If you know me, you know I’m really into nail stuff. If you don’t know me…well, I’m really into nail stuff. Which means it sucks extra-hard that my natural nails are thin, weak, bendy, fragile, and prone to peeling and flaking at the edges. BOOOOO. Getting them all past my fingertips was a major accomplishment, and manicures would last maybe two days, if I was lucky (and didn’t take a shower or wash any dishes). (Gross, I know.)


before and after

“Whaaaaat, howwwwww.” The short answer : Nailtiques 2 and a lot of polish.

The long answer : Nails break or split under stress (scratching the tape off a box, whacking them on a cabinet door). Nails that’re thin and weak also shed their polish more easily, particularly when exposed to water. Nails, just like hair, are more fragile when they’re wet or have been soaking a while. “Don’t brush your hair when it’s wet!” Also don’t do shit with your nails when they’re wet! Also, when your nails are naturally thin and weak, they’re bendy — FAR more bendy than their shell of polish. That differential in elasticity/flexibility contributes to your polish coming off in chunks after bathing or otherwise having them in water for an extended period.

So what you want is something that makes a hard shell over your nail surface to protect it — which, a load of any kind of polish will do this — AND (the important part) actually adheres to your nail surface really well. Nailtiques 2 sticks to the nail surface like a mofo, adds some hardening properties, and is really the perfect base coat for nails like mine. Will it actually alter/improve your own nails? Nah, I don’t think so. When I take all my polish off, my own nails are still quite thin and bendy. But with their Fancy Armor Coating on, they’re SUPER durable.

HOW TO : Nailtiques’ own instructions say to paint over clean dry nails, and add another coat every day, and remove/start over after a week or something. NAH. Instead, here’s my Non-Patented Manicure System That Holy Shit Really Works :

  • Do a coat of Nailtiques 2, let dry 5-10 minutes.
  • Do a second coat of Nailtiques 2, let dry 10-15 minutes.
  • Do a third coat of Nailtiques 2, let all base coats cure/TOTALLY DRY. (Is it bedtime now? Then stop here and let your base coats cure overnight, and do the rest tomorrow. If it’s not bedtime, wait at least two hours before proceeding. Otherwise your base coats won’t be totally totally dry, and putting more polish on top will make you quite likely to gack the whole thing up.)
  • Ready? Now do two coats of color, letting the first coat dry before adding the second. I find that a thick burly glitter or shimmer polish is best.

When second color coat is dry (or mostly dry), add a coat of something clear, thick, and bulky. I use my own GlassyAF, but Gelous works well too. This step adds more thickness/strength to your nails (these are thicker than regular clear nail polish or quick-dry top coats), and also gives a thicker glassier surface to your manicure, which makes colors (esp glitters) look so much nicer. For getting that thick glassy surface and smoothing out unruly glitters or textured polishes, I find this method works much better than just doing multiple layers of quick-dry top coat.

NOW do your quick-dry top coat. I usually use Sally Hansen Insta-Dri, which is always at the drugstore, not expensive, and doesn’t have Seche Vite’s annoying shrinkage issues. Yes, do your top coat while your last coat is still wet — it won’t mess it up, it will penetrate the top layers of polish and bond / dry everything together!

Your nails will be dry to the touch in five minutes, but still be kiiiiinda careful with them for half an hour. If you did this entire process in one sitting (rather than letting base coats of Nailtiques dry/cure for many hours or overnight), then be kinda careful with them for at least an hour or two, as any significant pressure can smudge them up. (You can do your hair or fold laundry, but zipping skinny jeans or putting a fitted sheet on the bed = CAUTION.)


Yes, you can get much better at doing a neat paint job. It just takes practice! TIPS :

  • Try to get over feeling like you need to have your polish right up exactly to your cuticle, and right up exactly to the edges of your nails. If there’s a small gap there, it really won’t be noticeable — certainly not as noticeable as polish slopped all over your skin!
  • For a neater line at the cuticle : instead of doing a “regular” brushstroke where you start the brush exactly at the cuticle and pull upward, try placing the brush further up the nail to start. Get a little blop of polish on the brush, place its edge 1/8” or so away from your cuticle, push the brush gently TOWARD the cuticle, and then sweep it upward in the normal brushstroke. For me, this makes it much easier to get a neat line. Just like bracing your hand against something makes it easier to draw a neat line, bracing the brush against your actual nail makes it easier to control. Like so :

  • To get better coverage and less mess at sides of nail, when you’re doing the pulling-upwards part of your brushstroke (as outlined above), hold the brush in a more vertical position. This gives you more control of the bristles, and allows you to put a bit more pressure on the brush to get better polish-depositing without having the bristles splay out so much.
  • When doing your first color coat, DO NOT worry about smoothness/evenness! Just concentrate on getting neat edges, and getting color deposited everywhere it needs to be. If you have to keep going over the sides or edges with tiny bits of polish and leaving brushstrokes and shit, don’t worry about it! If you get good coverage and neat lines on that first coat, your second coat will be MUCH easier — you can just quickly lay down a smooth surface in three or four strokes to achieve a good opaque finish, which will cover any brushstrokes from the first coat.

