My beautybagg: nail polish essentials

I love nail polish, and I really enjoy doing my own nails.  There’s something about it that just feels so pampering to me.  Mimi recently shared that she is just getting into doing her own nails, so I thought I’d share my nail polish basics here – these are MUST-HAVE products that I use every time I do my nails.

via Instagram

Base coat – I know some people skip this step, but I firmly believe this step is an ABSOLUTE MUST.  Not only does a base coat shield your nails against the nail polish (so that dark colors don’t stain your nails), but it can also serve to hydrate/strengthen your nails, if you pick such a formula.  Also, it helps to prep your nail surface to be smoother and allow the nail polish to be applied more evenly.  To me, it’s the same concept as painting your walls – you need a primer before the paint.

I’ve tried Zoya Anchor Base Coat, Essie Sensitivity Base Coat, and Spa Ritual Lacquer Lock Colorstay Basecoat, and I find them all just to be ok – nothing great.  This past winter, I noticed that the Zoya Anchor was really drying out my nails and causing them to peel, so I got Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat  – it is the BEST base coat I have ever used.  It does not cause my nails to peel, and it allows the color to go on very smoothly (unlike the Spa Ritual one I used, which makes the colors go on a bit streaky).  At $18, it is extremely pricey, but it is THE BEST.  I HIGHLY recommend.

Top coat – A shiny top coat to put on top of your nail polish is a must!  I used to love Seche Vite Fast Dry Top Coat, but because it has Toluene, a chemical that can be harmful (here’s a great blog post discussing it), I’ve decided that I can stand to minimize risk.  I currently have Sally Hansen Insta-dry and Sally Hansen Mega Shine, and I like Insta-dry better.  There is less shrinkage (when the top coat pulls the nail color away from the edge of the nail), and it dries super quickly.  Also, I find the Mega Shine has a stronger smell, which I do not like.

Nail polish remover – I am a strong proponent of getting a good polish remover.  I used to use whatever polish remover was available at the drugstore, but then in grad school, my friend Amy came over to my apartment for a mini mani session and she brought over Essie Naturally Clean Purifying Polish Remover.  I was shocked that at how effective it was at removing polish, it didn’t smell too strongly, AND it didn’t leave my nails super dry afterwards.  I quickly went out and got my own bottle.  I really liked it and repurchased it twice, but  then I decided to try out Sephora Dissolving Polish Remover (discontinued), which was amazing too.  I now use the popular Zoya Polish Remover, which has a convenient pump top.  I think I first read about it on temptalia.

Remover pads – Some cotton pads leave behind lint and sort of fray when I’m removing polish.  I heard Michele (michele1218 on Youtube) mention the Handsdown Ultra Nail and Cosmetic Pads, and I had to try them.  These pads have a little flap that you lift up to protect your nail polish on hands when you’re removing polish.  It’s lint-free and easily takes off polish.  1 pad good for both hands or both feet.  Not totally necessary, but I still highly recommend because it makes the polish removal process really painless.

What are your nail polish essentials??



  1. mimishih

    Awesome thanks Judy! I wish I knew that about the Seche Vite – I totally would not have bought it. I’m going to go pick up the Sally Hassan. Where do you pick up the Deborah Lippman and Zoya products? Also, do you do anything for your cuticles? I’m too lazy to so I just push them up after I shower, which works ok.

    • Judy

      I think all the higher-end department stores carry Deborah Lippmann, so like Bergdorf, Bloomie’s. Oh and Barney’s, right? Didn’t you get a full-size sample in your Barney’s beauty goodie bag? 😉 I got all of mine from Neimans and the lippmann website.

      I’ve heard Zoya is a little hard to find in the city – I get mine at Ulta, but I’m not sure if it’s in NYC. Maybe Ricky’s? I’ve also ordered from the zoya website before.

      I’m JUST now getting into doing my cuticles! I’ve always left them alone because I figure it’s more natural that way, but now I sort of just push it up after the shower too. What do you use to push it up??

  2. Kate

    I love the Insta-Dri too! Works really well. I also swear by Deborah Lippman The Stripper polish remover – works really well and never strips my nails. Also, it comes in travel packets, and one takes care of all 10 nails easily. Best cotton pads are by Cle de Peau or Shiseido (same company) – UHmazing! No fibers, and two pads easily do all 10 nails. A must! Can buy at with free shipping any time.

    • Judy

      I love Deborah Lippmann’s “The Stripper to Go” too! I always have to have that with me in my on-the-go bag; don’t know why but I always feel like taking off my nail polish when I’m away from home!

      I’ve only tried Cle de Peau when I get the 5-piece sample packs, and they are awesome!! I think Japanese cotton pads are just the best. They are a bit pricey for me to use on my nails though (or my face, haha), but maybe as a special treat 🙂

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