Few things matter more to me in my beauty routine than nail care. I've always believed that nails are one of the most important parts of your appearance. A clean manicure is the key to looking polished and pulled together, even if the rest looks (and feels) far from it.
Ever since I can remember, I've made a point of taking care of my nails as much as possible. I stop short of owning a pair of cuticle trimmers (even the thought of it makes me feel squiffy), but shaping, painting and hydrating the nails regularly is something I'm all for. It’s also just nice to indulge in an at-home mani-pedi every now and again. (NB: I very rarely, if ever, get my nails done by a professional. Partly because I’m particular about how they’re done, partly because I genuinely enjoy doing it myself, and partly because I just refuse to pay £20+ for a manicure).
I've always had a soft spot for nail polish - it's the one product I gravitate towards every time I'm feeling miserable or need to kill a bit of time in town before a meeting. That feeling when you know you just want to buy something, but haven't quite decided what. Nail polish has always filled that gap for me.
When we moved house I decreased my nail polish collection by over 75%, and it's one of the best things I did. Rather than drawers and drawers full of untouched bottles and formulas that have gone well past their use-by-date, I'm now the proud owner of a much more slimline collection. I know every shade that I own, and trust that I'll genuinely get some use from them. With that in mind, here are a few all-time favourites.
J. HANNAH - BLUE NUDES
J. Hannah nail polishes are an extravagance that nobody really needs, but there’s no denying how beautiful the shades are. Each is inspired by natural elements and the kind of subtle hues you’d expect to find on an artist’s palette.
Blue Nudes is like nothing else in my collection. Described by J. Hannah as ‘Inky pigment. Matisse’s palette. Midnight’, it’s a sophisticated blue that treads the line between subtle and statement.
Do I think it’s necessary to spend so much on a nail polish? No. Absolutely not. I purchased mine on eBay and was able to secure a slightly more reasonable price than you’ll find at official UK stockists. The colours really are unlike anything else on the market, though, with Eames, Artichoke and Relic sitting pretty high up on my wishlist.
H&M - OCTOBER RUSSET
Rusty orange nails aren’t something I’d previously imagined myself getting into, but this shade from H&M has quickly risen to become one of my all-time favourites. As the name suggests, it’s a warm, rich colour that’s perfect for Autumn, but doesn’t look out of place at any other time of year.
H&M nail polishes are without a doubt one of the best formulas on the high street. Shades from their standard collection come in at just £3.99, boasting a wide brush for easy application and a glossy finish. They also excel at developing the kind of rich, earthy hues that are usually limited to high-end brands.
Other favourite shades include Mauve It Over - a soft, muted taupe, and Olive Garden - a rich olive green that stands out as one of the most unique colours in my collection.
ESSIE - CHINCHILLY
No nail polish round-up would be complete without a mention of Essie, and Chinchilly will always have a special place in my heart. It’s been part of Essie’s permanent collection for years now - and for good reason. It’s a super sophisticated shade that Essie themselves describe as ‘a sleek granite gray’, but that leans more towards purple in certain lights.
Of all the formulas listed here, Essie’s is probably my least favourite. Some shades, including Chinchilly, have a very sheer, almost watery appearance that needs a good three or four coats to boost up to full opacity. Once you’re there though, it’s gorgeous - and there’s no denying that Essie bring the goods in terms of offering a really broad selection of colours and finishes on the high street. It’s also worth keeping an eye peeled at discount beauty stores like TK Maxx, as shades like Chinchilly seem to crop up there fairly often.
MAYBELLINE - DEEP RED
Finally, I had to mention the Maybelline Superstay Forever Strong 7 Day Gel nail colours (I’m seeing very different names online for what essentially looks like the same product - who knows).
Whatever they’re called, this formula is a dream. As with the others, I lock it down underneath a layer of Seche Vite and I really am guaranteed 7 days of (almost) flawless colour. The brush is also the best of the lot - thick and rounded at the tip in a way that allows you to do one swipe of each nail and go.
My one gripe with these is the shade collection. They stay very close to the pinks, purples and reds with little beyond that. If you’re after a timeless classic, this is the way to go, though (Rose Poudre is the best nude in my collection and this shade, Deep Red, is the one if you’re after a really reliable, sophisticated red).