I might be the only person in this world who actually prefers painting my own nails to getting a professional manicure. (Maybe my mom dropped me on my head when I was a baby? I honestly don’t know.) Of course, I never, ever refuse a professional paint job—I’m not crazy—there’s just something incredibly self-placating about the entire process for me. For one, I’m pretty much forced to set down my phone and laptop for a good 30 minutes, and it’s soothing to go from step to step. Plus, nothing makes my day more than a fresh, sparkly paint job.
Even though both my mom and dad used to paint my nails for me when I was little (my dad’s incredibly artistic and has the steadiest hand I’ve ever seen), I’ve perfected my own process over the years and have even gotten to the point where my own results are just as good as the ones I’d receive in the salon (not to boast or anything). I’m pretty perfectionistic when it comes to my nails, and I tire of colors or get caught up on the smallest chip aggressively easily. Therefore, I end up doing my nails anywhere from two to three times a week and have honed my arsenal of products to a very fine-tuned T.
Over the past year, especially, there has been a handful of new nail products that have all the buzz of an inevitable gimmick but in actuality have proved themselves very handy when taking on an at-home paint job. Ahead, I’m sharing the summer-perfect nail products (some new and some old) that I rely on again and again to keep my polish obsession on point and professional-looking. Keep scrolling for all of my must-haves.
1. The Most Convenient Polish Remover
The Sign Tribe Remove And Chill Nail Enamel Remover ($15)
As much as I love the process of choosing a new color and painting my nails, actually removing my old polish is the bane of my existence as a nail fiend. Not only are most polish removers hard on the health of nails, but they’re also messy and time-consuming. Ugh.
At first, I definitely thought this polish-removing cream was a total gimmick—boasting lofty claims like zero smell, easy removal, and an immaculate finish. That said, the unique formula features hydrating ingredients like macadamia, almond, argan, and sesame oils; vitamin E; and premium waxes. The first thing I noticed after I slathered it all over my nails was how much of a treatment the cream felt like.
The surrounding skin didn’t shrivel and chap, and after I wiped the cream off my nails (you leave it on one minute for every nail polish layer and three minutes if you used base and top coats), I was impressed with how healthy and happy my nails and skin felt. It’s super user-friendly, super brilliant, and super easy to take with you just about everywhere. I’m never using normal polish remover again. One note? If you’re wearing a darker polish or a heavy-duty top coat, you might need to do two rounds.
2. The Best Pedicure-in-a-Pinch
Kiss Impress Press-On Pedicure in Splash ($8)
I know there’s some stigma attached to press-on nails, and even though I still can’t shake the memory of my fake, squared-off French tips circa high school completely, these ones from Kiss are the real deal. To be honest, my toes and feet always look like crap, and I just don’t have the time or patience to commit to regular in-salon pedicures. With these, I love the range of options and looks—from plain colors like turquoise to more artistic nail art—and I also love that my nails instantly look uniform in shape and size.
Whenever I wear these, I get a ridiculous number of compliments, and people are genuinely shocked when I tell them they’re press-ons. (That’s how natural and believable they look!) I wear every kind of shoe imaginable and also exercise and run regularly, and they still stay on until you want them off. They’re a game changer—especially with the onset of summer and pedicure season. Plus, they’re 100% mess-free and easy to pack if you’re travel-bound.
3. The Ride-or-Die Cuticle Oil
Mazz Hanna Cuticle Oil ($28)
I’ve always been one to completely ignore my cuticles and extracurricular nailcare. For years, I couldn’t be bothered with cuticle oils (even when a manicurist would scold me) until I tried this one from celebrity manicurist Mazz Hanna. Not only is it gorgeous—and very pretty atop a vanity—but it also has the highest-quality ingredients, which makes it really hard for me to resist the temptation to roll the elixir over every inch of my skin and not just my nails.
The all-star lineup of ingredients includes certified organic oils like jojoba and hemp seed in addition to essential oils like lavender and geranium. It’s natural, vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free. Oh, and it’s topped with an amethyst crystal roller ball.
