I paint my nails two to three times a week. That much painting leads to falling in love with some nail products. Here is an ever-evolving list of my favorites. This is by no means exclusive as I try new products all the time, but these are the tried and true. If I find a new one I really like, I’ll add it!
Hands down, the winner is Seche Vite. The first time I tried it I was stunned. I couldn’t believe my nails were DRY after 30 seconds! It revolutionized my manicure routine. But, just like everyone says, it does get gloppy halfway through the bottle… so you’ll need some Restore. It makes everything right again.
A very close runner up is Sally Hansen’s Insta Dri. It takes a little bit longer to cure, maybe 60 seconds, but it has fantastic shine and great staying power… and is often less expensive.
And then there is the matte top coat I use every now and then. I love the look of a matte top but they take forever to dry, so I don’t do them often. I like the first one I tried, so I haven’t tried any others yet. So, my favorite is Wet and Wild’s Wild Shine matte top coat. I think I picked it up for a buck at Walmart so it’s not expensive and it does the job.
I go through base coats quickly – more quickly than top coats because I often will scrap a manicure and start all the way over before I get to the top coat phase. Over the years I’ve tried many, but a select few have reigned as my favorites and work well for me. Base coats are very important if you want to protect your nails from staining and harsh chemicals in polish, so it’s worth spending a little money on them to get a good one.
My holy grail of base coats will probably surprise you – it’s Basecoat by Sinful Colors. It works as both a ridge filler and stain protector – but of equal importance, it helps my manicures last longer. I am amazed that such a reasonably priced product could do such an amazing job! Seriously good stuff and available at your local Walgreens for just $3.99!
My second go-to is Bonder by Orly. It creates a base the polish wants to stick to and it stays put for longer without chipping and flaking. I noticed my manis started lasting longer when I began using this base coat. It can be expensive but totally worth it. I found mine on Ebay last time around.
Another favorite is Essie’s First Base. Essie claims there is a “Rubber adhesives bonding the polish to the nail surface, to protect color wear and create a smooth canvas for color application”. It is also “DBP, Toluene and Formaldehyde free”. This was the first base I ever purchased. I’d done some research on what was the best and decided it was a good overall base – and it definitely made a marked improvement in how long the polish lasted and felt nice going on. I’m almost out and will be purchasing more soon.
My last base coat favorite is Essie’s Fill the Gap. I have ridges in my nails. They make smoothing on polish difficult – and some polishes are very thin and like to pool in the ruts in my nails. This filler takes care of my gaps! I’ve tried a few and this one really does the job the best. I don’t use this on every manicure, but always if I’m using a matte finish or doing a lighter look.
One of the problems I have with my nails is flaking. They’ve always had tips that just don’t want to stay together and peel off, layer by layer. Painting my nails helps keep this under control by wrapping the damaged part of my nail and keeping water out of it, but having the right tools that aren’t tearing up my nails has helped tremendously too. First in that arsenal is a good nail file, seeing as I use it between each and every manicure. Last September my husband gave me a glass nail file. I’d seen them, but thought they were kinda gimicky and wasn’t really interested. But, out of graciousness, I tried it. And immediately fell in love. It felt much gentler on my nails and smoothed them out very nicely. I don’t think I can explain it very well – you just have to try them for yourself.
Squared and squoval nails are quite popular right now and if you’ve ever tried to achieve that look without the proper tools, you know how long it can take. This Christmas I finally got a pair of straight toenail clippers. One use of those brand-new, sharp babies and I was hooked. My nail tips look right now without having to have spent forty-five minutes shaping them! Totally makes the job so easy! I love these things! The larger size of the toenail clipper make working with them easier too. Absolutely a must-have from here on.