Home Nails What To Do When Your Nail Polish Always Peels Off Or Chips

What To Do When Your Nail Polish Always Peels Off Or Chips

by Gabbi

Have you ever gotten a fresh manicure at a salon only to mess it up on the way out? Doing your nails can be expensive, and the last thing you want is your new set to peel or chip. It can feel frustrating when you’re trying to preserve a fresh manicure.

Nail polish can last for about two weeks before it starts chipping. However, most people overlook that you’ll need to care for your manicure at home if you want it to last. Also, the application and preparation methods can boost the longevity of polish.

So, what can you do when your nail polish always peels off or chips? First, you’ll want to ensure your nails are properly prepped so the polish can stick. Next, it would be wise to create a nail care routine at home to avoid any polish chipping mishaps. 

Taking care of your nails at home doesn’t have to be time-consuming or feel like a chore. For example, add simple steps in your routine like avoiding exposure to hot water or applying cuticle oil. It may be time to switch your salon, too, if you don’t do your own nails.

You can prolong your manicure by changing your application method. For example, you’ll want to apply polish in multiple thin layers rather than one big coat. Minor changes in your manicure application and prep can help polish last for weeks on end.

Why Does My Nail Polish Chip After Two Days?

Sometimes, nothing feels more frustrating than chipping a fresh manicure. 

How can a manicure chip so quickly? First, the polish could chip from lack of preparation. Your manicure will only last if you prep your nail plates correctly, like filing or nipping cuticles.

If your nail plates are too dirty, oily, or dry, they won’t provide a good base for the nail polish to stick. Another reason why your nail polish can chip so early is because the free edge isn’t painted, or you’re not using a high-quality top/base coat.

So, if you’re looking to avoid chipping your polish, try focusing on prep and investing in a long-lasting top/base coat. 

No Top Or Base Coat

While you technically can paint your nails without a top or base coat, the results won’t last. Topcoat and base coat (check out our favorite set from O.P.I on Amazon) are essential to prolong the life of your nail polish. It will protect the color from chipping and staining your nail plate.

A base coat is necessary because it creates a sticky and tacky layer for the polish to adhere to. A base coat will fill in any ridges or bumps on your nail plate so you can work on a smooth surface. It’s best to apply it before your nail color.

Topcoat is another necessity because it creates a protective layer over your color. Topcoats will promote the lifespan of your manicure, and they will smooth out any minor imperfections like streaks or bubbles. It’s also available in varying finishes.

So, not applying a top/base coat can hinder the longevity of your nail polish. 

Nails Are Too Dry Or Too Oily 

Your nail plates should be properly cleansed before adding color. 

Nail plates that are too dry or oily can affect how long nail polish will last. The health of your nail plates can also indicate if there is another health concern that can be acknowledged. 

Nails that are too brittle will be prone to breaking or snapping and can even break vertically down the plate. It’s crucial to use a strengthening treatment (like this awesome one from O.P.I on Amazon) to heal the nails. Nails that are too oily can cause polish to chip due to excess moisture. 

The Polish Is Not Capped Or Wrapped

Most people believe that painting your nails is straightforward. However, there are a few critical details to the painting process that you shouldn’t miss. For example, you’ll want to apply polish to the tips of your nails, aka the free edge.

This method of painting the free edge is known as capping or wrapping. Adding polish to the free edge will ensure the tips have an extra barrier of color to prevent chipping. 

Have you noticed that one of the first places polish will chip is close to the tips? Capping will prevent the most vulnerable places from peeling away. 

Why Does My Nail Polish Peel Off So Easily?

We mentioned that your polish could peel due to no preparation, the wrong application, and not having an aftercare routine. 

Also, there is a right and wrong way to apply polish. For example, you’ll want to cap the free edge, but you also want to apply it in thin layers.

Your polish can peel easily if your hands are frequently exposed to harsh elements. Any hands-on activities can increase the chance of your polish peeling or chipping. So, make sure to keep a pair of gloves handy for chores like the dishes. 

Increased Exposure To Water 

Frequent exposure to water, especially hot water, can increase the chance of your nail polish peeling. Water can soften the nails and the lacquer, causing it to become easy to remove. 

As mentioned earlier, you can wear gloves to avoid contact with water.

Your water pressure and temperature can also affect your nail varnish. For example, harsh water pressure can beat down your polish and create a break. Due to excess moisture, hot water or steam can also cause your nail color to lift. 

The Nail Lacquer Was Applied Too Thick 

Have you noticed you need to add a few layers of polish to get an opaque finish? While it may be tempting to layer one thick glob of polish on your nails, the results won’t last. Applying a thick coat can take a long time to dry and settle into place.

Instead, you’ll want to work in thin layers, allowing time to dry in between coats. Thick coats of nail polish are more prone to peeling because the polish doesn’t have much to stick onto.

So, thin layers can dry quickly, create a smooth finish, and offer an opaque color. 

No Preparation 

Arguably the most crucial step of any manicure is the preparation. Nail prep includes filing, cuticle care, shaping, buffing, etc. If you don’t prep your nails before nail color, they can chip or peel off easily later on.

You’ll want to avoid applying nail polish on un-prepped nails. If not, you can apply the color over dirt, bacteria, build-up, and debris which can all hinder the longevity of your manicure. You won’t be guaranteed a smooth or seamless result. 

How To Make Your Manicure Last Longer

So how can you prolong the wear of your nail color? First, it’s essential to perform the proper nail prep steps, application method, and aftercare routine. Nail prep will prevent and lower the chances of your polish chipping or peeling away.

