Your nails, but better


A new kind of nail polish hit the shelves this year, and I was thrilled about it. I love bright nail colors, along with a healthy mix of grey and taupe too because neutrals are my life, but I also like something soft and subtle every once in awhile too.

My nails are also generally in pretty rough shape after a few years of regular gel manicures. Nothing lasts like a gel manicure on my nails, so I usually splurge on them somewhat regularly.

But sometimes a girl just needs a break and wants to polish her own nails, you know what I mean?

I discovered Essie’s TLC (Treat Love & Color) first. It’s a nail strengthener under the mask of a very sheer, iridescent shade of nail color. There are 3 shades in the range, and I opted for the light, creamy pink. It went on super sheer, like way more sheer than I could have imagined. I’d have been disappointed had I not expected the sheer factor, but I can see why this hasn’t gotten overly rave reviews from others.

Next I found OPI’s Nail Envy nail strengthener in Bubble Bath. It’s also a light, creamy pink but the color is much more pigmented than that of Essie’s TLC. It actually looks exactly like OPI’s original Bubble Bath, just with an added bonus of Nail Envy in the bottle. I applied it directly to my nails in 3 coats, and then finished with a top coat.

It chipped a few days later, as will almost any nail polish I used at home due to my general lifestyle apparently, but I loved how light and soft the color was. I could get away with a chip or two, as long as they were tiny, without it looking really obvious.

Between the two, I liked OPI more, but neither provided game changing longevity like I’m looking for. I have hope, though, that we are getting there. Right? I mean Essie launched the Gel Couture system which is pretty good, and I’ve also had a positive experience with the  CND Vinylux system. I can get about 5 days out of either of those if I do a *perfect* job in the application.

Can someone just invent a home system, that isn’t gel, that won’t chip? Okay thanks.

p.s. watch how to give yourself the BEST home manicure!

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Comments (55)

  1. candice says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    These are such beautiful shades

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  2. Posted April 11, 2017

    Loving this color!
    Xo, Elizabeth

  3. Megan says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    You should look into Gelish or MadamGlam gel polish! Yes, the initial investment is more than most people are willing to pay, but it saves a TON of money by totally cutting out the need for a salon. I haven’t been to the salon for a manicure in 5 years and I don’t miss it. Plus, I can do my nails whenever I want and it lasts 2 weeks or more.

  4. Posted April 11, 2017

    Thank you for giving your opinions between Essie and OPI! I’m a nail polish noob and all I know is that these are the best brands out there, but I can never decide between the two.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    • Rebecca says
      Posted April 11, 2017

      Be careful when going down the nail polish path! You will discover a world of indie brands, many of which are just as good (and better) than Essie or OPI. 🙂

  5. Posted April 11, 2017

    I always go super light on my manicures, so I love these colors!

  6. Holly says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I have the same problem with chipping when I paint my nails and don’t do a gel manicure. But I found a line at Ulta called Morgan Taylor, and using the base and top coats with my own polish gave me a much stronger finish that lasted close to two weeks. I’ve never had that experience with Esse, which is disappointing since they have so many beautiful colors!

  7. Kelly says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Would love a pic of it on your nails!

  8. Alyssa says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I’ve been wondering about these! My nails tend to peel really badly in the winter and I was wondering if these would help.

    I’ve finally found a polish combination that keeps my manicure going for 7+ days. I use a coat of the Orly Bonder, two coats of the Sally Hansen at home gel and then the Sally Hansen gel top coat. I’ve been amazed by how well it’s been holding up. I also usually use a coat of Sally Hansen thickening base coat under everything and my nails haven’t been peeling. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it only takes me about 10-15 minutes and it dries pretty quickly. I’ve been doing this once a week for the past two months and have been very satisfied with the results I’ve had!

  9. Kayla says
    Posted April 11, 2017


    • Kayla says
      Posted April 11, 2017

      #computerprobs. Ignore that comment above.

