How to paint nail polish properly

How to paint nail polish properly

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Having some beautifully done nails can make any gloomy day better. Some people prefer to get their nails done professionally at a salon, but if you prefer to save some money or just like doing things yourself, you have probably been acquainted with painting your nails. 

Nail polish should be making your life easier by saving you the time and money it would have taken getting your nails done professionally, however, it can sometimes feel like the worst invention on this planet, when you just can’t seem to apply it correctly or no matter how long you leave it to dry it still seems to smudge.

Well fret no more, in this article I’m going to cover in detail how to properly apply your nail polish leaving it looking as if it was professionally done, what products you should be using in conjunction with nail polish, how to have smudge-free nails, and how to care for your nails for a longer-lasting manicure. Check out this article I wrote on how to do a manicure at home.

What you need to do before you apply nail polish

Simply applying nail polish to your nail will not cut it. You have to make sure that your nail was prepped correctly and that the nail polish has something to stick to. This will prevent the nail polish from chipping easily and will give you the longest-lasting manicure.

How to prep your nails before applying nail polish

Prepping your nail means cleaning any dead skin from your nail and making sure your nail is prepared so that the nail polish will adhere better. How can you achieve this:

  • Remove any old nail polish from your nails with nail polish remover. Try this green, acetone-free nail polish remover from
Pushing back cuticles

Pushing back cuticles

  • Use a cuticle pusher to gently push back your cuticles. Buy a pack of reusable wooden cuticle sticks from Do this from a 40-degree angle, as this will prevent you from accidentally pushing the cuticle too far if you slip(which can happen, especially if the cuticle is overgrown).
  • Use the cuticle pusher to gently remove the dead skin from your nail plate. These are pieces of white skin leftover on your nail after you’re done pushing the cuticle back. Having dead skin on your nail will stop the nail polish from adhering properly.
  • Shape your nails by using a nail file in your desired shape. Here are some 100/180 grit emery boards. Do this carefully as you don’t want to file off too much of your nail. Don’t know what shape to choose? Here I wrote an article on some different nail shapes.
  • Use cuticle nippers only if you have hangnails(dead skin on the sides of your nail that can be so tempting to pull at). Refrain from cutting your cuticles. I know many Russian manicurists on the internet do this and it looks super cool and satisfying, but these people have been trained to do so. If you cut it wrong or if your cuticle nipper is contaminated and you accidentally cut too much skin, you can risk getting a serious infection. Buy your sharp cuticle nippers with a protective cover from
Buffing nail

Buffing nail

  • Use a buffer to gently buff your nails. Help the nail polish adhere better and it’s a gentle way to smooth out your nails. Check out these buffer sponges.
  • Cleanse your nails with some alcohol on a cotton ball to remove any oils from your nail plate.

What products should you use with nail polish?

It is important to understand that in order for your nail polish to last longer, you have to use it with accompanying products:

  • Basecoat: Using a base coat before you apply your nail polish will not only allow your polish to last longer but it will also keep your nail polish from staining your nail. You can use a base coat specifically formulated to protect and strengthen your nails.
  • Topcoat: Sealing in the color with a strong topcoat is key for a longer-lasting manicure. It will protect the color and keep it from chipping as easily.

NOTE: Remember to always go over the tip of the nail when painting the nails. If you don’t seal in the edge the color will chip very easily.

How to apply nail polish correctly

Choosing your color

Applying nail polish is key to having that flawless, salon-worthy effect. Firstly decide what color you want. If you want a lighter color like white or pastel, make sure it is opaque as you want as much coverage as possible with only a maximum of three layers. If you are going for a neon look and find that the color is extremely sheer, try painting a layer of opaque white before you apply the color. This will give the color the opacity it needs and make it pop. Check out the green, eco-friendly, vegan, and cruelty-free nail polish range from

Protect your skin

Before you apply the color you will have to prepare your skin. Applying nail polish takes time and practice so be prepared to clean your cuticles and sidewalls the first couple of times. 

You can simplify the cleaning process by applying liquid latex to your skin or even something like petroleum jelly. This will act as a buffer between the nail polish and your skin and will help you to remove it with ease. Buy some liquid latex from

How to apply the polish perfectly

After base coat applied

The nail after base coat applied

After applying and waiting for the base coat to dry completely, wipe your brush against the side of the bottle to remove some of the polish, as you want to work in thin layers. Thick layers will take longer to dry, smudge easier and leave your nails looking unneat. 

applying nail polish

Applying nail polish

Place your brush on the middle of your nails, a few millimeters away from your cuticle. Use your brush to then gently “push” the nail polish closer to your cuticle, but keep a bit of space between the polish and your cuticle as you don’t want it to touch your skin. Placing your brush a bit away from the cuticle it will help prevent the nail polish from running into your cuticle.

applying nail polish to cap

Applying nail polish to cap

Swipe down with your brush while holding your nail facing down, this will help prevent the polish from running into your sidewalls. Do the same at the sides of the first stroke, staying clear of the sidewalls as well as the cuticle area. You can go over everything to make sure it is blended together correctly but remember to keep your layers thin. Cover the tip of the nail with polish. If your nail is short, gently pull the skin away from the nail so that you can easily cap the edge of the nail with polish.

Cleaning nail after applying nail polish

Cleaning nail after applying nail polish

Repeat these steps for about three layers. Wait for each layer to dry completely before applying the next. When you are done remove the liquid latex or petroleum jelly carefully without touching your nails. Take a thin nail brush with some nail polish remover and clean the sidewalls and cuticle areas. When your nails are completely dry apply the topcoat in the same manner as you did the color. This angular gel brush from Amazon is great for getting into your sidewalls and cuticle area to remove some excess nail polish. If you want to add some nail art to make your nails a little bit more exciting, I wrote an article on some easy nail art products that you can use.

Applying top coat to nail polish

Applying top coat to nail polish

How to dry the nail polish faster?

It can sometimes feel like an eternity before the nail polish dries completely, here are some tips and tricks to help it dry faster:

  • Use a nail dryer, or use your hairdryer in the cold setting to dry your nails. Here is a cute nail dryer from
  • Submerge your hands in ice-cold water, as this will speed up the drying process.
  • Use drying drops. Opt for a safe, cruelty-free brand.

Nail aftercare

Nail polish is not designed to last as long as something like gel, but you can still take care of it so that it can last at least a week or two. 

  • Use protective gloves when working in water or with chemicals.
  • Immediately fix chipped pieces on your nail.
  • Use cuticle oil every day.
  • Don’t use your nails as tools no matter how long they are.

How to store your nail polish

Nail polish has a limited amount of shelf life like any cosmetic product, but there are ways to store them to make sure they reach their shelf life. 

  • Some nail polishes do better when you keep them in the fridge or at very low temperatures, so read the indications on the bottle.
  • Clean the top of the bottle every time you use it to prevent the lid from getting stuck and air from penetrating the bottle.
  • Keep the nail polish out of direct sunlight.
  • When it starts to thicken use a few drops of nail polish thinner.
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