Whether you pay hard-earned cash for a fresh manicure or spend your precious time DIY-ing your nails, you should always expect your polish to stay fresh for, at the very least, a few weeks. But, the real danger to your meticulously-painted claws isn't the vulnerable 5–10 minutes they take to dry. No, no: The real damage comes in a variety of forms that you need to keep a careful eye on. So, we tapped CND co-founder and style director, Jan Arnold, to point out the biggest mistakes that are ruining your manicures, and how to change them.

Not Keeping Up With Your Manicures

Do you have a tendency to skip manicures every so often? Well, if you want your nails to stay in tip-top shape, Arnold recommends getting back on track and getting manicures regularly. "The concept that nails need time in-between to 'breathe' is unfounded," she says.

"If you want to keep your nails healthy, regular manicures will actually help, not harm your nail health, by staying in front of potential problems," she explains. "When you go past your required schedule, hangnails can appear, breakdown can happen, and the temptation to pick increases. Preventive maintenance is the key!"

Picking, Nibbling, and Biting

As the old saying goes, old habits die hard. But if you want your manicures to truly last, then quitting your nail-biting habit is non-negotiable. "It sounds super obvious but once you start to fidget with your nails, they can fall apart like a house of cards," says Arnold

To get rid of your nail-wrecking habit, Arnold suggests keeping a little clipper in your bag for when a little tag of skin emerges. "Nip it to the base of the tag but not further and then condition with cuticle oil," she says. "If an edge of your polish lifts up in the corner, seal with a thin layer of topcoat until you can go in a see your nail professional. Do not peel it off! (as fun as that might seem at the time). If you peel it, you will pull off layers of nail plate and weaken your nails."

If you have a broken nail, Arnold suggests using a soft nail file (240+ grit) and smooth the edge so it doesn’t bother you or get caught on anything, and book that nail appointment as soon as possible to have fixed professionally.

Using Your Nails as Tools

If you're using your nails as an alternative to your toolbox, you should probably stop. "If you want fabulous nails at all times, you need to learn how to wear them," says Arnold. "Use the pad of the finger, not the nail's edge, as a mechanical device. No prying, pulling or using nails to open pop-tops, packaging, or anything metal. Carry something with you to do the dirty work when needed or ask a capable set of rugged hands to do it for you. And condition those gorgeous jewels to keep them shiny, supple, and flexible."

Too Much Water Exposure

"Your natural nails are very porous with multiple layers of dead keratin, held together with cystine and proteins," says Arnold. "When hands and nails are saturated with water, the layers swell and then will contract when the water naturally dissipates. This action of expansion and contraction can cause layers to separate and polish to break apart."

To keep your nails and hands from over drying, use a daily nail oil to add resiliency and flexibility back to nails.

Your Nail Shape

Whether you opt for square, oval, or stiletto-shaped nails, there's one trick Arnold abides by to keep your claws from breaking off. "No matter what tip shape you choose, the key to strength and wear is to have the sidewalls of the nail parallel just past the free edge," she says. "Beyond that point, the sky is the limit for shape expression. By contrast, if the sidewalls are removed, your structure and support are gone, leaving you vulnerable to cracking and breakage."

Not Tailoring Your Manicure to Your Lifestyle

Think any manicure will do for your nails? Think again: Arnold suggests picking the right type of manicure (whether it be regular polish, gel, or another alternative) that will withstand your day-to-day lifestyle. "Every nail condition and lifestyle demands a custom service to live up to the daily rigors your nails go through," she says. "Today, there are amazing options for every level of wear." She suggests traditional polish for "the person with great nails with low physical impact on their digits," as the polish will begin to break down after application and will require a weekly maintenance appointment but allows for weekly change and color options.

If you'd rather extend the life of your color, Arnold recommends a weekly-wear polish. "It gets tougher with time and is great for pretty good nails under medium impact, and it will see you through a full week wear with great resilience and shine," she says.

If you're looking for a more durable option that will last at least 14 days, Arnold suggests opting for a gel polish. "Nail enhancements in combination with SHELLAC is the most protective and durable manicure you could ask for and they are designed for thin, weak, unshapely nails," she says. "Rebalance every two to three weeks for maximum protection, transformation, and strength."

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