Prep for Success
I recommend getting a clean, no-polish manicure,” Sara says. “That way your cuticles are clean and your nails are nicely filed and shaped.” Whether you have your nails done by a pro or you do them yourself, skip the base coat—with polish strips, a base coat actually prevents the strip from adhering correctly—and don’t apply any hand lotion. Tool-wise, have on hand a set of cuticle cutters, a pair of tiny scissors, and at least one nail file (one rough one and one fine one is ideal).
Immediately before you start applying the polish strips, clean your dry nails with a few swipes of nail polish remover. “Even if you aren’t removing any polish, the acetone dries the nails and allows the strip to adhere smoothly to the nail bed,” Sara says. It also eliminates any oils or residue that could affect how well the strip sticks.
Peel and Place
Match a polish strip to your nail bed. If one nail is an in-between size, use the tiny scissors to trim a bigger strip down to the right size and shape. Peel the backing off of the strip and place it on your nail bed as close to the cuticle as possible. Smooth it down against the nail, from the bed to the tip. For extra staying power, rub the strip between your fingers before you apply it, to heat up the lacquer and make it more flexible. “My favorite application tip is to use a blow dryer,” Sara says. “The heat of the dryer allows for a smoother application process and longer wear.” Immediately after placing the strip on your nail bed, blast the nail with the dryer for a few seconds to help the strip “melt” into the nail.
File Away the Extra
Place the large-grit file perpendicular against your nail and file downward to tear off the extra polish strip. “The rougher the file, the easier it is,” Sara says. However, once most of the extra is gone, switch to a file with a finer grit. “To get a clean finish, I would recommend a glass file to really smooth out the edges."
Take Care of Your Work
“A top coat will add an extra shiny finish,” Sara says, “But it isn’t necessary for the polish to stay on longer.” The real secret to polish strip longevity is taking care of your hands. “Just like with any manicure, you always want to be gentle to prevent any chipping,” Sara says. Pressure, moisture, and heat can all cause polish to become unstable, so wear gloves when doing dishes and other wet or messy jobs. “Lotions or any oil-based products can separate or lift the polish strip,” Sara says. “If the strip starts to come off, apply heat to it using a blow dryer so that you can smooth it back onto the nail bed.”
“Once you notice that the strip is starting to lift from the edges, gently lift the strip to remove it from the nail,” Sara says. You can also remove it with nail polish remover. “Give your nails at least a day of rest before applying another set of strips.”