Nail Tips & Tricks


I work for a company that publishes the world's best beauty and fashion magazines, so I've learned a thing or two over the years. 

Here is a list of the top 10 nail tips and tricks I know: 

Q: How do I remove glitter nail polish?
A: Glitter nail polish is a huge pain to remove.  The best way I've found uses cotton balls, nail polish remover, and aluminum foil.  Soak 10 cotton balls in nail polish remover, then place one on each of your nails.  Secure the cotton ball to your nail with strips of aluminum foil, wrapped over each of your fingertips.  Keep them on for 8 minutes so it really soaks in, then easily wipe your nails clean.

Q: What kind of nail polish remover should I buy?
A: You don't have to spend a fortune on specialty nail polish removers.  I've found the best nail polish remover is CVS Nourishing Polish Remover (the blue one), and I prefer jumbo cotton balls to rounds.  Cotton balls are more absorbent so I can usually use just one per hand, while rounds dry up quickly so I need to use many more.  Natural nails can handle removers with acetone, non-acetone is best for acrylics.

Q: How do I remove yellow stains from using dark nail polish?
A: A base coat should help protect your nails, but if you didn't have time to apply one, or it didn't prevent your nails from discoloring, there is a fix.  The best way I've found to remove stains is to soak my nails in a small bowl of hydrogen peroxide, diluted with water.  If that doesn't work, you could try using a cotton swab of undiluted hydrogen peroxide, or try digging your fingertips into a lemon, or brushing them with a whitening toothpaste.

Q: Can I rescue old, clumpy nail polish?
A: Yes!  You might be tempted to pour a splash of nail polish remover into the bottle, but don't -- this ruins the consistency of the polish and makes the finish very dull.  The best way I've found to revive an old bottle of polish is to use a few drops of nail polish thinner. I like Essie's.

Q: Any ideas for a nail polish bottle that is nearly finished?
A: Don't throw it out!  When I have bottles that are half-empty, I've found the best thing to do is to take similar shades and combine them.  I add a little top coat to keep it glossy, and some thinner if the polish is old, then I shake it up to mix a brand new, custom shade.

Q: Is there a difference between a base coat and a top coat?  Do I need both?
A: Yes and yes!  To be honest, I don't always have the time, but I've found my manicure looks best when I use both.  They do serve different purposes -- the base coat is matte and helps the polish adhere better to your nail, while the top coat is shiny and helps protect your nail from chips and breaks.  When I do use a base, I like Nailtiques and I always use a Sally Hansen top coat -- lately I've been loving their Mega Shine in the silver bottle.  I like their Diamond Shine too.

Q: Can I stop my nail polish from chipping?
A: Yes.  Even if you have soft nails (like me) you can keep your nails from chipping.  When I really need a manicure that lasts, the best method I've found is to wash my hands with soap and water, so they are totally clean of any oils, then I apply an adhesive base coat.  I like CND Stickey.  Then, two thin coats of polish -- and a top coat -- leaving ample time to dry between coats.  If I still get a chip, the best way I've found to fix it is with a spot touch-up of polish over the chipped area, I let that dry, then I put a top coat over the whole nail.  Sometimes there are too many chips to fix.  In that case, just take all the polish off.  Nude nails are far better than ones that look like they went through a woodchipper.

Q: How do I stop my nail polish from smudging?
A: The best thing to prevent smudges is patience.  Keeping each coat of polish thin helps, then I try to avoid touching anything for about an hour.  Easier said than done, I know, but even though nails feel dry to the touch after about 10-15 mins, they aren't really set for about an hour.  I also avoid using quick-dry because I find it dulls the finish of my top coat. 

Q: What shape should I use when filing my nails?
A: Round, square, pointy -- there are several shapes to choose from.  I think squared-off nails are universally flattering, but the best way I've found to determine which shape is best is to take a cue from your nail bed.  If they are oval, go for the round shape, or even pointy.  If they are flat, go for a square shape.  And if you can't decide, go squoval -- a flat top with very rounded edges.  I like a fine-grit file (coarse files are best for acrylics) from the drugstore or a crystal file, which is more expensive but lasts a long time.

Q: What is the best way to fix a broken nail?
A: I hate to say it, but the best way I've found to deal with a break is to file the rest of my nails down to match.  Nails just don't look good being all different lengths.  I think the only nails you can get away with not matching are on your thumbs, fingers should be a similar length on both hands.


I love to hear new recommendations too, so feel free to share your own favorite nail polish ideas and products in the comments section below! 

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