      I recently got a SNS powder dip manicure. Game changer. They cost a little bit more than gel but the longevity is so worth it!

      • Natalie says
        Posted April 11, 2017

        What is the powder dip?! The salon I go to offers this but I guess I just don’t understand how it works?? Does it last like a gel mani? How does it treat your nails? I just get a regular mani anymore. The gel polish was just awful on my nails. Details please!! Haha!

      • Amanda says
        Posted April 11, 2017

        I LOVED my SNS ‘dip’ manicure! It was a complete game changer for me. It also lasted 3 weeks! I’ve only had a gel manicure once before but i felt like the ‘dip’ manicure looked better after 3 weeks than the gel manicure did.

  10. Chelsea says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    My normal at-home manicure is either OPI nail envy base coat or OPI Nail Envy in the Samoan Sand color. The nail envy really keeps my nails from breaking. I follow OPI Infinity line. The trick is Seche Vite top coat! Best top coat over. I typically only have to repaint my nails because the color grew out or I wanted a color change. I would definitely recommend Seche Vite!

    • Kimberly in NC says
      Posted April 11, 2017

      Kate, if you try Seche Vite top coat (I saw it had great reviews), please do a post on it! Thanks Chelsea for the recommendation!

    • Bonnie says
      Posted April 12, 2017

      Totally agree! The Seche Vite quick dry top coat is WONDERFUL.

  11. Rachel says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I use the OPI nail envy colors and have never had a problem with them lasting a week. Although every persons nails are different. I would do no base coat, two coats of the color and top it with Akzentz top coat. This is the best top coat I have ever tried, and believe me I have tried many different ones. 🙂

  12. Jessica says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    love those colours! What about a single step at home gel system? Last year I discovered a company called GelMoment. It doesn’t need a base coat or top coat just the colour and lasts up to 2 weeks!

    • Jessica says
      Posted April 11, 2017

  13. Rebecca says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Have you looked into some indie brands for topcoat? I use one by Vibrant Vinyls that works really well for me! I change my polish often and with her “Fast and Hard” topcoat I’ve had to take off a perfectly good mani because it didn’t have any chips and I was ready for a different color! She just came out with a new base coat that I am anxious to try! Right now I use her quick dry top coat with the OPI Nail Envy as a base and it works great!

  14. Kathy says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I love the idea of a pretty (sheer) polish that doubles as a treatment! Thank you for sharing. 🙂 If you’re looking for a long-lasting polish, I find that KL Polish fits the bill. I easily get a week out of my manicure. It’s not gel, but the finish is glossy and the colors are pretty. 🙂

  15. Kristin says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I polish my nails every week, which takes it’s toll. So, about every third or fourth week, I use Julep’s Take a Breather in Sheet Pink. It’s a great way to give my nails a little break, but still have them look nice.

  16. Katrina says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I actually bought the CND Shellac system through amazon a few years ago after getting this manicure done at an airport salon in Montreal on our way to Europe for our honeymoon. The manicure lasted over 2 weeks (during our entire trip) and I realized how much money/time it would save me over time.
    My understanding from research (before buying) is that it is not nearly as harsh on nails as a standard gel manicure.
    I would suggest finding a salon that does the CND Shellac at least once to understand the process before buying, there are plenty of tutorials on youtube and other if there isn’t a salon near you that does them. I use the CND Vinylux as a back-up when i don’t have the time to do the Shellac.

  17. Jordan says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I saw when you tried Vinylux on insta that you used a base coat. I’ve been doing vinylux for a couple of years. I believe you get the best wear if you apply 2 coats of color directly to your nail….no basecoat. Just wanted to share what works best for me!

  18. Darcy says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Have you tried Sally Hansen’s Miracle Gel polish? I think it lasts a long time for an at home gel….and it doesn’t take any lights, or anything additional besides what you get in the package. We live on a cattle ranch (so you could say our lifestyle isn’t exactly prissy, lol) and I’m hard on my nails – but this stays on!

