No-Polish Nail Polish

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Here we are, nestled squarely in the well-documented and much-loved era of no-makeup makeup, wherein pretty much everyone except Dita Von Teese acts like they haven't seen a magnifying mirror in the past six months. Sometimes, even when you mean to, it’s difficult to be honest about how much makeup you’re wearing. Can you really say you’re barefaced if you’re wearing BB cream? Can you claim you’re not wearing mascara and neglect to mention your eyelash tint? I’ve come to live under a general rule that, conversationally, you’re allowed to say you’re “not wearing makeup” if you’re wearing tint, concealer, mascara, balm, and powder. So, basically, just not color.

In this paradigm, there’s also no-makeup makeup for your nails—everything but color—namely cuticle remover, cuticle oil, nail primer, base coat, and top coat, brilliantly conceived and formulated by that best friend you haven’t met yet, Deborah Lippmann. And if you’re like me—part of the Collect-All-Five generation—you’ll appreciate that the set can be bought in installments.

The merits of the Cuticle Remover and Cuticle Oil I’ve lauded elsewhere. The 2 Second Nail Primer is the chemical lynchpin here—prepping, rinsing, scouring, and filling the nail all in two seconds. It does that invisible work that you think you can live without until you see how good the result is. The work you can see is done by the Fast Girls Base Coat. Need I even mention how laughably superfluous I used to think this was? “Scoff” is the word—I’ve scoffed. Not only did I think it was unnecessary altogether— let’s just slather on that glitter!— but I also couldn’t imagine a difference between this and the 99 cent Wet 'n Wild offering. How wrong I was.

The subtlety of shine and thinness of the formula is what really makes DL’s base coat a no-makeup makeup product, just like a good tinted moisturizer. It’s healing and filling enough to even out your nails, but thin enough so you can still see your natural ridges and nail texture. Honestly, you could believe that you had buffed, (actually) bare nails. That’s the smooth, toned-down radiance you get—not that thick, glue-like 99 cent clear polish that globs on like melted plastic. Add the Addicted to Speed Top Coat, and this healthy shine is staying around all week.

Of course, I can’t be sure yet that my own set is complete. Maybe I’ll finally acquire The Cure, Lippmann's super award-winning cuticle cream and start proselytizing about a nail makeup sextet. But for now, I’m doing these five steps. My whole routine takes about eight minutes—longer than necessary because I like to include a little nail bed massage with the Cuticle Oil. But this stuff dries super-fast. I don’t mean the kind where you think it’s dry but when you wake up you’ve got little ridge marks from your sheets imprinted on your nails. I mean that in 10 minutes you could be taking boxing class, assured your nails are solid.

And on top of it all, these bottles are a thing of beauty. No need to stash these away under the sink in that free beauty bag you got with-purchase in high school that houses the rest of your crusted, half-empty polishes. Leave these out on a mantle, jewel tones sparkling in the sunlight.

—Trace Barnhill

Photos by Tom Newton. Read more Nails here.

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