Getting a manicure.

  • Business Insider spoke with a manicurist and uncovered the biggest mistakes people make with their nails.
  • Nail-strengthening products that contain harsh chemicals can do more harm than good.
  • Not moisturizing nails and cuticles in-between salon treatments is a common mistake.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Whether you're a regular at the local nail salon or like to indulge in a gel manicure every now and then, having your nails trimmed, smoothed, and polished by a professional can feel like the ultimate act of self-care.

However, there's a special type of frustration that comes when your nail polish chips just a few days after leaving the salon, or when painful ingrown nails form along your cuticle.

In an interview with Business Insider, Mabelyn Martin, the creative director at New York City-based nail salon Paintbox, shared her list of nail faux-pas she encounters on a regular basis.

Martin said one of the biggest mistake her clients make is not keeping their nails and cuticles moisturized. Using nail-strengthening products with harsh chemicals can also lead to serious damage, she said.

Keep reading for all the mistakes Martin sees on a regular basis and how you can avoid them.

Martin said the most common mistake people make is not keeping their nails and cuticles moisturized

"Your nails need the same amount of moisture that your face needs," Martin said. "Not hydrating, whether you have gel or regular polish, is the biggest mistake I see women make on a regular basis."

Martin recommended using natural oils such as argan oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil, but she said most cuticle oil products are also viable options.

Keeping nails hydrated is important no matter what types of manicures you get, or even if you don't wear polish at all, Martin said, but using oils regularly on the cuticle and nail is especially vital for people who get gel manicures.

"Applying oil all over the nail and cuticle will hydrate the new nail once your gel polish grows out," Martin said.

Using nail strengtheners that contain harsh chemicals, like formaldehyde, is very bad for nails

Some nail-strengthening products contain chemicals that tend to be too harsh for people's nails, Martin said.

"Women should be careful with nail strengtheners because they tend to be too harsh. I see people use them all the time, and they can be extremely damaging," Martin said.

Martin explained that nail strengtheners often contain formaldehyde, which can harden and dry out the nail, making it more likely to crack. The US Department of Labour's website describes formaldehyde as a hazardous chemical found in nail polish and nail hardeners.

"Those products make the nail like a piece of glass - hard, sure, but extremely breakable," Martin said. "Instead, women should just use cuticle oil to make their nails stronger. Using oils consistently will make the nail more bendable and pliable, and that's what you want. . . it's better than having a dry, breakable nail."

Not paying attention to chemicals in all types of nail products can be a big mistake

Martin recommends looking for nail polishes that are non-toxic, or labelled as five-free, seven-free, nine-free, or so on - which means they're free of a certain number of potentially harmful chemicals.

"I wish more people were paying attention to what's in their nail polishes, because you absorb anything you put on your nails," she said.

Peeling or picking off gel polish can cause major nail damage

Martin said picking at gel polish or peeling it off the nail completely is a sure-fire way to cause damage. She said most gel polish manicures should last about two weeks, but if the polish begins to peel earlier, she recommends trying to avoid ripping it off the nail.

"Once you cause that damage from picking off the gel, you have to wait until the entire nail grows out in order to have a clean slate, so-to-speak," she said.

So can removing soft gel polish with a drill, so clients should be wary of salons that do this

Martin said people who get gel manicures should be wary of how manicurists remove the polish.

She explained that most gel manicures are applied using a type of polish known as soft gel. Soft gel polish should be removed only with a soak-off technique, which is where the manicurist wraps the client's nails with cotton pads soaked in polish-remover and covers their fingers in foil, Martin said.

"For soft gel manicures, drills should never be used," Martin said. "It's much too damaging for the nail."

However, a drill is almost always necessary for removing polish from acrylic nails, Martin said.

"If you know you don't have acrylic nails and someone is using a drill to remove your polish, that's not a salon I would go back to," she added.

Consistently adding layers of clear polish to the nails won't actually help a manicure last longer — in fact, it just traps dirt and dust

Martin said people should stop adding layers of clear top coat to their nails throughout the week.

"It'll just make your nails thicker, and people usually aren't wiping off their nail with an alcohol pad to clean it before adding the top coat, so that can trap dirt and dust," Martin said. "Again, the best solution is to opt for cuticle oil."

The process of "letting your nails breathe" without polish won't help with nail staining or damage

The idea that going au-natural with your nails between manicures can improve nail health or help with nail stains is a myth, Martin said.

One tip she recommends to her clients who struggle with nail stains, or remnants of polish colour that have tinted the nail, is to dip a disposable mascara wand in baking soda and water, then brush the wand onto the nail.

"You'll see the stains disappear immediately, and it'll help brighten the nail," Martin said.

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