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Top Ten Tuesday – My Favorite Nail Products for a Foolproof Manicure

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Over the years I’ve tried a ton, they probably weigh a ton, of nail care products and tools. There are lots of great ones on the market but very few outstanding, fabulous, must-haves. I’ve compiled my list of essentials for creating a flawless, professional looking manicure for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday.

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1. Graham HandsDown Ultra Pads ($5.69) – You can’t start a manicure without a clean, lint-free nail and these pads are the best I’ve found for the job. I’ve raved about them for years but I still have people question exactly why they’re so magical. It’s the plastic backing and pull-up tab that allow you to protect your nails from being doused in remover that make them special.
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2. Orly Cuticle Pusher & Remover ($15-20) – Your next step to a professional looking manicure is to push back your cuticles. I’ve found a lot of metal pushers can be rough or too sharp. This smooth, rounded one from Orly is a dream to work with due to its curved shape.
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3. Orly Cutique Cuticle & Stain Remover ($10) – I don’t know how I survived manicures before discovering this gem. Not only is it an ace cuticle remover but it gets rid of stains as well. Say adios to “smurf hands” after removing those gorgeous, but super staining, blue polishes.

4. Glass or Crystal Nail File ($5-15) – The amount of nail files on the market is overwhelming and everyone has their preferences but I’m all about a glass or crystal file for its fine grit and ability to seal an edge, preventing water seepage. Amazon carries a number of files and OPI, ULTA and Sephora all make them as well but I especially love this one from Cult Nails. It’s crystal, meaning it’s been chemically treated to retain its grit, and it leaves my edges super smooth.

5. Nubar Foundation Base Coat ($9) – If you want long lasting manicures, look no further than this strong adhesion base coat. I’ve tested numerous base coats over the years and while I have a number of favorites, this one has become my go-to.

6. Essie Ridge Filling Base Coat ($8.50) – If you have nail imperfections or ridges, like me, it can make wearing a creme finish polish a little unsightly. This ridge filler gives me an almost flawless base to start with.

7. European Secrets Rock Top Coat ($7.99) – OMG, you guys! I asked for top coat recommendations on Facebook so I could discover some new ones to try and multiple people raved about Rock and now I, too, am a convert. This thin, quick dry top coat works similarly to CND VINYLUX Weekly Top Coat in that it hardens with exposure to UV light, both artificial and natural. But unlike VINYLUX, it stays glossy the entire time with little to no tip wear. You HAVE to try it!

8. Smith’s Rosebud Salve ($6) – A lip product for nails? Yes, indeed. If you practice any kind of nail art that gets polish on your skin, lay down a coat of this beforehand and make your cleanup a breeze. So much better than using cuticle oil.

9. Angled Eyeliner Brush – Speaking of cleanup, if you don’t have a steady hand (I don’t), you need this little tool to get rid of any polish mistakes on your skin. Dip in remover and swipe around the edge.

10. Sally Hansen Cuticle Rehab ($7.49) – This is a new product from Sally Hansen and while it hasn’t rolled out in every city yet, I just couldn’t wait to tell you about it. You know how I love a cuticle pen for its portability and mess-free application. Well, this one has officially replaced my beloved one from Sephora. The scent is delicious, like I seriously want to like my cuticles (TMI!), and so so moisturizing.
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What are your must-have tools for the perfect manicure? Are any of my favorites part of your tool kit? 

Disclosure: Product samples were provided by reps for Cult Nails, Sally Hansen, Orly and Essie but I have repurchased Cutique and Essie Ridge Filling base on my own. Affiliate links appear in this post. When you purchase through an affiliate link, you help support this site. For more info view my Disclosure Policy
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There Are 44 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Nancy says:

    I’m saving this to my phone so that when I go shopping next time, I have it for reference! :)

  2. I love the Cult Nails file too! I’m totally picking up both Orly items… I’ve been looking for a stain remover and I definitely need some cuticle help!

  3. I need to hunt down that cuticle pusher! I’ve never seen that one and I hate using a thumb nail.

  4. jbrobeck says:

    I love your list! I definitely plan on checking out that top coat!

  5. Janise says:

    Thank you for the tips! Would love for you stop by and share your beauty tips with us for our weekly BeautyBuzz Link Up. Hope to see you there :)

    xo,
    Janise

  6. Julia says:

    Is there one place where one can buy most of these beauties? I hope that most can be obtained at once.

  7. Katy says:

    I’ll have to give Rock a try. I see it on Amazon, but your listed price is lower…did you purchase your bottle somewhere cheaper?

  8. Phyrra says:

    I need to try that top coat! I wonder if my Sally’s carries it.

  9. Teri says:

    I’m going to be looking for that cuticle cream! And an angled eyeliner brush for cleanup is genius.

  10. Julie says:

    So has Rock replaced Poshe as your favorite top coat? I may need to pick some of it up!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hi Julie! Good memory you have there. Yes, Rock has definitely taken Poshe’s place. I can’t remember the last time I used it.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Do you use the ridge filler followed by a basecoat or ridge filler as the basecoat?

