The Science of a Perfect Manicure: How to Score a Perfect 10

Perfect nails require more than just the “it” color of the season. First, you need a good canvas—smooth, healthy, and strong. Our experts explain how to nail your next mani.

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Your nails are ready for a base coat, which will help smooth ridges and imperfections on the nail for a better color application. Cutex’s new Baseworx ($8, drugstore.com) combines the same strengthening natural botanicals in its Advanced Remover with bioceramic mineral technology to instantly (yes, instantly) repair the nail’s surface. “We applied a single layer on testers and measured their nail strength after 20 minutes,” says Busch. “There was a 46 percent increase in resistance within a half hour, and 95 percent increase after 24 hours.”

How? Tiny glass-like powders in the formula form a chemical bond to protein materials (like keratin, which makes up your nail) and fill in damaged areas. “The only thing it won’t do is make your nails grow faster,” Busch says. “We haven’t invented a way to speed up cell re-growth just yet.”


Most polish companies have already started to remove toxins linked to cancer—DBP, formaldehyde, and toulene—from their formulas (check the label to see that it’s ‘3-Free), but some are even weeding out lesser-known carcinogens such as formaldehyde resin and camphor. “These chemicals can often lead to headaches and nausea,” says Smithtown, New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, M.D., F.A.A.D. “Chemical-free or water-based polishes are much better for your overall health in general, and your nail health in particular.”

When you’ve selected your color, tap the wand back and forth on the lip of the bottle until there is only a droplet of polish left on the tip, then sweep the brush away from you. “This ensures a smooth, even finish,” Hipp says. Apply a second coat, then let nails dry for at least three minutes under a fan before finishing with a topcoat.

MORE: Nail Polish Trends to Try

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