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My Top 5 Nail Tips for Flawless Manicures

By on May 1, 2013
in Revlon, Tips and Tricks

Top 5 Nail Tips for a Flawless Manicure

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Over the years, I’ve picked up numerous manicure tips from professional manicurists, my fellow nail fanatics and my own experiences. I’ve shared a lot of them with you in other posts but never pooled together my faves.

Tip 1Swipe bare nails with vinegar prior to polishing. Yep, plain old white vinegar. It removes any oils or residues to help your manicure last.

Tip 2Use a thin brush dipped in nail polish remover to clean up polish mistakes. This one seems so obvious to me now but, when I first learned of it, it was a total, “Eureka!” moment. Lightly swiping the brush inside the cuticle will give you the perfect, professional polish curve, EVERY TIME!

Brush dipped in nail polish remover for cleanup

Tip 3Wrap your tips (aka cap the free edge). This is one of those blink and you’ll miss it techniques that all professional manicurists use. As you finish each coat of base, polish and top coat, lightly swipe the edge of your nail to prolong wear. Pictured below is an exaggerated version of what wrapping your tips looks like.
Manicure Tip Wrap or Cap Nail Free Edge with Polish

Tip 4Roll your way to the perfect French tip. As you know, I’m not a fan of the classic French manicure but I’m always on board for a funky, colorful French. If you have the patience, using tape will give you foolproof results but in this fast paced world, as Sweet Brown says, “ain’t nobody got time for dat!” The key is to use a polish with a thin brush, like Revlon Nail Art Expressionist,  hold your brush steady, and roll your finger underneath.

Tip 5 – Apply cuticle oil to the skin around your nail prior to polish removal to prevent staining. This is crucial when you are using dark polishes or colors that are notorious for staining. Blues & greens I’m looking at you. The added benefit, you protect the skin from the drying effects of nail polish remover.

What are you favorite nail tips? Do you use any of these in your typical manicure routine?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Revlon and Style Coalition. For more info, view my Disclosure Policy.

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There Are 66 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Alana says:

    Thank you! I’m definitely going to try the french manicure tip out, though like you I’m not the hugest fan of the classic french manicure though I’ll do it about once a year. Also, I used to wrap my tips religiously, but I started not wrapping my tips again as an experiment and I found that my manicures actually last longer. When I wrap them, they are more likely to chip off at the tips in chunks a few days in. Strange.

    • Michelle says:

      Interesting! I’ve never experienced that personally but I can see how that would happen. Gotta go with what works best for you.

  2. Marianne says:

    Gotta try # 5, that always happens. Great tips.

    • Michelle says:

      Put your cuticle oil next to your remover bottle and you’ll never forget!

  3. Laura Catano says:

    Wow, I’ve only heard about one of those manicure tips (wrap the tips) and I even forget to do it sometimes! I really have been trying to remember to use cuticle oil twice a day for my dry cuticles, and I think the tip to use it before nail polish removal will help me remember!

    For cleaning up mistakes, I’ve been using a really thin pair of tweezers. I think the thin brush will be easier on my skin. :) thank you for the tips!!

  4. Natalie says:

    Thank you! I’d never heard of the vinegar trick.What specific brush is that you’re using for cleanup?

    • Michelle says:

      I use a thin angled eyeliner brush for detailed cleanup. I think it’s from Crown Brush. And then I have a thicker one with a dotting tool on the other end that I use for messier nail art projects. There isn’t a brand name on it but I’ve seen similar ones on

  5. Raina says:

    I am totally going to try that vinegar trick, thanks! :) Just curious — what kind of cuticle oil do you use? Thanks again!

    • Michelle says:

      I always have a bottle of CND Solar Oil on hand though a cuticle oil pen, like the one from Sephora, is very handy and TSA friendly.

  6. LB says:

    I don’t get gel nails very often. But I modified the method of gel nail polish removal for my regular manicures. I find it works great and no need for tinfoil! I roll out a large cotton ball and break it into 10 pieces (cotton pads could also work). Dip each cotton portion in nail polish remover – I put mine in the cap – and lay it on top of nails. Let that sit for 3-5 minutes (based on your patience level), watch a little Real Housewives, and then rub off as your remove the cotton pieces. Touch up any remainder with your regular process. I find this leaves less mess on the skin when removing polish. Great for when you use reds,dark colors,blues and greens.

