Scrupulous preparation is the key to getting toenail polish to stay on for six weeks or longer. While I always use the same technique, I often experiment with different nail prep products on myself, doing one foot with the product and one foot without. (Friends and family come in handy for these kinds of experiments as well.) I have also found that different base and top coats have different success rates and that price is not always an indicator of whether or not it will last a long time. You can experiment with this step too. Do one foot with one product and the other with another kind. Keep in mind that you want to experiment with only one product at a time.

Here’s how I polish the toes:

1. After a complete pedicure, including cuticle work, use a white (or equivalent) block buffer to smooth out nails. Do not make the nail shiny; you want it to be dull. File away any peeling of the nail.

2. Just prior to polishing, scrub nails with a clean brush using water with a non-moisturizing soap. Be sure to remove all the creams, lotions, and foot filings from the sidewalls and under the free edge of the nail.

3. Rinse well. A spray bottle with warm water works well for this.

4. Dry each toenail with a clean towel, taking care to use a new clean, dry section of towel for each toe.

5. Put in toe separators and flip flops. (I use a tissue to separate the toes, but you could use toe separators shifted over one toe, so that the end is between the big toe and the second toe.)

6. Apply base coat.

7. Apply two coats of polish. When applying the first coat, be sure to wrap the polish onto the end of the toenail (the top edge of the free edge). If necessary, use an orangewood stick to remove polish from skin.

8. Apply top coat, being sure to wrap the top coat onto the top edge of the nail as well.

Never get polish on the cuticle; if you do, remove it right away since this will cause the nail polish to peel. Tell the client to avoid water (no shower or swimming) for at least 24 hours. If the client wears tight shoes, the polish won’t stay on as long.

A nail technician for 12 years, Thora Rasmussen is the owner of Nails by Thora in Invermere, British Columbia, Canada.

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