An Ode to Nail Polish

In the last year, I have become one of many. I have begun to adore collecting little bottles full of bright colours and slathering them on the ends of my fingers. I adore choosing between those little bottles, between the glitter, the jellies, the creams.  That’s right; I have an addiction to nail polish. This is my ode to nail polish.

Yellow and green are Australian colours. I painted my nails black and white, with a fern during the Rugby World Cup

My nails and I have had an on-off relationship over the years. I’m a nail biter and always have been. My mother didn’t really try and stop it because it was a rather involuntary thing I seemed to do while reading a book. The issue was I was always reading so I was always biting my nails. I can remember getting that weird child-safe nail polish that you could peel off. I have a very strong memory of buying mint green nail polish on a holiday once. I tried fake nails for my school ball and laughed hysterically during the formal dances as they pinged off my fingers onto the dance floor. However other than that, my nails got thoroughly ignored. I worked in food service from 16 to 23, so no nail polish allowed. But all that changed for me in early 2011.

At the time I was unemployed, living in the basement at my in-laws and desperate for something to escape from everyday life. Slowly, I began to notice a real community on the Internet of nail polish aficionados. They spoke of the latest releases, latest colours and finishes. I was fascinated. One day, I dashed into town and with the little bit of spending money I had, I bought myself a pale pink nail polish and the OPI Black Shatter. I sat in the dark basement and painted my nails. Base coat, two coats of the pink, one of the black. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, and I was hooked. This had taken nail polish to a new level for me, and I knew I couldn’t go back now.

Eventually we moved out of the basement and into our own place in a new town. I now had an income and a job that would allow me to have painted nails. I was in heaven. My nail polish collection grew ridiculously.  From hiding in a drawer, it was soon in a small plastic tub beside the couch. Eventually the collection grew out of that, and it is now in the plastic tub and a large plastic drawer. I dare not think how much money I have spent on nail polish (particularly considering the inflated prices we pay in New Zealand. $28 for an OPI? I think not!), but the enjoyment it gives me is immense. It’s time that I have to spend on myself. I sit on the couch with some good tunes or a podcast going, clean my nails, carefully choose my next colour and paint them. I can match my nails to my outfits or my events for the week. A trip to court will require a muted colour, a weekend out means I can pull out my neons and my glitters. Nail polish has also stopped me biting. If I’m stressed, and my nails aren’t painted, I will bite them. If they have polish on them, they’re safe from the ravages of my teeth.

I’ve also found my nails have been an interesting point of conversation. I’ve actually had people facing criminal charges at court stop talking to the lawyer I was shadowing and say, “Wow, your nails are amazing.” A friend and I tried water marbling together a couple of a weekends ago as something to do on a Saturday afternoon (it did make eating cheese hard, my other favourite thing to do on a weekend).

Water colour marbled nails in pink green and yelloq

In cyberspace there is an absolutely astronomical amount of nail polish-related blogs (a quick Google of “nail polish blogs” gives nearly 18 million results). For those who have any question relating to nail polish, the Internet has dozens of people who will answer them for you. I enjoy reading the blogs, seeing what the new colours are, seeing what is going to be the next big thing (I think it is magnetic polish at the moment). There are some people who take it far too seriously for my liking (OMG YOU HAVE HANGNAILS, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED, WHY ARE YOU POSTING YOUR DISGUSTING NORMAL HANDS ON MY INTERNET?!?), but for the vast majority of people, it is a fun distraction from everyday life. That’s precisely what it is for me. It’s something I do for myself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to decide which particular shade of green I’m going to paint my nails today.


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Cesy grew up in a sheep farm in New Zealand. Accordingly some of her views are a bit strange.

72 thoughts on “An Ode to Nail Polish”

  1. Love Love Loved this article. I am obsessed with Nail polish too. I’m really into Turquoise right now. (today I’m wearing turquoise and caicos by essie)

    I work with college students and all my students/staff know about my nail polish collection and ask to come over and paint nails with me- men and women. Its adorable. My collection is actually on loan tonight for a Women’s Day party.

    How I got into nail polish/nail painting was in grad school. I was so stressed out I started painting my nails because it was one thing I could do where I could just focus on it and not have to think about doing anything else. It let me take a break and then a had a while where I couldn’t do anything/touch anything while my nails dried- it was magcial me time. I would paint my nails almost every day…with the quick dry polish…but it was magic.

  2. I love nail polish, I really do. But I hate nail polish remover. Taking off my polish is so gross that sometimes I just try to pick it off. Which never works. But seriously it feels like it’s dissolving the inside of my nose. How do you guys cope?

