How Long Does Nail Polish Last on a Classic Manicure? [Regular & Gel Polish]

We’ve all been there, at least I know I have. You’re all set for a crazy weekend, and you’re asking yourself, how long does nail polish last? Will your manicure last through the festivities?

If you apply nail polish at home, should last up to four or five days before it begins to chip. But will a few adjustments a home manicure can last longer.

A manicure at your local nail salon, on the other hand, can give you a longer-lasting coat of up to ten days before you see chipping.  If instead, you get a gel manicure, you can extend that to two weeks. And a dip manicure can last up to four weeks.

Before we jump in on some of the most commonly asked questions on nail polish durability, here’s a quick reference chart for you to compare the longevity of different manicure types so you can pick the one best suited to your needs.

Nail PolishGel Polish Dip Powder Manicure
Durability1-2 weeks2-3 weeks3-4 weeks
Usually Chips on Day51221
Looks Best
Least Damaging
Ease of Removal
Manicure Longevity Chart

how long does nail polish last

How long does nail polish last on nails?

How long nail polish lasts depends on the type of nail polish your use, whether you are doing a home or nail salon manicure or pedicure, and the method of application. Standard or gel nail polish nail salon manicures can last up to three weeks. 

Home manicures can last longer if you use a quality top coat and at least a double coat of nail polish. Home manicure longevity also depends on your lifestyle, aka how much action your hands see on a daily basis. If you work in the healthcare field and frequently need to wash with soap or sanitize your hands, this can shorten your manicure’s life.

Also, if your hands spend a lot of time in the water, for example, if you swim daily, this can also shorten the lifespan of your manicure.

How long does gel nail polish last on nails?

Gel nail polish can last up to three to four weeks. I love a good gel manicure for precisely this reason. They last almost as long as it takes for your nail growth to begin to show and then they either start to peel or chip. Check out our post on “The Best Gel Nail Polishes” for recommendations of reputable gel polish brands.

To remove a gel manicure, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends using acetone. 

Remove gel nail polish off your nails by following these steps:

  1. Prepare your work area with a long piece of plastic wrap and a small hand towel over the top. Since acetone can stain your surfaces easily, this setup is ideal. 
  2. Use a cotton swab to apply petroleum jelly around your cuticles to protect your skin. 
  3. Soak acetone on cotton balls appropriately sized to cover your nails. Half of a standard cotton ball is good for four standard fingers while a quarter of a cotton ball suffices for one finger. 
  4. Apply the acetone cotton balls to your fingernails and wrap them up tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  5. Let the acetone do its job for about 10 minutes. 
  6. Remove the cotton balls and plastic/aluminum wrap. If there is any remaining gel nail polish on your fingers, wet a washcloth with warm water to get the final touches to the job done. 
  7. Wash your hands with mild soap to remove the petroleum jelly and remaining acetone from your fingers. 

Removing gel polish is much the same as how to remove dip nails. Be sure to avoid scrapping at your gel polish to remove it as you can damage your nail plate.

The risks of overusing gel nail polish

Be mindful that gel nail polish can cause contact dermatitis in some people. 

A study of 2,118 women showed that 48.3% of them contracted contact dermatitis while applying gel nail polish to their nails.

About 20% of the group experience the condition while wearing the gel nail polish. Over 75% of the women surveyed had issues with contact dermatitis after they removed the gel nail polish from their nails. 

Besides contact dermatitis, repeat use of gel nail polish can cause higher risks of skin cancer and overall increase skin aging for your hands. The gel nail polish is not responsible for this risk. The UV light used to cure gel nail polish sets it in place on your nails. Constant exposure to UV rays is responsible for an enhanced risk of skin cancer

If you love getting a gel manicure, as I do, consider picking up a set of anti-UV gloves that will protect your skin from UV light. These gloves are inexpensive and worth it to protect your skin from premature photo-aging.

how long does nail polish last

Change up the type of nail polish you use to not regularly use gel nail polish so you will not experience nail brittleness or cracking or peeling of the nails. 

Tips for doing manicures to maintain nail health

Reduce the likelihood of negatively impacting your nail health by having a manicure once every few months with gel nail polish rather than once a month to reduce exposure to the UV rays post-manicure. Maybe opt for acrylic nails when you are not using gel nail polish. 

There is a common myth that your nails should air out after you have removed nail polish from a manicure. Since your nails get nutrients from the blood in your body and not from the air, this is not necessary. You can get as many manicures as you would like, but keep in mind other risks. 

Regular nail polish carries its own set of risks using it often.

Chemicals like toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate are included in standard nail polish, leading to cancer risks or reproductive issues. This is why doctors say to abstain from manicures and pedicures until after your baby is born. 

How to make your nail polish last longer

Make your nail polish last longer by applying a high-quality clear top coat like Essie’s Speed Setter or applying two coats of colored nail polish.

The clear top coat is made of a cellulose acetate butyrate ester which seals your nails and protects them from chipping or damage. 

how long does nail polish last

Applying one coat, letting it dry, and applying a second coat can enhance longevity and overall color brightness. Using the top coat will reduce ridges and keep the nail surface even.  

Things that will make your polish chip or peel

If your hands and nails have too many natural oils on them before the manicure, it could make your nail polish prematurely peel off. Use nail polish remover or alcohol pads to clean your nails and let them dry before applying nail polish. 

A thick coat could make the nail polish bubble up and then chip while drying. Apply thinner coats so this does not happen. 

If nail polish gets on your cuticles, this causes peeling. Apply a liquid cuticle guard before the manicure to prevent this peeling possibility. 

Why does nail polish last longer on toes?

Nail polish lasts longer on toes because they are not as exposed to as many elements as hands. The only time water gets on our toes is during a shower or a swim in the pool or ocean. 

We wash our hands constantly throughout the day in between eating, bathroom breaks, and other projects. But your feet stay protected in socks and shoes until it’s time to go to sleep or shower. 

If you want a longer-lasting nail painting experience, opt for a pedicure. You can at least marvel at their beauty while you are sitting at home relaxing in bed. 

Nail polish shelf life

How long does unopened nail polish last?

  • Traditional nail polish can last for two to three years
  • Gel nail polish can last for two to three years
  • Dip powder can last much longer, up to five years

Unopened nail polish lasts longer than opened bottles. Opened nail polish lasts up to two years before drying up.

You can keep a bottle of unopened nail polish in your bathroom for a few years, take a couple of years to use it, and have no need for picking up a new bottle for a long time. 

If your polish has thickened, you can give it new life by adding a few drops of acetone to thin it out and make it usable again.

If you find that the nail polish is hardening or if it has an abnormal smell, this means it has expired. Discard the bottle and pick up a new one. 

Key takeaways on how long nail polish last

If you prefer to do your nails at home, have all the necessary supplies for application and removal. You want to take quality care of your nails, so follow the application and removal procedures above for the best results.