Jen doesn't really paint her nails, but she wants to start. She's heard people, including me, talking about 'good nail polish formulas' and wants to know what exactly that means.
I'm not entirely willing to tell you exactly what to buy; people have different tastes and what works for some may not work for others. Here, however are some criteria to help you decide what you think is a good formula.
- Dry time: Not everyone considers dry time extremely important, though most people consider a fast dry time to be a plus. If a polish dries too slowly, it's more probable that you'd accidentally get nicks and dents in the surface unless you're extremely patient. What constitutes fast dry time, to me, is if after I've painted the tenth nail in a row, the first one is dry and ready for another coat, though I wouldn't call absolutely anything that takes longer than that 'slow drying'. Decide how slow is too slow for you (or if it's even a problem at all).
- Wear: Pretty much everyone considers this one to be important. How quickly does your polish usually chip? Does x polish chip faster or slower than your personal average? Knowing what's average for you, personally, is important, because the things you do with your hands will definitely have an effect on the wear of your polish. Keep in mind that not all chipping is the polish's fault. This week, I spent some time prying sifters out of jars right after I painted my nails. Obviously, the fact that the polish showed some tip wear doesn't indicate a problem with the polish.
- Texture: Is the polish too thick for you? Sometimes a polish will be so thick that getting the surface of the polish to dry smoothly is nearly impossible. Thinner can help this sometimes, but not always. Overly thin polishes can often be worse, because there isn't much you can do to help the texture.
- Opacity: If the polish is meant to be opaque, how hard is it to make it that way? Two coats is standard, three coats isn't unheard of. Most people consider four or more coats for opacity to be too many. Keep in mind, though, that some polishes are meant to be sheer. If it's one of those, then there's a lot more wiggle room.
- How Easy Is It To Work With? Is there anything that makes this polish too difficult to use? Is it a glitter polish that doesn't seem to let you actually place any glitter? A polish that streaks too much? Is it too hard to get rid of the streaks?
- Are There Any Ingredients That You Object To? Lots of nail polish wearers object to certain common chemicals in nail polish like DBP, Formaldehyde and Toluene. Research these ingredients and decide if you want to avoid products that use them.
- Remember to Take Finish Into Account: Matte polishes are notorious for chipping quickly and many find cream polishes more difficult to work with than polishes with shimmer. Glitter polishes are generally agreed upon to be very difficult to completely remove.
- You Can Extend Wear and Shorten Dry Time: Using a base coat and top coat can help extend wear of a polish by a few days. Dry time can be sped up with fast-dry drops and top coats.
- Some Dark Colors Will Stain: Dark colors have a tendency to occasionally discolor your nails. Try using a base coat to prevent this.
- Sun Exposure: Sun exposure can change the color of your polish, especially if it's lighter. There are topcoats with UV protection available, though I never bother with those myself.