‘Which nail polish lasts longest?” I’m asked this often, and my response comes with a caveat. I don’t care how durable a polish formula; if it’s applied too thickly, or without base and topcoat, then it won’t outlast the worst polish in the world used properly.
Technique is all important. That said, the modern gel-like polishes (shiny and longer-lasting, but applied without a UV lamp and removed swiftly in the traditional way) are the way to go – though bear in mind that, whichever you choose, you will need the matching base and topcoat to reap the benefits of the “system” (I rarely endorse this sort of upselling, but here it’s important).
I love fashion house shades and packaging well enough, but none lasts quite as well as the less exciting but more specialist salon brands, such as Essie, CND, Jessica, OPI and Nails Inc. My pick of the bunch is CND Vinylux(£8.95, 15ml): shiny, very durable and available in a vast array of shades. It has the bonus of being available in many of the same colours as its in-salon big sister Shellac, meaning that, between appointments, one can touch up any chips or wear and tear at home. I’ve found this particularly useful in the pandemic, when manicure slots and trips to town have been scarce. A swish of Arrowhead Vinylux over the corresponding Shellac has revived it convincingly without the need to soak off and start over.
More easily accessible is Essie’s Gel Couture (£9.99, 15ml), the best and most durable of the Boots-stocked brands. The colour range isn’t massive, but each is vibrant, streak-free in two coats, and lasts a few days longer than regular polish. I also love OPI Infinite Shine Nail Polish (£15.50, 15ml), which paints on like a dream and gives a very professional-looking glaze to the nails – though I’m not sure it warrants the extra £6.55 over the price of Vinylux, and when you stack up the cost of base, colour and topcoat, the outlay is significant.
As great as all these are, do manage your expectations. Not one of them is likely to last the 10-14 days suggested by brands, because most of us don’t have live-in housekeepers, hazmat mittens and whatever else contributed to the best-case scenario simulated for the testing process. But they can give even an active person a full week of chipless tips.