When I was young and unwise, I would throw caution to the wind and apply nail polish to bare nails, then call it a day. Of course, by the next day they were a hot, chipped mess because I hadn't yet discovered the one trick to a long-lasting manicure. And then nail art exploded on the Internet and suddenly Instagram went from a showcase of my friends' lunches to a virtual classroom of nail awesomeness.
It is in these hallowed halls that I learned this special nail trick and added days (and sometimes a week or more) to the space in between each polishing. Extending your manicure isn't just convenient — it helps you maintain healthier nails. When you're constantly removing and reapplying polish, you strip your nails and cuticles of the vital moisture they need to stay in good shape. Otherwise you end up with cracked cuticles, hangnails, plus chipped, broken and peeling nails. No fun.
If you love doing your nails several times per week, like I do, it's still worthwhile to know how to get the most mileage out of your mani. You never know when life will suck your free time away. And then there are vacations, business trips and the occasional over-anticipation of holiday nails that got you painting them a few days too early. Keep this one trick to a long-lasting manicure in mind and you'll save yourself the heartbreak of junky-looking nails.
OK, enough talk. What is this trick? This saving grace of hand sanity? I call it the mani sandwich.
Basically, if you want your polish to last, you need to sandwich it between protective agents. What are these protective agents? They are more than body guards for your nails art. They're like commandments in the nail care bible. And they are a sticky base coat and a high-quality, fast-drying topcoat.
Before you even think about picking up that bottle of color (and you know you're supposed to roll it in your palms, not shake it, right?) you need to apply a base coat. Think of this as the first piece of bread in your mani sandwich. The type of base coat matters less than the fact that you're actually using one. A $1 bottle of Wet-n-Wild nail protector will work better than nothing. A $20 bottle of rubberized, sticky base coat will work wonders. The point is, GET A BASE COAT.
Start in the center of your nail, about a millimeter from the cuticle, then press downward toward the cuticle for the easiest, cleanest application. Then do one stroke on the left side and one stroke on the right side. Be careful not to get the polish into or onto your cuticles. This increases the chances that your polish will peel or flake off at the cuticle and then you'll be sadbear. Let your base coat dry for a minute or two, so your polish doesn't smear it around.
The meat of your mani sandwich is, of course, the nail polish or nail art of your choice. Use thin coats and let them dry for a few minutes between coats or you'll end up with a squishy mess that never sets and shows off every ding in the universe. When you're done, use a cotton swab or a brush dipped in acetone for clean-up. Clean up doesn't just make things look good, it helps them last.
The final piece of bread in your mani sandwich is your top coat. If you don't know what quality quick-drying top coat is, then I am about to change your life. Not only will a quick drying topcoat protect your nails, but it will kind of meld everything together into an impenetrable polish meteor on your fingers. It's basically all your hopes and dreams in a tiny bottle. It was probably invented by mermaids and manufactured by unicorns. It's that good and that important. Seche Vite is a great drugstore go-to, if you're at a loss for where to start. Apply liberally to lock in all the flavor you just added to your nails. Swipe across the very top tip of your nails, too, for extra chip protection.
That's it. Sandwiching your polish is absolutely the one thing that will make the most difference as you try to extend the life of your manicure.