  3. I was inspired by the 90’s flashback post yesterday and did ombre nails last night…

    I, too, am addicted to nail polish. I paint my toes about 5 times a week. I could open my own nail salon with the quantity and selection I have accumulated. It just makes me so happy.

  4. I have the exact opposite reaction to my fingernails when there’s polish on them – I pick at them more, and quickly destroy any pretty effects…  I have colours for my toes, which I love getting painted, but I CANNOT handle polish on my hands – my fingers feel weighted down, and all I can do is rub them and shake them – seriously I’m like a cat that’s had a Christmas ribbon taped to it’s head – GET IT OFF!!!


  5. I just don’t dare. When I think about nail polish it’s “Oh pretty! I can’t make them as pretty, they will flake, it’s more nuisance than fun yeah never mind.”

    Maybe because for the first sixteen years of my life my nails were split and now I’m just still glad that they’re whole and pretty strong. Maybe.

  6. Oh, I love this! Painting my nails is, for me, a way of unwinding when I’m getting stressed. Having to sit quietly and focus on something simple does wonders. Though of course, there are times when I paint my nails and I’m not stressed in the slightest. And, oh my, how I love the Rimmel 60 second polishes. There’s one in particular that is an almost clear polish that’s full of glitter. Sling it over any other colour and enjoy the sparkles! It’s quite ace.


    And it makes me so, so sad. I have tried and tried again to do it, but much like my many forays into knitting, it has never worked out. My main problem is that I can’t paint my right hand with my left, which is really weird because in all other instances I am almost completely ambidextrous. So my pain is multiplied because LEFT HAND WTF??? IF YOU CAN WRITE CURSIVE AND MAKE IT LOOK GOOD, THIS SHOULD BE NO PROBLEM. And yet, my right hand looks like a 3-year old got a hold of the polish. Blech.


    1. Today it looks like a 3 year old has painted my nails, I’ve got flooded cuticles and crap everywhere. I don’t try and get it perfect all the time (as can be seen in the water marble nails). But I can definitely appreciate the frustration!

    2. Aw, I am the same way, but I still paint my nails at least once a week.

      If you get the polish all over you skin instead of the nail it doesn’t matter because the next day the polish on the skin will come off in the shower and hand washes. *shrug*

  8. This is me!  Last summer my [very good] friend sat me down, gave me an awesome manicure and lectured/shamed me about nail biting.  After she was done she said, “I’m very sorry I was so mean. I hope that you never bite a nail again.”  I have not, I have also only gone 3 days with naked nails since then.  I find it very relaxing and fills the time after my daughter has gone to bed and I’m alone. Beats the potato chip habit I used to have :)

    I love China Glaze polishes because they dry so fast and are relatively cheap.

    1. If my nails are bare and I’m stressed, I will bite still. When we went south for Mr. Cesy’s brothers funeral last year, I had to go and buy nail polish because I hadn’t bought any with me and I was biting them like no tomorrow.

      You’re so right in it does actually help with mindless night time snacking. Can’t eat popcorn, it will stick to my nail polish!

  9. For anyone trying out water marbling, I have a secret to keep your fingers polish free. Glue. Just pain on a thin layer all of elmer’s white glue and wait for it to dry. You can go through all the steps and then when your nails are dry, just peel the layer off. I love this trick, because I can never make the tape work.


    In fact, I’m waiting for them to dry. It’s a gray blue color; actually it’s pretty close to my eye color. I didn’t even realize that.

    In the past 6 months I went from one bottle of nail polish to at least 10. Mostly due to my mom getting them on sale and giving me them. Before it wasn’t just something I thought about doing but now I’m getting pretty into it.. Bought two last week because I was thinking of muted or pastel colors.

    And I got the crackle stuff but I’m kinda disappointed in it. I dunno, maybe I just had the wrong color combination.


    1. Yeah I’m over the crackle now. Every so often I’ll pull it out and think about how awesome it was, but it doesn’t float my boat so much any more. That’s another thing about nail polish I like. It’s affordable fashion. I can have of the moment nails, even if I’m wearing ancient clothes and shoes, because I can afford a nail polish more often than I can afford a new outfit.

  11. Lord, I am so addicted to nail polish I’ve had to school myself in spending days without it, since I managed to spend an entire year without ever not having polish on my nails (what? It seems so normal to take old polish off, put new polish on).

    I recently discovered one of the Korean beauty shops has this fantastic nail stickers and I am in love with them. Also for a place where people are crazy about nails (Taiwan) and you see people with fake nails on their toes during the summer, it’s surprisingly hard to find good tools for doing it yourself.