  7. Erica Jane says:

    I always forget to do the oil before removing polish thing. I need to get in the habit of it because it works so well! Thanks for the reminder! My only technique that I have is when applying polish, I do the 3 step technique, but instead of going down the center first I do each side and finish with the center. If that makes any sense. I find that works better with finicky polishes and cuts down on streaks.

    • Michelle says:

      I do the oil technique while swatching so I don’t dry out my skin beyond belief. Now it’s just become habit.

  8. Great post! I didn’t know about tip #5, so thanks for that! Bye bye stained skin~

  9. Jen says:

    My best nail tip is actually what not to do: don’t start a manicure 30 minutes before you go to bed, no matter how tempting that new polish is. :)
    Also, the thin brush clean-up was a eureka moment for me too.

    • Michelle says:

      I totally agree! Waking up the sheet marks is a complete bummer

    • Leisel says:

      Seche Vite, Cult Nails Wicked Fast, Sally Hansen Insta-Dry and a few other ones out there will help with that. I do late night manicures all the time now that I’ve found them.

      • JessicaLJN says:

        I agree Leisel!!! The ONLY time I have to sit still is at/near bedtime! At any other time I am too tempted to go off and try doing things! So I ALWAYS…RELIGIOUSLY do my nails before bed – (and I change my colors 2x’s per week)….I use Seche Vite on top and within 10 minutes my nails are under the covers and I am fast asleep – and I NEVER have any marks or sheet/blanket imprints! Although I use to be victim to that before I used Seche…..what a lifechanger that product has been! *Tip….if you are super worried about falling asleep before they are dry, try reading for awhile in a nearby chair – that’s what I do….then all I have to do is crawl into bed 10 minutes later!

  10. Kellie says:

    Great tips!

  11. Sierra Delta says:

    I don’t know if this is “new” to anyone but me! When I’m ready to remove my polish (especially dark colors), I coat each nail with fresh polish (this is how I get rid of color mistakes), let it sit for minute or so, and then swipe it off with a remover-soaked cotton ball. I think the fresh polish somehow softens the old stuff and makes it much easier to remove. I know — it sounded sketchy to me, too, but it works.

  12. Mo says:

    Thanks for these – I use vinegar for everything, but didn’t think of this!

    Two tips – Polish one hand: base, color, top coat. Let it dry completely to hard before doing the other hand. It’s longer, but you always have one dry hand in case something needs to get done. (This is from the RBL lady’s, book – highly recommended.)

    Also, if anything is at all red or shredded, use Neosporin as a cuticle cream. Your fingers or toes will calm right down and no danger of things getting worse. Use the real Neosporin, which has olive and other oils as a base, rather than the generics, which has a petroleum jelly base. (This from an nurse in my knitting group.)

    • Michelle says:

      Great tips! I never thought of using Neosporin as a cuticle cream. I always have tubes on hand as I trip a lot (my poor knees).

  13. Love the “roll your finger,not the brush” trick – have to try that one out!

  14. Aileen says:

    LOVE these tips thank you! What type of brush is that?

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Aileen! The brush pictured is part of a double ended tool with a dotter on the opposite end. I picked it up at a beauty show but there is no brand name on it. I’ve seen similar brushes on

  15. Annie Suzie says:

    So white vinegar is going on the shopping list! Going to try the oil before, remove tip too.
    TQ :)

  16. Kirstie says:

    I’ve never heard of using cuticle oil to minimise staining so I’ll definitely be trying that out – smurf/Simpson fingers are not cool! Also, my tip wrapping ends up looking like your exaggerated version all too often, haha.

  17. Leisel says:

    A good, fast-drying top coat! I hardly ever painted my nails before I found out about them, but a good top coat can fix everything.

    I remember before I found out about Seche Vite finishing painting my nails 4 hours before going to bed, and still waking up with sheet marks. With it, I have changed diapers and put babies in car seats within 5 minutes without ruining the manicure.

    It keeps bubbles from forming (or at least from raising to the surface where you can see them)… which was always a problem for me because I can rarely manage to get a nice even thin coat, and compensate by using thicker coats.

    It can even smooth out a bad application. I tell you, fast-drying top coats with hardeners are magic, and make all the difference.

  18. QueenMiSeRy says:

    Never thought to use cuticle oil before removing *___* I will surely do that!

