I Own Over 600 Nail Polishes, and These 4 Products Are My Staples for Salon-Perfect Manicures
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My nails are always chip- and damage-free.
Whenever I play an ice breaker game like two truths and a lie, one of my disguised truths is always that I own 600 nail polishes. Once people realize that I am, in fact, telling the truth about this, their eyes widen and their mouths usually form a fairly perfect O.
I’ve been nails-obsessed from the time I was in junior high, when my best friend and I used to sit in the hallways before school and trade our favorite nail polishes. As my collection grew over the years, I became better at giving myself pretty flawless manicures — even with dreaded dark colors and multi-fleck glitters. It’s more than just polish technique, though — it comes down to keeping my nails healthy, my nail beds nourished, and my manicures glossy, long-lasting, and chip free.
If the nail product exists, I’ve most probably tried it, but these four nail products have been staples in my start-to-finish manicure routine for over 10 years:
Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover, $12; amazon.com and ulta.com
Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil, $11; amazon.com and ulta.com
CND Stickey Base Coat, $11; amazon.com and $13; ulta.com
Essie Good To Go Top Coat, $8; amazon.com and ulta.com
Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover
Before I can even think about what color I’m painting my nails next, I have to remove what’s currently on them. Early on, I was a Cutex gal, but I switched to Zoya’s nail polish remover over 10 years ago and never looked back. I actually dug into my old emails to see how far back the love goes for this nail polish remover (what can I say, I’m Type A and save all my email receipts), and this three-in-one formula has been a repeat customer in my nail arsenal since early 2012. Its inclusion of acetone not only removes every stitch of polish — even tough-as-nails glitter — but glycerin helps nourish and strengthen my nails in between polish sessions. I can even soak my tips with foil-wrapped, soaked cotton balls, and my nails and fingers are left in tip-top shape.
While other removers tend to smell cloying and medicinal, this lovely lavender liquid has a sweet, licorice-like scent. The twist-to-open pump top is also super unique and spill-free, even when I use Q-tips for cuticle cleanup. I’ve gone through bottle after bottle of this nail polish remover, and with hundreds of five-star reviews online, I’m not alone. Shoppers loved that it removes polish “quickly and cleanly,” and called out that it’s “gentle” and “not as drying” as other options.
Shop now: $12; amazon.com and ulta.com
Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil
It may shock you to learn that I haven’t always used cuticle oil. I knew I should, and I loved when manicurists would use one during a mani/pedi appointment, but I’ll admit it took longer than it should to incorporate one into my beauty routine. Maybe it just took discovering Essie’s sweet-smelling Apricot Cuticle Oil to finally realize how imperative it is, especially in the typically dry climate of Los Angeles. Now, I equate it to the moisturizer and serum I use on my face — a daily essential.
I used to get frequent hangnails, which are basically a thing of the past these days thanks to this cuticle oil’s inclusion of moisturizing cottonseed and soybean oils. Since beginning daily use over five years ago, my nail beds and cuticles are stronger, healthier, and much more nourished. Plus, it’s so easy to apply; I like to brush it around each nail bed and up the nail, and then gently massage it into the skin. I do it while watching reruns of favorite shows like Sex and the City, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s a definite plus to have not only gorgeous nails, but nail beds and cuticles that don’t look raggedy. Hundreds of five-star reviewers point out that their nails are “thick and strong” and “shinier” thanks to the oil.
Shop now: $11; amazon.com and ulta.com
CND Stickey Base Coat
I first learned about CND almost 15 years ago while covering beauty looks backstage at New York Fashion Week. I was immediately enamored with the brand’s color portfolio and multiple incredibly talented and knowledgeable nail artists — but also quickly discovered its lineup of high-performing products meant to make hands and nails look and feel their best. Every manicurist backstage constantly raved about CND’s Stickey Base Coat, so I had to give it a try.
I’d used other base coats in the past with varying degrees of success, but when it came time to wear a dark color like navy or black, forget about it — my nails were left stained and yellowing for weeks. And then, CND Stickey entered my life. It’s three-free (formulated without formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate), and works as an anchor for polish to stick to the nail and wear longer. Not only does it dry basically upon impact and flawlessly prep my nails for any color application, but upon removal of any color, my nails are their actual, healthy hue. No ridges, no streaking, no staining. My manicures last up to two weeks without chipping — you’d think they were gel!
Shop now: $11; amazon.com and $13; ulta.com
Essie Good to Go Top Coat
I don’t know about you, but the wait time for nails to dry always seems endless. Even if I’m watching TV or talking on the phone, I just feel immediately antsy and want to shove my hands into my pockets or rummage through a purse to see if my nails dried. (I don’t really recommend either of those tactics right away.) I was a longtime user of Seche Vite, but never liked that it became goopy and unusable before I reached the bottom of the bottle. In searching for a dupe, I came across Essie’s Good to Go Top Coat and had to give it a try. And as Janice used to say on Friends … OH. MY. GOD.
You know how I just said you can’t rummage through your purse soon after finishing your manicure? Well, you absolutely can when this is the finishing touch. My finished nails are not only flawless, shiny, and super glossy, but they dry completely within five minutes of using the product. It’s honestly just a bonus that my manicure also remains chip-free for up to two weeks. I’ve been singing this top coat’s praises for years, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Shoppers also rave that their nails “look professional” after use.
Shop now: $8; amazon.com and $11; ulta.com
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