Summer Nail Favorites + polish tips!

30th Birthday Giveaway


I typically go for gel manicures on my nails as that’s the only way to get nail polish to last more than about 3/4 days for me, but if I don’t have time I simply do the best I can with a home manicure!


one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen

I love bright toenails and fingernails in the summertime! Of the bunch pictured above, I’ve been wearing Tangerine on repeat for a few weeks! It’s a beautiful orange-red and it may trump the cult favorite Cajun Shrimp in my opinion!

Here are the steps that I’ve found to work pretty well!

  1. Wash your hands with warm water, or let them soak in a bowl for a bit. This helps soften the cuticle area and generally makes the nails a little easier to work with.
  2. Apply a cuticle softener and gently push back the cuticle so the nail bed is completely free of any cuticle. Use a nipper if you need to.
  3. Wash your hands again and dry them off.
  4. Use a nail file to shape the nail, try not to saw the ends but instead work in the same direction, and use a nail buffer to slightly buff the nail bed for better adhesion of the polish! Don’t go overboard here!
  5. Rinse hands well and dry completely.
  6. Apply Bond Aid to each nail, allow it to dry (it dries very fast) and then apply a thin layer of base coat.
  7. Apply two coats of color. Don’t let the polish ball up at the end of the brush as that usually results in too much polish on the nail. Slide the brush against the container to clean it off a bit before applying color. Let the nails dry at least 60 seconds between coats.
  8. Apply a thin layer of top coat. The fewer strokes the better!
  9. Let dry!
  10. Enjoy your mani!

I really just put those last steps in there so I could make it to an even 10 steps. Make sure when you are applying polish you are wrapping the brush around the end of the fingernail as well. This will help “finish” the nail tip and ensure fewer chips!

Do you have a favorite summer nail color? Share it below!! 

For more summer style tips, check out these cute summer totes and this easy summer makeup tutorial!


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Melissa G says · 06.21.16

Although I love the color selection that you get from Essie and OPI, I think they are not good polishes. Yes, they last 3/4 days. I thought that was the norm until I found Smith and Cult and Zoya. Smith and Cult is phenomenal and I’ll get 7 days out of it. I always do my own manicures. WIth 5 kids and a full time job, there is no time to go to the nail salon weekly or every other week. Plus, I don’t enjoy that. Pedicures, yes, but manicures, not so much. Anyway, Smith and Cult has a very small color selection and it’s pricy. I recently found Zoya. It is also great and I get 6/7 days out of it. They have a gazillion colors!! It’s not as easy to get as Essie an OPI, but much much better polish!!

Lynn says · 06.21.16

Be sure to check Zoya’s website as they frequently have Buy 5, get 5 free sales!

Melissa G says · 06.21.16

Thanks Lynn. I have. Gone to their site once and was totally overwhelmed with how many colors they had!! I have been given a couple recommendations…Maura being one. Do you have any recommendations? I have purchased a couple from Ulta, but they have very few Zoya colors.

Angela S says · 06.21.16

Check out alovetart on youtube. She has top Zoya polish videos and her picks are usually spot on.

Melissa G says · 06.21.16

I watch Marnie…Ms Goldgirl…and she’s all about Zoya…they even named a come after her! But she’s talked about a ton of colors. Sometimes bloggers and youtubers have soooo many comes because they either buy a ton and/ or get them sent to them. It’s hard to know if it’s a good choice when you have to be more selective d/t budget. Does that make sense?

Melissa G says · 06.21.16

Color, not comes…sorry, should check my work before i submit!

Lynn says · 06.22.16

My favorite Zoya colors are: Eden, Tobey, Lola (this is a REALLY bright pink and my all time favorite Zoya pink), Rocky, Blu, Aster, and Sia. Just to name a few! 🙂

Lynn says · 06.22.16

I checked out Smith and Cult polish. I absolutely cannot spend $18 on a bottle of nail polish!!! with my jewelry business, my nails take a beating!

Christina says · 09.07.16

I agree with Angela S. alovetart always has great recommendations and her reviews are always spot on! Recently she has moved to minimalism which is great except that she may not release the new Zoya collections and that makes me super sad! She did review their most recent though! I found my all time holy grail nail polish by watching her Zoya reviews. It is Rue. It looks like a blush color on their site but it is really more of a light mauve color.

