How long will my nail polish last?

AKA the million dollar question. We’ve been asked how long our nail polish lasts on your nails and, long story short, we can’t answer the “how long” question definitively for everybody as there are so many factors to consider and we’re all so different. As an overview though, genetics and natural nail health are the number one factor that affects how long polish lasts on your nails. Generally speaking, healthy nails = long-lasting manicure, irrespective of the kind of nail polish you use. But use of alcohol-based products for cleaning or hand sanitising and prolonged exposure to chlorinated water are some of the other culprits that affect your nail health for the worse, and in turn the longevity of your mani. The other key factors to impact how long your nail polish lasts are your nail prep and application technique.

Luckily, we can help with most of these (Spoiler: not genetics). Read on for more details as we go deep into the nitty-gritty of what might be causing the odd mani-misadventure, and share some of our best tips to keep your nails looking fresh and ready for the ‘gram.

Nail care products nail polish remover wipes jar with gold lid cuticle oil and glass nail file by sienna with white flowers


How is genetics related to manicure longevity? Well, the stronger your nail is the longer your manicure will last. The hardness of your nails is mostly genetic and not much can be done about the shape they grow in or how fast they grow. You can help them by working on your overall health. So eat your leafy greens and plenty of foods rich in zinc, vitamin A, E and C, as well healthy fats (Oh hello, avocado). Of course, it goes without saying you need to stay hydrated. Chronic stress and fatigue inhibit growth, and age can be another factor that slows the nail growth train down. On the other, ah, hand, nails do grow faster in summer. Nails. They’re so much more complex than they look.

Our tips: If you have strong nails, you don’t need to worry about a thing. If they’re not so strong then follow the steps in ‘how to do a manicure’ and all the tips below.


Dry and dehydrated nails

Dry and dehydrated nails are more likely to peel and split which means the surface of the nail is not smooth and the polish will have a hard time adhering. We want your Friday night mani to make it to #manimonday intact. So the first thing to do is identify why your nails might be dry and dehydrated. Hand sanitiser and cleaning are necessary evils for most of us, but these are products with high percentages of alcohol and this is the absolute enemy of a long-lasting mani. Cold climates don’t help either. If this is you, the first step is to use a good hand cream.

Our tips:

  • If you’re cleaning, pop on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands and nails, just like Nana used to.
  • Cuticle oil is another superhero of the nail care world. We wouldn’t dream of skipping moisturiser on our faces, let’s give our nails and cuticles the same love. You know they deserve it. While we’re talking cuticles, did you know cuticles actually serve a really important purpose? They seal in moisture and keep environmental germs out of your body. It’s really important to leave them be (no cutting or picking) and let them do their important work.
  • Hydration from the outside and the inside out. In other words, cuticle oil and hand cream help from the outside but don’t forget to drink your water! Your nail starts to grow from the ‘matrix’ – the spot just above your cuticle. Staying hydrated helps your body produce healthy cells – including the ones that will be your nails.
hands holding gold glass dropper from Sienna's cuticle oil bottle

Swimming and water exposure

Prolonged exposure to all kinds water is going to affect the longevity of your mani. The nail becomes waterlogged, expanding, and lifts the polish off the nail. It also gets between the layer of nail polish and your nail bed.

Our tips:

  • Use a good oil based cream on your hands before swimming to repel as much moisture to the nail as possible
  • Again, gloves while doing dishes are your friend
washing hands with soap in pastel green sink under running water

Nail Prep is paramount

Much like painting anything (walls, portraits, etc), you need to prepare your surface before jumping in with the colour or the result will not be the luxe, smooth one of your dreams. Where to start with nails? We got you.

Our tips:

  • Remove any residual polish and clean off any oils and moisturiser from your nails. You want a clean, dry surface so nothing comes between your nail bed and the polish. Nail polish will stick better to a dry surface.
  • Long nails = bendy nails. And bendy nails compromise the adhesion of polish. Nail polish is a solid surface ‘on’ your nail bed and while it will handle some bending, this does weaken your polish. If your nails are prone to bending, short nails are the way forward. Not only are short nails chic beyond words, your mani will last much longer as there’s less chance for bending.
  • If you can avoid nail soaking, please do. Waterlogged nails are softer and water gets in between your nail bed and the polish, which as we now know, is not the goal.
  • If your nails have ridges, gently buff them. Ridges cause pooling of the nail polish which means it will be thicker in parts and thinner in others. This leads to varied drying time which then leads to trouble for your mani. If you can’t get your hands on a buffer, try applying base coat before colour and this should act as a ‘ridge filler’.
hands using glass nail file by sienna


The way you apply your polish can also affect how long it lasts on your nails. We’ve got all the tips and tricks to help you out with this.

Our tips:

  • If you’re shaping your nails, file in one direction rather than in a back and forth motion. This destroys the nail matrix and is a fast track to breaking nails. Let’s just not go there.
  • Next, try a sticky base coat. We don’t want to brag, but ours is pretty damn fantastic. A good base coat will protect and strengthen your nail while providing a good smooth surface to paint on that helps the polish stick to your nail.
  • Okay, the polish. The aim is thin layers. Thin layers, people! They really are the key to a successful application. Once you’ve painted your two/three thin layers of polish, seal the free edge (the tip of your nail) with a horizontal swipe of polish.
  • Finish the whole thing off with some top coat to protect all your work.

We have a guide to giving yourself a natural nail manicure at home if you’d like more detail.

Hands applying nude pink nail polish by sienna

Taking care of (nail) business

Nail polish isn’t supposed to last forever – and that’s a good thing. Chipping will happen eventually but there are some steps we can take to slow it down and preserve your gorgeous mani.

Our tips:

  • If you do spot a rogue chip, you don’t have to junk your entire manicure. Just top-up the offending chip with a touch of polish. Just remember the golden rule about keeping the coats thin.
  • Use nail clippers to remove hangnails. It’s always tempting to pick them. Don’t do it!
  • If your nails get some little ‘nicks’, use a glass nail file and smooth them out so they don’t go on to get caught on other things and damage your nails further.

Do you want more nail care?

We’re so proud of all our nail care and nail polish products and we are here to help you with any questions you have. We love hearing from you and it’s a real thrill for us to see all your beautiful Sienna manicures. Follow us over on Insta for more nail care goodness and mani inspiration. You can also find loads of videos saved under Nail Tutorials in our Highlights.

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