It’s a DIY-manicure MVP.
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My grandmother was not a fussy woman, but I never saw her without perfectly manicured nails, painted either OPI Bubble Bath or Cajun Shrimp. She had a standing biweekly appointment with Ms. Mona, and on my 12th birthday, she brought me along for my first manicure. I chose OPI Aphrodite’s Pink Nightie, a shimmery, plummy pink. I’ve since inherited my grandmother’s penchant for Bubble Bath and Cajun Shrimp, but I have yet to adopt her standing biweekly manicure tradition. I save the professional manicures for bad days and special occasions and otherwise opt to paint my nails myself.

Even so, I’ve never been very good at it. If I don’t botch the DIY job with my unsteady, non-dominant hand, I’ll ruin a perfectly fine coat of polish with a thick, gummy top coat that invites smudges and ripples long after it dries. But I’ve recently discovered essie’s Gel Setter Top Coat (where you have been all my life?!), and it has totally changed my home manicures for the better. (BUY IT: $8.99,

Essie Gel Setter Top Coat
Credit: Amazon

For starters, it goes on smooth and light, without a trace of the heaviness or stickiness that is often a downfall of other top coats I’ve tried. The applicator brush is wide, so it coats the entirety of your nail in two easy strokes, and it dries fairly quickly (no smudging! no rippling!). And as the name suggests, it gives nails a gel-like, salon-quality finish that magically camouflages unevenness and prevents chipping—even when you use it with regular old, non-gel polish. Plus, at only $9 a bottle, it’s a heck of a lot more economical than a trip to the nail salon. It's the best top coat I've ever used, period.

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