Here's How To Take Care Of Your Nails After A Gel Manicure

Manicures are having a moment as of late, arguably more than ever before in history. Sure, we all remember the ubiquitous French mani of the early aughts, with their square white tips and pink hue, or standard solid color manicures you could get at any salon — but lately, it's about more than just regular nail polish versus acrylics.

There are now countless new ways to get your nails done, with most methods gaining popularity just a few years ago. Aprés Gel-X nails are a soft-gel, press-on nail system that covers the full nail bed (via The Zoe Report), while dip powder manicures use a powder system to build up color on the nails (via Elle). Of course we still have regular polish if you just need your mani to last a week, but one method continues to be one of the most sought-after in the salon game: gel manicures. As a sort of "sweet spot" between regular polish and longer-lasting techniques like aprés, dip powder, and acrylics, gel manis involve drying polish with a UV light. This makes gel manicures last longer than standard polish, and they stay shinier, too (via Byrdie).

If you're as obsessed with gel manicures as we are, then you're probably curious about how to care for them — and make them last way longer. If your gel mani just isn't lasting the two weeks it's supposed to, you might be missing a few key tricks for major longevity. Here's everything you need to know!

Caring for your cuticles is essential

As with everything, you should always start at the root, aka your cuticles. Before we get to the best practices for making sure your polish doesn't chip as often, or even for preventing brittleness and breakage, we should first focus on the cuticle, which is the foundation of any kind of mani. Even if you never thought about the connection between making sure your cuticles are healthy and the longevity of your polish, many nail experts say it's one of the most important tips in the book.

As per Cosmopolitan, applying a good cuticle or nail oil everyday is essential for extending any manicure, since they make sure your nails stay moisturized. Why is this important? As per the outlet, dry nails and cuticles mean a higher likelihood of breakage. This is similar to hair in need of big-time hydration, which is often full of tell-tale split ends. Bustle points to cuticle oil as one of the most important ways to make a gel manicure last longer, explaining that dry nails are the major reason behind splits and tears. Recommending cult favorite cuticle oils Butter London Holiday Handbag Cuticle Oil ($15) and Bio Oil ($14.99), the publication asserts that moisturizing and pushing back cuticles is paramount for striding through those long-coveted 14 days seamlessly. This way, even if you do paint over your gel mani in a pinch, you avoid leaving polish on your cuticles — a common culprit for chipping.

Hot water and alcohol-based products can damage your mani

Apart from simply maintaining your cuticles in tip-top shape, it's just as important to avoid the basic causes behind nail breakage and chips in your treasured gel polish. While many salons have a seven to 14 day "insurance" policy that lets you go back and fix your mani, why not avoid the situation in the first place? If you're too busy to deal with annoying chipping, then simply avoid these gel mani offenders stat.

One culprit you might not be expecting at all: hot water. Yes, those almost-boiling showers you love so much might just be causing early chipping on your gel mani — just like washing your hands or the dishes with hot water can. According to Bustle, "extreme heat" causes chips in a gel manicure, and can be the reason behind your mani lasting just a week or even less. One of the worst things you can do is take a hot bath and keep your hands in the tub for an extended period of time — that's a recipe for saying goodbye to your cute mani in no time. Plus, as dermatologist Dr. Adriana Lombardi told Byrdie, "hot baths can make the nails expand as they absorb the water," which causes chips. Choose warm showers instead.

Moreover, getting alcohol-based products on nails might contribute to a ruined mani. As cosmetic chemist Dr. Shuting Hu told Hello Giggles, products with alcohol can dry out the skin — and dry nails mean breakage.

Two other substances might be secretly damaging your gel mani

There are a slew of products that might be messing with your gel manicure and causing chips way before their time. Far away from just alcohol-based products getting on your nails, there are tons of substances that may be damaging your mani — and that you get into contact with everyday. Suddenly, your gel manicure's chips might make a lot more sense — use these tips next time!

Apart from drying alcohols, you should avoid getting any kind of solvent oils on your nails. As explained by EcoLink, solvent oils include acetone, hexane, carbon tetrachloride, diethyl ether, and benzene — solutions that are found in way more products than you think. While you might believe acetone is a solvent strictly found in nail polish remover, it's actually found in many cleaning products, too. Meanwhile, the other solvents are commonly found in different kinds of household degreasers — products you may very well be getting on your nails when you clean your kitchen at the end of the day. According to Secret Spa, solvent oils can cause "major damage" to your gel polish, and aren't just found in cleaning products — you can also find them in tanning oil and insect repellent.

Another chemical that might be messing with your mani is chloride, which as we know, is found in most pools. Secret Spa says that swimming in chlorine will make your polish chip or fade, so washing your hands with fresh water afterwards is crucial.

Wearing gloves might sound extra, but it really helps

Wearing gloves is recommended by countless nail professionals when talking about how to make a gel mani last the extra mile. While we're not going to go so far as to suggest you wear gloves when out and about, wearing gloves around the house can save your manicure in more ways than one.

There's one activity you should always wear gloves for, even when your nails are bare: cleaning your house. As explained previously, cleaning products are chock-full of harsh chemicals including acetone and hexane, which can get in contact with your hands if not wearing gloves. As per Secret Spa, these substances dry out your skin, can cause irritation, and make your hands look anything but prepped and moisturized. If you do have a gel mani, cleaning without gloves can cause early chipping, and may dry out your cuticles, too.

According to Byrdie, you should always wear gloves when doing any kind of "heavy duty work," which might include cleaning, organizing your garage, arts and crafts with the kids, or flattening endless amounts of Amazon boxes to get them into the recycling bin. Celeb manicurist Michele Saunders told the outlet that rubber gloves are the perfect solution to getting your gel mani to last two weeks — or maybe even three! As per Cosmopolitan, sporting a gel mani means you should also wear gloves while washing the dishes, both because of the hot water and the chemicals in your dish soap.

Use a nail file and at-home polish to maintain your manicure

You might be a bit scared to give your gel manicure much-needed TLC for fear of messing it up. Many of us shy away from maintaining our gel manis because if we're not nail experts, who's to say we won't make chips or breakage look even worse? That being said, knowing proper maintenance for a gel mani once it starts chipping is crucial to extending its life.

Knowing how to use a good nail file on your gel mani every few days is one of the most important lessons in making it last much longer. In fact, nail care brand Olive & June's founder Sarah Gibson Tuttle told Byrdie that keeping a nail file with you in your purse or car is super important to keep a gel mani in the best shape possible. If you see any chips on the tips, no matter how small they are, use your file to get rid of them stat. As per Gibson Tuttle, "file it to a shape you love and leave it be if you can... if it's obvious and you can't return to the salon immediately, we recommend finding a similar polish to cover up any gaps in the color." So yes, keeping a nail file and polish on hand are both paramount in maintaining your mani. According to Bustle, you should also apply a top coat after filing and painting over chips in your manicure to seal everything.