Why Your Nail Polish Is Peeling Off Too Soon

October 09, 2023 6 min read

nail polish

You're all jazzed up for a fun night out. You're donning a trendy outfit, your hair is sporting a new chic look, and you've meticulously painted your nails with the electric shade of nail polishyou just bought.

All your fashion elements are on point, and you're feeling like you're on the catwalk at Fashion Week itself.

But as soon as your spectacular night begins, you catch a glimpse of a peeling nightmare. Those once glossy and perfect nails are now teetering at the edge of imperfection.

And you're left wondering: What gives? Why does my nail polish peel off?

Let's find out.

Common Reasons Why Nail Polish Peels

If you're wondering why your beautifully applied nail color (which should ideally stick around longer than last season's trends) is peeling off like old wallpaper, here is why.

Skipping The Base Coat

The base coat serves as a foundational layer or primer for your nail polish. It helps create a smooth surface for the polish to adhere to and can significantly improve the longevity of your manicure.

By skipping this essential step, you are leaving your nail's natural surface, which might be uneven due to ridges and oils, for the polish to grip. This can cause poor adhesion and eventually lead to peeling.

Applying Thick Layers of Polish

Thick and heavy layers of polish may seem like a good idea to achieve full coverage in fewer coats. However, this might work against you in the long run. Thick coats take longer to dry and are more prone to peeling.

Using Low-Quality Polish

While it can be tempting to buy cheaper, quick-drying nail polishes, they may be more prone to chipping and peeling as they might have a high solvent content that evaporates quickly, leaving the polish brittle.

Exposing Nails to Water for Extended Periods

Excessive water exposure can cause your nails to absorb moisture, which can lead to swelling. When the nails return to their original shape, the bond with the nail polish weakens, which can cause peeling.

Inappropriate Surface Preparation

Applying polish to a greasy or oily surface can interfere with the adhesion of your polish, which can lead to peeling.

Not Using a Topcoat

A topcoat provides a glossy finish that enhances the overall appearance of your nails, making your manicure look more professional and polished.

It also shields and protects the nail polish from chipping, cracking, or peeling. So, not using a topcoat can cause your manicure to peel off.

How to Prevent Nail Polish from Peeling

Here are some handy-dandy tips to avoid the embarrassment of peeling nail polish.

Always, Always, Always Start With Clean Nails

Before applying any nail polish, make sure the surface of your nails is completely clean.

Remove any traces of old nail polish with a gentle, non-acetone nail polish remover. This will help provide a clean surface for the new nail polish to adhere to.

Don't forget to trim, file, and buff your nails, as this will provide an even surface for the nail polish to grip onto.

Once you've done all that, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water to get rid of any traces of oil, dirt, or moisturizer that may prevent your nail polish from sticking properly.

Apply a Base Coat

Some people, for whatever reason, tend to skip this part. However, we strongly recommend that you don’t.

A base coat can help provide a smooth surface for your nail polish to adhere to and prevent your nails from staining.

It also helps prevent chipping and cracking by creating a layer of protection between your nails and the outside world.

Choose Quality Nail Polish

Use high-quality nail polish if you want to prevent your manicure from peeling off.

Go for nail polish that contains ingredients like protein and calcium that help strengthen your nails and prevent peeling. Also, be sure to choose a nail polish that’s free of formaldehyde, which can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.

There are brands that market themselves as five-free, seven-free, or ten-free, which means that their nail polishes are free of certain ingredients.

For example, some brands will say their products are “five-free” because they don’t contain formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), camphor, and formaldehyde resin. These substances are known to be harmful to humans and cause allergic reactions, as well as other health problems.

Apply Thin Layers

The key to long-lasting nail polish is applying thin, even layers. Thick layers of nail polish are more likely to peel off as they take longer to dry and are more prone to getting bubbles trapped in them.

Apply two thin coats of nail polish, and make sure to let each coat dry completely before applying the next one.

Use the "Wrap" Technique

When painting your nails, don't just apply the polish to the tops of your nails. Instead, "wrap" the polish around the tips of your nails by painting a bit of polish on the underside of the nail tips.

This simple technique can significantly reduce instances of peeling and chipping by sealing the edges and providing extra durability.

Apply a Topcoat

A topcoat is essential for sealing in your nail polish, providing an extra layer of protection against peeling and chipping. It also adds shine and helps smoothen any imperfections in your nail polish application.

Apply a thin layer of topcoat after your last layer of color has dried, and reapply it every few days to maintain the protective barrier.

Allow Proper Drying Time

Sometimes, we can be impatient when it comes to drying our nails. However, giving your nails ample time to dry can help prevent peeling.

Wait at least 3-5 minutes between layers and allow your nails to air-dry completely (approximately 30 minutes) after your topcoat application before starting any activities that could cause smudging or peeling.

While it may be tempting to use a fan or a hairdryer to speed up the drying process, these can actually create air bubbles in the polish. It's best to let your nails air-dry naturally to achieve a smooth and even finish.

Keep Your Hands Moisturized

Regularly moisturizing your hands, nails, and cuticles can help extend the life of your nail polish. Dry nails and cuticles can cause your polish to chip or peel, so maintain proper hydration by using good hand cream and cuticle oil.

Aftercare Practices for Longer-Lasting Polish

After putting in time and effort to create a flawless manicure, it's essential to follow proper aftercare practices to ensure that your nails stay looking stunning for as long as possible.

Here are some tips that can help you achieve that.

Protect Your Hands During Chores

It's no secret: household chores can wreak havoc on your manicure. Exposing your polished nails to water, harsh cleaning chemicals and abrasive materials is a surefire way to induce chipping and peeling.

To protect your nails from damage, wear gloves while doing the dishes, hand washing clothes, or cleaning surfaces with chemical products.

Opt for nitrile or latex gloves, which are available in most supermarkets, and ensure they fit comfortably on your hands.

Be Mindful of Your Activities

Certain activities, like gardening, opening cans, and handling heavy objects, can put undue stress on your nails and cause breakage or chipping. Try to be aware of the pressure you put on your nails and use alternative ways to accomplish tasks. For example, use the proper tools to open packages and scrape off stickers. 

Moisturize Regularly

Dry hands, nails, and cuticles can lead to a weakened manicure. Keep your skin and nails nourished by using a moisturizing hand cream daily and a cuticle oil to prevent dryness. Apply hand cream after hand washing and before bed, and massage the oil into your cuticles before bedtime.

Reapply Topcoat

Regularly reapplying a thin layer of topcoat every 2-3 days can maintain the protective barrier on your nails and prevent your polish from chipping, cracking, or peeling. Remember to seal the edge of the nails by "wrapping" the topcoat around the tips for additional protection.

Use Breathable Nail Polishes

Just like skin, your nails need to breathe. Traditional nail polishes can sometimes create a barrier, blocking air and moisture from reaching the nail bed. This can lead to dryness, discoloration, and weakened nails over time.

Breathable nail polishes, on the other hand, allow water and oxygen to pass through, promoting overall nail health. They are formulated with a unique porous structure similar to that of contact lenses.

Not only do breathable nail polishes contribute to healthier nails, but they also provide long-lasting, chip-resistant color.

Final Thoughts

Nailing the perfect, long-lasting manicure is simple when you have the right tools and tips at your disposal. It's even better when the polish you use is of superior quality, just like ella+mila's premium range of nail care products.

As a brand committed to offering vegan, cruelty-free, and non-toxic alternatives, we deliver the color payoff, glossy finish, and longevity you desire. Say goodbye to manicure meltdowns and embrace brilliant, resilient nails that are as vibrant as your personality.