Also, you’ll want to apply your polish in thin layers and cap the free edge. Lastly, it’s crucial to note that aftercare is required even after a regular manicure if you want to prevent chipping. So, your nail journey continues even after leaving the salon. 

Prevention & Preparation 

It’s easier to prevent chipping polish than it is to fix it. So, you’ll want to focus a lot of attention on your prep routine. Nail prep will ensure your nail plates are healthy, shaped, and ready to be polished. This is the best way to prevent lifting and chipping.

You can include a dehydrator (like this one from Mia Secret on Amazon) in your routine if your nail plates are particularly oily or simply tend to your cuticles. 

Use A Dehydrator Or Primer

A dehydrator is a product that will eliminate any excess moisture from the plate so other products can adhere to it better. You can also use a primer to increase the longevity of your base coat and nail color. 

Together, a dehydrator and primer will create the perfect canvas on your nail plate. These products will help make a smooth plate so you can avoid texture imperfections like bumps, bubbles, or streaks.

File Nails & Push Back Cuticles

Did you know your cuticles can affect the longevity of your nail color? This is because the cuticles protect you from infections and promote healthy nail growth. So if your cuticles aren’t cared for, it can lead to your polish chipping or peeling down the road.

You can push the cuticles back if you aren’t comfortable with cutting them. Also, file and buff your nails for a smooth base and create your desired shape. 

Remove Excess Moisture From The Nail Plate 

A dehydrator can remove moisture from the plate, but if you need something more substantial, try using an alcohol pad. If you have excess moisture on the nail plates, it can increase the chance of your polish peeling rather than sticking to your plate.

An alcohol pad can remove this excess moisture and eliminate any tiny traces of dirt or bacteria on the nails.

Application Process

Now it’s time to master the application process. Again, you’ll want to invest in high-quality nail lacquers or go to a trusted salon. Patience is vital, so let your polish dry well and work in layers.

Always Use A Base And Top Coat

A base coat will protect your nail plate from staining, and it creates a tacky canvas for color to stick onto. Also, you’ll want to seal in your hard work with a top coat to prevent chipping and peeling. 

You can also add a top coat to the free edge for peeling prevention. 

Work In Thin Layers

Apply polish in thin layers to avoid peeling. Working in thin layers allows the polish to dry in between coats as you build up its intensity. Also, you won’t have a streaky or glob-like mess. 

Thin layers will adhere better to the base coat and decrease the chance of peeling.

Always Cap Your Nail Polish 

If you’re looking to prevent chipping, please cap your free edge. Painting the tips of your nails ensures there is enough color throughout your nails so it’s less vulnerable to chipping. Make sure to cover this area with polish and a topcoat.

Don’t Flood The Cuticle

Working in thin layers will also help you avoid flooding the cuticle. The cuticle is a barrier to your nails, and you should avoid polishing it. You won’t achieve nice lines around the nail if you do, and excess polish will overflow the nail wall.

Also, if you end up getting the polish on your cuticles, it can increase the chances of chipping and looking messy. Cuticles are meant to keep foreign items away from your nails to prevent infections.


Whether you get your nails painted at a salon or you do them at home, the journey continues long after the polish is dry. 

You can implement multiple aftercare steps to prolong your polish. For example, you can apply cuticle oil or another layer of topcoat. 

These tips can keep your nail color looking shiny and new on the first day it’s applied.

Apply Cuticle Oil Daily

We mentioned that your cuticles could affect the outcome and longevity of your manicure. 

By applying cuticle oil (like this effective one from CND) daily, you’re promoting healthy nail growth, and you can prevent chipping. You can use cuticle oil nightly and store it on a bedside table.

Also, cuticle oil will keep your nails looking fresh instead of brittle and dry. Of course, you can push them back too to avoid picking at any dried cuticle bits.

Avoid Long Exposure To Hot Water 

We mentioned that prolonged exposure to water could soften the nails and lacquer, affecting the lifespan. Hot water and steam can create more moisture for your nails to endure, promoting peeling or chipping.

Avoid Hands-On Activities When Needed

Another tip that coincides with avoiding hot water is by minimizing hands-on activities. 

However, it can be wise to keep a pair of gloves around for chores like the dishes or gardening. This will also provide an extra protective barrier for your nail polish.

Use A Strengthener In Between Manicures 

If your nails are weak, dry, or brittle, you can try using a nail strengthener. A strengthener is excellent to use in between manicures. These products are filled with vitamins your nails need to grow long and strong.

Nail strengtheners are available in a wide array of finishes and colors so they can replace nail polish. A nail strengthener will create a healthier base that polish can latch onto for future manicures.

Reapply Top Coat If Needed 

Did you know you can reapply a top coat? If your nails look dull or lackluster, an extra layer of the topcoat can revive your color. You can add another layer of topcoat for more protection to prevent chipping and peeling in between manicures.

A top coat can act as a pick-me-up for your nail color and offer it more life and longevity.

Final Thoughts

Nail polish can chip easily if you don’t apply it correctly or don’t instill preparation or aftercare steps. 

For example, your polish can chip quickly if you don’t use a base/top coat, your nail plates have excess moisture, or you’re applying one thick coat of polish.

However, you can prevent peeling and chipping by focusing on nail prep, applying polish in thin and manageable layers, and creating a simple aftercare routine. Now you’ll never have to deal with a chipped manicure ever again!

If you still have questions, take a look at this video from Kelli Marissa on YouTube.

Up Next: Painting Nails Black – Ultimate Guide

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