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The thickness of your nails is genetic, but there are measures you can take to grow stronger, longer nails. "Keep clear polish or nail strengthener on your nails at all times. Sally Hansen Hard As Nails ($2.99, Ulta) has been around for years and it's the best I've ever used. I also recommend Nail Tek ($15, Ulta) which makes great nail strengtheners."
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"Keep your cuticles pushed back with a clean, wooden orange stick, file your nails into a clean shape and always keep a clear coat of polish on your natural nails. Clear polish is awesome because it protects your nails and always looks neat until you can get back to the salon," says Hughes.
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For longer-lasting nail color, opt for gel polish instead of traditional enamel polish. "Gel polish is also great for protecting and strengthening natural nails," says Hughes. She also recommends the SNS Nails process which involves applying a gel base, dipping the nail in powder and curing it with a top gel coat. Hughes performs this service at UltraViolet Nail Lounge in Atlanta and predicts the service will soon become more widely available at salons nationwide.
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"You can dip your hands into a bowl of ice water and it will help your nails dry faster," says Hughes. "Also, put on thin layers of polish and give each coat a minute to let it dry. If you let each layer dry, that's the trick to getting your polish to dry fast."
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"If you have a chipped nail, you just have to let it go," advises Hughes. "Never rip it off. Instead, use a nail clipper to remove the broken piece and file it evenly. Any part of the nail that grows beyond the nail bed is made of layers of dead skin cells, so there's no way to bring a broken nail back to life. If the chip goes back into the nail bed, you can use a very small droplet of nail glue just so the skin isn't exposed."
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"Make sure you get a full manicure before applying your color service. Your nail technician should push your cuticles all the way back and apply that color to the base of the cuticle. Choose lighter colors so when your nails grow out at the cuticles, it's a lot less noticeable," says Hughes.
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If using one of the hundreds of polishes at the salon creeps you out, it's okay to bring your own polish to the salon with you. You should also be on the lookout for sanitized tools and proper safety procedures from salon employees. "If you have a hunch that something isn't right, find another salon," says Hughes. Ask your girlfriends for salons they recommend or read reviews on Yelp before you visit.
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"Lift your foot on the bottom stair or the side of the bathtub if you can do so safely. If you lift your foot, it'll be much easier to reach," says Hughes.
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