A Celebrity Manicurist Swears by This $10 Polish to Make Models’ Nails Look “Healthy” on Set

I can confirm it lasts as long as gel.

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I Swear By This $13 Nail Polish That Replaces Salon Manis, and The On Set Pros Do, Too

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My go-to hack for feeling put together is having neat, manicured nails. Since they’re in my eyeline all day, having my nails done tricks my brain into thinking I’ve got it all together. But, as someone who opted out of the expense and hassle of regular salon appointments long ago, it’s been a journey to find a DIY mani product that cuts the mustard. Upon looking for colors that don’t chip, nudes that aren’t streaky, formulas that dry fast, and a finish that stays shiny, I found the perfect nail polish. Enter: Essie Gel Couture.

Recognizable by its twisted bottle, this two-step system promises gel-like results without the need for a UV lamp or base coat. The first step, the nail polish color, comes in over 100 shades to choose from, including my all-time favorite nude, ‘sheer fantasy’ and staple scarlet red, ‘rock the runway.’ For best results, follow it up with the brand’s corresponding chip- and fade-resistant top coat, available in shiny or matte finishes. Select shades can even be purchased with the top coat as a bundle.

Essie Gel Couture Long-Lasting Nail Polish, 8-Free Vegan, Sheer Pink, Sheer Fantasy, 0.46 fl oz


Shop now: $11 (Originally $13); amazon.com

Before applying the polish, I like to prep my nails by shaping them with a glass nail file and wiping them down with nail polish remover to get rid of any natural oil on the nail surface. Essie suggests applying two coats of color before a layer of the clear top coat, but I like to do three — or even four — layers of the nude shades for thickness and opacity (I promise it won’t chip!). I finish by applying the Essie Gel Couture Platinum Grade Finish Top Coat, which seals in the polish with a strong, gel-like finish. 

I can vouch that the results are much more professional- looking than any other nail polish brands I’ve tried. There is no pride quite like announcing, “Thanks, I did it myself,” when a friend so graciously compliments my manicure.

And when it comes to loving the Gel Couture line, the pros agree. Aki Hirayama is a NYC-based celebrity manicurist I’ve worked with on-set as a model. She tells InStyle that she loves the Gel Couture polishes, particularly ‘sheer fantasy’ as a “favorite for natural nails on set.” She also says that even if a model’s nails aren’t in great condition, the Essie polishes “can cover them” and make them look “healthy.”

But it’s not just the pros that are grateful for a speedy mani that looks like gel, Gel Couture has more than 2,600 five-star ratings on Amazon. One shopper said they are “super tough” on their nails and end up with “chipping after a day or two” when using other polishes. With Gel Couture, however, after over a week, their nails “still look shiny and don’t [have] a single chip.” Another reviewer said this polish lasted so long, they “cannot believe how long it stayed on without even chipping,” and were relieved that it ultimately came off with regular remover.

If you’re looking for an easy, salon-quality mani at home, give the Essie Gel Couture nail polish range a go. Shiny, professional-looking nails that make you feel like you’ve got it all under control? Yes, please!

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