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How to Care for Your Acrylic Nails: 10 Tips from the Pros

Acrylic nails? No problem. Learn what leading manicurists tell their clients about how to keep your manicure attractive and strong between salon visits.

Is there any better feeling in the world than walking out of the salon with a fresh set of acrylic nails? A skilled nail tech can work magic, transforming short natural nails into a perfectly elegant, well-shaped manicure. Unfortunately, nothing is ever permanent, and acrylics require some consistent upkeep.

While the work of a talented nail technician won't break quickly, biweekly salon visits are a must. However, is there anything else you can do to make sure your nails stay gorgeous until your next fill? Read on as we share tips from the top pros on keeping your acrylics looking fresh, even if it's been almost two weeks since your last salon visit.

1. Baby Your Nails!
The number one rule of acrylics is to treat them gently. This means you've got a bit of permission to act like a diva—avoid opening cans or doing other things that could damage or break your nails. Believe us, a separated acrylic can be super painful.

Cosmetologist Tina Alberino is also a firm believer that you should never try to lift anything heavy with your fingernails. If you need to dig in the dirt to plant your garden, you should also definitely put on some gloves!

2. Consider Top Coat Applications
Getting gel polish over your acrylic nails is a bit pricier, but it can really extend the lifetime of your manicure. If you opt for the regular polish, ask your nail tech about applying top coat. The nail pros at Essie recommend applying top coat every 2-3 days to prevent chips and cracks from developing in your polish.

3. Never Pretend to Be a Nail Tech
If you ARE a licensed nail tech, this doesn't apply for you. For the rest of us who haven't been trained, don't try anything complicated at home. This includes trying to clip your acrylic nails, fix serious lifts or breaks, or even doing your own fill. Trust us, it's not a good idea.

In the absolute worst case scenario, if you accidentally trap bacteria between your acrylic and nail when trying to fix a major nail lift with nail glue, you could cause a painful infection. When in doubt, it's always wisest to head straight into the salon.

4. Wear Gloves
Exposure to water, dish detergent, and other cleaning chemicals can cause your acrylics to lift, separate, or become weakened. Limited exposure to water is fine, but you should protect your hands with gloves if you're ever going to be scrubbing away.

Beauty journalist Alison Bryant is a firm believer in "keep[ing] a pair of rubber gloves by the sink." It will be hard to miss them if you need to scrub some pots and pans.

5. Avoid Acetone
Certain chemicals do not mix well with acrylics, and acetone nail polish remover is definitely one of them. Talk to your nail tech to be certain, but it's typically wise to head to the salon for a polish change. Women's Daily Magazine also recommends that you avoid exposure to turpentine and heat at all costs, because they can also cause your acrylics to deteriorate.

6. Use Vitamin E
Dry cuticles and hands can be common, especially if you have skin that's prone to dryness or you're in a particularly cold climate. Podiatrist Dr. Carolyn Siegel recommends using vitamin E oil or shea butter on your skin up to once a day, depending on dryness. However, for most people, one application per week should be sufficient.

You can get cuticle cream that contains vitamin E at most beauty supply stores, or even break open a capsule of the oil for just pennies per application. You should not attempt this treatment if you have a separated acrylic, because getting lotion between your natural nail and acrylic could lead to issues.

7. Develop Healthy Habits
Did you know that drinking enough water and eating a well-balanced diet could actually help you maintain a gorgeous manicure? According to the experts at Paint and Powder cosmetics, it certainly could. Individuals with a "relatively high moisture balance" have healthier hair, skin, and nails. If you have naturally thin or weak nails, it could be worth a conversation with your physician about supplements to encourage nail strength and growth.

8. Pick the Right Shape and Length
The right nail shape and length can go a long way in flattering your hands. Almond, oval, and coffin-shaped nails can elongate short or thick fingers. When choosing the shape of your acrylic nails, it's wise to be up-front with your nail technician about your lifestyle. Do you do tons of housework? Cooking? Wash your dishes by hand?

Not everyone is a candidate for super-long acrylics, and that's okay. It's better to choose slightly more conservative shape or length than deal with constant breakages. In addition, if you realize between salon visits that your nails are just TOO LONG, it's wise to head straight back in and get them filed down.

9. Watch for "Something Off"
In her years as a cosmetologist, Tina Alberino has seen what happens when clients don't care for their nails. If you natural nail appears discolored, or "warm" to the touch, it's not normal. If your nails feel gummy, it could be the product of chemical exposure. While severe nail breaks and infections will need to be treated by a medical doctor, always ask your nail tech if you think something is wrong.

10. Get Fills, for Goodness Sakes
The single most important thing you need to do to maintain a healthy, attractive manicure is maintenance. Your nails need to be filled every two weeks! If you don't have time for upkeep, it may be wise to take a short break from acrylics. Otherwise, make sure you're putting in the time to maintain your mani.

Caring for acrylics requires a shift in habits, to protect your hands from excessive moisture or damage. With the help of a skilled nail tech, you can make gorgeous acrylics a regular part of your lifestyle.

Jasmine Gordon

Jasmine Gordon is a freelance writer who lives in the gorgeous rain forest of NW Washington state. Her writing on love, relationships and technology has appeared on XoJane, Time.com, and elsewhere.

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