Hello there, lovelies!  If you’re interested in learning some of the mani tips we swear by, please read on.

But first, a head’s up…

Nails are dead cells.  Like hair.  Or antlers (insert seasonal Christmas music).  They peel, crack, get scuffed, dry out. They’ve got to be maintained if we want them to look good.  For us that means using rubber gloves at the kitchen sink (most of the time),  filing, buffing and shaping, regularly; using a cuticle remover, weekly; massaging moisturizing oil onto cuticle, nail and fingertips daily; and using whatever good and rich hand cream we can pick up on sale.

Redeeming formerly cracked and peeling nails is not accomplished overnight.  With that said, here are the tips that have worked for us…


The Polished Perfectionist has a simple tutorial that we like.  Bottom line:  use as few brushstrokes as possible, and please…for the love of all that is good and holy, take your time.  There’s nothing pretty about polished cuticles.


Lacquerized is one of the best online resources for the nail polish-addicted, but stopped publishing new material in July of 2011.  I wish she were still posting but her sizable archive of posts is still  there for all of us to appreciate and learn from.  I don’t know of a better article on the difference between polish finishes.


There’s also not a damn thing pretty about a dry and peeling nail bed.  That’s why we moisturize our nails daily.


Lisa writes…  I am a nutzoid devotee of Jessica Phenomen Oil.  It’s similar to CND Solar Oil, which so many adore. Both have a pleasant light almond scent.  I recommend using an oil formulated for use with cuticles and nails.

Whichever you use (heck, you could make your own), massage the oil into the cuticles, nail beds and fingers; hang out, read a book, cruise the internet, take a few sips of wine; and then about a half an hour later, vigorously and attentively rub your cuticles, nails and hands with a soft terry towl.  Heaven!


Lisa writes… Regular shaping with a good glass file keeps the length down and the edges smooth.  One good glass file can replace a lifetime of emery boards that need to be replaced regularly, once the grit inevitably wears out.

Right now, I’m using a Swissco that I bought from Sallys (It will last forever, or until I drop it on the ceramic floor and it breaks in two).

NOTE:  If you want to drastically shorten long talons, it’s a good idea to first clip them down, a smidge longer than whatever your desired length (to allow for further shaping).

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!  There are some seriously chitty glass nail files out there.  When it doubt, check reviews online. A crappy nail file, glass or otherwise, will shred your nails. Not nice. 

MULTI-SIDE BUFFER – Essential for smoothing nail bed and edges.  We don’t get much in the way of “ridges” on our nails, but the little we do, is remedied by a quick buff and smooth with this multi-sided tool.

CAREFUL!  If you’ve got deeply ridged nails, buffing is NOT the answer!  Check out ridge-filler base coats.  There’s nothing pretty about buffing those nail beds down to paper.  Ouch.


Blue Cross.  Don’t take our word for it.  Listen to Loodie.  An equally effective but somewhat more costly alternative is Sally Hansen’s Instant Cuticle Remover.


Use a basecoat, unless you want peeling and staining of the nail bed.  Use a strengthening basecoat if your nail bed is weak. Use a moisturizing basecoat if your nails are peeling and cracking.  Watch as your nails become stronger, appear smoother, and your lacquer adheres longer. Win.  Win.  Win.

Lisa writes:  I’m willing to try any base coat that says it will beat peeling nails.  My current fave is OPI Nail Envy, a milky translucent formula that’s working.


Yep, you read right:  Base coat atop glitter, under top coat.

Here’s the deal…a clear (not milky) base coat is helpful with the application of glitter polishes.  Glitters can be monstrous top-coat-eaters because that blingy, chunky stuff can sometimes take many, many coats to smooth out the bumpy surface.

Using a clear base coat between the glitter and a top coat does the very thing that base coats are designed to do:  prime and smooth out the surface. YAY!  In this case, we’re talking about the glitter surface.  Apply clear base coat over that glitter, and then seal the deal with your favorite top coat, and you’re one smooth customer!


99 % of the time, we use quick-dry top coats (the other 1% of the time?  matte top coats) because we’ve no patience for setting nails out to dry.  Ho. Hum. What time is it?  Feel like counting dust mites?

Here’s a list of our recommended quick-dry top coats…

Seche Vite – One minute after application, it’s dried to a glass-like glossy hard coat that’s long-lasting and beautiful.  Fabulous for use with nail art, to dry out polish before brushing on another layer (eliminates a lot of smears).  Downside to Seche is that many encounter polish “shrinkage”, where the rapidly dried polish sometimes shrinks back from the tip, as it dries.  Doesn’t happen all the time. I’ve yet to figure out the cause (room temperature? time between last coat and application? tackiness of undercoat?).