Jen P says · 06.21.16

Hi Kate! I love the orangey reds also! A favorite of mine is Essie’s Geranium. It screams summer!

Alyssa says · 06.21.16

Loove that color!

Nicole Serena says · 06.21.16

Hi Kate! I’ve been a huge fan of Sallie Hanson’s gel line. I get a good week if not longer before it chips. The colors are very bright, but ‘Birthday Suit’ is a nice neutral. I heard Essie is coming out with a gel line, which I’m excited to try.

Sarah Chavis says · 06.21.16

I actually just picked up Coconut Cove yesterday at target. I can’t wait to try it out!

Rachel says · 06.21.16

Do you ever have a problem with Essie smudging up after you use it? I waited an hour to use my hands after I painted my nails with Essie and they still smudged. What can I do to help this?

Jennifer Ouellette says · 06.21.16

It might be your top coat. If I use Seche Vite(spelling may be off) my nails will dry right away and no smudging but the other day I used a Sally Hanson top coat and after an hour or drying my nails smudged badly after washing and drying my hands.

Mallory says · 06.21.16

Quick question: if you get a gel nail but can’t make it back in the salon for a bit, how do you best remove your gel nails prior to painting your own? I’ve had no success, and sometimes I need wait to get the gel nails so that they’ll last for a trip or other event but the current gel nail mani is lookin’ a hot mess! 🙂

Patty H says · 06.21.16

If you are referring to a gel polish on your nails, I use cotton balls with acetone and put on the ends of each finger with a little aluminum foil wrapped around the tip of each finger to hold it on. Let it soak for about 15-20 minutes then you should be able to scrape the polish off with an orange stick. I usually wash my hands, buff, and moisturize then give them a day to rest before polishing again.

Nicole says · 06.21.16

I soak pieces of cotton ball in acetone, place on the nail then wrap in a little piece of foil. 5-10 minutes and the gel should come right off!

Jamie says · 06.21.16

The girl I go to said to “rough up” your polish with a nail file before using pure acetone to remove it! I’ve found that this works well!

Alyssa says · 06.21.16

All I wear in the spring and summer is pinks and orangey reds. I’ve been wearing Sunshine State of Mind on my toes and right now I’m wearing Essie’s Bachelorette Bash on my fingers. I also love Clambake and Geranium. Essie has some of the best brights!

Helen says · 06.21.16

I love gel !anis but they just wreck my nails. Any suggestions for recovery?

Ashley says · 06.21.16

Please share your current workout routine!

Emily says · 06.21.16

One of my go-to neutral colors in the summer is Essie’s Fiji. I never thought I would like such a light color, but it’s one of my favorites!

Kacie says · 06.21.16

I change my mani color up, as I get gel polish done once a month… or now every 3 weeks with pregnancy hormones growing my nails like crazy. But, I usually stay bright in the summer. I have an appointment on Thursday and am getting a color called “Pink Lemonade” on them. Right now, it’s “Tangerine Neon”, which is a nice coral. For my toes, I also love brights in the summer. My favorite is “Flip Flop Fantasy” by China Glaze – it’s a fun bright cora/lpink. Or, if I want a teal/blue… China Glaze “Dear Audrey” – it’s the perfect Tiffany Blue. Right now, I have a bright pink from OPI on my toes, although I can’t remember the name.

Jenn says · 06.21.16

The link for number 13 takes you to a green color. Can you share the name of the color shown above?

Kate says · 06.21.16

Sure, it’s Cajun Shrimp!

Becca G says · 06.21.16

Love this! I am a nail polish addict! My current summer favorite is Essie Cascade Cool & Bachlorette Bash.

I loved your snapchat topcoat test; I actually did the same thing a few weeks ago with gel setter & a different seche vite fast dry top coat (yours looked like a newer version than mine). I did the same test with different top coats on each hand and actually switched the hands the following week because I was so sure my version of seche vite was going to win; Essie gel setter won for me. Essie seemed to last longer but take. Tad bit longer to dry and was a little ‘tacky’ during the dry process were seche vite always dried faster for me.

Amanda says · 06.21.16

The new Wet n Wild gel type polishes (they’re in a black bottle) are super cheap and last wonderfully! I can usually get 2 weeks plus on my toes with no chipping at all! I’ve been raving about them for months and it’s all I’ve been wearing.

