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5 Nail Polishes Every College Girl Needs to Own


As I’ve mentioned in my past polish posts, I have a ton of nail polish – at this point I probably own around 100 bottles, which I know (I promise, mom, I know!) is ridiculous. No one needs 100 bottles… or 50, or even 20 bottles of polish. Really, so long as you have a well-curated collection, you definitely don’t need a ton of polish.

To help you narrow it down, I’ve created a list of the top 5 polishes every college girl needs in her nail arsenal. Enjoy!

1. A Neutral

Neutral nails at Zac Posen spring 2012
Nails at Zac Posen Spring/Summer 2012 (Image via

Might as well get the least-fun one out of the way first. Yes, even though we’re in college and allowed to wear crazy colors on our fingertips, I think it’s absolutely essential to have a great neutral color in your stash.

Neutral colors can be tricky, though: Do you want a beige or pink-toned color? Are you going for mannequin hands or something further away from your skintone? My advice: head to wherever you buy your polish and try on a bunch of different neutrals until you find one you like! Think of a neutral polish like your nails’ answer to the perfect LBD – it’s always chic and will always, always look good.

My Picks:

OPI Barefoot in Barcelona
OPI “Barefoot in Barcelona”

This varies so much by skin tone, but some of my favorites are OPI Barefoot in Barcelona ($7.45 at Amazon), OPI Dulce de Leche ($7.35 at Amazon), OPI Samoan Sand ($7.49 at Amazon), and Essie Mademoiselle ($5.85 at Amazon).

2. A Red

Red half moon nails
(Red half-moon nails on the Runway via ELLE)

Groundbreaking, I know. Maybe not the most original color, but a great red is definitely a color everyone should have in (his or) her arsenal. I mean, classics are classics for a reason, right? Luckily, as this is the most popular nail shade, there are a ton of options for you to choose from. As with neutrals, go to a drugstore or a salon and try a bunch on to figure out what you like!

My Picks:

OPI Mrs. Oleary's BBQ
OPI “Mrs. O’Leary’s BBQ”

My faves include OPI I’m Really Not a Waitress ($7.99 at Amazon), China Glaze Ruby Pumps ($5.50 at Amazon), and Essie Forever Young ($6.33 at Amazon). My personal favorite is a vampier (no, spell check, not vampire) red, OPI’s Mrs. O’Leary’s BBQ ($8.21 at Amazon).

3. A Color That Makes You Happy

Skittles Manicure
(Skittles manicure via All Lacquered Up)

Sometimes even a Rachel McAdams movie can’t bring me out of a funk – and when that happens, I turn to trusty favorite polishes that I know will perk me up.

I’m partial to bright colors, but pick whatever floats your boat. Even if you work at a law firm or don’t usually wear varnish, you definitely need a polish in your collection that’ll get you feeling happy every time you look at your hands.

My Picks:

Essie Cute as a Button
Essie “Cute as a Button”

I love OPI Monsooner or Later ($7.44 at Amazon), OPI Dating a Royal ($8.48 at Amazon), Essie Cute as a Button ($8.13 at Amazon), and Essie Watermelon ($6.78 at Amazon).

 4. An ‘Ugly’ Color

Yellow nail polish at Karen Walker
(Karen Walker Spring/Summer 2012 image via Beauty High)

As much as I love pretty pinks and reds, there isn’t anything quite as eye-catching as a non-traditional color on nails.

Now, just because the color is ugly doesn’t mean is has to be unflattering on your skin tone. OPI’s You Don’t Know Jacques is the color of mushrooms but looks great on all of my roommates – and we all have different skin tones! Do yourself a favor and pick up an uglier color – it adds the right amount of edginess to any outfit!

My Picks:

OPI The It Color
OPI “The It Color”

My favorite “ugly” shades include OPI Uh-Oh Roll Down the Window ($7.35 at Amazon), OPI You Don’t Know Jacques ($9.00 at Amazon), OPI The It Color ($8.31 at Amazon), and Essie Chinchilly ($6.25 at Amazon).

5. A Trendy Color

Essie Spring 2012 nail polish collection
Essie’s Spring/Summer 2012 Collection

As much as I covet basically all of Dolce & Gabbana’s, Isabel Marant’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s Spring 2012 nail collections, I probably won’t be able to afford even the cheapest item from any of them. However, I probably will be able to purchase at least one trendy color next season.

A new polish runs me about $8, but drooling over Spring collections on Priceless.