Poshe – Not nearly as shiny or gelatinous as Seche.  It’s a good, basic top coat.  Does the job.

Cult Nails – Shiny with a thinner, more liquid application than Seche. Does as advertised.

Sally Hansen Mega Shine – As glossy and long-lasting as Seche, but seemingly without the shrinkage (from Lisa’s experience, anyway). Though it’s considered a quick-dry top coat, it takes a lot longer than advertised (1 minute?  More like 5 minutes.) to truly avoid polish dings.

POLISH – in General

Application – Go SLOW.  In time, and with practice, you’ll be able to apply polish without painting your cuticles, fingertips and elbows.  Believe us.  Practice makes very damn near perfect.  But, you’ve got to go slow.  Really WATCH what you’re doing.  Don’t just let the brush guide you.  Let your EYES guide you.

Thick Polish – So many people throw perfectly fine nail polish into the trash because it’s become thick.  Nail polish will last a long time, if cared for properly.  When it thickens, use polish thinner, a couple of drops at a time, until the formula is reconstituted.

WARNING: Do not use nail polish remover to thin your polish

Though it will thin the lacquer, it will be ruined for future use.

Tighten bottle tops after using.

Lisa says:  ” I’m a great one for swatching out several colors and failing to properly closed the bottles before storing themaway.  Loose is not good enough.  We’re not talking vice grip tight.  Just tight enough so that cap isn’t going anywhere until you next try to open it.”

Gunky bottle tops?  Use acetone to clean up buil- up polish around the bottle top and applicator


 Think one nail polish remover is pretty much just like another?

 Think again. Different purposes call for one of two formulas:

  • BASIC – This is my (Lisa) go-to category for basic nail polish removal.  I use a moisturizing formula to protect and improve nail and hand condition. My favorite formula is Zoya Remove+ but holy chit, that stuff is so wacky expensive at 78 cents to $2.30 per ounce. Their best deal has you paying $25 for a 32-oz. bottle of nail polish remover (acetone, glycerine, water, fragrance and dye).  Crazy, right?  But the results with this stuff are so amazing that our favorite lacquer-loving scientist came up with an inexpensive DIY version that’s a near-perfect dupe (we don’t need the unnecessary dye, anyway).
  • ARD-TO REMOVE VARNISHES – This calls for acetone, the Mother of All Removers.  It’s the only thing that will take off those forty bazillion layers of  glitter that you painted on two weeks ago.  Glitter is freaking STEEL, people.  Acetone will take it down.  The thing I don’t like about acetone is the way it leeches moisture from your the nails and hands, and can leave them a brittle dry mess. Uh, huh.  Not pretty.  For tough glitter removal, I (Lisa) tape an acetone-saturated cotton ball over each nail, and wipe clean after five minutes. For specifics, see directly below…


    Glitter is gorgeous.  Glitter is fun.  Glitter is a major league pain in the butt to remove.  That is, until we began using the aluminum foil method.

    Aluminum Foil Method – Tear foil into small (no smaller than 3″ square) pieces.  Soak cotton ball in acetone.  Position finger flat on foil, with the finger’s tip right at the center.  Place soaked cotton ball directly atop nail, and fold foil up and over the nail.  Fold remaining edges of the foil, until the nail is encased in the foil.  Wait 5 minutes and gently press down and rub the foil over the nail, to facilitate removal.  Take foil off, and nail should be very nearly glitter-free.


    There are lots out there, but the one we use is the e.l.f. Professional Concealer Brush from Target.  A buck.  If you find a better one, let us know.  We’re always interested in what works for other people! Such a cosmetic brush makes for easy clean up of  small stray polish marks on the skin,and cuticle.

    DRY v. WET brushes – I  (Lisa)  use two of these clean-up brushes. One, I use dry, without any acetone (except to clean the brush, as needed).  With it,  I wipe away as much wet polish as I can. Whatever tiny bit of polish is left over can easily be wiped away with the swipe of an acetone-dipped brush.  A slight tint of stray polish is a lot easier to clean up that having acetone come in contact with a blob of wet polish, spreading the mess even further. Anything you can do to minimize the amount of wet polish that comes in contact with acetone, the better. And no, it’s not a better idea to just leave blobs to dry and be cleaned up with acetone later.  Handle it right away, and you’ll have an easier time. So, to recap:

    • Use a DRY clean up brush for removing wet polish. 
    • Use an ACETONE-WET clean up brush for removing dry polish

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