This Is The Secret To Making Your Mani Last SO Much Longer


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Just checking on our DIY-nail queens: has anyone missed the memo on nail primers? We got you. It’s an underrated liquid in the nail industry that adds a layer of protection to keep your acrylics, gels, and even regular polishes in tip-top shape. In short: it’s a total gamechanger. Here’s everything you need to know:

WTF Is A Nail Primer?

Like using an eyeshadow or face primer creates a base for long-lasting makeup, a nail primer preps your nails for better polish adhesion. It removes any substances on the surface of your nails – like oil, grease, or moisture – so your base coat sticks better to your nail plate. It also prevents air bubbles from forming, so your polish coats, acrylics, and press-ons adhere better to your nail. Once applied, a nail primer can even protect your new nails from lifting, peeling, or straight up, leaving you mid-ball game.

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What Nail Primer Should I Use?

Good question. There are two kinds of nail primers in the nail industry: acid-free and acid-based. An acid-free primer (our fave) acts like double-sided sticky tape by changing your nail’s pH levels for better adhesion – its “sticky” power is temporary though, so apply your primer one nail or hand at a time. We love using Modelones Natural Nail Prep Dehydrator, $14, because it offers a nail dehydrator AND an acid-free primer at an awesome price. The OPI Bond Aid pH Balancing Agent, $13, is another one of our go-tos. The general rule of thumb is that a primer should always be applied after shaping your nails and before you apply any polish or overlays. Although apply sparingly, as too much of an acid-free primer can decrease adhesion.

As for acid-based primers, they use a strong acid called methacrylate, which creates tiny holes on your nail bed, creating an uneven surface for better adhesion. Since they’re essentially making holes in your nail bed (eesh), acid-based primers can thin and damage your nail bed if excessively used. So, for the health of your nails, we recommend sticking to acid-free options.

Pro tip: Use an almost dry brush to apply the primer to your natural nail bed and let it dry for about 40 to 60 seconds. You’ll see a shiny, sticky finish – it won’t feel dry, but this is what your nail enhancements need to stick onto your nail better. Work with it immediately – time is of the essence!

Safety 101: NEVER rub your eyes or touch your skin while working with nail primers. If you feel a major itch coming on, wash and dry your hands thoroughly.

Want more info on how to keep your nails looking flawless? DW, we got J.Lo’s manicurist to share all his top tips here.

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