My Picks:

OPI & Nicki Minaj Did It On Em
OPI & Nicki Minaj “Did It On ‘Em”

I’m obsessed with Essie Shine of the Times topcoat ($4.25 at Amazon) right now, and I can’t wait for OPI Did It On ‘Em (a Shrek-green from the Nicki Minaj collection), OPI Dutch ’Ya Just Love OPI? (a shimmery purple from the Holland Collection), and Essie Navigate Her (a pastel green from Essie’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection).

Your Thoughts?

What do you guys think? What are your absolute must-have shades? Do you own all of these? Tell me in the comments!

Posted on on December 23, 2011 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , ,

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20 Responses to “5 Nail Polishes Every College Girl Needs to Own”

  1. 1
    December 23rd, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I’m really pale, and finding neutral/nude shades is a challenge, but I really love It’s Nude To Me by Ulta. And reds! I love red polishes. My absolute favorite is Got The Blues For Red by OPI, and it also falls under the “colors that make me happy” category :]

  2. 2
    December 23rd, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    This is a great list! I love having tons of polishes though! haha

  3. 3
    December 23rd, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Nice List! Love the Ugly Color idea & Love the Nicki Green polish!

  4. 4
    December 23rd, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I didn’t really like this list. For one, It needs either black or white. The idea that black is a “goth” color is silly and needs to be overcome. There are a ton of non-traditional blacks and whites that most people ignore when these colors go with everything, but have a little more flair than traditional neutrals.

    I also thought that this article was more about personal taste than what types of nail polish one should own. I for one only wear neutrals, but there is still a lot (A LOT) of variety within that group, so the only one that was helpful to me was #5.

  5. 5
    December 23rd, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    I have all the colors you said. I believe you were missing the metallic nail polish. Also the electric colors. Those nail polishes rock out when you go to a hot party. Really. I liked the post, though.
    I love your page :)

  6. 6
    December 24th, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Putting nail polish takes time for me. But I always love to do it because it adds to my fashion. I always try different color depends on my outfit.

  7. 7
    December 24th, 2011 at 1:54 am

    E – Thanks for posting that! This list was great, but it’s good to see what works for different skin colors specifically. I’ll look for that red polish.

  8. 8
    December 24th, 2011 at 3:48 am

    I think you are missing a dark polish! :)

  9. 9
    December 24th, 2011 at 5:01 am

    I don’t know if these are all NEED to own colours, but I like most of them. I’m not a huge fan of neutral nail polishes although I do own a few. I prefer a swipe of clear gloss for shine if I’m going somewhere conservative. I have to admit I’m a sucker for trendy colours, greys, greens, teals whatever it is I will wear it.

  10. 10
    December 24th, 2011 at 10:48 am

    This is a great list, and now I have a valid reason to start expanding my nail polish collection :)

  11. 11
    December 24th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Most of those ”ugly ones” aren’t even ugly :) You missed the dark ones, they’re probably much more needed than some of mentioned ones.

  12. 12
    December 24th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I’m guilty of having dozens of nail polishes so anything mentioned I’m sure it’s in my collection! the list was fine with me but I agree that white, black, and a dark color should also be included! I would add a shimmer, matte, neon, pastel and a wild card nail polish such as a glow in the dark or mood color. Fashion always tend to repeat themselves!

  13. 13
    December 24th, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Whoa, you beat me in ridiculous number of nail polish bottles! I have at least 60+ but not quite 100. Neutrals are important, and I love a good red also.

  14. 14
    December 26th, 2011 at 12:17 am

    One of my must have is black and silver…goes with any outfit.

  15. 15
    December 27th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    my staples are: red, nude, black and glitter. it’s perfection.

  16. 16
    December 27th, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    ESSIE has the best colors, the cute names dont hurt either. MY faves are russian roulette (a hot red), sew psyched ( a soft cashmere sage) , and mademoiselle (a soft pink) and mink muffs ( taupe). Nude is great but a Taupe is a must.

  17. 17
    December 28th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I think that clear nail polish belongs on this list. It makes my nails shiny, without buffing them ( I have irritatingly thin nails,so I do not have the option of wearing them down). Also, nobody can tell when it chips, or when it is messy.
    Thanks for writing this article. Now I realize that it is insane to have twenty bottles of pink nail polish. :o

  18. 18
    January 1st, 2012 at 6:32 am

    I have lots of nail polishes. But I think black and white are a must have. They go with every outfit and even though they’re dull, they stand out so much.

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