Experts share their nail don'ts so you can get a professional looking (and long-lasting) manicure at home.


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Hands with black and tan manicure
Credit: Barbara Donninelli/Nail Artistry by Jin Soon Choi

1 Filing Your Nails Back and Forth

“When you file your nails back and forth, it weakens them, and can cause them to break later on,” says Mabelyn Martin, a nail artist at Paintbox, a nail studio in New York City. Instead, Martin suggests only filing in one direction from the sides toward the center. This means picking up the file after each pass to go back to where you started to make another pass in the same direction.

2 Starting With Oily Nails

“Not cleansing your nail plate after lotion has been applied causes polish to not stick and also can make it bubble,” says Martin. “Prep your nails by gently pushing back the skin around the cuticle, then wipe the nail clean with a cotton pad soaked with alcohol or acetone several times before applying the base coat,” says Pattie Yankee, a celebrity nail artist in New York City.

3 Skipping the Base Coat

“Never skip the base coat,” says Simcha Whitehill (better known as Miss Pop Nails), a celebrity and editorial nail artist in New York City. “Not only does it protect your nails from staining, it also extends the wear and can help your mani last a few days longer.” And be sure to choose your base coat wisely. Yankee recommends staying away from a base coat/top coat hybrid and instead opting for a ridge filling formula like Sally Hansen Salon Manicure Smooth & Strength Base Coat ($9, “This will camouflage imperfections on the nail plate and create a great foundation for your color,” Yankee adds.

4 Using Too Much Polish

Yankee suggests wiping off one side of the brush on the inside of the neck of the bottle before pulling it out so that only one side has polish. “This helps better control the flow so the color doesn’t flood onto your cuticles,” explains Yankee.

5 Rushing the Layers

“Wait at least two minutes to allow polish to dry in between each coat,” says Yankee. “This will allow for a faster drying time in the end because the layers have had a head start on drying in between.”

6 Bypassing the Top Coat

A top coat is a great last step to lock in color and give shine, but you should also continue applying it to extend your manicure. “Apply a top coat every two or three days to help maintain shine, keep your color looking bright, and prevent chipping,” says Yankee. OPI RapiDry Quick-Dry Top Coat ($14, dries to a super glossy finish in seconds.

7 Scrimping on Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oil is a must,” says Yankee, who recommends applying it to your cuticles and all over your nail before bed so it can sink in over night. “The oil will penetrate through the polish to keep your natural nail and the polish more flexible and less prone to chipping,” she adds. The Body Shop Almond Nail and Cuticle Oil ($12, comes in the form of a mess-proof pen (with a built-in tool to push back cuticles) and contains nourishing sweet almond oil, olive oil, and grape seed oil.