FIN­GER PAINT­ING

From clas­sic lac­quers to high-tech gels, to­day’s pol­ishes of­fer more than just a slick of color. We asked the pros to weigh in on the in­gre­di­ents, ease of use, and longevity of four com­mon formulas. Read on to pin­point your big-day pick.

Martha Stewart Weddings - - BEAUTY & HEALTH -

Tra­di­tional Pol­ishes

The Lowdown These formulas have come a long way, says New York City– based man­i­curist Geral­dine Hol­ford. “They’re longer-last­ing and al­most al­ways five-free,” she says, us­ing the in­dus­try phrase for the most con­tro­ver­sial pol­ish in­gre­di­ents (formalde­hyde, toluene, dibutyl ph­tha­late, cam­phor, and formalde­hyde resin). Some also elim­i­nate ethyl to­sy­lamide, xy­lene, and triph­enyl phos­phate, so they’re cleaner than ever. You’ll Love That . . . They’re com­mit­ment-free. “Wear one color for your wed­ding, then change it for your hon­ey­moon,” says Hol­ford. Plus, any re­mover—ace­tone, ace­tone-free, or soy-based—will work, adds Sarah Gib­son Tut­tle, founder and CEO of Olive & June. Keep in Mind Lighter tones, like sheer pinks and ivory, may turn cloudy or yel­low­ish af­ter re­peated sun ex­po­sure. Pro Tip Re­quest a dry man­i­cure (no soak­ing) to pro­long the ef­fects. “Nails ex­pand when wet. As they dry and con­tract, you’re left with tiny un­cov­ered spots, where chip­ping be­gins,” says Hol­ford. One to Try Sin­ful Colors Nail Pol­ish, $2, at drug­stores.

Sa­lon Gels

The Lowdown These con­tain a pho­toini­tia­tor that cre­ates a thick, pro­tec­tive coat­ing when cured un­der LED light, ex­plains cos­metic chemist Perry Ro­manowski. Pri­mar­ily an in-sa­lon ser­vice, they’re the longest-last­ing of the bunch: up to two weeks of wear. You’ll Love That . . . “The stay­ing power and shine are ex­cep­tional,” says Deb­o­rah Lipp­mann, founder of her epony­mous pol­ish brand. Go from wed­ding to hon­ey­moon, then back home, chip-free. Keep in Mind With con­sis­tent use, gel pol­ish can weaken nails. Its re­moval in­volves plac­ing ace­tone-soaked cot­ton over the nail bed, then wrap­ping them in alu­minum foil for a min­i­mum of 10 min­utes. Af­ter­ward, “the pol­ish should flake off eas­ily, with­out scrap­ing,” says Lipp­mann. She warns: No mat­ter how tempt­ing, don’t pick off a past-its-prime gel man­i­cure. As you peel away the color, you’ll take lay­ers of your nail with it. Pro Tip For a quick color change, “you can paint a reg­u­lar pol­ish over a gel,” says Hol­ford. One to Try Gel­ish Soak-Off Gel Pol­ish, from $40 per man­i­cure, gel­ish.com for sa­lons.

Gel-Ef­fect Pol­ishes

The Lowdown The new­est bot­tles on the block, these can be ap­plied at home or in the sa­lon. They claim to of­fer the longevity of sa­lon gels with­out any light-cur­ing or time-con­sum­ing re­moval. You’ll Love That . . . “These can last up to seven days with­out chip­ping and are usu­ally shinier than tra­di­tional pol­ishes,” says Tut­tle. How? They con­tain an ad­di­tional poly­mer that helps the color bet­ter ad­here to the nail, ex­plains Ro­manowski. A swipe of reg­u­lar non-ace­tone re­mover melts it away. Bonus: The thicker for­mula cre­ates a pro­tec­tive coat­ing that can help pre­vent break­age, adds Hol­ford. Keep in Mind “This is a fairly new for­mu­la­tion for most brands, so you may not find as wide a color range,” says Lipp­mann. (Fun fact: When Lipp­man launched her line of gel-ef­fect pol­ishes, Martha was the first tester!) Pro Tip Can’t find the shade you want? Layer a clear gel top­coat over reg­u­lar pol­ish to ex­tend its wear. One to Try Essie Gel Cou­ture Nail Pol­ish, $12, gel­cou­ture.com.

Healthy(er) Formulas

The Lowdown Touted on their la­bels as “good for your nails,” “nu­tri­ent-rich,” and some­times even “ve­gan,” these are five-free at a min­i­mum. They’re also in­fused with a wide range of in­gre­di­ents ben­e­fi­cial to nail health—think bi­otin, pep­tides, oils, an­tiox­i­dants, vi­ta­mins, and even that pop­u­lar su­per­food, kale. You’ll Love That . . . “Be­cause nails are so por­ous, they re­spond well to these kinds of top­i­cal treat­ment in­gre­di­ents,” says Tut­tle. Plus, with the ben­e­fits of both a pol­ish and treat­ment in one, there’s no need to buy ad­di­tional nail strength­en­ers or hard­en­ers. Keep in Mind There re­ally aren’t many draw­backs to these formulas, but you’ll reap the great­est ben­e­fits when you use them as a base coat (rather than color or top­coat), since they’ll sit di­rectly on the nail bed. Pro Tip Deal­ing with thin or brit­tle nails? Paint on one of these healthy pol­ishes to help strengthen your tips with­out hav­ing to go bare-nailed. One to Try Spar­itual Ve­gan CC Crème, $17, spar­itual.com.

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