The 7 Best Tricks to Fix Your Manicure Mistakes

The 7 Best Tricks to Fix Your Manicure Mistakes

We’ve rounded up the top dos and don’ts to mend those annoying manicure mishaps.

By Heather Chaet

It’s Saturday night. The kids are in bed. It’s time for that oh-so-rare moment of “me time.” The plan: Turn on your favorite rom-com, munch on some chocolate, and give yourself an at-home mani-pedi.

Fast-forward to Sunday at noon, and you realize the paint on your pinky is already chipped. How did that happen? You attempt to fix it with polish and a cotton swab. The result? You’ve somehow removed half of the polish on three other nails.

Avoid making that manicure mistake – and others -- ever again! From how to fix that one-nail flub to the real trick to removing polish on the skin around your nail, we have your essential list of dos and don’ts for DIY manicure maintenance.

1. DO prime your nails for a longer-lasting manicure. The best tool for preventing premature chipping is something in your kitchen cabinet. “Swipe a little vinegar across the nail before painting,” instructs beauty expert Amy Bobeda. “The vinegar will remove natural oils, and give your nail a slightly grippy texture.” Love this idea, but hate the scent of vinegar? Bobeda suggests neutralizing with a little lemon juice.

2. DON’T use a cotton swab to try to remove polish on your skin. So, you spot an annoying strip of polish on the edge of your nail or along the skin below your nail. Most of us grab a cotton ball and the bottle of remover to fix it. What happens? Little cotton strands get caught in your nail polish, causing even more woes. Next time, ditch the cotton ball, and use a small makeup tool, like an eyeliner brush. A little brush is easy to dip into the polish remover and erases that stray bit of polish without creating more mess.

3. DO use thin coats of polish to prevent chipping. The key to a long-lasting manicure is applying two thin layers of polish, being sure that the first layer dries completely. Having less polish on the brush prevents the goop. Avoid the too-much-polish-on-the-brush dilemma by wiping the nail brush on the edge of the bottle opening after each dunk.

4. DON’T remove all of the polish to fix one tiny chip. “Buff the color around the chip slightly, and lightly dab on some polish,” instructs Bobeda. “Lock it in with a top coat, and be sure to extend the top coat over the end of your nail for extra protection from impact.”

5. DO be careful when dealing with your cuticles. “When you use the orange wood stick, or wooden pusher, gently push the rounded end, flush with the nail, toward your cuticle,” says Bobeda. “If something hurts, you're no longer pushing the cuticle, so give up.” She also cautions about snipping too much of that area. “If you want to trim the cuticle, trim only the skin that you've lifted from the nail,” Bobeda notes. “The little bubble at the base of the cuticle, your eponychium, is alive so don't clip it!”


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6. DON’T damage your nails when you file them. Put the kibosh on the “sawing” habit. The back-and-forth motion that many of us use when filing damages and weakens the tip of the nail. The best way to file a nail is to go in one direction, filing from one corner toward the middle. Then, switch to the other corner, and repeat in the other direction.

7. DO stabilize your hand while you paint your nails to prevent mistakes. We all know how a shaky hand leads to a less-than-ideal application that you have to redo. “If you have trouble painting your non-dominant hand, try stabilizing it,” says Bobeda. “If your painting hand is partially resting on a table, it will be much easier to control your finger movements and much easier to perfect your manicure.”

What’s your favorite nail color?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

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