movement, car seat buckles. Chips in your manicure from using your nails as tools allow water to penetrate under the gel polish! SPONGES!
  • Use gloves while doing the dishes, when using harsh chemicals or gardening.
  • Products like sunscreen, bug spray and tanning lotion has been known to cause lifting. Some hand lotions with chemical fragrance can also cause lifting.
  • Chlorine has been known to cause lifting in the 24 hours post application so maybe don't go for a big swim right after your appointment. 
  • And finally, the cardinal rule of gel manicures...DO NOT PICK OFF YOUR GEL POLISH! You will be taking many layers of your natural nail plate with it. Picking a small corner off will also allow water to get under the gel and we're back at the sponge metaphor.
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If water is a major cause of short lived gel manicures, so is your lifestyle!


What I mean by this:

  • How hard are you on your nails? 
    • gym rat, crossfit, boxing gloves, picker, biter, etc.
  • How often do you have to wash your hands at work or home?
    • Nurses, health care professionals, new moms, OCD, estheticians, teachers, etc.
  • Are your nails exposed to chemicals regularly?
    • Bartenders, bar backs, servers, hair stylists, etc.

Now, I'm not one to radically alter my lifestyle to get my nails to last longer. I'm kind of a ... live your life type of person. However, I appreciate having as much knowledge as possible to yield the most desired result. And here, my babes, is where expectations come into play. 

Can you expect to have a flawlessly intact gel manicure four weeks later as a nurse who washes her hands twenty times a day, doesn't use cuticle oil and crushes Bud Lite Lime tallboys (that she opens with her nails) on the weekend? Nine point nine times out of ten, Nope. However, if she is informed of and educated about preventative steps and post-manicure care, her expectations are set properly. Maybe she knows that, living her life just the way she likes to, her manicure will last perfectly for 2.5 weeks before it starts to go downhill and she's a-okay with that. 

As I said earlier, consistency is one of the biggest compliments a business can get. I do everything I can to maintain consistency. From proper prep work to product application to sealing the manicure well, I've figured out a system that works for 99% of my clients. Yes, there are occasionally rogue manicures that do something weird. That's why I guarantee my work for seven days after your manicure. If anything goes wrong, I'll make time and fix it for free. 

As a general rule of thumb, your manicure should last - without chipping, lifting or peeling - for 10-14 days. This is what gel polish manufacturers promote across the board. My manicures typically last for 14-21 days without issues. For clients that are rough on their hands or don't use cuticle oil, that's about the point when chipping will start. If you're using cuticle oil regularly and taking it easy on your nails, clients have been known to come in 4-5 weeks later with minimal issues. 

Tips for Fixing Minor Issues:

  • If a nail chips slightly, use a nail file to even out the chip with the rest of the nail. Avoid using clippers as they break the seal on the top coat which is more likely to cause further issues.
  • If you break a nail, do your best to file it into shape and put a bandaid on it until you can get it fixed!

And there you have it. Hopefully this is helpful information for you! Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, concerns...I'm here to help! And provide the best nail care services possible :)