The Only 4 Pots of Nail Polish You Need

Polish Pots

I used to own somewhere between 20 and 30 pots of nail polish, each and every one by a cheap drugstore brand.  Since I had not invested in a quality product, the polish typically chipped within 48 hours of application, making me feel like I’d wasted my time.  So, of course, I avoided polishing my nails completely and the whole lot went unused.

Let’s consider the environmental impact of those polish pots: 30 small glass pots, 30 plastic caps, 30 plastic brushes, and about 4 cups of toxic paint.  The problem wasn’t that I wanted a nice manicure.  The problem was that I had over-consumed nail polish at the drug store because I didn’t know how to buy the product correctly.

For you ladies that have a drawer filled with polish you hate and chronically chipped or unpainted nails, here are the only 4 nail polish pots you need to own:


Fill The Gap1. A Great Base Coat

You need a great base coat – don’t try and save yourself money here.  I learned from the awesome team over at that colored polish is designed to adhere to a base coat, NOT your nail.  I recommend a polish in a cream or light pink tone because the opacity of the base coat will enhance the color of your polish and reduce the number of layers of color you need to apply.  A good base coat also has nutrients that will prevent chipping and flaking.  Don’t waste your money 2-in-1 base & top coat polishes.  They do neither function well.


Essie Mod Squad2. Your Signature Color

“Signature Color” is an idea I stole from the fictional boss in The Devil Wears Prada.  Miranda Priestly is described as always sporting perfectly manicured nails in the same shade of chic red.  It’s a great idea, even for those of us lower on the fashion totem pole, because a typical pot of colored nail polish will last about 1 year!  If you really like the color, you can keep buying new pots of the same color and pouring out old ones, so you avoid the dreaded waste of nail polish color below the reach of the nail polish brush.

Have fun figuring this out! Consider your favorite articles of clothing and your wardrobe as a whole.  Do you like bright, bold colors, or neutrals?  Are your fashion choices minimalistic, or do they have some flash?  Do you lean towards cool or warm tones?  Create a Pinterest board of colors you see that you like online and use it as a reference.  Enjoy the research process.  Although the ticket price is low, the polish will last a whole year, so this is a serious fashion investment!

Finally, make sure to choose a salon brand – it’s worth the money to get the latest in chip-free technology.  Salon brands also dry faster and fade less than drugstore brands.  I’ve tested Essie vs. Sally Hanson using the same manicure method, and Essie performed much better.  A good rule of thumb is to use the same brand for your base, color, and top coats.

Good to Go

3. Fast-Dry Top Coat

This is really important to prevent dings and dents.  Polish takes forever to dry, especially if you apply 2 base coats, so you want finish your manicure with a top coat that will set the color properly.  Nothing is more frustrating than spending an hour on your nails only to have one of them get dinged as you crawl into bed.



Rimmel Pink-A-Boo4. Fast-Dry Polish in Your Signature Color

This my own invention.  Despite your best intentions, your polish may chip mid-week.  Use a 60-second fast dry polish in the same shade as your signature color to fill in the chip, then layer over with your fast-dry top coat.  Keep this polish in your handbag for a quick touch up en route to an important business meeting or a night on the town.


Half the battle of environmental responsibility is avoiding over-consumption by purchasing the right product in the first place.  Like clothing, food, and household goods, learning how to purchase cosmetics intelligently saves money, time, and storage space long-term.  So the next time your tempted to purchase a couple cheap pots of polish, take a second and think how much you would rather invest the money in a product that will really last.



4 thoughts on “The Only 4 Pots of Nail Polish You Need

  1. I’m generally too lazy to do my nails because I think, “What’s the point? It will just chip off in two days!” However, I only have a few salon-brand polishes. The rest are Sally Hansen, Revlon, or similar drugstore brands. How long are you able to get your home manicures to last using this method?

    1. I can get my manicures to last 7 days with minimal chipping, despite chronically flaky nails. If you have good strong nails, you should be able to get it to last 10 days. I stole my manicure technique from’s Fab Five Nail Polish Wrap. The trick is to apply additional top coats daily as part of your beauty routine. I find that 3 additional top coats, applied each morning for three days after the manicure, does the trick. She also recommends a nail oil, which I am saving up for now! When chipping happens (inevitable) use the 60-second dry polish and coat with a top coat. This is a quick fix that will often last as long as the rest of your manicure!! Also, Always do dishes and clean bathrooms with gloves on. I’ve read everything has to say about nails and it changed the way I do manicures forever. You should check it out!

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