13 Ways to Prevent Chipped Nails

Written by Allison

Chipped nails? Never again.


Do these make you sad? They make me sad. Chipped nails just aren’t cute. There are people, I know, who don’t really care about chipped nails or the way an imperfect manicure looks. I wish I were one of you because as soon as my nails start to chip I have to either fix it (if it’s just one nail) or redo the whole thing. To make sure I don’t need to do my nails every few days I’ve slowly compiled a list of the best ways to prevent chipped nails, you’re welcome. While you’re here, read these 11 nail growth tips, too.

1. Take off 100% of your last manicure

That old chipped polish isn’t doing your new manicure any favors. Make sure you use nail polish remover (or plain ole’ acetone) to get off every scrap of polish. If not your new polish will adhere to the old polish and not to your nail. You already know that old polish is prone to chipping so it could cause your new manicure to chip.

2. Remove cuticles

I try to take good care of my cuticles but sometimes they just get past you. Do you see that bit at the base of my thumb nail that looks kind of flaky? That’s cuticle just waiting to be removed. If you don’t remove the cuticle it can mess with how well your polish adheres to your nail. 

I use the Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover. You squirt a thin line on your cuticles, wait a good fifteen seconds or so, and scrape with a cuticle pusher. Make sure you remove all the dead skin and cuticle remover when you’re done!

3. Clean your nails first

Before using your base coat, it’s good to make sure your nail is nice and clean. Any oil/dirt/left over cuticle remover can (you guessed it!) prevent your polish from properly adhering to your nails. A little bit of rubbing alcohol on a lint-free cloth will do the trick. Wait till your nails have fully dried before painting which will only take a few seconds. This is major in the fight against chipped nails.

4. Only paint dry nails

Painting your nails post relaxing bath sounds super relaxing but could also cause your nails to chip. You know when your nails are super saturated with water? They get super soft, and if your nails extend past your fingertip you can see that they get a little bit more flat, too. Painting on this surface means that when your nails finally dry out they’ll change shape a little bit which can cause nail polish to crack.

5. Use a bonding base coat

A bonding base coat like the ORLY Bonder Rubberized Base Coat adheres to both your nails and your polish color. It help to keep things literally stuck together and prevent chipping.

6. Don’t use old polish

Does your polish look like this? Separated with the pigment on the bottom isn’t a good look for a nail polish. And sure, if you wanted to use a polish like this, it’s not going to hurt you by any means. But separation usually means your nail polish is pretty old (these are over four years old). Old polish may have dried out, separated like this, or is otherwise starting to break down. This means chipping is much more likely.

7. Don’t let polish pool

A clean cuticle line not only looks nice but it means that as your nail grows out you won’t have a big, bulky top edge from where the polish pooled in your cuticle area. That edge can lift up pretty easily, chipping your nail.

Just keep an orange stick on hand to swipe any polish that starts to pool.

8. Wrap the tip

Protection is everything. The free edge of the nail is where a lot of people experience chipping. Covering the edge with a layer of polish as you go helps to protect it and gives your manicure another layer of protection.

9. Opt for a gel top coat

You can use a gel top coat without doing a full set of gels. All you need is a gel top coat and a nail lamp (this one is from Melody Susie). Paint your nails as usual, wait for the last coat of color to fully dry and then top with a layer of gel and cure under the lamp. It won’t last as long as a regular gel set but it will last longer than your average top coat.

10. Or a whole set of gels

Especially during busy times of the year (like the holiday season) I just go ahead and do a full set of gels. It takes longer than doing my nails with regular polish, but it doesn’t chip and lasts a good few weeks. Most of the gels I have are super cheap from Amazon and they work great! Nobody with gels has chipped nails, and that’s just science.

11. Oil regularly after totally dry

Using nail oil can help to keep your cuticles hydrated and your nails from getting brittle. I like to aim for once or twice a day. Just don’t use oil until your nails have totally dried or cured to make sure you don’t smudge anything.

12. Top coat top up

If you go for a regular top coat (my favorite non-gel is Seche Vite) go ahead and do another top coat three or four days post manicure. Just make sure to use some rubbing alcohol to remove any oils from your nails first. Don’t add this to your gel polish though.

13. Avoid opening cans (or anything else) with nails

The best way to avoid chipping your nails is to not use your nails on pretty much anything. Use a spoon to open pop tabs, type on the pads of your fingers, and try not to tap. The less pressure on your nails the better. Your DIY matte nail polish will thank you.

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About the author


Bio: She's a New Orleans based beauty writer, nail polish hoarder, and doughnut enthusiast. When she isn't camping out in her local coffee shop for hours on end, you'll probably find her taking selfies in front of every colorful wall she's ever seen. Follow along on Instagram @allisonmarieschmidt.

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