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Our 101 Guide to Finding The Best Nail Polish

By Rebecca Jenkinson - 1 year ago | Updated
woman looking at her red nails

When it comes to creating the perfect at-home manicure you need the best tools for the job. Searching for the best nail polish is a tricky task, especially with so many different options and formulas on the market.

However, with a little beauty know-how courtesy of the Cosmeti-babes, you can have it sorted it no-time at all! That’s why we’ve answered all the major nail polish queries to help you find the perfect product for your fingertips.

French Manicure Nail Polish and Sets

What is a French manicure?

A French manicure is a timeless, versatile nail design that beauty lovers enjoy recreating when they want a budget-friendly salon look. It uses two tones, usually a white tip and clear base coat, to create a sleek design which suits everyone no matter your style. To achieve a French manicure, you need at least two different shades, a clear topcoat, nail polish remover and, of course, a steady hand.

Here at Cosmetify, we have everything you need to achieve professional-looking results in the comfort of your own home. Browse our collection of French manicure nail products, including polishes, base coats and even false nails.

How do I do a French manicure?

A French manicure offers a chic, classic nail look that flatters all styles. Plus, it's super easy to achieve at home. First you need prep your nails by removing any old polish and clipping, filing and buffing to your desired nail shape. Then add a base coat to your nails, allow to dry and apply a second coat of pale pink, clear or a bold pop of colour.

Once the varnish is dry, paint the tips of your nails with white polish using a steady hand. If you accidentally get polish on the skin, clear up with nail polish remover. To finish everything off, add a clear topcoat. This helps your at-home French manicure last longer and adds a shiny finish to your look.

Mavala Natural French Manicure White Set

Mavala Natural French Manicure White Set


What are some different French manicure designs?

When recreating a French manicure design, you don't need to stick to the white tip, instead you change this colour for a fun, cool twist on a classic look. Think bold neon shades for festival season or pastel hues for summertime. Simply repeat the same process with a clear base coat and then add your favourite colour to the tip.

If you have a steady hand you can also change the shape of the tip, whether wavy, angled or even reversed. These exciting takes on an old school nail look are big on the catwalks, across Instagram and even with A-list nail artists. Recreate your favourite styles at home with our huge collection of bold, beautiful nail polishes.

How do I do a French manicure on short nails?

You don't need super long nails to achieve a cool, French manicure. Repeat the same process of applying a base coat and the colour to the nail. Then when adding the white tip, be careful not to make the line too thick if you're working with shorter nails. You can always remedy any mistakes with nail polish remover and a Q-tip.

Jessica Nail Polish Remover

Jessica Nail Polish Remover

£10.65 £12.56 (16% off)

Gel Nail Polish

How do you apply gel nail polish?

The first step is to ensure that your nails are clean, filed, buffed and shaped beforehand. If you are painting natural nails, take a nail primer and apply a thin layer. This will help to remove any oil and changes the pH of the nail for longer-lasting results.

Apply a gel base coat to nails and cure under the UV lamp for one minute. Once cured, take your chosen gel nail polish colour and apply a thin layer to nails. Cure under the UV lamp for the time recommended by the manufacturer and then repeat with a second coat. Lastly, apply a layer of gel top coat to nails and cure under the lamp. If you're using a top coat that leaves a sticky residue, be sure to wipe with a nail cleanser to reveal a gel manicure that's bursting with shine.

Red Carpet Manicure Professional LED Kit

Red Carpet Manicure Professional LED Kit

£69.95 £89.95 (23% off)

How do you take off gel nail polish?

The best way to remove gel nail polish without damaging your natural nails is to soak your fingertips in acetone. You can do this either in a small bowl that's filled with acetone and a few drops of cuticle oil, or by soaking cotton balls with acetone, placing one on each nail and securing them with a small square of aluminium foil.

After 15-20 minutes of soaking, the gel polish will begin to look as though it is peeling away from the nail. Once all the gel polish has lifted, you should be able to take a nail stick and, with gentle pressure, scrape the gel polish away from your nail. If the gel nail polish isn't lifting away easily, you'll need to soak your nails for a further five minutes and try again.

Red Carpet Manicure Erase Gel Nail Polish Remover

Red Carpet Manicure Erase Gel Nail Polish Remover


How do you prep nails before applying gel nail polish?

