Minimalism: Nails

I’ve never liked doing my own nails. I was never one of those girls who spent an hour filing, buffing, pushing, and painting my nails. But I come from one of those families whose women always took me to get manicures since I was very little, and because of that, my cuticles are paper thin, and I get hangnails like no one’s business. Because of this, no matter how long I try to go without getting a manicure, or thinking “Oh, I’ll just do it myself,” I always end up having to get one. I also have an anxious habit of ripping my nails off (not the whole nail, more like biting my nails, but not actually biting), and have done gel, acrylics, and silk wrap to stop me from doing it. Nail “strengtheners” work, but as soon as I get them removed, I go back to ripping my nails and then they’re extra damaged from being under plastic and not having been able to breathe. 

I really would love to love doing my nails. I would also love to love getting my nails done. But “pampering” in that aspect isn’t fun to me, it’s more of a chore. But going back and forth between “I don’t care” and “My nails are disgusting,” I’ve actually amassed quite a few nail products that I’ve been diligently working towards getting rid of. 

As we spoke about last week, being a minimalist with all these random things like makeup, nail products, hair products, etc. really isn’t conducive to traveling constantly and moving around. So here is what I currently have, and I'll be working on depleting my stash so I don’t have to worry about them anymore: 


I bought this set at Walgreens a bit over a year ago when I was traveling, because I refused to get a manicure when I could just file my nails myself. It was cheap – like, $11 for the whole kit – and it’s actually been a nice thing to have. It came with nail files, orange sticks, a nail brush, clippers, those metal pushy things, and cuticle clippers all in a small zippered bag that can be thrown into whatever suitcase I have. Plus, the products in it weren’t crappy at all, and they’re easy to replace one-by-one if need be. Things like the orange sticks I’ll never use, so it makes me feel like I’m doing something proactive when I eventually throw them away and don’t replace them. 


I had regular nail polish remover by Equate Beauty to get rid of varnish from manicures, but I found this soy-based polish remover by Aila that’s really awesome. It uses all natural ingredients and actually removes the varnish while moisturizing your nail bed. It does take some elbow grease to get the polish off, and the more coats you have on, the longer it takes. Also, if you have sparkle polish or gel on it won’t work, so stick with the normal polish remover for that. Just a head’s up, I’m not a fan of the regular polish remover pictured here. It actually sucks pretty badly, but I prefer to use it up as opposed to throwing it away where the acetone can seep into the Earth. But if you have acrylics or get regular manicures, the Aila remover comes highly recommended by me! 


Nail polish is what I have the most of. Traveling internationally, duty-free nail polish is the best! You can get brands like OPI for so cheap, and who has the willpower to pass that up? I do love this brand, but I also know how horrible it is for your nails. I bring my bottles with me when I get a manicure/pedicure and have my nail tech use them so I can get rid of them faster. I tend to stick with very basic colors except for in the Summer when I get bright pedicures, but if you like the colors I have, here are the names: (For OPI, left to right) “You’re Such a Budapest” (lavender), “Haven’t the Foggiest” (silver), “We’ll Always Have Paris” (dark red), “Black Onyx” (black). 

I found a brand on Instagram called Sundays that is based in New York (they have a nail salon there) and they were one of the first varnish companies to limit the amount of chemicals in their products. The color of this varnish is “No. 20” and it’s a nice purple-red. My nail tech hates putting this on me because she says the brush is too small, but the polish is pretty good, though it does get that crackle effect after a few days. I think if you do your own nails at home, Sundays would be a good company for you because you can change your polish every few days, but as someone who goes to get my nails painted, I probably wouldn’t buy their product again. 

Aila was a giant splurge all at once for me (as you can see from the varnish and polish remover), and they’re an eight-free company, which means they do not put the eight most toxic chemicals in their products. I purchased their products on a leap of faith (and after reading reviews) because my nails and I were tired of putting chemicals on them, so I wanted to give my nail beds a bit of a break. This color is called “The New Black,” and I haven’t used it yet, as I purchased it for my Summer pedicures. But when I go over clear polishes below, I’ll give a review on the Aila varnishes I have used. 

Lastly is Chanel’s #582 or “Fiction.” I searched for this nail polish for a year and finally took the plunge and spent the $35 on it because I wanted this dark green color and no one else makes it. I love, love, LOVE this nail polish – it’s by far my favorite, and worth every penny of that $35. It doesn’t chip, doesn’t crack, stays shiny, and is just a gorgeous color. I would 100% purchase more Chanel polishes if I ever decided to increase my nail products again. 


As you can tell from the picture, I have a lot of clear polishes because I use them the most: to stop me from ripping my nails, to bring to the salon when I get my nails done, for hardening my nails, and to coat my regular manicure every other day so it lasts longer. 

From left to right: butter London “Matte Finish” was an impulse purchase years ago in one of my favorite beauty stores in L.A. and is a really cool top coat. It mattes out your varnish just like matte lipstick and it’s probably one of the most enjoyable things to watch. I don’t use it that frequently – mostly because I’ve had multiple nail techs tell me they won’t use it as it’s "ruining my manicure" – but it’s a fun product. I wouldn’t buy it again, but I suggest it if you do a lot of designs on your nails. 

OPI “Start to Finish” is the clear lacquer I have purchased the most. It’s what I’ve always used to paint my own nails as the base coat and top coat, and it’s super shiny and an easy product since it’s a 2-in-1. The only negative I have to this product is that it takes forever to dry and is super thick, so if you have somewhere to be, best not use this varnish. 

Barielle “Instant Liquid Nail Hardener” is a tissue paper thin liquid that creates a light barrier between your nails and lacquer to protect your nail bed from the inability to breathe while they’re covered in polish. I’ve used this product since high school, but this will be the last bottle I purchase. I think they changed their formula, because now when you paint it on clean nails and don’t put anything over it, it peels off like Elmer’s Glue. If you’re solely using it under nail polish, it’s still a pretty good product. 

Aila “Better Than Gel” and “Prime” were part of my large Aila purchase, and I couldn’t be happier with these two products. The “Prime” base coat (blue) dries super quickly and holds onto whatever nail polish you put over it, and the “Better Than Gel” does what it says: it coats your polish in a thin, hard resin that doesn’t hurt your nails and isn’t filled with chemicals. Though I love my 2-in-1 OPI clear polish, these two Aila products far surpass it due to both the quick drying time and the lack of nasty chemicals in them. If their color nail polishes are as good as their clear ones, then I would be happy only using this company (except for my Chanel) for getting my nails done. 

In the grand scheme of things, I really don’t have that many nail products, but with the amount that I hate doing and getting my nails done, I am always a bit resentful that they take up space in my suitcase. If you are a person who loves having their nails done in the salon and gets gel mostly, then there is no need for you to have nail products. Just minimize what you have. Throw that shit away. If you do your own nails at home, do you really need thirty different reds? Probably not. Just pick the two you use the most and throw the other twenty-eight away (or give them to a nail salon who can probably use them or friends if the salon won’t take them). And if you’re like me and hate getting your nails done but feel some sort of obligation to be able to do them if need be, let’s throw half of our products out together and high-five at the fact that we turned our minimalist nail products into an even more minimal amount! 

Until next time… 

All my best, 


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