In my early 20s my then boyfriend tried to pay me a compliment by telling me one of the things he admired about me most was the fact that I always have my nails done. At the time, that 20-something girl looked down at her hands and thought, what’s the big deal? This now 30-something gal (while rolling her eyes) realizes the dedication and investment of time (if not money) it takes to always have your nails looking good. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs with the manicure cycle. I’ve gone from natural to acrylic to gel and experienced some drama along the way. I can tell you first hand (excuse the pun) that a nail infection is no fun, so finding the the right method (and manicurist) is important.
In this article I’m taking a magnifying glass to one of the leading beauty industry regimes in the nation and reviewing my own experiences with professional nail care services and products. We all want our nails looking fresh on the daily, but at what cost?
Like a sexy 4-inch heel, acrylic nails feign the illusion of length, creating the slender effect we all adore. Every girl growing up in the 90s can tell you her story of the first time she got her acrylic nail set. Mine were for my 8th grade graduation banquet. All my friends were getting them. It was all the rage. I instantly fell in love with the look of long, narrow fingers I had always wanted. It was fun and made me feel like a grown up lady! Plus, I liked the sound they made when I tapped on glass or my desk.
For the better part of my teens and 20s, acrylics were my main stay. I enjoyed the consistency of the quality of having acrylic nails. I even went so far as having gel polish put on top, making my visits to the salon less frequent. I could go 3 weeks sometimes. That was a plus, for sure! It wasn’t until a year and a half ago that I stopped doing acrylic nails. After years of wear, my actual nails were dry, brittle, and thin as paper. God forbid you chip a nail, the agony! One day I noticed a painful swelling in the nail bed of my ring finger, but didn’t think much of it, deciding to wait until my next nail appointment to deal with it. When I showed my manicurist she told me it was a common infection and occurs quite often with acrylics. Without hesitation, she squeezed the swollen area and out came the culprit of my pain. Ladies, it wasn’t pretty. I still get queasy thinking about that! I had her remove my acrylics that day and I spent the next couple of weeks nursing my nails without polish; just letting them soak up fresh air and lots of alcohol. Rubbing alcohol, that is. That was the last time I had long, slender fingers. RIP acrylic nails.
Gel Nail Polish
When my nails healed, I decided to go in for a manicure. I stumbled into a little hair salon in Huntington Beach that’s just across the street from my house. I had never been there before, but something made me go in that day. One of the hair stylists is also a nail artist, so she offered to do my nails on the spot. She suggested I get gel polish since my nails were still pretty thin and the gel adds layers for a sturdy hold. While I love the thick, solid finish of the gel polish, I’ve found that it is still tramatic for your nails as they are still required to file and aggressively buff the nail in order to give the gel something abrasive to adhere to. My nails are a lot better off now then they were two years ago, but they’re still not strong enough on their own. The major benefit of gel is the lasting power of the polish and it’s quick-dry effect. I typically go in every 2 weeks for a new manicure, making it slightly less time-effective than the alternative acrylic.
5-Free Nail Polish
The emergence and rampant adoption of the nail lacquers with less chemicals better known as 5-Free, is a testament to the ever lively movement toward honest living. Today, you can find a lot of your beloved beauty favorites have a less harmful version available on the market. Curious to find out what really separates the less chemically clad brands from all others, I quickly came to realize that everything that makes traditional polish stand the test of time also makes it extremely harmful to our health. Enter Ani Michele. This vegan-friendly, 5-Free nail polish brand is making a splash on the beauty industry one manicure at a time. With her mix of daringly vibrant colors and fresh take on our go-to neutrals, Ani Sousamian is my current #ManicureMonday crush! The brand has developed a full line of gorgeous colors, all made right here in the U.S.A.
Ani Michele offers an array of hues that are 5-Free, Vegan friendly, and cruelty-free. Her passion for nail polish and positive living are also uniquely infused in the product. Every bottle displays Ani’s motto on the side and includes a motivational quote on the bottom. How sweet is that! In speaking with Ani, I learned the manicure maven is brewing even greater things, like a line of 7-Free colors, one of which I had the privilege to try called Golden Opportunity. It’s literally happiness in a bottle!
So what’s the skinny on 5-Free polish? For starters, the 5 most common ingredients found in standard nail polish are referred to as the “dirty 5” – which should tell you a little bit about them. Those ingredients are: Toluene, Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde resin, Camphor. What’s shocking about these ingredients is that most of them are banned from use in Europe and Canada (according to European Commission). Why we’re still allowed to use them in the US is a big question.
While using completely chemical-free products is not (yet) possible, we can choose those that are pretty darn close. This was my first experience with a 5-Free brand, and I have to say, I am impressed. The formula provides solid coverage and holds up as well as a standard polish. Here are some photos from my play session with the three colors I got to review from the Ani Michele 5-Free nail polish line.
If you want to buy your own bottle of Ani Michele, visit animichele.com or find her on Instagram for some serious manicure motivation @animichelenailpolish.