The first step to prepping your nails for gel polish is to remove traces of old nail colour. Use a non-acetone remover for regular nail varnish or an acetone remover to soak off old gel nails. Start by taking a cuticle tool and gently push back the cuticles at the bottom of your nail-bed. This will prevent your gel polish from sticking to skin and prematurely peeling off. Then, with a soft nail file, file nails to your desired length and shape.

Take a buffing block and using back-and-forth motions, run it over each nail. This will buff away any ridges and leave you with a soft, smooth canvas for gel polish application. Dust away any residue with a nail brush and use a lint-free alcohol wipe to sanitise and remove excess oils from the nails. Apply a thin layer of nail primer, and your nails are now prepped and ready for a salon-worthy gel manicure!

Tweezerman Pushy & Nail Cleaner

Tweezerman Pushy & Nail Cleaner

Jessica Professional Emery Boards Soft Nails

Jessica Professional Emery Boards Soft Nails


Can you leave gel nail polish to dry naturally?

Gel nail polish cannot be left to air dry as oxygen can disrupt the formula. Air stops the gel molecules from bonding and hardening, making it almost impossible for the polish to dry naturally. No matter how long you leave it, nails will remain runny and smudge easily.

In order to achieve a long-lasting, professional-grade gel manicure, you need to cure nails under an ultraviolet (UV) or LED lamp. The gel polish is designed to absorb the light, which then makes it harden and bond to the nail. The result? A well-gelled manicure that lasts for weeks.

Remember to check your bottle of gel polish to see if it works with a UV or LED lamp. If you're not keen on the idea of curing your nails under a lamp, there are plenty of regular nail polishes that mimic the gel-effect on the market to try!

essie Gel Couture

essie Gel Couture


Should I get gel or regular nail polish?

Gel nails are a great option if you're looking for a long-lasting manicure, whether that be for a holiday, festival or special occasion. Gel nail polish is designed to last two to three times longer than a regular varnish, with some manicures lasting up to four weeks! Not to mention, gel nails provide a high-shine finish and are chip-resistant. Easy and convenient, they'll stay intact until you decide to remove the polish. Plus, there is a lesser chance of smudging your new colour whilst waiting for them to dry.

A gel polish manicure is also suggested for those that struggle to grow nails and often bite them, as your natural nail bed is given the opportunity to strengthen and lengthen.

If you enjoy switching up your nail colour or are pushed for time and money (gel polishes tend have a higher price tag), then a regular polish might be a more suitable choice. There is even a wide variety of regular polishes that give off the gel-effect that you can choose from.

essie Original Nail Polish

essie Original Nail Polish

£4.85 £9.69 (50% off)
ORLY Breathable Nail Polish

ORLY Breathable Nail Polish


Quick Dry Nail Polish

Does quick dry nail polish work?

You might not believe it, but quick drying nail polishes do work. How, we hear you ask? Well, quick dry polishes are formulated with the same technology as your normal nail varnish, except the ratio of ingredients differs. Quick dry polishes utilise higher levels of solvents; an ingredient that helps the evaporation process. The more solvent used, the quicker the evaporation rate and drying time.

With that being said, quick drying polishes aren't going to give you bone dry nails in 'under a minute' – which is often suggested – but they will help to reduce dry time if used correctly. Much like other polishes, thick, heavy layers will always take longer to dry – even with a quick-drying formula. So, to ensure fast and efficient results, you should always apply thin, even coats of polish.

If you're not quite sold by quick drying polishes, other formulas, such a sprays and drops, contain fast-acting silicones that protect the nail polish film from smudging as it dries.

Jessica Cosmetics Speed Dry Spray

Jessica Cosmetics Speed Dry Spray

£10.38 £15.26 (32% off)

Which brand of nail polish dries the quickest?

When it comes to nail brands that offer quick drying formulas, Sally Hansen seems to top the list. Adored by beauty editors and nail enthusiasts, the brand offers the Insta-Dri nail polish collection, which claims to dry perfectly in 60 seconds with no top or base coat needed.

Rimmel is also a popular brand when looking for nail polish that dries quickly. Their fast-drying, 60-second colour polishes are guaranteed to give flawless shine and maximum protection with every application. And they often collab with your favourite celebs for exclusive shades.