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      I use it as a base coat on it own. I don’t wear my polish for extended periods of time so I can’t really say how it affects the wear.

  12. I knew your post would be fabulous. I’m learning from the best. Of course I want everything you wrote about. I need the weather to warm up so I can go to Sally’s.
    Can you use the Rock Secrets over Vinylux polish? I always stick to the books with that brand.

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Thanks Marcia! I haven’t tried it myself but I’ve used the VINYLUX top coat over other polishes. Worth a try. The worst that can happen is you have to change your nail color.

  13. Kirsten says:

    Just found that Sally Hansen cuticle care stuff a couple weeks ago and it is amazing! Like you I love the portability and the smell, just want to eat my fingers after using it! Lol!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Right? The scent is soooo good. I was told it’s cucumber melon but it’s so sweet, it reminds me of Pink Sugar. Maybe my sniffer if off.

  14. Kimett Kolor says:

    Thanks so much for sharing/updating your recommendations! I re-shared them on my G+ and FB. Your wisdom is invaluable to us all.

  15. auroragyps says:

    My favorite cuticle oil is the Maximum Growth Cuticle Pen from Sally Hansen (the pink click style), but it’s hard to find by me, especially when SH products are on sale. I love how the brush is stiff enough to put oil under the free edge of my nails, so the entire exposed nail surface can get treated. I wonder how this new one compares?

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      I haven’t tried that one to compare so I’m not sure if this brush is as stiff. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help

  16. sara says:

    I love Zoya Remove+. The best remover I’ve used AND it smells lovely.

  17. Annie says:

    Is Zoya’s Remove+ still your preferred nail polish remover?

  18. Jenni says:

    The HandsDown pads are a must in the salon for me! Another must for me would be CND SolarOil!

  19. Elisa says:

    I’ve been using Out the Door as my go-to topcoat because Seche Vite has the dreaded toluene. I see that European Secrets specifically says “No toluene, No formaldehyde” …but what about DBP (dibutyl phthalate)? I can’t seem to find any ingredient listing on the interweb. Help!

    Also, anyone have any info on NubarFoundation Base Coat vs Essie First Base adhesive base coat? I am due to purchase a new bottle of base and for me First Base (+Out the Door topcoat) has really been awesome at manicure longevity (1 week +, with minimal tip wear) and stain prevention, regardless of polish color brand used.

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hi Elisa! There is no DBP in Rock. I don’t have a direct comparison with Nubar and Essie First Base. If First Base is working for you, then stick with it

  20. Susie says:

    OMG!!! You def got great products for the nails in your list. I am kinda curious on the Sally Hansen Cuticle Rehab. It seems like a great one to try out.

  21. Ashley says:

    what is your favorite base coat and nail strengther?

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hi Ashley! The two base coats I showed are my favorites depending on the polish I use. Essie ridge filler for cremes, Nubar for everything else. For strength, Essie Millionails, NailTek Citra and Duri Rejuvacote are all faves.

  22. Tracy says:

    I’m so anxious to try some of your favs! I have mostly used Seche Vite Top Coat but didn’t like how it lost its luster after a few days. But after reading your recommendation on European Secrets Rock Top Coat, count me in! And my favorite manicure product has to be the Zoya Remove+ remover. My nails are so much healthier since I’ve been using it. Love the dispenser bottle,too.

  23. I so needed this lol I use some of these products already but I tend to get frustrated with my nails often. It seems like I put in hours of work to make them look nice and within a day and a half of normal mom life they are all chipped off and look horrid!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      I’m glad it was helpful. Though you might want to look into gel polish if you are hard on your hands. It wears much better and longer though the removal is a bit more strenuous.

  24. Nicole says:

    Hi! Stopping by from SITS. I love Sally Hansen products and my cuticles need some help. I will definitely be looking for the cuticle pen. I have nice nails and I should put more effort into them. I can’t tell you the last time I had a manicure. So sad!

  25. Dee says:

    I recently purchased the Orly cuticle remover and the pusher after reading your post, and I can’t believe the difference they make! My hands look good, well better anyway:) These are great products.

  26. neonkinpatsu says:

    Oooohh, I will have to try Rock. I’ve tried so many topcoats and only like Seche Vite (fast dry and great shine, but it shrinks often), G+G HK Girl, and Nubar Diamont. HK Girl is my current fave. Just about every other I tried I didn’t like, so it would be great to have an alternative. So far I like Orly Bonder, but if I can extend wear time I may need to give the Nubar base a try. :)

  27. Jenn says:

    I’m another fan of the Sally Hansen Cuticle Rehab! I’ve had it for a few weeks now and it’s so simple to use. It’s not messy and (for me) it smells like honeysuckle flowers. I keep it with me at work to remember to use it every day. I just purchased my first glass file the other day, I’m in love already!

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