Make no mistake, a manicure comes with emotional highs and lows. The excitement of choosing a news color and the thrill of seeing your nails be transformed into a work of art. But then there's the trepidation. When will your newly gorgeous nails be besieged by the first scratch or chip? How long will it take for your nail to grow and totally mess up the look of your gel mani? Once you’re out of that salon (or finishing up your at-home mani), making your manicure last will be first and foremost on your mind.

Of course, if you’re treating yourself to a gel manicure, you’re less likely to worry about peeling and chips. But gel manis are more costly, they can lead to weakened and damaged nails, and there are questions about the general safety of the process.

So let’s say you’re doing up your digits with regular nail polish. How to make the effects last longer? According to Lyda Meas, manicurist and owner of Grand Design Nail Salon in Fairfield, Connecticut, there’s one single tip to keep in mind. “A good base coat makes your manicure last,” says Meas, calling it “the most important trick.”

And it’s important in a bunch of different ways. For one thing, it’s a vital first step in the process. "Just like when you build a house, you need to start with a good foundation,” celebrity nail designer Patti Yankee tells Cosmopolitan. "A base coat is the basis for a long-lasting manicure." It also helps with getting the nail polish to adhere to your nail. Not to mention it makes the manicure process healthier, as Meas adds that it “protects and keeps your nails strong,” which is key for a great-looking, long-lasting manicure. Base coat bonus? It helps prevent your nails from staining.

So, start with clean nails before you apply your base coat, and make sure not to skip this simple but essential first step. And after your nails dry, exercise common sense to keep those nails looking fabulous.. “Try to use gloves on when doing housework and avoid using bare hands when washing dishes or doing gardening,” warns Meas. Then, sit back and enjoy the emotional highs of a long-lasting manicure.

Images: Sofia Zhuravetc/Fotolia; Giphy