If you're on the hunt for alternative quick drying products, head over to Jessica. This nail care brand offers a professional and popular range of fast dry spray, drops and more.

essie Expressie Quick Dry Formula Chip Resistant Nail Polish

essie Expressie Quick Dry Formula Chip Resistant Nail Polish

£7.04 £7.99 (12% off)
Jessica Quick Dry 60 Second Drying

Jessica Quick Dry 60 Second Drying

£10.76 £12.95 (17% off)

What can I do to make my nails dry faster?

Quick drying nail products are a great investment if you're looking to reduce overall drying time, however, there are some alternative methods you can try to help speed up the process.

The first being to ensure that you always paint nails in light, thin layers. Thick, heavy and gloopy coats of nail polish are a recipe for disaster, as they take much longer to dry and are more prone to smudging.

To cure the polish quickly, you can try blowing cool air from a hair dryer over your nails for two to three minutes. Whilst this hack won't dry nails completely, it will help boost the process. Simply ensure your blow dryer is on a cool setting and hold it around 30cm above fingertips.

You can also try dipping your freshly-painted fingers in a bowl of ice cold water. All you have to do is allow your nails to air dry for around one minute, before placing them in a bowl of water with some ice cubes. Hold for 1-2 minutes and then take them out of the bowl. Again, this will not dry nails completely, but it will help the nail polish to harden quicker.

Nail Polish Top and Base Coat

Can you use a top coat as a base coat?

A top coat can be used as a base coat, although the two polishes do have their differences. A base coat is always recommended as the first step in your manicure routine. When applied to the natural nail it acts like an adhesive, making it easier for the colour pigment to stick. Top coat is used as one of the last steps in order to seal in the colour and protect nails from chipping or smudging. Top coat can work as a base coat, and is better than not using anything at all, however it may not provide the same results.

Jessica Flawless Base Coat

Jessica Flawless Base Coat

Jessica Brilliance High Gloss Top Coat

Jessica Brilliance High Gloss Top Coat


How many coats of nail polish should you have?

For most coloured nail polishes, two coats is usually enough and will provide a professional result, however, three coats may sometimes be necessary. The best way to decide how many coats of nail polish you need is to apply until there are no streaks or natural nail colour showing through. If a nail polish is thick in consistency and has a full coverage, it's likely that you'll only need one or two coats. If it is thin and watery, you might need to apply three layers. You should apply nail polish in thin, even layers and allow each to dry properly in order to achieve asalon-worthy manicure.

When it comes to applying base coat and top coat, just one layer of polish is enough.

Do you need to use a top coat and a base coat?

If you desire a long-lasting mani-pedi, then it is recommended that you use both a top coat and base coat. As previously mentioned, base coats give the nail a sticky surface so that the pigment of your chosen nail polish can adhere well. Some base coats even provide protection and can strengthen the natural nail, making it a must-have for those that are always wearing nail polish.

Top coats are the key to a flawless set of nails. Specially developed to seal in the colour and add a high-shine, they'll take your manicure from zero to hundred in a matter of minutes. Not to mention, they give nails a longer lease of life as they protect from chips, flaking and smudges.

Mavala 002 Protective Base Coat

Mavala 002 Protective Base Coat

£13.95 £17.50 (21% off)
Jessica Top Priority Top Coat

Jessica Top Priority Top Coat

£10.76 £12.50 (14% off)

How long will a top coat make my nail polish last?

Typically, a top coat can make nail polish last anywhere between seven to ten days. However, any activity that involves excessive use of hands, such as cleaning, can cause nails to chip quicker. When applying a top coat, be sure to pay extra attention to areas such as the tips of the nail and the edges. This will help to seal the nail colour and stop it from peeling. Applying a base coat first can also boost the effectiveness of a top coat and extend the life of nail polish.

If you want some quick and easy nail art tips to go with your quick and easy polish, check out 10 Nail Trends You Need to Try Out and The Nail Tool Kit You Need to Create a Perfect Mani-Pedi.

Rebecca is a content writer with over three years’ experience and a keen interest in cosmetics. Cosmetify allows her to combine her blogging skills with her passion for beauty.

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