  19. Solar Oil is good for everything,cuticles and, especially callouses. You don’t really need the vinegar if you polish your nails right after you remove the old polish. What you’re trying to prevent is stuff like soap and hand cream left on your soon to be polished nails. The polish remover that no one has ever mentioned but hard to find is the jar with the plastic “tentacles” instead of foam that’s meant to remove fake nails. (I keep refilling it with pure acetone from the hardware department.) I found the generic at Target. And, last but not least, the UV topcoat and little portable light from Seche Vite is amazing, hardens your manicure in a minute and protects it for a whole week.

    • Michelle says:

      Great tips, thanks Joanne! I use the Seche UV top coat when I’m in a rush and don’t have time to wait for my polish to dry. It’s genius but WOW does it smell bad.

    • Steffy says:

      Rite Aid has the jars with the little rubber ‘fingers’ for removing acrylics and such. I don’t remember the brand or if its their store brand. anyway its refillable and I too refill with regular acetone as needed. that thing is a lifesaver…. er, nail-saver anyway!

  20. Linda165 says:

    Great tips!! I didn’t know about the last one, and I swear my skin stains so easily. Taking off my black polish is a nightmare. I’ll put that tip to practice! Thank you.

  21. Lexi says:

    Yes! I am deffinetly going to try the brush one! No more fuzzy messes left by cotton balls! And the oil is genius, must try. Thank you ALU for these great tips, will come in handyyyy :DD

  22. Koshka says:

    Brilliant tips, thanks! White vinegar is definitely being added to my tools :)

  23. Moni says:

    It’s so interesting what other people do…some things are sooo different. I massage lanoline into my nails and apply some nail “gel cure” before applying polish.

    This keeps my nails healthier than anything up to now. They are rather soft and thin, but get better. And the best is with that, generally the mani keeps longer (the last one almost a week!!)

    And then.. the polish peels off when I want it, in almost one piece. I don’t yet know how all that works… but I don’t mind :o)

    Without knowing, I found it’s a good thing “to varnish the edge” and now I find here it’s a known thing ^^

    Thanks for sharing your tips.

    Greetings from Berlin


    • Michelle says:

      Hi Moni! What is nail “gel cure”? I’m not sure I’m familiar with this product. If you massage lanoline into your nail, do you remove the excess with nail polish remover? Or you just apply the “gel cure” over it before base coat and polish?

      • Moni says:

        hi Michelle, I leave a very thin coat of lanoline and apply the gel cure (I wouldn’t know how you would call that stuff in English …it’s a little bottle with a brush in and gelly stuff inside) then I let it dry and put my base coat on.

        I have observed d this for about a month now, since I sarted to make nail stickers myself… ant this time it worked even with directly painted nails. before I thought it had to do with the foils…

        the nails don’t seem to suffer… although I see some structures which show a very slight “coming off a little” of some nail…how do you call it…tiny stuff, but it only loosens, the polish piece is all smooth (see the pic in the “poppy manicure” in my blog) the nails are in beter condition since I do this, but when it is hard to get off, I use remover. hope you understand what I mean? :-)

        i will write about this, hopefully next week, in my new blog…address above.

        before I write a novel here… if you’re interested have a look at my article sometimes next week :-)

        • Michelle says:

          Hi Moni! I’ll definitely check out your blog and keep an eye out for that article. I’m very curious about your use of lanoline.

  24. Moni says:

    I forgot – maybe my nails got better because of using no remover, when everything peels off?

    Did you ever have polish peel off in one piece without special base? It all just started when I started to use lanoline.

    • Michelle says:

      Normally it’s considered bad for your nails to peel off your polish. I know, for me, it usually takes off part of the nail if I try to peel it off. But if your polish is coming off in one sheet and you aren’t seeing any damage, the lanoline must have something to do with it.

      • Moni says:

        as I said above, some tiny scales loosen a little and as soon as the lanoline is on, everything is fine again. there seems no damage, although of these scales. my nails are quite soft and like splitting, but now the splits grow out :-) and the pulled off polish film is all smooth. actually I think it’s the mix of the lanoline and the gel stuff, which leaves this ultra fine film after drying.

  25. Shelby says:

    Wow, all of these tips are just awesome, both from the article and comments!

    I use White Vinegar for cleaning and even laundry (learned to clean the old school way, hehe) but never thought to use it on my nails… which sounds way cheaper and gentler!
    I’m also digging the tips on Neosporin (now I’ll have to buy the real stuff) and putting on a coat of polish to remove old polish more easily–genius!

