I've basically been doing my own manicures since I popped out of the womb, which means I've tested just about every nail polish formula that's crossed my path. And recently I embarked on a self-assigned mission to find the longest-lasting formula out there. Here's how my experiment went: I chose 10 of the most popular nail polish brands on the market, painted each of my nails with a different one, keeping the top and base coats the same for consistency. Here's how each of the polishes measured up — be sure to keep our results in mind for your next at-home mani-pedi session.
Deborah Lippmann La Vie En Rose, $18, available here: I had to layer on three coats of this shade to get it to my desired level of opacity — which isn't a longevity problem at all, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. I had to wait an extra-long time for it to dry, but it was worth it: This polish lasted an entire nine days without a single chip. It did have a few indents where I'd clearly gone too thick on the polish and had dinged it before it dried all the way, however.
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish in Totem-ly Yours, $7.99, available here: This is the only polish I tested that's marketed as a "gel-effect" formula. And it was as impressive as the Deborah Lippmann one, lasting for more than a week without chipping – nine days to be exact.
Smith & Cult
Smith & Cult Feathers and Flesh, $18, available here: Smith & Cult is known for its on-trend shade options (and Instagrammable packaging), but neither of those attributes necessarily translate to a long-lasting manicure. However, not only did this polish last through plenty of swimming, dish-washing and package-opening; it also maintained the glossy shine that usually wears away after a day or two. On day nine, the only noticeable wear was a bit of lifting right at the edge of the nail.
OPI Pale to the Chief, $6.70, available here: This neutral shade from OPI's Kerry Washington collection (new for fall) chipped after a week — it was a tiny, heartbreaking chip on the very tip of my pointer fingernail (probably caused by frantic typing). Luckily, it was also the kind of chip that can be easily patched with a tiny dot of polish, which I would have done if not for this experiment. Oddly enough, the chipping didn't get any worse after that. Normally I'd expect the whole nail to start flaking off, but the rest of the polish stayed put, making the chip barely noticeable.
Nails Inc in Cornwall Gardens, $14, available here: This pale purple hue was by far the longest-lasting polish — which surprised me, I'll admit. I've always been a fan of U.K.-based brand Nails Inc for its trendy hues, but I couldn't have guessed that it would stay in top shape for longer than any of the other polishes. Apparently matcha is a miracle worker, even for your nails. Who knew?
Jin Soon Nail Polish in Prim, $18, available here: Manicurist Jin Soon Choi's nail polish line is one of my favorites because I can always rely on it to last a full week. For this experiment I chose Prim, a beige-tinged white shade that chipped up near the tip of my thumb on day seven.
Chanel in Canotier, $28, available here: Chanel has a bit of a reputation within the nail junkie community for not being very long-lasting. But, come on, it's Chanel. I used a metallic shade, which was still going strong on day six. Then everything unraveled: chips appeared in three spots all at once. But something this formula has going for it is that the shade didn't fade at all; the gold was still as metallic and gleam-y as it had been on day one — well, what was left of it was, anyway.
Zoya in Sally, $10, available here: Zoya's formula is 5-free, meaning it doesn't contain some of the chemicals used in other brands. That's great, but it also means the polishes can be a little temperamental when it comes to truly lasting. I painted this one on my middle finger, and it was the first to recede from the edges a bit, which I suspect is due to the fact that it's my longest finger and is subject to the most contact day-to-day. Otherwise, it made it to day nine sans chips, but it lifted just a bit at the cuticle.
Essie in Cocktails & Coconuts, $8.50, available here: This was the first in the bunch to chip. I painted it on my ring finger, and wound up with a small chip at the tip just four days in. By day eight, there were multiple chips around the edges of the finger. Not ideal.
Butter London nail polish in Toff, $15, available here: This was definitely the darkest shade that I chose of the entire bunch, but it's such a Butter London classic that I always tend to gravitate toward it. It started receding at the tip four days in, and then got a tiny chip just at the tip six days in. But by day nine, it hadn't gotten any worse than that – and the sheen of that dark, rose shade was still there.
Nails Inc was the true champion here, having survived the entire test chip-free, with Sally Hansen and Smith & Cult close behind. The moral of the story, if you want a long-lasting manicure? Use a good base- and topcoat, paint on super-thin layers and always be sure to let each coat dry thoroughly. And don't always assume that the most expensive nail polish is one one with the most staying power.