By Jane Sung
Updated April 26, 2016 02:47 PM

You know the drill: Paint your own nails and inevitably a chip appears overnight (and it only goes downhill from there). Go to a salon for a manicure, however, and somehow it outlasts your own handiwork. But a long-wearing at-home paint job is achievable, according to Jane Maccolla, owner of New York-based nail salon (and fashion insider favorite) Hortus Nailworks. Here, she shares her step-by-step guide to making polish last.

Courtesy Eneida Cardona

1. Give dirt the brush off.
If you don’t have one already, get a good nail brush (we like this one for its gentle bristles). While hands are damp, lightly brush away dry skin and debris around the cuticles and under the nails. “Doing this on a regular basis while washing hands or during a bath is an easy way to maintain neat nails and cuticles,” says Maccolla.

2. Get in shape.
Once nails are completely dry, cut and shape them using a superfine grit nail file. Maccolla recommends a crystal or glass file because it’s “easy to clean and sustainable.”

3. Clean your canvas.
Thoroughly clean your nails (this includes around the cuticles and underneath tips) of any remaining debris and residual oil for a spotless surface. “Polish will not last on nails that are not clean and well-prepped,” says Maccolla. She suggests an acetone-based polish remover, rubbing alcohol or even vinegar.

4. Ace the base coat.
Always start with a good base coat, and apply a thin, even layer of it. “It primes the nail, gives color a surface to stick to and helps to prevent your nails from staining,” says Maccolla.

5. Shine on.
Apply two coats of your favorite color, making sure each layer is even and covers the entire nail — including the oft-neglected “free edge” (i.e., your nail tips). “Give each coat some time to dry between applications,” advises Maccolla. “Lastly, top off with a high-gloss topcoat to seal in color and provide a super shiny surface.”

To help prolong your perfect paint job, Maccolla suggests keeping hands well moisturized. “When nails are super dry, polish tends to flake off,” she says. “Also, wear gloves for household chores like washing dishes and cleaning.”

Buy It! Swissco Wooden natural bristle nail brush, $3; ASP Crystal nail file, $4; Nailtiques Acetone remover, $8; Deborah Lippmann “All About That Base” base coat, $20; Tenoverten “The Shield” top coat, $18; Eve Lom Cuticle cream, $24;

Jane Sung