Mastering the at-home manicure is no easy feat, and after years and years we might start to think we’ve got it down pat. Over-confidence is a fickle thing, hm? The moment you become sure of your nail-painting prowess is when everything goes terribly, terribly wrong. It chips, smudges, and streaks faster than you can say Indiana Jones.
More often than not, you'll find a sneaky set of common manicure mistakes to blame, and you might not even know you’re making them. We’re all guilty of it, particularly when we’re feeling rather impatient. Base coat, schmase coat…
But if you’re serious about perfecting the art of the DIY manicure, here are seven major manicure mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: Skipping the Base Coat—Or the Top Coat
We’re all guilty of trying to rush the process. Skipping the base coat is tempting, but if you want a smooth, even manicure (especially if your nails have ridges), it’s imperative to make the extra effort. If your nails are prone to breaking, a base coat provides a layer of protection that staves off unwanted breaking or chipping. Similarly, the top coat locks in the nail color not only with shine, but with an anti-chipping layer. Pay special attention to coating the entire nail, including the edges and the tip, to ensure a long-lasting at-home mani.
Think of it like this: Is a sandwich really a sandwich without any bread? Well, we’re not in the business of eating lettuce wraps—so use the base coat and top coat.
Mistake #2: Cutting Your Cuticles
This is the definition of “leave it to the professionals.” If you’re giving yourself a manicure at home, don’t get too clip-happy on the cuticles. It leaves your skin susceptible to infection and results in a look that's more skin irritation than flawless canvas.
Instead push back your cuticles—gently. The easiest trick to this prep work is to push back your cuticles while in the shower when your nail beds are softened by the warm water. Remember: Push, don’t cut.
Mistake #3: Applying Polish in Too-Thick Coats
You’ll never see this happen at the nail salon—because every nail esthetician knows that this particular nail polish mistake is a one-stop shop for goopy, smudgy nails. Make sure to rid the brush of excess polish before swiping evenly over your nail.
Try to cover your entire nail in three swipes: middle, then each side. It helps distribute product evenly and keeps it from streaking (which is more likely to happen when you over-swipe!).
Mistake #4: Forgetting About the Tips
This might be the ultimate culprit when it comes to chipped nails, but luckily it’s a quick fix that makes all the difference. After brushing the color or top coat onto each nail, make sure to give the very tips of your nails an extra swipe horizontally in order to ensure the tips (and the tiniest bit underneath the tips!) are thoroughly coated. This locks in the polish and leaves you with a longer-lasting, chip-resistant manicure.
Mistake #5: Filing Your Nails Incorrectly
Some of us give our nails quite the beating—on accident—by filing back and forth too harshly. PSA: There's a good chance you’ve filed too aggressively if the tips are flaking or feathering. If you start in each corner and file towards the center in one swift motion, you're more likely to get a smooth shape.
When in doubt, follow the 90/10 rule.
WATCH: 13 Nail Colors for Fall 2019 to Try When You’re Ready to Ditch Your Summer Manicure
Mistake #6: Immediately Taking a Hot Shower or Washing Dishes
The first two hours after painting your own nails are the most crucial—and you did not just painstakingly perform the best at-home manicure of your life to be taken down by hot water, dish soap, or sheet marks. Exposing them to hot water softens the nail polish and instantly makes it prone to smudging. Same goes for washing dishes in warm water, except you have the added element of banging your fresh nails onto pots and pans. The dark horse? Going to sleep right after painting your nails. They're still in a delicate stage and should be treated as such. Your bedsheets are not to be trusted.
Mistake #7: Shaking the Nail Polish Bottle
This old-school practice does more harm than good. Ever dealt with a bubbly manicure? This might be why. Shaking the bottle traps little pockets of air into the polish, which then transfers onto your nail when painting. Similarly, don’t pump the brush into the bottle too quickly or aggressively. Before starting to paint, simply roll the bottle between your hands to make sure the polish is properly mixed.
So next time you break out your favorite OPI nail color (Bubble Bath, anyone?), follow these tips for a flawless finish.