20 Life-Changing Hacks for Doing Your Nails

Spray PAM to dry your nails, use glue to remove glitter polish, and more!

create nail art
(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen, Elizabeth Griffin)

1. Line your nails with petroleum jelly or white craft glue before painting them for an easy clean up.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

If you're working on a nail look that's messy, use a cotton swab to rub petroleum jelly like Vaseline on the skin around your nails first. This creates a barrier between the polish and your skin so that after you've painted your nails, you can wipe off the Vaseline and any polish mistakes along with it.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Another way to prevent paint from drying on the skin around your nails is to paint around your nail with Elmer's Glue (opens in new tab) first, and let it dry. Then, paint your nails with polish and peel off the glue when you're finished to clean up.

2. To prevent the tips of your painted nails from chipping, paint two basecoat layers: one on the top half of your nail and the second coat over the entire nail.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Paint the first layer of your basecoat polish on the top half portion of your nails only. After your nails have dried, paint a second coat of polish, but this time cover the entire nail as you normally would. This technique will help the polish on the tips of your nails — which are more prone to chipping — last longer.

3. Use a white nail polish as your basecoat to make your nail color pop.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Unless your polish is super opaque, the natural tint of your fingers will change the color of your polish. To get the paint's true color, add a layer of white nail polish first, and then go over it with your colored polish.

4. Paint your nail art designs on a plastic sandwich bag first, peel them off, and seal them on your nails with nail art glue or a clear topcoat for easy application.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

If painting designs on your dominant hand is too difficult, try painting them on a plastic sandwich bag first. Paint a few thick coats of polish onto the plastic, and then add your design on top. After it dries, peel each design off the plastic, and adhere them to your nail with nail art glue or a clear topcoat.

5. Use paper hole reinforcement stickers as a guide for painting a half-moon mani.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Place the paper hole reinforcement stickers along the base of your nail, and seal it into place with a bobby pin or a nail art dotter tool. Paint your first coat on each nail along the stickers. Then one nail at a time, paint a second coat of paint, let it dry for a minute, and carefully remove the sticker. Use this tutorial for more tips on a half-moon mani.

6. Give your nails two-tone designs with tape.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

After you've chosen two different polishes, paint one coat of the lighter polish on each nail, and seal it with a clear topcoat. After it is completely dry, apply two strips of tape over the tips of your nails so that they cross in the middle and create a point. Take the darker of the polishes, and paint a layer over the entire nail and on top of the tape. Let it dry for a minute, and then grab both ends of the tape and slowly peel them back at the same time for the finished look.

7. Use the tip of a pencil eyeliner to place tiny nail art accessories like rhinestones on your nails.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

When your fingers or tweezers are too big to grab and place tiny jewels, use the tip of an eyeliner or lip pencil instead. The end of a pencil is tacky enough to grip the jewel from above and won't get in the way of your design.

8. Create a French manicure with ease by looping a rubber band around your fingertip.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Take a rubber band and tie it in the middle. Loop one end over your thumb to create tension on the band, and align the other end over the top of your nail and just below the edge to create the French tip shape. Use the edge of the rubber band as a guide, and paint the tip of your nail.

9. Mix loose pigments with clear polish to make a custom nail shade.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Pour a little bit of eyeshadow pigment into a spoon, and then add a little bit of clear polish to it. Mix it all together with a cotton swab, grab a brush, and try out your new color.

10. Create a marbled effect by using drops of swirled nail polish and a cup of water.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Choose an accent finger and tape underneath and around your nail to protect your skin. Next, fill a small paper cup with filtered, room-temperature water. Grab two different colors of paint and add drops of each polish into the cup of water, alternating paints each time. Once you've added a few drops, grab an open paper clip and swirl the layers together to create the design you want. Then, stick your finger into the cup with your nail facing the paint layer. Holding your finger in the cup for a few seconds, use your paper clip to gather the rest of the paint away from your finger. Pull your finger out of the water and clean up the edges for the finished look.

11. Make your nail polish dry faster by soaking your nails in ice water after painting them.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Fill a bowl with ice and water, and soak your nails for a few minutes after painting them. The cold water will set the paint and help your nails dry faster.

12. Spray nonstick cooking spray on your nails to help the polish dry faster.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

PAM nonstick cooking spray (opens in new tab) also works as a quick-dry spray. Hold the can a few inches away, and spray your nails evenly. Wait a few minutes, and then wash the oily residue off your hands.

13. Fix a smudged nail by adjusting the polish with the tip of your tongue.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

If you accidentally smudge almost-dry nails, try readjusting the paint with the tip of your tongue instead of your finger. Your tongue is just soft enough to fix the paint without leaving any imprints. Only use this tip only when necessary though, and try not to lick your nail polish too often.

14. Remove stubborn polish by soaking cotton pads in nail polish remover, wrapping them around your nails, and securing them with foil.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

To remove stubborn or glitter nail polish easily, soak a cotton pad in nail polish remover, and place it on your nail. Wrap a strip of foil around the cotton and your figure, and squeeze to secure it. Leave the foil wraps on your fingers for 5 minutes, and then slide off the foil and cotton at the same time. Your polish will come off with it.

15. Paint white craft glue as a basecoat before painting coats of glitter polish for easy removal.

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(Image credit: Archives)

One way to make glitter polish easy to remove is to paint Elmer's Glue on your nails as a basecoat. Let the glue dry completely, and then paint over it with as many coats of glitter polish as you want. Whenever you're ready to remove your polish, peel back the glue and the glitter will easily come off with it.

16. Roll your nail polish bottle instead of shaking it to avoid air bubbles.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Hold the bottle between your palms and rub your hands back and forth to stir the polish without creating bubbles.

17. Loosen a stubborn nail polish lid by soaking it in hot water.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Place the nail polish bottle upside down in a cup. Fill the glass with really hot water just high enough to cover the lid but not high enough to soak the bottle of paint (hot water can tamper with the consistency of the polish). Wait a few minutes, remove the nail polish bottle from the glass, and then open the loosened lid.

18. Unscrew a tight lid by wrapping a rubber band around the handle for better grip.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

Wrap a large rubber band around the top of a nail polish bottle before trying to open it. The rubber will provide a better grip for twisting.

19. Spread petroleum jelly around the lip of the bottle before closing it to prevent the polish from drying shut.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

With a cotton swab, wipe a small amount of petroleum jelly into the ridges on the top of the bottle. This will make it easier to open the next time and prevent it from sealing shut.

20. Store your nail polish upright in a box with painted stickers on top to indicate the colors.

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(Image credit: Kathleen Kamphausen)

To keep your polishes organized, paint a strip of polish on an adhesive file folder label (opens in new tab), punch out a hole, and stick the paint sample on the top of the nail polish bottle. Repeat this for all of your polishes, set them in a box, and store them in a cool, dry place.


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Photo Credit: Kathleen Kamphausen, Elizabeth Griffin

Brooke Shunatona is a contributing writer for Cosmopolitan.com.