Overdone the gel nails or acrylics but wary of non-committal nail varnish? I’ve got a long-lasting high five for you…

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This is my first foray into nails as a Maniac columnist, but with the surging popularity of gel nails (the sector grew by 39% between 2013-2014 and doesn’t look like it’s chipping off anytime soon), the kaleidoscope of colours and finishes on offer and the inclusion of nail polishes in many a makeup range, it seems only right to give the humble nail varnish some air time.

It’s seen competition from UV and acrylic nail systems, but age-old polish is upping its game, adding nourishing skincare and ‘superfood’ ingredients to formulas, mixing up finishes and shade ranges and making amends for its flaky past. The main gripe that most women have with traditional polish is that it doesn’t stay put, or glossy, for long enough, and Mintel reports that, for 41% of women, lack of longevity is the main driver towards choosing gel over conventional varnish. Enter the hybrids: the nail colours that promise both endurance and shine, with none of the potentially drying or detrimental effects of gel or acrylic nails, not to mention a noticeable absence of faff and expense in terms of salon visits. There are many gel imitators on the market, and last year 20% of us dabbled in gel ‘effect’ varnishes that aim to recreate the thick, hardwearing signature of the two week manicure, but not all of the pretenders are fit for purpose. Here’s my high five of nail polishes that bring a little something extra to the dressing table…

CND Vinylux Weekly Polish , £9.95

CND aren’t silly. The creators of Shellac have engineered a halfway house of longwearing, glassy colour and care and convenience with the creation of this 7-day polish . Applied onto your naked nail bed (no base coat, I repeat, no base coat) and sealed with the range’s Weekly Top Coat, colour hardens with exposure to natural light, and is said to dry quicker than regular polish. I’ve had incredible results with this on a few occasions (think eight days with minimal polish erosion) and only once experienced a lacklustre finish, when Vinylux was applied in salon with a basecoat underneath. The magic is clearly in a pristinely clean canvas to start with, and also I swear a sunny day helps with the whole colour ‘lock down’ business. Theoretically then, Vinylux was made for summer, although I’m not sure the makers took British weather into account during formulation. Sun or no sun, it’s got it going on, when it’s done right.

O.P.I Infinite Shine , £13.95

While not quite infinite, O.P.I’s take on varnish with serious stamina sheen is pretty much the Mo Farah of DIY manicures. It’s got vibrancy, staying power and gloss, and like Vinylux it claims to ‘cure’ in natural light, although O.P.I take the resilience claim to ten days rather than a week. In my view that’s an optimistic amount of time, but the polish held up for the most part for nine days, and those nine days involved a fair amount of international travel and turbulent Scottish country dancing, so I’m giving O.P.I extra kudos. The polish dries quickly without any tackiness, although the palava and purse hurting process of needing to invest in an Infinite Shine base coat and top coat could put your off a purchase (don’t let it though if you can afford to splash out a bit- this stuff nails the gel-hybrid brief, excuse the pun there). If you want to road test it somewhere fancy, The House of ELEMIS has recently partnered with O.P.I exclusively, making the Speed Spa O.P.I’s London flagship salon . There’s no better place to give it a run for its money, plus perhaps indulge in a quick and efficient facial while you’re at it…

Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Enamel , £7.99

Given that Revlon essentially invented nail varnish, I had high hopes here, and wasn’t disappointed. First off, Revlon has certainly graduated from the original Cherries in the Snow; I’ve counted a whopping 33 shades of this formulation available in Boots alone, and there are 38 on the market in total. Choice is a big plus in my book, as is the fact that you don’t need a base coat (it’s ‘built in’), although you will need to fork out for the Diamond top Coat. The brush shimmies across the nail nicely on application, polish dries in good time although not as fast as the other ‘high five’ contenders in this edit, and in terms of lifespan before chipping, you’re looking at about four to five days, which easily outdoes standard polish options. If you’re looking for a break from expensive salon appointments and slightly masochistic removal methods, it’s worth having in your arsenal.

Essie Gel Couture Nail Colour , £9.99

It’s Essie, but not as you know it. With a curvy new bottle and extra high-shine finish, Gel Couture wants to take on the gel nail industry in a big way- the polish promises to rival gel for durability, right up to the 14th day. So far, that’s been the case for my toes, but unfortunately my manicure didn’t make it across the two week finishing line. Nevertheless, the shade range is nothing less than delicious, you can almost see your own reflection in the lacquered finish and the dainty ‘swirl’ brush allows you to execute some very impressive handiwork, even if you are a bit shaky on your less dominant hand. As with all gel-like alternatives, you’ll ‘need’ to also buy the topcoat from the same range for a superior finish. I find that most of them work beautifully over bog standard polish too, extending the wear of an otherwise flighty enamel.

Chanel Le Vernis Longue Tenue  and  Le Gel Coat , £18 each

A Chanel polish will always be covetable, but while shades, brush applicators and bottle design have always been oh so neat and chic, strength in the face of keyboards, ring pulls and other chip-making items and activities hasn’t always been the eponymous French brand’s forte. Until now. Chanel has revamped its polish wardrobe for 2016, and while the bottle itself may appear more minimalist in terms of type, le vernis has grown in tenacity. Pigment is as bold as ever, but wear is extended to six days according to the innovators behind it, which is pleasingly realistic. Le Gel Coat is a marvel in itself- the plump, glossy, nigh on impenetrable finish will transform any polish you dress it over. These two are expensive, especially if bought together, but you can be safe in the knowledge that redevelopment means you’re getting what you pay for.

P.S: I'm currently giving Nails Inc Coconut Brights  a run for their money, £15 each (Charlotte Villas is a spot on for summer Heinz tomato red). An update of the brand's original Gel Effect line, the hardwearing polishes also feature a splash of coconut water, which apparently hydrates the nail as you go about your day(s). Not sure on the science there, but seeing as the world has gone coco loco it's bang on trend, and the effect is opaque yet gleaming, so I've got no complaints.

Gel nail addict?  Read the dos and don’ts of Shellac…

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