Nails are kind of a new category for me. I wear contacts, so they can’t get too long. But I also have naturally weak, thin, peely nails — which keeps me from getting past the “nubbin” stage. I’ve recently discovered a few products that have made a world of difference (see me show them off in Zoya’s Vanessa polish) and I would be a bad friend if I didn’t share my secrets.
1. Zoya’s Anchor Basecoat and Armor Topcoat ($8, $8)
I knew that wearing a basecoat and topcoat with your polish made a difference in “wear time,” but dang, all basecoats/topcoats are not created equal. Zoya was a revelation — suddenly a manicure could last 5 days (unheard of), which means I might possibly get bored of a color before it chips. The Anchor/Armor combo also dries thrillingly fast. In fact, Anchor is usually dry on my left hand by the time I finish painting my right.
2. Hurry Up Drops / Drip Dry Drops ($7.50 â€“ $22, depending on brand and size)
If you’re not currently using drying drops, you need them, and I apologize in advance that they’re expensive. Part of the hassle of a manicure is the sitting around, waiting for paint to dry. This will sound like hyperbole, but quick drying drops changed my life. As soon as I’ve finished applying my topcoat, I apply one drop to the base of each nail (at the cuticle), and then point my fingertips down, to let the oil coat the nail. My manicure is completely impervious within 15 minutes, so I can go out, go to bed, go to the bathroom… whatever. Added bonus: it’s good for my cuticles. Almost every brand makes their own drying drops: OPI – Drop Dry Drops, Qtica – Half Time Polish Drying Accelerator, but I use Zoya’s Hurry Up Drops ($16).
3. Zoya Remove ($6 â€“ $25, depending on size)
You’re probably noticing a pattern here. What I’ve described in items 1 â€“ 3 is Zoya’s Color Lock System. They sell a mega-pack, containing all of these items (full size), plus a ridge-filling basecoat, plus polish thinner (for when your polish gets old and thick) for $48.
Anyway, I had been using pure acetone to clean off my nails, because it’s crazy-fast. Remove contains propanone (a type of acetone), but compared to acetone, it seems to be less damaging, and it smells like an Aveda salon. Polish removal is a little slower, but my nails seem healthier, so for me, the trade-off is worth it.
4. Seche Vite Dry Fast Topcoat ($8)
Seche Vite (pronounced sesh veet) is one of the most popular topcoats out there. (According to a completely unscientific survey of sales associates and makeup artists.) I thought I could do a head-to-head topcoat study with Zoya Armor and one would emerge as the clear favorite — they’re both good.
I think the Seche takes a little longer to dry and the Zoya smells better, but Seche is a strong, lovely, shiny topcoat — I can see why so many people love it. Chipping is a non-issue; I experience tipwear at most (~5 days’ wear).
5. Seche Vite Rebuild ($9)
Seche also recently came out with a trio of nail health products: Retain (for healthy nails), Recondition (for breaking nails), and Rebuild (for soft, peeling nails; nail-biters, this ones is for you) — the names are way too similar. I’ve been using Rebuild on my tips (as a basecoat) and I have to tell you, it’s really helping. I don’t know what kind of voodoo is in that bottle, but it’s significantly cut down on the layer-splitting. They’ve been doing so well, I’m loathe to let my nails “go naked.”