Still got a mess? Keep some orange sticks on hand! These are great for doing cleanup IMMEDIATELY after a brushstroke goes wrong. You can swipe them narrow-edge on, right down the little valley at the edge of your nail. Or, you can place them with the flat end surface perpendicular to the edge of nail, press against skin, and pull to kind of “squeegee” the polish off. If you have a tiny bit of color left behind, no big. It’ll fade or come off quickly, or can be removed later.

STILL got a mess? Use a brush + remover, but CAREFULLY. You don’t want to flood remover everywhere and jack up your polish. My fave brush to use is a nylon scrubber brush (for watercolors, from the art supply store) in a smallish filbert shape. Nylon is impervious to most solvents (including remover and even straight acetone) so it won’t deform or melt like a natural bristle brush (or even a rayon or polyester synthetic brush). Also, nylon bristles aren’t absorbent so they won’t hold too much remover. The short and dense shape is easy to control, the taper makes it easy to get a precise line in tight spaces, and the stiffness of the short fat nylon bristles is great for scritching off errant sparkles or glitter bits.


Nailtiques does have formaldehyde, as do many other nail-hardening products. Am I worried? Nah. I’m certainly not an expert on the subject, but I haven’t seen any definitive research that makes me super concerned. Yes formaldehyde is carcinogenic, but I personally feel that any risk is ameliorated by the format it’s in, and in such a relatively small amount, and I’m not convinced it’s even biologically “available” (capable of interacting on a cellular level) in this format, AND it’s going on nails and not directly on skin so the potential for absorption is somewhat limited there, and it’s not wet/offgassing for long enough or in large enough quantities for me to worry about breathing a lot of it in. Most of what I’ve read on the subject indicates that formaldehyde is primarily going to be problematic for people who’re working with it frequently and in large quantities, which means chemical manufacturers, embalmers, or salon workers doing a lot of Brazilian blowouts. Personally, I think that finally having decent nails is worth any [probably relatively small] risk I’m incurring. Read up on it if you’re concerned, and make your own best choice! That said, obviously if you’re pregnant, nursing, trying to get pregnant, etc, maybe no formaldehyde for you.

PS You do want to keep it off your skin as much as possible — yeah blah blah “health” but also : boy, that’s where you really see the hardening function in action. HANGNAILS GALORE.<


SOMETIMES, if you’re a clumsy doofus like me, you will still get breaks. I’ve learned that I need to keep my nails filed down to 1/4” or so past my fingertips, because if I let them grow much longer — which they will! — they’re much more likely to tear or break. When I do get an occasional split along an edge, Orly Nail Rescue is ACES. Take the cap and inner lid off the jar of powder. Brush the nail glue onto whole broken nail. Immediately dip wet nail in powder, turn over and tap off excess. Let dry, buff smooth, repeat with a second coat if desired (I always do two).

This stuff is amazing. It bonds SO WELL to my nail surface, and isn’t prone to lifting — which is bad, because then water and assorted nasties (bacteria! fungus!) could get trapped under there. Generally, a patch will last until the break grows out. You can paint as usual (don’t need three coats of Nailtiques tho, obvs), remove polish, paint again. To get rid of it, grind down a bit with a rough file or buffer and plop a remover-soaked cotton pad on it a while and it’ll rub right off.

If I break a nail clean off, Kiss Active Oval fake nails are my fave. Glue them right straight on, and be sure to get your entire nail surface covered with glue and adhered to the nail — because, again, you don’t want to have loose places that water or anything else can get under. Polish as usual, use non-acetone remover and polish again, take off with a buffer and remover-soak if it gets loose or your own nail grows out again.

Zoya Remove+ forever. Works super well, not extraordinarily drying, doesn’t stink. Is drugstore remover fine? Sure. Are any of them hugely different or better/worse? Nah. Most removers use the same handful of solvents and additives in different ratios. What about straight acetone? For me, acetone is mostly bullshit. It eats the HELL out of a lot of plastics, so it can be helpful in taking off a repair patch or a glued-on fake nail, but it’s more drying than “regular” (non-acetone) remover, and it’s no more effective at removing glitter-heavy polishes.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the bigger the glitter pieces, the harder they are to remove? That’s because the glitters are adhered to your nail by polish, and the only part of that polish that’s immediately accessible to your remover is the part right around the edges…until that part is dissolved, and the remover can creep inwards toward the center of the glitters. For teeny glitter, this process is pretty fast. For larger glitters, not so much. Some people claim acetone speeds this process, but in my experience, it does not. Regular remover is just as effective at dismantling lacquer base, and the glitter pieces themselves are impervious to remover and acetone. Plus, acetone evaporates SO SO SO FAST, which makes it harder to give it sufficient time to eat through the polish under glitter chunks.

Nailtiques 2
Zoya Remove +
Orly Nail Rescue
Kiss Active Oval nails

Got a system? Share it (or your favorite products) in the comments!