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Price Tag Cage Match Lite: Nail Polish

By Amalah

I have showered and brushed my teeth this morning. I am wearing hot jeans and an old white button-down shirt of Jason’s. The sun is shining and I’m meeting my best girlfriend for lunch with our boys, and in short, everything is returning to awesome.
And I bet all your comments from Wednesday’s column had something to do with it. 93! Wait, no. 94! That’s an all-time record for around here, I think. (As an aside, I’m sorry that y’all have to register with TypeKey to comment, but for some reason the Advice Smackdown always brought out the trolls back in the days when I wrote it for, and I always got comments like OMG U ARE SO SHALLOW and SPOILED WHO CARES ABOUT LIP GLOSS?)
(Obviously, the answer to that question is EVERYBODY. THAT’S WHO.)
But it DOES make me happy to see that I’m not the only one who 1) has a crazy-rogue hair problem, and 2) really, really enjoys discussing what works and what doesn’t in the world of beauty products. I mean, I know there are very big problems in the world that we should spend some time discussing and working towards a solution, but some days my cracking cuticles are about the biggest problem I can deal with. (And we all know Alice is the smart one around here anyway.)
So. Y’all gave me some really great ideas for future posts and some help with selecting Questions For The Whole Class. Plus, a reminder of something I wanted to clear up.
Whenever someone comments with their own advice, they tend to apologize, like they’re stepping on my toes or something. Please! My pedicure can take it. The comments are an extension of the Smackdown, so please don’t ever hesitate to pitch in your own two cents, even if it contradicts the wooden nickels I contributed.
A lot of your questions are going to take some research on my part — some products to try, friends to poll, etc. — but there was one I can answer RIGHT NOW. The Price Tag Catch Match for nail polish.
In my personal experience: Yes, OPI really stands head and shoulders over the drugstore brands. I mean, there’s a reason it’s the standard nail salon option.
opi.jpgI’ve tried tons of polish brands — everything from Sephora’s own little bottles to Wet n’ Wild. And OPI definitely goes on the easiest and lasts the longest. Plus I just love their colors.
Commenter AJMICK had a good point though, which is that using OPI’s clear topcoat over cheaper polishes also helps. So if you’re like me and have a drawer full of cheap-o polishes (that are, interestingly enough, about 400 variations on the same damn shade of burgundy), just get some OPI clear to brush on top of them. It will definitely extend the life of your polish. I’ve actually found that Wet n’ Wild polish + OPI clear = perfect.
I’m pretty hard on my nails, so I generally just use OPI’s clear polish on them anyway. (I’ve also been getting manicures fairly regularly lately, for the first time in my life, due to a crazy outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema on my fingers. Seriously, SUCH a nice treat, and my nails are stronger and longer than ever. Keeping them filed and pretty stops me from picking at my hands and biting my nails. Sort of. Most of the time. Heh.) I also use Sally Hansen’s Miracle Cure for Severe Problem Nails as the basecoat, and it works….pretty well. I guess. I’m bad about remembering to use it as often as I probably should.
So my toes have always been the better yardstick for measuring a polish’s longlastinocity (hey, if the cosmetic industry can make up words, so can I). A pedi done with OPI looks damn good for weeks and is easily brightened up with an at-home coat of clear. Anything else just doesn’t hold up as well. (Including other expensive brands — I had a ridiculously overpriced pedi done at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa a few months ago and that polish lasted less than a damn week.)
Obviously, we’ll be revisiting the whole salon-pedicure vs. home-pedicure topic in a future column, since I’d say it was the most-requested from Wednesday. Possibly only second to BIKINI WAXES, which: dudes. The things I do for you. God.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Stephanie

    April 20, 2007 at 10:08 am

    LOVE OPI! I, like you, have tried many different polishes and I always come back to OPI. I acutally had someone comment and ask me how I had time to go for a pedicure. I told her that I do it myself…and that I had done it over two weeks ago. Yep…it still looked that good after 2 weeks! I’m a fan! Favorite color: I’m not really a waitress
    Also, sorry I missed the comment fun on Wed. I have the chin hair/ boob hair issues too! 🙂 Ahh, the joys of getting older.