  19. Heather Phillips says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I am nail polishaholic who does nail art. I have discovered that a top coat and nail dryer called Seche Vite with a coating or their gel like top coat work great! Also, wear gloves when ever you deal with liquids.

  20. Danon says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I’m curious, did you get a lot of damage with gel? What about this new trend with the dipping nails in powder? Sorry- I’m not sure what it’s called but my neighbor started using that instead of gel. I have been using gel at home (with LED light) nonstop since November, and I haven’t had any problems with damage. The salon gel manicures I had did leave me with damage, but I think that’s from going in too harsh on the sanding step. I simply use the first step of those nail buffing blocks to take the shine off my nail first. I’ve found that the full blown nail file to the nail surface is unnecessary! I never do that, and my home gel manicures (RCM kit) are lasting 3 weeks. The one step polish lasts one week on me. I’m very tough on my nails too.

    • Katie says
      Posted April 11, 2017

      I’ve done the SNS powder the last two manicure I’ve had and I love it! Lasts longer than gel and doesn’t damage your nails.

  21. Posted April 11, 2017

    We have not tried it yet – but will certainly test it. Thanks for the tip!

  22. Laura says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Orly’s Breathable line is amazing! I have nearly all the colors – I purchased them at Sally Beauty. It goes on a little thick and kind of “gloppy,” but the end result with two coats and then one coat of Seche Vite is just fabulous. I don’t use a base coat, as it says not to, and I get at least five days before I get any chips. And, it has nourishing oils that won’t dry out your nails. Trust me, I am a Sensational gel / Gelous fan, and I will never go back to those!

  23. Posted April 11, 2017

    Have you tried Jamberry? They have nail wraps in all sorts of colors and patterns that last 2+ weeks. They can be applied at home with just a little bit of heat (hair dryer). I’m a polishaholic and got into Jamberry because I’m super rough on my nails… the wraps hold up to all the abuse. They also have a gel & lacquer line too.

  24. Laura says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Sally Hansen Mega Shine! Swear by this, and it dries in about 2 minutes flat.

  25. Christy says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I think we’re doomed….having kids and mani’s is no bueno. The amount of hand washing alone takes at least 3 days off my fresh mani. I’ll try again when he turns 5 or 7.

  26. Kay says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    So pretty and spring appropriate colors! Thanks for sharing <3

  27. Julie says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Try Dazzle Dry! Prevents chips and extends polish for a good week or more. They have a nice selection of colors. Thir top coat is the secret. I use it on top of any polosh both on fingers or toes. Your Pedi’s will look new until your nails grow out and you HAVE to trim and repaint! Order online. I’ve used it for years.

    • Julie says
      Posted April 11, 2017

      * sorry for the typos! The screen scrolled and I was not able to spell check. The Dazzle Dry doesn’t fix chubby fingers though. 😊

  28. Posted April 11, 2017

    Try the OPI Gel Break! It comes in 3 shades and has a base coat and top coat! It is AMAZING! Dries quickly, smooth, and doesn’t chip! I would definitely recommend!

    Ulta currently does not have the pink color; however, there are other places you can purchase!

  29. Sydni says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Ooh thanks for the reminder! I used to use nail envy when I was little, and I seriously had THE BEST nails. I used the clear one, as a treatment to make my nails stronger. They rarely ever broke. I would recommend trying the clear one! Hopefully it’s the same formula as it was in the 90’s. I am going to have to pick some up 🙂

  30. Ashley says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Such a lovely manicure, I find soft pinks to be the perfect neutral.

