She’s got Hollywood’s hottest tips, and we’re not just talking about nails. Famed for the longest-lasting manis in the biz, celebrity nail technician Elle—the woman paid to hold hands with the likes of Mariah Carey, Angelina Jolie, and Blake Lively—gives us the dirt on deals, drama and the dreaded pedicure tub.

InStyle.com: What’s the key to a long-lasting chip-free mani?
Elle: Polish peels faster when the surface of your nail is unhealthy. Before applying color, brush on a primer, like Dermelect Cosmeceuticals’ Immaculate. It’s infused with peptides, so it instantly brings the pH of your nails back up to a healthy level. It also has anti-aging benefits that prevent nails from getting brittle.

What is the biggest enemy to nails during summer?
Air-conditioning, without a doubt. Constantly going from warm temperatures to cold makes your nail plates expand and contract. Using a primer and keeping your cuticles moisturized with oil will help keep this at bay. You can even use baby oil or cooking oil on cuticles in a pinch.

Any tricks for scoring deals at nail salons?
Promotions on treatments are typically offered on Tuesdays around midday. Also, if you’ve recommended a friend to the salon, let the receptionist know and he or she will usually throw in a discount on your service.

Is there any other way to save a few bucks?
If you make an appointment with the owner of a salon, you’re not expected to tip.

What are the hottest nail shades right now?
This season’s trends span the rainbow, but I love what Zoya is doing with poppy hues of purple, blue, and pink. The colors with a little sparkle are fun too.

What are some of the biggest no-no’s at salons?
Don’t ever let me catch your feet in one of those pedicure tubs with jets. They breed bacteria if they aren’t cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant. A Lysol rinse just doesn’t cut it.

How can I be more prepared for my next visit?
Always bring your own polish with you. A lot of nail salons thin theirs with acetone to make the supply last longer, which doesn’t make for a lasting paint job.

The strangest places you’ve ever done nails?
On massage tables and even on people’s beds.

What are some of the things you’ve been asked to match color to?
I’ve done manis that replicate the tortoiseshell frame of a client’s sunglasses and custom shades that match bridesmaid dresses.

What kind of gossip do you hear in the manicure chair?
You think of hairdressers as having tight relationships with their clients, but there’s nothing more intimate than clutching someone’s hand. I’ve heard women talk about screwing over their friends, dating other people’s husbands and worse. I’ve probably heard more than their therapists have.

Zoya Nail PolishJ MUCKLE

Bonus! Elle dishes on summer’s most sizzlin’ shades to try for yourself:

From left: Zoya nail polishes in Lael, Malia, Pinta, Yummy, Blu, Yana and Dot, $9 each; zoya.com.

For more pros’ tips, tricks, and best-kept secrets, pick up a copy of InStyle’s July issue, on sale and available for digital download now.

Want more manicure inspiration? Check out the best pastel nail polishes for summer in our gallery!