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Drugstore Nail Polishes: Which Made the Cut?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

I anxiously fidget with my barely-there nail polish resting on my nail beds as I walk down the halls of a drugstore looking for a quality nail polish. I have a lot to choose from; I have at least 10 brands offering me the same kind of product and guaranteeing that they “won’t chip or wear out” and will “dry quickly.”

My standards for a good nail polish are simple: they won’t chip and will dry quickly. I am an art student, so I literally use my hands for everything (and for a living in the future), so my hands are almost always a mess, and I am always busy, so I need them to dry faster than you can say “nail polish.”

I tried seven different drugstore nail polishes for 5 days. Good news for you: they don’t exceed $9. Here’s the list:

  1. Essie ($4.50 SALE) in Color Binge

  2. Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear (no more than $3) in Pucker Up

  3. Wet n’ Wild 1 Step Wonder Gel ($2.49 SALE) in Pale In Comparison

  4. Bettina (no more than $4) in Matte

  5. Sinful Colors (no more than $2) in Hazard

  6. L’oreal (I didn’t even know they had a nail polish line! – $3.19 SALE) in Julianne’s Nude

  7. Sally Hansen Miracle Gel (no more than $9) in Tribal Sun

I applied two coats of polish to each nail, but I refrained from applying clear nail polish before and after to see how they survive the experiment with no back-ups. This way, we can ensure fairness and see the real results.

On my left hand, I used Essie, Sally Hansen Hard As Nails, and Wet n’Wild. In the 1st coat, the Essie and Sally Hansen showed up vibrantly in my nail, whereas the Wet n’ Wild was a bit translucent, so another coat was necessary. The application for the three was smooth, and no clumps were experienced. After the two coats, all three nails looked good (no transparencies) and the dry time was longer for Essie. The other two dried quickly and effectively.

One coat:

Two coats:

On my right hand, I used Bettina, Sinful Colors, L’Oreal and Sally Hansen Miracle Gel. After the first coat, all four nail polishes looked great (Not transparent! Yay!), but the rule here was to put two coats, so I did. The Sinful Colors and the Miracle Gel had almost the same color, but the cost was waaay different. The Bettina dried up faster, while the other three took a bit longer. The Miracle Gel (the pricey one) seemed the most firm after application.

After the 5th day, my nails have survived two Disney Parks, a whole weekend including Martin Luther King Jr. Day and two hair washes.

The nail polishes on my left hand held up quite nicely. Only the corners chipped, but that was from the normal tear and wear of nail polish. However, this hand is not my dominant, so that explains why the right hand looked like…

… this.

The Bettina nail polish held up nothing. It looks too chipped and lackluster. Of the other three, the Miracle Gel was the one that held up the most. Maybe that is why it’s called Miracle Gel?


The Miracle Gel looked best after five busy days, while the Bettina did not make the cut. The others were normal, but kudos to Sinful Colors and L’Oreal for keeping it together. In the left hand, it was a close call between Essie and Wet N’ Wild, but Essie took the trophy home.

Happy painting, collegiettes!


Image credit: huffingtonpost.com


Kimberly is a Puerto Rican native while temporarily located in Gainesville. She is double-majoring in Journalism & Graphic Design. She likes to drink tea and coffee (not in that order), as well as fantasize about her future life in NYC or London. You can find her reading the news or watching crime/murder documentaries on Netflix.