    My only tip is to get the e.l.f. angled brush for clean-up. It is perfectly skinny and angled and precise–magical. The best part is I found it at a dollar store! I went back and bought two more to stockpile :-)

  26. ivelove says:

    I really love your article it was very simple but great tips. I just have a question: what kind of brush did you used to dip in nail polish remover to remove mistakes and where did you buy it?

    • Michelle says:

      I used a brush I picked up at a beauty trade show. It doesn’t have a brand name on it, sorry. It’s a dual ended tool with a brush on one side and a dotting tool on the other. I’ve seen similar on

  27. Clare says:

    When removing glitter polish I pour some remover in a glass bowl and soak my fingers – gently swishing them about! This removes all traces of the glitter polish in about 5 minutes! Easy! I then wash my hands and apply some hand cream and cuticle oil.

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Thanks for sharing your tip, Clare. I’ll bet that works well. I just wonder how drying it is to soak your fingers like that.

  28. Marisa says:

    Thanks, Michelle! Ok, so every time I use the small brush dipped in acetone to remove excess around the cuticle and to create a perfect curve, I always seem to make it worse. :( Either the the acetone from the brush seeps into the polish, making it a puddly mess, but, if the brush is too dry, it just drags the polish all over the place. :/

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hmm, that’s the challenge isn’t it. Finding that balance. I try to use the brush on any errors that need cleaning up before trying to create the line. It gets rid of any excess remover without creating that puddle effect. I also wipe the brush against the edge of the remover bottle, like you would with a polish brush.

    • JDV says:

      I do all my work on top of a paper towel, I find if I dip the brush and then a quick tap on the towel I don’t get the flood of acetone when I go to swipe around the edge but I still have enough on the brush. Then I wipe the mess off from the brush onto the paper towel, dip again into acetone and then tap on the towel and then wipe my cuticle, repeat.

  29. Sarah says:

    Thank you! I would never have thought about using cuticle oil to prevent staining when removing nail polish…I tend to just rock the Smurf-Hands look for a day or so! Not any more! :)

  30. jenney says:

    When I first heard the nail wraps one it pretty much saved all of my manicures that kept chipping like crazy when I worked at my last job.

  31. Emily says:

    I love this post! I too didn’t know about the vinegar trick! I do have one item I’ve been struggling with for a long time. I am a big “peeler.” Most people say this is horrible for your nails, but I have NEVER had any damage from peeling. If anything, it saves my skin from using Acetone to remove polish. It’s also useful when removing glitters. Am I the only one who thinks this is okay? I’m talking about large peels. I don’t “pick” at them. It just glides off so easily and leaves my nails fresh and clean.

  32. Meaghan says:

    I have problems with the polish rubbing off of my free edges after a day or two so that you can see my natural nail and then the polish starts chipping. I reapply my top coat every day (or two at the most) but still have this problem. It’s especially annoying for nail art. Any tips to prevent that from happening?

  33. Geneva Coats says:

    I always had nails that were soft, dry, and would split and peel. I would like to share nail health secrets I have learned over my many years. First off, a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables will provide vitamins needed. Enough protein in the diet also encourages healthy nail growth. Take a multivitamin if your diet is sketchy.
    The very WORST things for the health of your nails are those things which dry them, including acetone, of course, and also alcohol, which is in all the products, and using vinegar would also be drying (sorry). Of course nail polish itself is drying. What to do?
    Make sure to take about a day every week to intensively treat your nails with a quality nail oil. My favorites are Delore Naturals which is vegetable oils and another wonderful product is mink oil, if you can find it and afford it. Apply, apply, apply the oil several times a day. You will be surprised to see your nails soak it up, harden and begin to GROW instead of splitting and peeling.
    Before you apply your polish products, simply wash your hands with mild soap and water and pat dry. I then use Chip Skip from OPI, and Seche Clear base, followed by polish and then Seche Vite OF COURSE! My manicure lasts a week or sometimes two.
    A bonus to using intensive oil is that cuticles are simple to remove before you polish, and your skin around the nails is healthy and moisturized which makes any stray polish simple to remove once dry.
    I hope my tip about keeping your nail bed moisturized and healthy might help someone else. I have been using Delore for nails for 30 years now and wouldn’t ever be without it. If you don’t moisturize the nail bed, you will have problem nails which only gets worse using a bunch of drying chemical nail products that simply coat over bad nails. You need to start with good healthy nails.