I first tried Sally Hansen Real Nail Polish Strips in the summer of 2012 and it was because I was dating a guy at the time who had a houndstooth fetish. I'm disappointed in myself, really, because your most sacred beliefs shouldn't be compromised for some guy, and up until that point I'd always been scrupulously faithful to my utter contempt for houndstooth. It's so...repetitive! With too many corners. But guy had a weird thing for it, so any time I saw something houndstooth that I could probably make fit into my situation, I bit. First, it was the Turkish throw pillows—they were more of an abstract, woven houndstooth, and in royal blue and a dusty tan, which made them more palatable. Then, it was the 5 for $25 panties, two of which were houndstooth, but I didn't have to really see those, anyway. Still, the whole thing felt gross and forced, like when you're eating chicken and you bite down on something hard but swallow it anyway because you're around other people.
Then I saw the Sally Hansen "Puppy Tooth" strips at HEB and figured I'd tear off the point-of-purchase coupon and go for it. While guy loved his dumb print, he hated feet, so I thought I'd throw some houndstooth on mine before I flew across the country to visit him—then maybe he wouldn't shriek if my toenail rubbed against his calf in bed. It might have been a bad thing that my first experience with nail wraps was with Sally Hansen, because I had high expectations for all that followed. I tried the trendy, photo-real prints, those collaborations with PYT nail artists, the stuff on Etsy...compared to Sally's, they felt like I was slapping sheet stickers on the tips of my fingers and calling it a manicure. The thing about the Real Nail Polish Strips is that they're real nail polish. I discussed this casually with a third-party cosmetic formulator, as one does, and she enthusiastically underscored the fact that they're not just plastic-y paper with adhesive backing—and also that they're awesome. They mold to and really wrap the nail, stretching like just-dried polish would, if you were to forcibly peel it off.
Maybe their 2011-ish release makes them old news, but for those of you who might have overlooked the Sally Hansen variety amongst the many others released over the past few years, give them a try. Be warned, though, that you should apply fresh out of their packaging. Don't let the little guys sit around collecting air for more time than it takes to file your nails because they will quickly become less pliable and thus less stick-able. Also, it takes a bit to get the size-stick-stretch-press process down, but don't feel discouraged—that is, unless you've gone through seven attempts with no luck, as each set only comes with 16 single-nail applications. I like to use the included orange stick or a soft Q-tip to press down around the edges. And when you've adhered the strip firmly to the nail bed, be sure to file off the excess polish strip length beneath the edge of the nail, not straight across. This will wrap the tip, just like when your manicurist swipes polish across the edge to seal it from chipping. I like to finish with a generous helping of top coat, because why not?
I choose them over polish for my toes, especially for summer, when toes become a thing again. Polish chips and smudges in close-toed shoes, whereas these wraps cling on until you're forced to remove them because of way-too-obvious nail growth. I guess that was the only drawback—I had freaking houndstooth on my feet for an entire month.
Photos by Lydia Carron.