How to Not Get Finger Nail Polish on the Sides of the Finger

by Melissa King
Get professional results with an at-home manicure.

Get professional results with an at-home manicure.

Like an artist who carefully paints the tiniest details, you need a steady hand to apply the perfect coat of nail polish. It's hard enough to do a smooth layer of solid color, but intricate nail art gets even trickier. One slip-up sends polish off the nail and streaking across your skin. Luckily, you don't need to hit up the salon for a smear-free paint job. With a bit of tape or petroleum jelly, you'll keep fingertips safe from almost any polishing mishap.

Tape Guard

Wash your hands, nails and fingers with warm water and soap. Dry hands very well with a towel.

Cut three small pieces of scotch or masking tape per finger, for a total of 30 pieces.

Take hold of one finger and put one piece of tape below the nail and two on the sides of your finger. Leave the nail exposed. Repeat with all of the fingers.

Paint your nails as usual. Wait for the polish to dry completely before taking off the tape.

Petroleum-Jelly Shield

Clean your hands and fingers with soap and warm water. Pat dry with a towel.

Dip a cotton swab in some petroleum jelly, and wipe the skin around each nail with a thin layer of jelly, but don't get any on the nail itself.

Paint your nails and allow the polish to dry. Wipe the petroleum jelly off with a towel, or rub it into your skin -- it's an effective moisturizer for dry hands.

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Items you will need

  • Soap
  • Towel
  • Scotch or masking tape
  • Cotton swabs
  • Petroleum jelly


  • Spritz your just-painted nails with cooking spray to dry the polish fast.
  • To help polish adhere better, dab your nails with white vinegar before painting.
  • If any nail polish gets on your skin, use a cotton swab dipped in polish remover to wipe it away.

About the Author

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

Photo Credits

  • Pinnacle Pictures/Photodisc/Getty Images