Nail polish, also referred to as nail lacquer or nail varnish, is rated high on the list of beauty must haves. Whether you like natural-looking nail color or prefer your nails in an eye-catching crimson, here's a basic guide.
Nail Color and Skin Tone
Just like cosmetics, nail color looks best when it complements your natural skin tone.
- Orange-red shades, brown colors with yellow undertones, and peach- and yellow-based polishes are great for bronze and olive skin tones.
- Although medium skin tones are versatile, burgundy shades are especially complementary.
- Pinks and berry reds are good choices for pale and ivory skin.
- Deep corals, purples, and strong reds work well for darker skin tones.
In addition to the vast variety of colors available, there are also a number of finishes. Matte polishes have a beautiful, natural look, which is perfect for daytime wear. Wet or super shine looks are popular and add a touch of glamour. Metallic finishes, available in many colors, as well as gold, silver, and bronze, are popular as well. Creamy and pearl finishes offer a delicate, feminine look, while glitter finishes are fun and flirty.
Types of Nail Polish
There is a wide variety of nail polishes available. Standard polish contains drying, hardening, and coloring agents. It needs ample time to dry in between coats and to dry completely. For best results, apply a base coat, then nail color, and finish with a top coat. Base coats help color adhere to the nail smoothly and evenly. Ridge-filling base and sensitive skin base coats are also available. Top coats provide a protective finish and help keep your nails looking beautiful longer. Some lines include combination base and top coats; the same product can be used for both applications. Other types of nail polish include:
- Fast-Drying: This may be labeled quick-drying, 60-second, or some other derivative, but the composition of these nail polishes allows them to dry more rapidly than standard polish. These are popular with today's busy women, but the polish may chip more quickly.
- Long-Lasting Polish: Extended wear polishes are made to last longer between applications without chipping.
- Strengthening Polish: Usually fortified with protein or other strengthening agents, these help to protect and build up weak or brittle nails.
- Growth-Enhancing: These are designed to promote growth of hard-to-grow or overworked nails with vitamins, calcium, or other ingredients.
- All-in-One: These time-saving polishes contain a base coat, color, and top coat in one application.
Brands and Prices
Many brands of nail polish sold at drugstores and department stores are excellent quality. Prices vary, but are generally inexpensive. Popular brands include Maybelline, Cover Girl, Sally Hansen, and Revlon.
Salon and higher-end department store brands are more expensive, but boast some of the hottest shades of the moment and deliver high quality. Some of the most popular brands include Lippmann, OPI, and Sephora.
Most nail polishes do contain chemical ingredients. Many companies now formulate their nail products without formaldehyde and a controversial ingredient called DBP, but most still contain other chemicals. DBP, or dibutyl phthalate, is a binder that has been linked to cancer. The Organic Consumers Association says the FDA does not require nail companies to test these products even if they suspect they are toxic. If you are looking for more natural alternatives, some companies, such as Suncoat Products and Honeybee Gardens, make natural and water-based nail colors and treatments.
- Prepare: When applying nail polish, prepare your cuticles first by using hand cream or cuticle oil to soften them. Push them down gently with an orange stick. Shape and file your nails as desired, then wash them thoroughly or use polish remover to remove all residue of grease or oil that might prevent the polish from adhering to the nail.
- Apply: Allow polish to dry in between coats. Start with a base coat and follow with your desired color. Start at the base of the nail and draw the brush gently towards the tip, applying thin rather than thick layers of polish.
- Finish: Usually at least two coats of color is recommended, but apply more or fewer coats as you wish. The more coats you apply, the more intense the final color will be. Finish with a final top coat, and allow to dry thoroughly, generally for at least 10 minutes, before you resume activity.
Polish Like a Pro
With some practice your nail application will rival those pricy salon applications. Learn which products are best for your nail health and the most attractive colors for your skin tones. Eventually, you'll find the perfect nail polishes for you.