4. The Season’s Best New Color
J. Hannah Nail Polish in Nectar ($19)
J. Hannah epitomizes the melding of fashion and beauty. (The brand is also loved for its beautiful jewelry!) While the shade range might be smaller than most, the line is, as the brand states on its website, full of “carefully-edited, high quality polishes for the color resistant.” This shade, Nectar, is the latest installment and what the brand describes as a “smokey apricot,” “sun-faded ranunculus,” and/or “muted Tai-tea.” It’s limited-edition, beautiful on all skin tones, and high in demand. In other words, snap it up fast before it disappears! It’s the equivalent of a collector’s item within the nail industry.
5. The Season’s Best New Collection
China Glaze Body & Sol Collection Mini 6 Piece Nail Lacquer ($15)
Of course, we love sprinkling our summer nail MO with hot pink, red, purple, and turquoise, but there’s something incredibly seasonal about a gorgeous wash of nude as well. That said, the color range can run the risk of being “boring,” so this season, I’m applauding China Glaze for coming up with a non-basic collection of beach-perfect nudes that are shimmery, unique, and beautifully wearable for every skin tone. I received the collection a couple of weeks ago and have already dabbled in multiple hues—Send Hues, Skinny Tipping, and Bronze Ambition being my favorites thus far!
6. The Best All-in-One Deal
Olive & June The Studio Box ($50)
We broke the news about Olive & June’s ingenious Studio Box a couple of weeks ago upon launch, but as I’ve had the chance to use it myself and play around, I’ve become pretty infatuated. As someone who has too many polishes to count and can never keep track of accessories like files, remover, buffers, etc., I can confidently say this invention has really changed my at-home process for the better.
It’s a 10-piece Millennial Pink set filled with every nail necessity you need to satiate your biggest and brightest at-home mani dreams. It’s $50 (so a better long-term investment than one salon manicure) and includes the brand’s universal polish handle, a set of straight-edge nail clippers, a nail file, a buffer, a super-handy-dandy cleanup brush, nail polish remover, cuticle hydration serum, a travel pouch, a placemat, a clear top coat, a nail polish of your choosing, and O&J’s exclusive five-step guide to achieving a salon-level manicure from the comfy vantage point of your couch.
7. The Traveling Must
Côte Traveler Strengthening Base & Top ($8)
As a polish-obsessed person, I prepare for nail disasters and color cravings while traveling as I do for makeup and skincare mishaps. I always pack a few different shades alongside my favorite creams and lipsticks, and this travel-friendly multitasker from Côte (one of the best nontoxic polish brands!) fakes the look of a $50 manicure while I’m on the fly. It functions as both a base and top coat, is only $8, and is a perfect size. Plus, the recipe of vitamin B5 and coffee extract helps keep your tips strong and split-free.
8. The Best Brush Hack
Zoya Z-Wide Brush ($2)
Just as people are very particular about their favorite brands and polish colors, the question of brush size is also paramount. Some people prefer a skinnier, more precise brush, and some, like me, love a big wide brush that can coat a nail in just a few satisfying strokes. I love Zoya polish but always took issue with the skimpier size of its normal brushes.
Recently, however, it debuted its new Z-Wide fan brush for a quick and even application. It has 60% more bristles than the Zoya Z-Classic precision brush (the normal brush that comes with its polishes and treatments) and fits all of its bottles so you can easily switch it out. I swear I paint my nails in half the time while still getting salon-level results.
9. The Best Nail-Growing Supplement
Hum Nutrition Killer Nails Supplement ($20)
I used to roll my eyes at hair and nail growth supplements. Then, I discovered Hum Nutrition a few years ago. The brand is committed to providing quality, fair prices, and a fun array of targeted formulas that allow you to customize your routine. I’ve noticed major gains since taking these capsules for nails (I also think its Hair Sweet Hair Growth Gummies have helped!) and constantly recommend them to friends and family craving growth spurts where their hair and nails are concerned. It’s formulated with a hit of high-potency silica and biotin and is easy to stomach since you just take one pill daily with a meal.