1. Remove old lacquer using nail-polish remover and a paper towel or a cotton pad (both offer more friction than a tissue and won’t shred the way cotton balls can). Always use a non-acetone polish remover, which is less drying than regular formulas.
2: For better shape control, file your nails while they’re dry. Overly abrasive files, including metal ones, will promote peeling, so always choose a fine-grade emery board. The best technique: Choose a direction and stick with it using smooth strokes. Don’t saw back and forth—a sure way to break the nail.
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3: Soften nails and cuticles in a bowl of warm water mixed with cuticle oil, olive oil or body lotion. After a 10-minute soak, dry off and apply cuticle cream or lotion. Gently ease cuticles back by making tiny circles against the cuticle with an orangewood stick (a thin wooden stick with a slant-edge tip at both ends, available in drugstores) wrapped in cotton.
6: Sweep on polish the way they do at salons, in three strokes, from base to tip: Go up the centre, then hit each side. In order to apply the thinnest coats possible, use one dip per nail and wipe the brush once per dunk before applying. Wait two minutes between each coat of colour (base and topcoats included) to speed overall drying time. (In the interim, you could get starting on
7: Finish with a topcoat. Wearing a topcoat can keep your nails healthy by preventing water loss, so nails break less. The best topcoats offer a harder, longer-lasting protective shell than the fast-drying ones can provide.
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8: Touch up any polish mistakes after nails are dry (working on wet nails guarantees smudging). Use a cotton swab and polish remover, or try a pen made for this specific purpose. If you have a smudge, gently rub it out with a dab of polish remover. When dry, polish only the affected area, then cover the entire nail with a topcoat.