Recently, I've had quite a few people ask about chipping and peeling prevention. My first question is always: "What kind of base coat are you using?" The usual sheepish reply is that they aren't. Well there's your first problem.
My second question is: "What kind of top coat are you using?" The answer is the same: They aren't.
These are very, very important if you want your mani to last.
Lemme reiterate that:
Always use a top coat and a bottom coat!!!!
The bottom coat is very important because it gets into all the nooks and crannies of the nail and creates a smooth, even surface for the rest of the nail polish to coat. This prevents peeling. It also protects your nail from discoloring (most of the time.)
The top coat is very important because it seals in the mani, preventing chipping. It helps flatten the mani, making it look like all one picture, instead of a bunch of dots and lines and layers. The right top coat will also give you the finish you want, whether it's satin, shiny, or matte.
You CAN find 2-in-1 top coats and bottom coats, but I tend to dislike them. They aren't as smooth. Sally Hansen's has one for a decent price.
My usual go-to bottom coat is Sally Hansen's Hard As Nails Nail Hardener in clear. It is MUCH cheaper if you go to Walmart.
Right now, I'm running a comparison between the Sally Hansen's and Jordana's Nails Be Strong (Go to KMart for the best prices). On my right hand is the Sally's and on the left is the Jordana's. With this mani, the biggest peel I have is with the Sally Hansen's. I have some chipping on both of my thumbs. With my previous mani, my left hand had three fingers that needed a repair from ripping, one that needed it twice.
So far, I prefer Jordana's application. The brush is softer and the formula is thinner and not as goopy. It goes on the nail better. They dry about evenly.
For the top coats, I've used several different types:
Wet'N'Wild has a really good one that I like. My biggest complaint is that it's in a smaller bottle and gets used up really fast.
I've tried N.Y.C.'s clear topcoat, and while it's a really beautiful shine, it gets scratched and chipped really fast.
I like using N.Y.C.'s Matte Me Crazy. It lasts a while and dries really fast. I can't use it for EVERY mani, though.
Right now I'm using a top coat from Rue 21. It's got the shine of N.Y.C's clear, and so far it seems about as durable as Wet'N'Wild.
Only time will tell.
Now here's the How-To.
Clean your nails. Scrub them and underneath them. Get all the oils off of them by wiping down with nail polish remover.
To apply a base coat, cover the entire nail. Do the edge of the nail first, then under the nail, and then over the nail, especially if it's a strengthener. Wait until completely dry, then you can choose to apply a second coat to the edge and the top.
Wait until completely dry.
Do your mani.
Wait until completely dry.
Apply a top coat, again by covering the edge and then the top.
You can choose a second coat of topcoat.
Yes, it's time-consuming, and yes, it costs more money than if you just did the mani. But in my opinion, if you can wear one mani for a week, it saves you money in the long run.
Check your polishes' labels. If the topcoat is not 3Free and your mani is, bubbles, imprints, and smudges can happen. The topcoat will harden before the mani doesn't, and seal in the evaporating chemicals. If you've ever woken up with an imprint of your sheets on your nails, this is why.
Please note that I have not tried everything, including the more expensive top/bottom coats. I have not tried gels, UV or otherwise. If you have any tips or tricks or favorites you'd like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments!