- Clean the nail and remove old polish with a nonacetone polish remover.
- File with an emery board or nail file, rounding the edges slightly. Always file in a single direction; if nails are thin or peel easily, angle the file so that it lies slightly under the nail.
- Soak in warm water and liquid soap, then massage cuticle oil into cuticles (the thin tissue-like skin that adheres to the bottom of the nail plate). Give it a few minutes to soak in.
- Use a cuticle pusher to remove cuticle overgrowth from the nail bed; trim hangnails along the sides of the nail with a clipper. Never cut the cuticle."Treating the cuticle is paramount and leaves nails looking like they were professionally done," says Dana Caruso, a manicurist for Sally Hansen.
- Wipe the nail surface again with nail polish remover to remove oils, then apply a clear base coat. Don't overlook the base coat; it hydrates nails to minimize splitting or cracking.
- Apply polish in two thin coats. If applied too thick it's more likely to chip.
- Fix smudges. Have you mistakenly smudged the polish? Quickly dab the tiniest drop of nail polish remover over the nick using the tip of another finger. The remover thins out the surrounding polish to cover the smudge. Wait a minute, then reapply color or top coat.
- Finish with a quick-drying top coat; reapply the top coat every other day to prolong the longevity of the manicure.
- Expert Tip: "If your normally white nails have been yellowed by polish, rub them with the peel of a lemon or grapefruit," says Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie Cosmetics.
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