If your polish chips, peels or looks dull after a couple of days, here’s how to nail a paint job that stays put a lot longer.

The Prep

Don’t soak before you paint! Dunking in warm soapy water makes the nail plate swell like a sponge, and “when it shrinks back to its natural state, your polish doesn’t shrink with it, leading to peeling,” explains celebrity manicurist

Julie Kandalec. You want to paint a clean, dry surface, so just swipe isopropyl alcohol—not soap and water—over nails to remove any dirt and oils, which keep polish from adhering.

The Polish

Choosing the right formula and color is a must when you want durability. For a pedicure that can last for weeks, go with a hybrid of gel and traditional lacquer, like OPI Infinite Shine. “You get the longevity of a gel, but it’s easy to remove,” says OPI North America Education Manager Sigourney Nuñez. “And a shimmery or pearlescent color will be more forgiving over time, since mica and glitter latch onto the nail longer and reflect light, staying shinier longer.” It can even withstand the punishment that comes when you trudge through sand at the beach!

The Painting

When you DIY, be sure to paint all the way up over the thin edge of the tip with base coat, color and topcoat. “This added protection is the key to preventing chips,” Kandalec says. After applying topcoat, wait at least one full minute before using quick-dry drops or spray. “A fast-dry activator creates a protective coating on the nail, but if the enamel underneath the dry topcoat is still slightly wet, you’re vulnerable to dents and dings,” Nuñez says.

Summer faves

  1. Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Shhh-immer, $10.
  2. Essie Gel Couture Longwear Polish in Rock the Runway, $11.50; 
  3. OPI Infinite Shine in Tempura-ture is Rising!, $13;

The Quick Fix

If you do end up getting a chip, here’s how to repair it: Use a nail buffer to smooth the edges of the chipped area, then fill in the bare part with the same shade (you may have to apply two coats). Go over the entire nail with topcoat. If you’re repairing a salon mani and don’t have the matching color, Nuñez suggests creating an accent nail: “Paint over the top third of the nail with a glittery shade or a brighter color.”