A while back we were talking about this on the Beauty Geeks Unite team. One commonality among those of us who had long lasting manicures: no base coat!
I never use base coat anymore, and my polish lasts a lot longer. Regardless of the brand, I use Revlon top coat (due to the way it bonds to the nail enamel, the brush picks up some color, so you may need a separate bottle for light polish). Bearing in mind that I keep my nails short (just to the end of my fingertip), here's the rundown of the polish brands I've used and made notes on:
Revlon polish (the regular long dry stuff), touching up as necessary, I get 10-14 days. Some shades last longer than others--with Cherries in the Snow I got 15 days and needed the fewest touchups, usually every other day.
An Orly dark green was about 10 days with touchups every other day. Orly French Manicure kit was a week, tops, because you can't really do touchups.
OPI Usually 7-8 days and needed daily touchups, regardless of the color. I made it to 9 once during a very busy time, but up close you could see the repair work and they didn't look great!
Zoya -- 7-8 days but needed fewer touchups than OPI so I felt it performed better.
Chanel -- I didn't write it down, but I do remember it was the shortest time, probably 7 days.
Since I don't use base coat and prefer dark polish, staining is an issue. I always have polish on and don't like "bare" nail looks, so it's not a huge problem, but when it gets bad, I pick a day when I'm not going anywhere and remove my polish, scrub my nails with half a lemon or sink my fingers into half a lemon and leave them there for 10 minutes or so. Then I try to stay polish free for a day before polishing.
To make your nails stronger:
Diet is the main thing. If you're eating well (lots of protein, no processed foods) and take good quality vitamins your nails show it. I take a Hair Skin and Nails formula in addition to my regular vitamins because it had the combo of supplements I needed for health reasons, and since taking it my nails are stronger and more flexible. To keep mine at the end of my fingertip I have to cut them every week to 10 days even though I'm autoimmune.
Vaseline Hand and Nail Therapy hand lotion helps. Once or twice a week I apply a thick layer of either Burt's Bees Lemon Cuticle Butter or Nivea from Germany to my cuticles and around the base of my nails and let it soak for a couple of minutes, then massage it in. (Nivea made in Germany is creamier than the one made in Mexico.) I've also done this with almond oil and a vitamin E capsule pricked with a pin, but the results were the same with Burts or German Nivea...and less messy.
When you file, don't overdo it. When people build something with wood and the board is too long, they don't trim it down with sandpaper, they use a saw to cut it first. Your nails work he same way. Clip to shorten, then only use the file or emery board for finishing. Also, nail files and water don't mix. Cut and file first, then shower or soak.
If you do all of the above faithfully, your nails should improve in about 6 weeks...not all the way, but enough that you'll notice a difference. My nails used to be peely and weak, and it worked!
Edited by: THISYEARSMODEL at: 6/19/2011 (11:58)