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Save or Splurge? Nail Polish Edition

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Chanel polish
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We’ve all seen those enticing ads floating around for the latest Chanel, Dior, or Deborah Lippmann nail polish collections and as incredible as some of the colors look in the ads, on a college budget, most of us have other priorities (food, anyone?) to take care of first.

As amazing as the formulas are, if you’re like me and like changing your polish every few days, it really isn’t the best idea to always opt for the high end nail polishes. I’m not saying to shy away from them completely, but for 25 to 30 dollars a pop, it’s a better idea to pick one, two, or three colors you know you will love and wear longer to invest in.

The old saying is somewhat true: With high-end polish, you do often get what you pay for. The formulas of higher-end products almost always provide foolproof application – that is – they are not streaky, no matter how clumsy your application is, there is no bubbling, and they are just easy to apply in general. That being said, not all of the colors are always a hit and this is where research comes in.

Note: The most popular high-end nail polish brands, because of their formulas and variety, are Chanel and Dior, so this post refers mainly to those (though it applies to all of the high-end brands).

So, without further ado, here is a guide to deciding which high-end nail polishes are worth the splurge.

Find a Dupe

Nail polishes
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Personally, I don’t find the need to splurge on expensive nail polish unless I find some amazing color that I know I will wear a lot. I also consider the availability of inexpensive dupes.

If you’re at all familiar with nail blogs, you know there are tons of drugstore “dupes” – or lookalike versions of the high-end shades – that cost just a fraction of the designer price. (We previously did a post on some inexpensive Chanel nail polish dupes.) If you don’t have time to go through endless blog posts about which polishes are the best dupes for the shade you desire, a quick Google search will produce the top results fast.

Keep in mind that a lot of dupes can be found for creme finish Dior or Chanel colors, but it is definitely harder to find dupes for glitters, shimmers, or other unique finishes.

Invest in a Few Key Colors

Chanel polishes
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If you have the means, I definitely recommending investing in a few high-end shades that you know you’ll wear a lot. For example, I’ve found colors such as Chanel’s Frisson, Black Pearl, and Lilac Sky (off the top of my head) are worthwhile to splurge on, as, for me, they’re classic colors that I can wear for long periods of time. I have not been able to find a convincing dupe for these colors, as well, making them an even better value for my money.

Sometimes, we get caught up in the idea that a certain line is “limited edition” – for some reason, the idea that there are only so many of a certain thing definitely makes me want to make an impulse purchase. Resist the urge to “add to cart” and do some research first. Sometimes the color you see in ads may be entirely different in real life, which ties in with my last point:

Do Your Research/Read Reviews

Nails on keyboard
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If you’re still unsure about whether to splurge on that 25 dollar bottle of polish, nail polish reviews can be a helpful deciding factor.

My personal favorite nail blogs are Polish Police, Nails and Noms and the beauty look book. Also, Temptalia is a great site for reviews on high end products and their neatly organized categories makes your searches much easier. (For more, see our list of our favorite nail polish blogs.) If you are on the run, Google can also help a lot for a quick fix. As well, you can do a quick search on YouTube for some “real life” swatches, but I personally find pictures better than video swatches in this case.

Of course, don’t forget that you are allowed to treat yourself once in awhile! You don’t always have to rationalize and justify every. single. purchase. Just be smart and do your research the majority of the time and you can enjoy the occasional “fun” splurge!

Are there any high-end nail polish shades that you absolutely love?

What are the high-end shades you have invested in? Do you ever splurge on nail polish? Which brands are your favorites? Please leave your comments, questions or suggestions for future posts down below!

Posted on on February 27, 2013 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , , , ,

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25 Responses to “Save or Splurge? Nail Polish Edition”

  1. 1
    February 27th, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    I love that there’s nail polish companies at a price point between low and high end like OPI, China Glaze, and Orly. In my experience, they’ve worked way better for me than $1-2 polishes but at $8-10 per bottle they’re a lot more accessible than Chanel and Dior.

  2. 2
    February 27th, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    I have a complete Butter London obsession that I have recently gotten into, although I’m with Irina in that the “middle ground” polishes such as Essie and OPI are a good compromise.

  3. 3
    February 27th, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    There’s no way I would pay 30 dollars for a bottle of nail polish. My Sally Hansen polishes suit me just fine!

  4. 4
    February 27th, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    I’m a lover of L’Oreal myself. The application is smooth and the colors enticing.

  5. 5
    February 27th, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I believe that there is always a cheaper version of every color. I’m an OPI lover and will only buy there brand, only because the formula goes on smoothly for me and lasts a week! And I guess it can be expensive($8) but I would never buy nail polish for $25, and I own a lot of polish bottles!

  6. 6
    February 27th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    I’m with Brittany; I love SH polishes. and after years of wearing many colours and finishes (and a few “cheapie” brands), only a few have had a shoddy formula. Polish is not something I’d splurge on.

  7. 7
    February 27th, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Essie Ballet Slippers is my new obsession! I almost splurged but didn’t and a week later, got a free bottle anyways. I would buy another bottle though, just to have on hand for the day I run out.

  8. 8
    February 28th, 2013 at 12:18 am

    The problem with dupes is that while the color may be similar, the application can be quite different. If it is a color that I love, I will spend the money to get the higher quality nail polish. I love OPI and Essie and Butter London but the best brush in my opinion is the Sally Hanson brush. It is flatter and wider and wonderful for covering my wide nail beds quickly.

  9. 9
    February 28th, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Agree with Brittany! I waitress and I am always using my hands for different things, so even if I used a high end polish, it chips because of my environment. So I just stick with 2-4 dollar bottles. Plus, I feel like I’d rather splurge on a really great hat or pair of great jeans instead!