  • missbritt

    April 20, 2007 at 10:16 am

    OMG, seriously? When we are pretty and polished we are SO much better prepared to take on the “bigger” problems of the world.
    How do people still not get that??

  • Stephanie

    April 20, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Awww… I’m sad to see that the Red Door pedi kinda sucks. My guy got me a mani/pedi combo thing there for Christmas that I’ve yet to cash in. I was saving it for right before I have to go to two weddings on two consecutive weekends, thinking it’d stay in good shape for both. (Or at least the pedi would, since I have a nasty habit of picking at my nailpolish on my fingernails.) But, I think I’ll just enjoy the pampering and then just come home and put some clear Opi on top. 🙂

  • Rachel

    April 20, 2007 at 10:44 am

    I only ever paint my toenails because the polish starts chipping off my fingernails the same day I apply it. Then I look like a tramp (at least according to my mom). Polish always lasts way longer on my toes without chipping.
    I’m the one who brought up bikini waxing on the True Beauty Confessions post (sorry Amy)…and I’m getting my first ever wax on Tuesday! I’m terrified.

  • Robbi

    April 20, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Another great nail polish that lasts quite a long time is Avon.

  • Jen

    April 20, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Oh my. The Bikini Wax.
    After going through the trauma of my first wax with no knowledge or preparation, I wish that on nobody.
    Read this, and practice save waxing!

  • nicshtik

    April 20, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for the tips, though OPI never really works for me…usually I just do clear coat now…WAIT who am I to talk I can’t even get a full set because my nails just wont take it…ergh
    Cant wait for th bikini wax edition.

  • Jen

    April 20, 2007 at 11:42 am

    And of course, that’s “safe” – d’oh.

  • slynnro

    April 20, 2007 at 11:49 am

    While OPI “I’m not really a waitress” still remains my favorite color, I find that Essie polish lasts even longer, and the pale pink shades are thick enough that you can see the color and it doesn’t look like you just put a clear coat on.

  • Broad

    April 20, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    You know, I know everyone says “Waitress” is their favorite, and sure, it’s a damn fine red. But have you ever seen OPI’s “It’s a Doozy, Says Suzy”? THat, my friends, is a sexy red.

  • jaggedraven

    April 20, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    I have neither the time nor the patience to wait for nail polish to dry and I despise the smudges, so I use the Express Dry versions. The bad part about those is the alcohol content that makes them dry fast makes them chip and wear fast. How do y’all have time to wait for traditional polish to dry? Any tricks I’m not aware of?

  • cagey

    April 20, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Well, I hope you get to the home pedicure while I can still see my toes. My “personal care” budget is most definitely being allocated to a bikini wax since I haven’t seen “hide nor hair” of my girly parts for awhile now. Indeed, THAT ship has sailed not to return until early July. Ahem.

  • April

    April 20, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I love OPI as well, but Sally Hansen Hard as Nails is also pretty good when you can’t get your hands on OPI.

  • Rachel

    April 20, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Jen, I’m totally hugging you over the internet! Thanks for the link to your waxing posts, that’s exactly what I wanted! *hug*

  • Imaginary Grownup

    April 20, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t understand! Why does OPI not stay on my nails?! Withen hours of me putting on these fabulous colors it comes off… not in chips, but it peels!
    I agree about Essie though. It is pretty much the only nail polish I use anymore. It usually lasts a week. Also, Revlon ColorStay top coat is great!

  • Chelle

    April 20, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I am an OPIwhore. I own at least forty bottles of the stuff and my husband has threatened to have me committed if I purchase even one more bottle. He’s joking, of course since even HE agrees that Aphrodite’s Pink Nightie is the sexiest pink in the free world.

  • NewfieldBella

    April 20, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    I was an OPI diehard until I tried Zoya on a whim. The staying power is great. I just discovered an added bonus — the polishes are free of things like formaldehyde, so they are especially good for pregnant women.

  • AML

    April 20, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Cagey – a word of warning to you, I got my girly parts waxed at 8 mo pg and OWWWWWWWWWW!!! I had been waxed before and done fine but this time, it was truly like a massacre. I guess b/c of the hormones. It was HORRIBLE. I may be alone in this experience but just thought I’d put it out there.
    And I do love OPI! Thanks for the tip about using OPI clear over cheapo/substandard polish.

