Research by Good Housekeeping has generated a list of some of the shiniest, longest-lasting, fastest-drying, most chip-proof nail products out there. First, to get you started, check out some pro tips on how to give yourself a salon-worthy mani without the salon price.
Step 1 • Pick a pretty shape
The most flattering nail shape mimics the arc of your cuticle bed. If it's round or oval, don't make your nails square or pointed. It's different for feet: Keep toenails square or slightly rounded to prevent painful ingrown nails
Step 2 • File this way
Move smoothly in one direction. Sawing back and forth sheds the multiple layers of protein and keratin that make up the nail, leading to peeling and breakage.
Step 3 • Wipe nails clean
Mix two parts rubbing alcohol to one part water, and swipe it on nails to prep for polish in lieu of polish remover. (Some remover formulas leave behind a residue that prevents polish from adhering.)
Step 4 • Lay a good foundation
A base coat makes color go on more smoothly and last longer, and it helps prevent staining if you're using a dark shade. If your nails are weak or have ridges, opt for a base that doubles as a treatment, such as Duri Rejuvacote with strengthening gelatin and keratin protein $10, Walmart.
Step 5 • Brush in two
Apply the polish vertically up the nail to the free edge the very end of the nail first. Then paint horizontally right along the tip to seal the color where it's most prone to chipping.
Step 6 • Layer wisely
Although the standard is two coats of color, the first one counts more. Go a little bit heavier to lay down the color, then apply the second coat very lightly. Applying two thick layers can lead to smudges. Finish with a top coat, which seals in color and adds extra sheen. One to try is Seche Vite Dry Fast Coat $8, Sally Beauty.
Step 7 • Oil up
Swipe on cuticle oil. It makes the top layer of your nails slick and can help minimize nicks as your manicure dries. Apply five minutes after top coat. GH likes CND SolarOil $11, salons. Post-mani, apply oil daily: It keeps nails flexible, which helps prevent chips and breaks.
Step 8 • Be patient
Waiting for polish to dry is tedious, but don't rely on dryers alone; they only set the top coat. With air-drying, you'll be mobile in about 15 minutes, but wait an hour or two before you dig into your purse or put on socks.
Step 9 • Make it last
A good mani should last about a week, but applying a clear coat every two to three days post-polish can help extend its longevity. Use a clear nail strengthener, such as Sally Hansen Maximum Strength $6, drugstores. A fast-drying top coat won't adhere well to polish that's already dry.
Step 10 • Remove with care
Soak cotton balls or pads in remover, then press one onto each finger. Once each nail is covered, go back and start to wipe. Polish will come off more easily. Out of remover? Paint on a liberal amount of a base or top coat, then wipe it off immediately. It won't yield the cleanest result, but it will take off most of the color.