Kim says · 06.21.16

I wish I was patient enough to do all of this – I’m the worst at doing my nails! Thanks for the tips!

Kim .. summer florals under $30!

FloralsAndCoralsx says · 06.21.16

I love the look of these summer nail picks; absolutely gorgeous!

Cheryl says · 06.21.16

My all time favorite summer pink is OPI Strawberry Margarita. For what it’s worth I always find Essie chips if my fingernails are long. If I keep them short, I can do Essie.

Adrienne // Hot Pink Prairie says · 06.21.16

Great tips (haha no pun intended..) as I never can get my manis to last more than a few days.

I get a lot of my polishes at Sally’s, I like their prices and selection.

Andrea says · 06.21.16

Essie has the cutest colors for summer! Thanks for the tips! I always ruin my nails after I do them because I can’t stay still!

Lpbarrett says · 06.21.16

Zoya’s Kate from 2012 Birchbox is my fave … the perfect watermelon jellybean color!!

Sydney says · 06.21.16

I have always struggled with painting my nails, I’m excited to try these tips out! Thanks Kate!!
xo, Syd

Kelly says · 06.21.16

My favorite summer color is Essie “Play Date” it is a bright, bold lavender…which doesn’t sound like a thing, but it is, and it’s cute 🙂 I may have to try Cajun Shrimp that looks like a pretty new option.

Jessica says · 06.21.16

Anyone who has problems with chipping or smudging needs to try GelMoment. It’s an at home gel polish that dries in 60 seconds and last up to 2 weeks! I was skeptical at first but now I’m hooked! I easily get 10 days out of it with heavy use and washing of my hands.

Melissa G says · 06.21.16

Where do you find it?

Jessica says · 06.23.16

From a independent distributor. If you want to check it out.

Shannon says · 06.21.16

This post was vey helpful – thanks! One beauty item I am searching for is a good hand lotion/cream that is not scented.

Mel says · 06.21.16

OMG!!! Essie’s Ballet Slippers is still my all time favorite!!

Mel |

Jillian says · 06.22.16

Manicure on top ! Love it 🙂

Jillian –

Alli says · 06.22.16

For Christmas I received an LED light and the Red Carpet gel polish starter kit. LIFE CHANGING! I have been doing my own gel polish at home and it is so dang easy. I think it’s way easier than regular polish because each coat dries completely so there’s no smudging. Plus, when you’re done you don’t have to worry about dry time – you can the dishes, play with the kids or whatever! Ha, I realize I’m sounding like an advertisement, but I am just loving doing my own gel polish. :o)

Right now I have on Sally Hansen’s Gel Polish (NOT Miracle Gel) Back to the Fuchsia. Such a pretty pink shade for summer!

Rebecca says · 06.22.16

I feel the same way about you with the gel manicures, they last soooo much more than the 3/4 days than normal polish. With my Essie polish, it lasts about 3 days tops before it starts to chip and not look as cute anymore. Lately I haven’t had time to go to the salon to get my mani and pedi, so it’s great I found your post. Definitely going to do a mani and pedi later on the day with your steps!

xx |

Keshia White says · 06.22.16

Love these tips! I’ve definitely been too cheap to visit the nail salon lately, so tips for a professional mani at home are certainly appreciated! Essie and OPI are definitely my favorite polishes too!


Jenna says · 06.22.16

I’m loving Opi’s “Guy Meets Galveston” & “Flashbulb Fuschia” and Essie’s “Go Ginza”, “Bazooka” & “Viva Antigua!” also, I’m a huge fan of Essie’s gel Setter top coat. I get one to two weeks from it, with minimal tip wear and I work in warehousing, packing boxes and whatnot all day. That being said, it peals off my mother’s fingers by day two (she has issues with professional gel polish too though, so I don’t think that counts) the

Bella says · 06.25.16

I Like Happy Wife, Happy Life from Essie. Lasts quite a while on my toes with a top coat!

Joyce says · 05.29.18

Orly “Berry Blast” has always been my “go to” summer color. A happy Pinky.
BUT this year I ‘ve dicovered Orly “After Glow”. It’s a little Coral and Orange Neon.