  • epoh

    April 20, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    I just wanted to comment that I was actually going to email you about nail polish! Seriously! It’s like e.s.p. or something.
    Anyway, I just bought some of the Revlon Color Stay nail polish and holy cow – it works. I’ve never had nail polish last a whole week, except for when I had fake nails. I’ve had this nail polish on for a whole week, as of today, and it looks as good as the day I put it on. I used to be stuck on OPI because it would like, 4 whole days for me, but Revlon Color Stay is now my baby. They just need, like, 10x more colors.

  • The Muse

    April 20, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    I, too, am an OPI fan – I stick with “Dutch Tulips” for my favorite soft-red spring/summer color.
    But? Essie totally rocks my socks. They have a base coat called first base that has an adhesive in it to make your polish cling to the nail better. It is FABULOUS.
    In fact, regularly use that base coat with some cheapy-drugstore-off-brand stuff with my go-to top coat (its a Sally Hansen No-Chip stuff), and its amazing what it does for color.
    So, yes, OPI and Essie… LOVE.

  • Lolly

    April 20, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    I have aweful nails that break and I rarely wear color, but I when I do, I like OPI. I use Sally Hansens Nailgrowth Miracle (gold bottle) and LOVE it, when I used the Miracle Cure that you mentioned (blue bottle) it made my nails worse…much worse. try different stuff I guess.


    April 21, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Wow! You called out my tip! I feel so special/sorta online famous… am blushing… you made my day, Amy!
    And now? Damn. Gotta go check out all the OPI shade suggestions posted in other comments. Am supposed to be on a budget what with starting my MBA this summer and needing a new car; but I figure at 7 bucks/bottle it’s a cheap way to pamper myself, right? OPI, Coach bags, and Philosophy skincare? I better get through school and up the salary quick!

  • Caroline

    April 22, 2007 at 1:52 am

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned China Glaze, which lasts forever, seriously, and I’m constantly barefoot and careless of polish perpetuation. When I first got some, I put on the first coat and it looked like crap! But a second coat makes the most AMAZING difference… a shiny, even layer of polish that looks like it’s been applied by somebody who actually knows what they’re doing. A Professional Girl! I love my OPI shades still, but China Glaze is fabulous.

  • Suzy Q

    April 22, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Caroline, based on your recommendation, I had my toes done with China Glaze today (color: Dressed to Kill). Yes, I am an Internet sheep!

  • Broad

    April 22, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    @ jaggedraven: I like Seche Vite as a fast/dry top coat. Makes your nails shine like whoa.

  • Broad

    April 22, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    @ jaggedraven: I like Seche Vite as a fast/dry top coat. Makes your nails shine like whoa.

  • Timi

    April 23, 2007 at 6:13 am

    OPI used to be my favorite because of their awesome colors, but I use Essie more regularly now because it chips a bit less and has really even coverage going on. For drugstore brands I go with Revlon.
    Whatever color I use, I also use a sally hansen basecoat (I’m not picky) and her awesome anti-chip top coat. It’s in a red bottle, dries superfast (take note above commenter), leaves a really shiny finish, and makes any polish last for a week or more. I seriously love this stuff. It gives any polish the mileage more like the Revlon colorstay, never come off, car paint technology stuff (which I unfortunately had to stop using because it was wearing away at my nails).

  • julie

    April 23, 2007 at 11:41 am

    My all time fave is “Lincoln Park after Dark”, but I’m also known to wear “Bubble Bath” and “Black Onyx”.

  • Miriam

    April 23, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    No matter what nail polish I use it’s always peeled off within a few days. Friends said,”Use gloves when cleaning and it will last longer” but even after two days of morning showers it peeled. And it’s just weird to wear gloves in the shower, isn’t it? Anyway, a friend of mine is a host on QVC and she turned me onto a product called Stickey you can get at Ulta for 6.95 or so. Now every manicure I give myself lasts AT LEAST a week without peeling!

  • jaggedraven

    April 24, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Broad and Timi – thanks, I’ll try them both!