Bright, bold and lots of fun – meet my new favourite polishes.
For some time I think I suffered from nail polish fatigue. For years I’d been a dedicated follower of coloured varnishes, from a love of classic red for summer holidays all the way to flamboyant nail art. Then suddenly I was on a purge and natural nails were all I wanted.
Ah, but there’s nothing like a lockdown to get me all excited about polish again, and it looks as though I have plenty of company. According to the Beauty and Personal Care Retailing report from Mintel, as of January, 19 per cent of customers in this area purchased nailcare products in the past year. But during lockdown Nails Inc saw sales of polish in the UK (and US) increase by 300 per cent on the same time as last year.
More than that, although there are plenty of taupes (from super-sheer to solid mushroom), barely there pinks and other gossamer-light nothingness colours, for my money right now it’s all about going bright and bold and having fun.
First, a touch of that always elegant red, with CND Vinylux 2-in-1 in Wildfire (£16.95, lookfantastic.com). This is a nifty polish option because of its double-ended packaging: at one end is the polish (which is kind to nails as the formula contains nourishing jojoba oil and vitamin E and keratin to strengthen); at the other end is a clear top coat offering seven-day wear – and it really does too.
Nails Inc’s latest range – which celebrates the brand’s 21st birthday – is its cleanest and greenest collection so far. It’s a plant-based polish made from 73 per cent bio-sourced ingredients; the packaging is recyclable and sustainably sourced and the whole thing is vegan. By the way, according to Nails Inc, what makes a polish non-vegan is ingredients that include animal-derived colourings such as red pigmented carmine (from beetles) or pearlescent guanine (from fish scales). There’s nothing like that in this range. The standout colour for me is the bright green Mother Earth’s Calling (£9, superdrug.com).
Essie can always be relied on for great-quality polishes, cheery shades and amusing names. This summer’s limited-edition collection is inspired by the bazaars of Morocco, and its vivid orange Souq Up The Sun (£7.99, boots.com) radiates warmth.
I’m a big fan of the Boutique beauty line by Sainsbury’s in general, and its nail polishes are no exception – they last incredibly well, dry quickly, are vegan and come with vitamin A, keratin and zinc to strengthen and condition. I love the Pastel Blue (£3, sainsburys.co.uk), a very holiday-escape shade.
For a semi-opaque pink with a gentle sheen, try Cienna Rose Enriched Nail Lacquer in Cloud 9 (£9, ciennarose.com). This too is a vegan range and full of healthy nail-boosting ingredients. Plus, the bottles are very elegant – like something from a 1930s dressing table.
A good white polish has become a modern classic and I now wouldn’t be without one in my collection. Although some formulas can seem a bit Tipp-Ex-like, Different from My Mood (£5, boots.com) – a range from the people behind Nails Inc – has a great consistency. I’ve found it goes on well and gives a good finish.
My Beauty Brand enjoyed a 500 per cent increase in nail polish sales last month, and that rate is surely only going to continue thanks to the company’s collaboration with leading nail technician Marian Newman (you’ll find her backstage at most top fashion shows and she’s done the nails for many an ad campaign). She’s produced a very stylish collection that is also great quality. The polish really lasts – I even tested it without a top coat and there were no chips for at least a week. The By Me By Marian Newman in Fluoro Pink (£15, mybeautybrand.com) is my favourite.
And remember, you don’t have to pick just one. The latest thing – on hands of all ages – is towear several different shades at a time for rainbow-tipped fingers.
And for some quick-fix drama…
Want to indulge in a bit of nail art without having to figure out how to do both hands equally well or go to a salon (though, of course, I’m all for supporting salons and nail technicians)? Then why not check out Ciaté Cheat Sheets (£16, ciatelondon.com).
These are like mini children’s sticker sheets except, of course, they are for decorating your nails rather than books. Each kit includes a selection of four designs. Colourful pastel leopard spots, evil eyes, geometric shapes (triangles and graduating circles, for example) and black-and-white abstract illustrations reminiscent of a Miró mobile.
To use them, you simply peel off the design you want and place it on your nails wherever you fancy – there’s no need for glue. You can add them to bare nails or pop on over polish, and although you don’t have to apply a top coat, I’d recommend that you do as I’ve found the stickers stay put for a bit longer this way, plus there’s less risk of them starting to peel at the edges with wear and tear.
And there you have it: the easiest nail art ever.
Beauty assistant: Alice Robertson