5 on 5: My Must-Have Nail Polishes


It’s my totally unscientific opinion that women are now buying nail polishes they way they used to buy lipsticks: as affordable luxuries, easy ways to follow a trend, and little pick-me-ups for days that didn’t go quite right. I probably own a few more than I really need to own, but my collection is still much smaller than you might guess. In fact, I’d be able to pare it down to five, if I really tried.

essie room with a view

Essie A Room with a View: Everyone needs to own a pale, ladylike pink shade, right?—and Essie makes the best ones. Mademoiselle and Ballet Slippers always seem to top the “readers’ choice” polls in magazines, but this is my favorite. It has a soft shimmer that keeps it from looking chalky.

opi light my sapphire

OPI Light My Sapphire: Remember the 90s, when dark, vampy nail polishes were still new to the mainstream? Now they’re almost classics. I still love this shade, which doesn’t photograph well at all: it’s a deep blue-black, like India ink, with very subtle dark-gray shimmer.

sally hansen commander in chic

Sally Hansen Commander in Chic: The more recent taste for taupe/greige/putty/mushroom polishes brought us a range of new neutrals. I always get compliments on this sophisticated drugstore shade. It has a tiny hint of lilac that keeps it from looking dull against my pale skin.

lancome rose plumeti

Lancôme Rose Plumeti: Sometimes you just want a pretty, traditionally feminine manicure. This is a cool, medium rosy-pink with a delicate shimmery-creme finish. It’s more of a splurge, but it has excellent endurance on busy hands.

opi give me the moon

OPI Give Me the Moon: I’ve already written about this shade (see this post), but I’ll repeat myself: Give Me the Moon is the ideal iridescent lavender-gray shade that I’d been trying to find for a long time. It’s probably the most “me” nail polish that I own.

Do you have any essential nail polishes that you’d like to recommend? Feel free to comment!


10 thoughts on “5 on 5: My Must-Have Nail Polishes

  1. I love your selection, so different than me. This past Winter the one I wore most was Essie Recessionista, a dark red with plum undertones. Recently I’ve enjoyed O.P.I Stay the Night one of their liquid sand formula, a dark taupe with dark pink, almost fushia glittery specs. These days I wear Chanel Taboo and want to get Lilis, a nice coral but I also have my eye on O.P.I I Have a Herring Problem, a beautiful medium blue grey. I think I will have to make a special budget just for nail polishes the way I’ve been going in the past month. :)

    1. Icaria, I haven’t experimented with any of those special textures yet, but Stay the Night sounds fascinating. It’s interesting, how everyone would choose 5 different shades. It must be some kind of personality profile!

  2. I like your choices and now want to try the Essie as Mademoiselle is too pale for me. I like polishes that have a bit of a dual character and OPI Meet Me on the Star Ferry is one of my favorites for fall; it’s equal parts rich brown and burgundy with a little shimmer. A beautiful classic red is Orly Bus Stop Crimson. I love metallic colors as they function as neutrals but have an edge that keeps them from being boring: OPI Number One Nemesis and some from the Bond collection, and Zoya Faye, are my favorites. Essie has such good colors and the perfect brush imho; nice that they’re at drug stores now as they make for a quick, quality pick me up and are my preferred way to use my CVS Extra Care bucks :)

    1. Rosarita, do check out A Room with a View — it’s still a very pretty light pink, but it doesn’t have that white-ish, chalky look that other Essie pale pinks do. So funny that I didn’t include a classic red! My pick would be Essie Fishnet Stockings.

  3. I admit to falling hard for the nail polish trend of the last few years. I tend to gravitate toward reds for nail polish. I really don’t care for the way pale pinks blend with my skin tone. Maybe I haven’t found the right shade yet… but ivory/greige seems to be a better neutral for me. Some of my favorites include Zoya Kalmia (red-orange shimmer), Revlon Minted (mint!), Julep Sally (ivory), and Julep Jackie (awesome, awesome classic bright red). I have also found my favorite top coat ever. It’s flipping expensive though… Julep Polymer Top Coat.

  4. I like quite a few polishes by China Glaze. As with any brand I find some shades wear better than others. I go through phases where I like trendy colors and then fall back on the classic reds and beiges. It depends how long my nails are. I’ve also had pretty good luck with Ulta polishes and when they are on sale you can’t beat the price. They have a pale sheer pink called Baby Doll that’s nice. I also like a beige called Set the Nude.

  5. I like buying nail polishes more than using them. As a result I have more than I need and mostly in strange colors – Chanel’s Mimosa (yellow), Blue Boy (blue – surprise!); Dior’s Waterlily (soft green, smelling of roses). Now I need to get something less bright – in case I want a lady-like manicure.

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