  31. Jenny Kirkland says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Kate, I think you’ve reviewed Seche Vite before and were less than impressed, but I’m telling you…prep your nails as you do, adding in a last swipe of acetone across the nail to dehydrate slightly. Apply Seche Vite Base Coat , two color coats of choice (essie and OPI are my favs) letting dry fairly well between coats. Then apply a generous layer of the Seche Vite Top Coat. I’m a NURSE and mother, with my hands in water and hand sanitizer all day, every day, and I can easily get a FULL 7 DAYS chip free/peel free. The hand sanitizer will sometimes diminish the shine by day 5 or 6. But this method is a total GAME CHANGER for me!!! Please try it, it really does work, and affords you the variety of all the colors already in your home cache!!! 🙂 jenny

  32. Wendy says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Here’s my winning combo for 7-10 day nails: after cuticle prep and shape, swipe alcohol or acetone over nails to really clean all oils off. Then 1 coat Orly Bonder, 2 coats any color, 1 coat Essie Gel Setter. The bonder keeps it from peeling, the Essie gel setter is like magic…it dries fast, hard, self-settles, and is super shiny. It is very thick, but once you get used to applying it, it’s amazing. I can do my nails at night, go to bed an hour later and no sheet marks or bumps. I love it!!!

  33. Katie says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    Have you tried the SNS powder? It doesn’t damage your nails like gel and lasts for over 2 weeks!

  34. Claudine says
    Posted April 11, 2017

    I know how you feel! I’ve just discovered Sally Hansen’s dual gel formulations which are fab. Two products, one a colour, the other a top coat. Together they work so well and rally last on my nails. No UV light is needed, they react which each other and natural light. I do so much hand washing that usually nothing lasts longer than a day but this product does. It comes off so easily with regular nail polish remover too so I don’t mind doing it myself. Also it doesn’t wreck my nails like regular gel products from the nail salon.

  35. Alice says
    Posted April 12, 2017

    What a beautiful shade, I love these ‘your nails but better’ kinda colours that look so simple and pretty.

    Alice | alicemaysnell

  36. Shauna says
    Posted April 12, 2017

    Kate – You must try TruShine gel system from Jamberry! It lasts me 2 weeks and they have a great selection of colors. I am not a Jamberry consultant! I just love the system.

  37. em says
    Posted April 12, 2017
  38. samantha says
    Posted April 12, 2017

    I know how you feel about gel! i’m a gel addict too!

    if you’re pretty good at painting your nails you should look into buying the led Lamp that cures gel polish! I bought a Gellish travel sized lamp and all the stuff to get started and it only cost me 150$ it has saved me so much money in the last two years! and once you really get the hang of it the polish can last three weeks! Seriously go to Sally beauty and invest!!

    my nails are so much healthier now too because i remove the polish without peeing or filing!

  39. Posted April 12, 2017

    OOHH love that color for spring! So beautiful.

  40. Ally says
    Posted April 13, 2017

    Not sure if anyone has recommended it yet, but I’ve had success with wet n wild’s newest long lasting nail polish, 1-step Wondergel. There is no light needed, and I’ve had mine last up to 7 days with very minimal chipping! Some colors are better than others, but I highly recommend! Plus it’s cruelty-free, a major bonus.

  41. Megan C says
    Posted April 14, 2017

    Have you tried Essence nail polish? I love the colors, its inexpensive, and it lasts for a few days (on me anyway) without chipping

  42. Mel says
    Posted April 16, 2017

    Thank you for this! So helpful!! I am trying to do my own manicures!

    Mel |

  43. Ashli says
    Posted April 17, 2017

    Kate –

    Agree on the no chip system. Do you use a top coat?

    Thank you,
    Curious Momma Rocking Chipped Nail Polish

  44. Tiffany says
    Posted April 19, 2017

    I just shared how I do my nails on my food blog! HA! It’s a method that I have been using for a while and I can wear my polish for several days without chipping!

  45. Jennifer says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I use Essie Ridge Filling Base coat, whatever polish I want and then Essie Gel Couture Top Coat and my polish NEVER CHIPS AT ALL. I have always had problems not only with chipping but also with peeling off. This system works perfectly for me and I hope that Essie never discontinues these products!

  46. Erika says
    Posted April 21, 2018

    Curious if you could share again the name of that cutical disolving product? I’ve searched and can’t find it and think using it could improve my manicures