I've been doing my own nails every week for the last 8 years or so. During that time, I've experimented with a lot of different products to try to achieve the perfect at-home manicure. I've also read hundreds of MakeupAlley reviews in my quest for the best (or HG, in beauty-review speak) nail products, and after years of trial and error, I think I've finally created my ultimate DIY manicure kit. Here are my top picks that I can't
1. Crystal Nail Files
I finally bought some of these a few months ago after hearing how good they were for years. I'm not sure what took me so long, but I love the way these leave a smooth finish and don't get dull the way that traditional emery boards do. I own the Cheeky ones linked to above and in the picture, but you can also find them at Sephora, among other places.
2. Revlon Colorstay Base Coat
This was another product I discovered thanks to its stellar MakeupAlley reviews. I must admit, I tried a few base coats years ago and concluded that they were pointless, just an attempt to force consumers to buy yet another product. But I decided to try this anyway, and wow, it proved me wrong. This stuff really works! It keeps my manicure virtually chip-free for 7-10 days, which is 3-5 days longer than before I started using this. The links on this post will take you to Amazon, but I actually buy it at my local supermarket for less. They just don't have this on their website!
3. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
Anyone who reads a lot of beauty blogs and magazines has almost certainly heard of Seche Vite. It's widely considered to be the best top coat available, and you won't hear me arguing with that. I first started using this a few years ago when my mom got it for me as a Christmas present, and I haven't looked back. Seche Vite dries fast and rock-hard, so your nails can take a beating without getting dented. It also keeps my nails salon-shiny for at least a week, which no other top coat I've used in the past was able to do. The cons? Seche Vite does smell terrible (like, worse than regular nail polish), and it thickens once you get to the halfway point of the bottle. To deal with that, you will need the next product.
4. Seche Restore Thinner
This is to use once your Seche Vite top coat gets too thick. Yes, it's kind of annoying that you need an extra product, but in my opinion it's totally worth it. I buy it in the largest size on Amazon from whichever seller is offering the best deal. Supposedly, you can also use it to restore nail polishes that have gotten too thick, but I haven't tried it for that yet.
5. Cutex Cotton Ball Holders
These might look like mini UFOs, but they're actually nifty little devices that allow you to remove nail polish without ruining your manicure. I use them when I want to take off the nail polish on my toes without messing up my nails. They're a little bit tricky to use, but once you get the hang of it, they work well. So far, I've only been able to find them at cutex.com, which is where I bought mine.
I spent years using various nail polish removers with fancy descriptions like "moisturizing" and "gentle" before I bought this no-frills nail polish remover at Target. It has one ingredient: acetone. And you know what? This stuff dissolves nail polish in no time flat. I used to absolutely dread removing my nail polish, and while I can't say that I now enjoy the process, I no longer put it off. I still buy up&up's version, but I imagine that you could probably get whichever brand's pure acetone nail polish remover is cheapest.
7. Nail Polish
Last but not least, I have a lot (or, as my husband would say, an insane amount) of nail polishes. I'm honestly not too picky about the brand; my collection includes Revlon, Love & Beauty, OPI, Maybelline, Zoya, Sally Hansen, and Essie, among others. I've found that just about any nail polish will look good and last a long time with the right base coat and top coat. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd probably go with Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear for its wide range of colors and low price. I generally avoid spending more than $3 on a single nail polish, and these babies run around $2.99.
If you made it to the end of this post, tell me: What are your favorite (HG) nail products? Do you use any of the ones in my ultimate manicure kit?