One might think that having moved a handful of times throughout college, from dorm to apartment to house and back to an apartment, we would have it down. Unfortunately, moving isn’t really one of those things that gets easier or faster the more you do it.

These past couple weeks Jake and I have been making trips back and forth from the country house to our new city apartment [and of course the occasional trip to IKEA]. I had been itching to contribute to my blog, but finding the time was hard while getting settled in to our new digs.

The good news is, between the three hour drives and rainy days without internet, I found plenty of time to conduct an experiment that has long been on my agenda: finding a new favorite [gel] nail polish.

Not too long ago, getting a gel manicure often meant making an appointment at the local salon; however, in the last few years, more and more brands have developed a gel or gel-like option available at drugstores.

Before I reveal my favorite, here are a couple tips:

Start with clean nails. You can wash your hands with soap and water using a brush to scrub your nails [like they have you do at the salon]. Or wet a paper towel/cotton ball with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils [just make sure no fuzzies are left lingering on your nails].

Use cuticle cream. Now this may sound contradictory to tip #1, but healthy cuticles are important for a clean, polished look [just don’t apply right before painting]. I use this Burt’s Bees cuticle cream between polishes. Because I try to give my nails a day to breathe between reapplying, I use the cream at night, applied after I shower, before bed. A good cuticle cream will help strengthen your nails while softening your cuticles so they are easier to push back. After a warm shower, apply your cream or oil and use a cotton swab to gently push back your cuticles.

lemon butter cuticle cream by Burt's Bees

Always apply a top coat. Whether I am using gel or regular polish, I always finish my painting with a top coat. Most of the gel polishes have a specially designed top coat formula that is essential for longer lasting wear. Take note: many gel polishes and top coats call for dark and cool storage, so keep them away from sunlight and out of warm cupboards [a medicine cabinet may be a good option].

And finally, you’ll want to use pure acetone to remove the polish.

Now for the reveal

What’s a little ironic about my favorite polish is that it isn’t technically a gel but nail enamel, designed to have a gel-like appearance: ColorStay Gel Envy by Revlon. This was a polish I had previously used and loved how smoothly it went on—but was discouraged that it chipped after a day. Rookie mistake: I didn’t use the corresponding top coat. So, I decided to give it another shot during this experiment, this time with the proper finishing layer.

polish in checkmate, and top coat
polish in checkmate, and top coat

Why I love it:

  • The wide angled brush makes it easy to apply.
  • Because the base coat and color are combined, the polish goes on super smooth and gives great coverage [you will never have to apply a third coat—even on the lighter shades].
  • It’s long lasting. Many of the gel and gel-like polishes claim they will last anywhere from seven to 11 days. Even the most expensive gel polish I tried during this experiment was chipping by day three. I got a good five days out of this one.
  • Variety. There are 30 different colors, including deep reds and greens—perfect for this time of year.
  • The price. Right now Gel Envy is just $5 at Target. Score!

If you have any nail tips, tricks or suggestions, share in the comments below!

Coming up:

Stay tuned for the ‘five under five’ sweater series, and follow along on instagram [@courtney_stifel] to see my sweater-steal photos all week.

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