Just keep the layer thin. "Many of us overload the brush and do too many strokes," Nails Inc. founder Thea Green says. "The key is to load just enough polish on the brush to cover the nail in one coat. " She recommends striping your nail three times: once down the middle, once on each side.
Finally, buff the tops and sides of your nails lightly with a nail buffer—not your emery board—to create a smooth surface. "If you don't buff, the natural oils in your nails can build up, leaving manicure-ruining residue on them," says Rita Remark, Essie global lead educator. "Buffing your nails is kind of like brushing your teeth—it's brightening, it makes nails look more youthful, and it gets rid of ridges.
But really, you can once it dries. " The reason? Shrinkage. "Topcoats tighten as they dry, which is what can cause those little ridges if you don't put it on properly. " To give nails that truly mirrorlike gleam like you get at the nail salon, follow that up with a separate shine enhancer like Zoya Naked Manicure Glossy Seal Top Coat.
Tidy up any mistakes or wobbly edges by wrapping a piece of cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover around the end of your cuticle stick and carefully trace around your nails.
After a nice full two minutes (set your iPhone timer if you know you're going to cheat), apply the second coat of nail polish.
Try this tip we got from celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann: Hold the file flush to your nail and tilt it so you file from slightly underneath. "This allows you to see exactly what you're doing and helps protect against over-filing," she says.
A word of warning, be careful when you put your top coat on, since a messy application can ruin your entire manicure. "I see this all the time," says manicurist Madeline Poole. "Women think, It's clear—you can't tell.