This article was originally published on Jan. 24, 2014. It has been updated and republished on Sept. 6, 2019.
If you have never gotten acrylic nails before, here's what you need to know: acrylic nails take a couple hours to "install," require more upkeep than a regular polish manicure, and will make your nails look oh-so-pretty. Translation? They take a while, but they are worth it for those who are looking to extend the length of their real nails and have a long-lasting manicure. But there are some things you should know to make your acrylic nails last longer while also maintaining the health of your real nails, especially if you are a newbie.
Bustle spoke to Christa Cole, a Los Angeles-based nail artist to get the lowdown on all the must-know advice you need to read before you head to the salon. Like any nail enhancement, acrylic nails are an investment, not just of your time, but also your money. It's important that you do your research and find the right nail artist to do the job. But that's not the only thing you should know.
Here are five tips for making your acrylic nails last longer between appointments, according to an expert.
FIND A GOOD NAIL TECHNICIAN
The key to real-looking, long-lasting acrylics is finding an experienced nail technician. According to Christa Cole, you should do your research and ask questions.
"Research the nail tech that you will be visiting. Check out their work. Does it fit your style? Can they execute what your are looking for in your nail service?" she asks. Cole suggests looking your potential new nail tech up on Instagram or see if they have an online portfolio — this way, you can see photos that show their level of work.
Cole also stresses the importance of communication. Not only should you be asking questions beforehand about your nail artist's process, but you should also make sure you are telling them exactly what you want. "Be sure that you bring in a photo or example of what you would like to have done. You want to be able to have someone who can understand what you want," says Cole.
Another important tidbit to remember: When it's done right, your acrylic nails will last longer and look better, which is why finding someone who can care for them is super important.
SCHEDULE REGULAR FILLS
If you've committed to acrylics, then you should know that they require regular fills. Make sure to schedule appointments with your nail technician every two to three weeks, depending on your nail growth and your nail artist's recommendation.
"The time schedule varies. Some client's nails don't grow fast and some clients grow at a rapid rate. I always say to get your fills around two to three weeks," stresses Cole. If you are hard on your nails or do a lot of work with your hands, Cole suggests going sooner to avoid any lifting. Another thing to remember — if you break a nail, Cole says to not glue it back on yourself. "Gluing the nail(s) back on to your nail can cause bacteria or moisture to be trapped under the enhancement."
If you go longer than two weeks, your acrylics will grow out, making them easier to damage. If you fail to keep up with routine fills, your nail technician will have to break off your acrylics and start from scratch, which is also worse for your real nails in the long run.
USE LONG-LASTING NAIL POLISHES AND TOP COATS
As you've already learned, acrylics are an investment. Why waste your time and money with cheap nail polishes? No matter how cute the color, I highly suggest only using top brand nail polishes. I prefer Essie over everything — not only do they have an amazing color selection, I've found that they last the longest and even maintain a shine throughout the life of your manicure.
When Cole does acrylic nails on her clients, she always uses a gel polish so that they last even longer. "I like to take away the dry time because we are so quick to use our hands after a service," Cole says. Her favorite gel brands are from Japan, including Naillabo, Presto Gel, Kokoistm and Vetro.
What's even more important than a good nail polish is a great top coat. Seche Vite is one of the fastest drying top coats and one that is used at most nail salons.
Cole's favorite top coats to use are Kupa Inc. No-Wipe Top Coat and Young Nails Stain Resistant Top Coat. "These are my go-to glossy top coats when doing any acrylic service," says Cole. "When it comes to regular nail polish, I find that I like to use Nail & Bone, OPI, or Essie," she adds.
TOUCH UP BETWEEN APPOINTMENTS
Your nail color will definitely last longer with acrylics, but to make them look as good as they did the first day you got them done, it's important to try and touch them up between fills. "If a client does decide on a regular polish application to their service, I will suggest to add a coat of top coat to keep the polish looking fresh," says Cole. Cole suggests applying the top coat at least three days after. She also suggests not applying more than two coats of top coat polish between appointments. "There should only be two extra coats added after you have been serviced, that way the nails and the polish doesn't look too thick," says Cole.
MOISTURIZE YOUR HANDS REGULARLY
To lengthen the life of your acrylics, remember to keep your hands moisturized. "When you add the moisture back to your hands your nails will thank you and so will your skin. It's all about conditioning," says Cole. ""Apply oil to your cuticles and nails to keep them soft and healthy. It's also important to keep your hands and fingers moisturized to prevent your nails from drying out," she says. Cole creates her own conditioning product that comes in a pen and balm form.
Last but certainly not least, remember to take care of your acrylics. This means no peeling or picking off your enhancements. While you can get acrylic nails to make your nails look pretty, nail health is of the utmost importance and something you can't just get at a salon. Be kind to your nails!