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I Tested Nail Polish Hacks to Make My Manicure Last Longer- Here’s How They Worked

As someone who loves painting their nails, one of my biggest annoyances in life is that my nail polish never seems to last for more than a day or two before it chips off.  I’ve tried different brands and types of nail polish, numerous base and top coats, and nail strengtheners to no avail. I was willing to try anything to get my manicure to last, so I looked up some hacks that would hopefully make my manicure last. Some hacks include applying a French manicure or glitter ombre to chipped areas, as well as simply filing down or cutting areas that have chipped. While these may improve the look of chipped nails, I decided to stick with hacks that made the nail polish itself last longer, rather than hiding chipped areas.

For each attempt, I used the OPI Natural Nail Base Coat and the Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Top Coat (I also bought brand new bottles of each before I began testing these tips to avoid ineffectiveness due to old base and top coats or previous nail polish residue). The only two nail polishes I used were “Aubergine” and “Vacation Time”, which are both cream polishes from Sinful Colors. I applied a base coat, two coats of polish, and a top coat to each nail unless the tip called for otherwise. Now let’s get testing!

1. Seal the tip of your nails with each coat and avoid the cuticle and skin areas

Yes, there are specific areas of your nails that your polish should and should not be on. Make sure to swipe polish around the tip of your nail to avoid chipping. If you tend to get nail polish on your cuticle or the skin around your nails, it will lift up the polish, which makes it prone to chipping or peeling off. Leave a little space between your polish and cuticle, as well as clean up any polish that may have gotten on your skin. I found that this tip is easier for people with longer nails because it is easy to get nail polish on the tip of your finger when you try to seal the top edge with polish. I did find that it has made my nails less prone to chipping. I still had a few chips a day after I painted them, but there were fewer and the ones I had were smaller. Leaving a space between the polish and the cuticle did help with chipping in that area. I was nervous that the gap would be noticeable, but as long as you don’t leave a huge gap and mimic the natural shape of your nail, you won’t even notice the gap. I wouldn’t say that this tip greatly extends the life of your nail polish, but it definitely helps protect the nail and avoid chipping.


  • Makes polish less prone to chipping around tip of nail
  • Looks natural
  • Nail polish won’t lift up or peel off easily


  • Takes longer to paint nails because you need to focus on where nail polish is and mimicking natural cuticle
  • Requires a little extra clean up around fingertip, cuticle, and skin areas

2. Wipe nails with white vinegar before applying base coat

White vinegar is supposed to remove product build up and natural oils from the nail bed, which makes a cleaner surface for nail polish. Nails that are too dry are prone to breaking, while nails that have retained too much water expand, so this tip seemed like a good way to ensure that my nails were clean without being too dry or holding too much water. I dipped a Q-tip into white vinegar, applied it to each nail, and waited for it to dry before I began painting my nails as usual. Over the course of the next 24 hours, I already started getting little chips in my nails. I would definitely say that this tip did not work for me. I feel that the vinegar did not completely remove the moisture or oils off my nails effectively. If you’re looking for a similar tip, I would recommend using rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, or acetone instead.


  • Cheap and accessible alternative if you don’t have rubbing alcohol, nail police remover, or acetone


  • Did not extend life of nail polish
  • Did not properly clean nail bed
  • Strong vinegar smell

3. Apply the base coat to the tip of the nail and apply another coat over entire nail

The extra base coat will decrease help decrease chipping at the tip of your nail, which is usually the area that flakes off the most. Adding an extra coat will help ensure that the nail polish sticks to this spot. I thought that adding an extra layer of nail polish in one spot would leave me with weird bump in my nails, but as long as the coat just on the tip wasn’t too thick, the extra layer was not visible when my nails were done. I’m pleasantly surprised to say that this tip definitely extended the life of my nails. They lasted for two days before I finally got my first small chip. The extra base coat on this area helped the polish really stick to my nails.


  • Extends life of nail polish
  • Doesn’t require extra materials


  • Need to apply thin layers to not get a bump

4. Apply a new top coat every other day

A fresh layer of top coat will not only make the nail polish last longer, but also add shine if your top coat has dulled. Adding an extra layer will bond with the nail polish underneath and help prevent further chipping. I would definitely say that this hack extended the life of my nail polish, but only by a day. At the end of the second day of wear when I was supposed to apply a new top coat, the nail polish underneath already had some cracks in it even though it was still on my nails. The extra coat prevented chipping, but the new layer of top coat also developed cracks and by the next day, a lot of my nail polish had chipped off. This hack is good if you need your nails to look their best for an extra day, but it doesn’t keep the polish on long-term. 


  • Slightly extends life of nail polish (although not by much)
  • Doesn’t require extra materials


  • If nail polish underneath is cracked, new top coat will also crack
  • Frequency of new coats

5. Keep the skin around your nails moisturized with cuticle oil and hand cream

Dry skin makes your nails more prone to breaking and chipping. Using hand cream twice a day and cuticle oil once a day will ensure that the area around your nails remains hydrated. Healthy nails are less likely to break or peel, so it will help your polish stay on. Being prone to dry winter skin, I’m already an avid hand cream user, but I don’t use nail and cuticle oil regularly. I knew that it would take a few days to fully reap the benefits of regularly using hand cream and nail oil, so I began using this schedule three days before painting my nails and kept it up while my nails were still painted. I applied the Sally Hansen Nail Treatment Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil in a “U” shape around the nail and after just a single use of cuticle oil, I woke up the next day to nails that were shiny and appeared healthier. I noticed over the next few days that my nails did not peel as much as they normally do, even with the winter weather. 


  • Nails stay stronger, healthier, and more flexible
  • Less prone to breaking
  • Moisturizing (especially in winter) is always good


  • Need for routine

6. Apply top coat while the base coat is still wet

This will allow for the top coat to bond with the polish rather than sitting on top of it. The base and top coat will create a mixture that will last longer on your nails than simply layering. I saved this tip for last because I was scared that some of the wet nail polish would rub off onto the top coat brush and permanently make rest of the contents pink. I found that if you apply a thin top coat, the top coat brush will move the nail polish underneath, so you have to apply a thick top coat. With that said, I felt like this hack didn’t really work for me. I had to be conscious about applying a thick layer of top coat and I felt like it didn’t do a lot to extend the life of my polish.


  • Doesn’t require extra materials
  • Don’t have to wait for polish underneath to dry


  • Doesn’t extend life of polish
  • Need to be careful to avoid getting polish on brush or disturbing polish underneath
  • Need to apply thick coat

Since completing this experiment, the hacks that I still use are applying a layer of base coat to the tips of my nails and then applying another coat to the whole nail, painting the tip of the nail and leaving a gap between the cuticle and polish, and keeping up with a hand cream and nail oil routine. Now that you have an idea about which hacks work, sport that mani for a few extra days!

Kendra Lamer

UW Stout '19

Kendra Lamer is the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at UW-Stout. She is a professional communication and emerging media major with a concentration in applied journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. When she's not doing school work or writing for Her Campus, you can find her dancing at the studio, going for a run, drinking coffee or decorating for holidays way too early. After graduating, she plans on pursuing a career in public relations or journalism and adopting lots of dogs.
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