  10. 10
    February 28th, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I’m pretty much nail polish obsessed, but I have no desire to own a designer bottle of nail polish. I’m completely happy with my China Glaze, OPI, and Julep (I have them from their subscription boxes, have never bought a retail priced bottle and never will because it’s $14, and I wait for sales and get free shipping). I am much more likely to splurge on an indie shade I’ve had my eye on than designer.

  11. 11
    February 28th, 2013 at 9:22 am

    The best nail polish I’ve ever splurged on is Yves Saint Laurent. It goes on so smooth (especially the gold kind) and dries fast. It’s about 30 Euro (I bought it in Paris), but it is definitely worth it! It works better than ay other kind of polish I’ve ever used.

  12. 12
    February 28th, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I personally think nail polish should come in smaller bottles, because there have been so many times where I want to wear a specific color and it is all dried up and nasty. I suggest buying small bottles or sample sizes, even of high-end nail polish, because you probably will use the small bottle enough. Also, has anyone ever gone through an entire bottle of nail polish?

  13. 13
    February 28th, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Fall in love with a high end polish? Try this. Get it manicured instead of buying the bottle. It will satisfy your desire for luxury. It will give you some time out to enjoy yourself!

    But you can also watch, and learn, how to care for your hands, and nails. Plus you won’t need to buy base and top coats on top of the cost of your nail polish lust. Think of it as a road test of the enamel’s durability and coverage.

  14. 14
    February 28th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    hard to say for me but best nail polish I’ve ever splurged is from Avon…yep believe it or not… and happyly is not 30 dollars , i can admit also the lower quality… but still

  15. 15
    February 28th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I actually agree with Crysela, that would be a great idea to do a test run – I’m not sure about salons in other areas, but most of the salons I’ve been to only offer OPI polishes, though.

    Actually, the first time I fell in love with Chanel polishes were because I got them manicured and noticed the application and lasting power. After having the manicure on for awhile was what made me decide to invest in my first bottle of high end polish.

    Emily – I definitely have never gone through a full bottle of nail polish. I suggest adding a few drops of nail polish remover in your dried up/gloppy polish (usually works for me) to try to salvage them, but if that doesn’t work then it would be time to let that bottle go (but don’t forget to save the actual bottle for the future – they can come in handy).

  16. 16
    February 28th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    I’m not really sure I agree with this post at all. I recently have gotten big on wearing nail polish and because I wasn’t sure the cheaper brands were 3 or 4 free I would buy middle brands, like O.P.I. and China Glaze. I have recently started to accumulate a rather large collection of Julep which I consider to be close to high end, since it is $14 for a .27mL bottle. However, I’m not sure that I agree with the statement that the expensive or high end polishes have a better formula. I have tried some of their colors in stores and I didn’t really like the way they apply. I sometimes find my own Julep polishes don’t go on as well as I would like. I find some low end polishes that do just as well. Also the high end polishes, like Dior, don’t really have that great of a selection of colors, in my opinion.

    The biggest thing that really bothered me about this post was, why by a $30 of polish (that may or my not be as good as a cheaper brand) if you are going to wear it for days or weeks at a time and there for not use that much of it. It will “go bad” before you even use a 1/4 of the bottle if you only use it once every 2 weeks or so. Would it not be better to either have more cheaper bottles or to only buy bottles of the expensive brands that you planning on using all the time so that you actually use more of the polish and get your money’s worth?

  17. 17
    February 28th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Emily- If you have a problem with your nail polish getting gloppy and still have a decent amount of it left use a drop or two of nail polish thinner, not remover, because over time the remover can screw up the formula and you’d have to buy a new bottle anyway. I’ve never gone through a bottle of nail polish… not even a mini. It’s my goal to finish off at least one polish bottle in my life.

  18. 18
    February 28th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    I have finished 5 bottles of nail polish. They were pastel colors from Claires. One of the was the perfect shade of blue.

  19. 19
    February 28th, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I’ll never splurge on high-end nail polish. I work with horses, and doing my nails makes me feel pretty under all the dirt, sweat, and horse hair. I’ve tried Butter London and Chanel before, and they both wore off very quickly even with a top coat. In my experience OPI and Essie have the best lasting power. I can wear OPI up to a week with no top coat…I’ll never spend money on anything else.

  20. 20
    February 28th, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    My all time faves will always be Essie and opi!

  21. 21
    March 1st, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Wendy – I can definitely see where you are coming from, but in regards to your question, what I’ve found in regards to high end nail polish “going bad” (or at least in my experience) is that they last much longer than the cheaper ones I have. I have one or two bottles that I have used more than half of over the last two or three years and their consistency remains as it has when I first bought it (compared to cheaper bottles that render unusable after just a year). It may be due to the fact that I don’t open the bottles as often, therefore letting less air in. This is probably why the bottles in stores have not-as-great formulas.

    I absolutely agree that brands like OPI or Essie mostly have great formulas as well and their colour selections are superb. It’s just a shame that some stores don’t allow you to test the colours before buying.

  22. 22
    March 2nd, 2013 at 8:19 am

    All I can say is you girls should consider yourself lucky- over in Australia OPI and Essie is $20 a bottle!!!

  23. 23
    March 2nd, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    I am always tempted to buy the high end luxury polishes but then remember that I will probably wear it maybe 10 times or so before I move on to a new “favorite” color. I too am polish crazy and find that I am perfectly happy with OPI and lately the Ulta brand polishes.

  24. 24
    August 24th, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    I completely agree with Michelle because I feel the same exact way that Sally Hansen brushes sometimes work way better than most brushes that come with the nail polish you purchase. I found that, that was the case with Essie nail polishes. I felt like the brush left a streaky affect until I cleaned off a Sally Hansen nail polish brush and noticed the application came out way smoother.

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