Nail Primers Are the Secret to Extending Your Mani's Life

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Nail polish is so much fun — it's why we're so obsessed with nail art trends. Between classic looks and out-there designs we pair to our zodiac signs, or even changing out gel tips for clean lacquer formulas, there's never a dull moment when it comes to our nails. The only frustrating moment is when we realize our polish is chipping and it's time for a change.

Extending the life of our manicure is something we all aspire to do. After all, if you're taking the time (and money) to do your nails, you want them to last as long as possible. Thankfully, nail primers can help you squeeze more life out of your manis and pedis. Yes, really.

So, to learn everything there is to know about nail primers, we tapped two nail experts. Below, they explain everything we need to know about them.

What are nail primers?

In the same way that you use makeup primer to prep the face for cosmetics, nail primers prep the nails for lacquer. "It's a cleanser to prep the nails before applying lacquer that is used to remove all dirt, oils and any residue from the nails to help aid in longer wear," explains Rachel Joseph, a Nailing Hollywood nail artist.

Olivia Van Iderstine, Olive & June's Mani Trend Expert and VP of Content & Creative, adds that nail primers are used as an extra step in your mani routine to extend the life of your mani by two to three days.

Most nail primers work by dehydrating the nail plate to increase lacquer adhesion. (No, they won't over-dry your nails.) For regular nail polish, we recommend Deborah Lippmann's 2-Second Nail Primer and Olive & June's Nail Primer. For gel polish, we recommend ORLY's Nail Tip Primer.

What are the benefits of using a nail primer?

A longer-lasting manicure, of course! "It gives your mani a 20% increase in durability and even makes polish application smoother and easier," adds Van Iderstine.

Now, do you really need it? For regular polish, not necessarily — it's just a nice add-on that extends your lacquer's life. However, it is necessary when using any semi-permanent nail enhancement, such as gel and acrylic.

"Nail primers are specific to the product they are priming for, so a gel primer will be different from acrylic primer," explains Laura Malarkey, a Nailing Hollywood nail artist. "If you skip primer, chances are your enhancements will crack, chip, or lift off within a day or two — so you definitely don’t want to forget that step." 

What's the best way to use a nail primer?

For starters, Van Iderstine says to begin with clean, dry, polish-free nails. Then, you can apply primer, let it dry, and follow with your favorite polish. Joseph adds that it's important to keep in mind that a little goes a long way, so you only need to use a small amount.

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