      1. My favourite brand is OPI, but as I’m just a broke student it can be a bit hard to justify spending the money, although I did find a shop where they were selling them for about 6 euros a bottle (compared to France where the price is about 13, and even most stores in Taiwan sell it for around 10 euros), but the selection is limited. There’s a brand called Tsing here that I highly recommend if you can find it anywhere else – maybe on the internet – huge selection of colours, lasts just fine, esp with a top coat, and it’s dirt cheap – it costs about 1 euro here.

  12. That pastel marbling is amazing! It reminds me a little of these speckled candy eggs you used to be able to get around this time (a while before Easter). I’ve only recently dived back into nail painting, it was a big hobby of mine when I was 18, I used to paint black nails with silver french tips. Recently I’ve bought a  tiny rhinestones to put on nails but I’m a little hesitant to actually wear them, haven’t found the right top coat.

    1. Thank you! I haven’t found a combination of colours that I like more than that one, it really works for me. I haven’t got into the rinestones or things like that yet, mostly because if I do, it would add more expense to my habit! But I would LOVE a Konad kit.

    1. Yes! It’s cool! It’s not actually magnetic, but it contains iron filings. You hold a magnet up to the wet polish, and it makes patterns in the polish as the iron filings move around! It’s super cool, I really like it.


      1. I’ve used the Nails, inc ones. Which are pricey but good. It seems like, at least what I can tell from pictures, that the magnetic patterns are a little different per brand.

        Where did you get the Layla ones??? I didn’t even know China Glaze made some…

        1. I got the Layla one at Ulta, and Cesy is the author of the post, not a brand. The Layla is cool because the magnet is right on the lid so you can’t lose it and don’t have to pay for it separately. The China Glaze are brand new; they weren’t at Ulta when I went 2-3 weeks ago and Sally was sold out of the color I wanted.

  13. I love nail polish! I’m often too tired to want to spend any long period of time standing around in the bathroom (where we have a fan) waiting for them to dry, but especially in the summer I love to have bright colours on my nails. Especially with a super shiny top coat… or some of the Essie glitters.

  14. I love nail polish, and I do a pretty damn good job  of painting my nails, if I do say so myself! Recently though I’ve started trading services with a manicurist – I do social media things for her, she does my nails – and I am loving having Gelish on my nails. As much as I love not having my nails chip and the awesome things she can do with glitter, I do miss changing my polish all the time.

    1. My beauty therapist is trying to convince me to do those, but I’m the same, I like to change my colours far too often. Also the removal of the gel nails is such a bitch. My colleague  got them, but wasn’t informed about how hard they were to get off. Cue a lot of swearing and her storming down the hall to our boss yelling “BOSS, GIRL PROBLEMS. I NEED TO GO GET THIS SHIT REMOVED IMMEDIATELY”. He’s such a fantastic boss he let her go and get it removed during work time.

      1. I haven’t found them to be too difficult to get off…my manicurist puts the remover on cotton, then puts foil over the nail. We usually wait for 10, 15 minutes (chatting the whole time, so it goes by fast) and the Gelish come off super easy. I first got it done in October, then two times more after that, and then took a break for January and February. I didn’t notice any damage to my nails, but I didn’t want any to start by using this too much, either! Anyway, I get SO many compliments on them, and I love that you can experiment – if you don’t like the color, it just wipes off, because it doesn’t set until you cure it.

        1. I’ve used both Shellac and OPI Gel Color (both gel polishes) and they remove the same way: acetone (or Expert Touch for the OPI) on cotton, then wrap the nail in foil. Let sit for 15 minutes, and push off with an orangewood stick. I don’t love gel polish mostly because my nails grow really quickly, and I can always see growth before it’s time to take them off.

          1. Thanks for that! I thought it was the case, I was running around while my colleague was on the phone to her beauty therapist going “THE FOIL METHOD WORKS FOR GLITTER, SO IT SHOULD FOR GELS!”. She didn’t appreciate me running up and down the hall between our office yelling that while she was on the phone haha.

  15. I have weirdly small hands for a guy and freakishly even fingernails (which I think makes up for my two webbed toes on each feet, lol don’t even ask). Because my fingernails are so blessedly and randomly even, my friends like to paint them.

    I live a strange and mannequin-like existance. But ooh, sparkly!


    PS: I completely missed my point, which is that it’s weirdly fun to have someone paint my nails even when they’re going to wipe it off immediately afterwards. It also means they can do really weird designs, and since they’re all applying to Art schools said designs rawk. Er…sometimes my posts have no substance at all…

  16. BTW, I actually wrote this a few days ago, but have painted my nails green for today! The shade is Butter London British Racing Green. I didn’t actually know this was going up today, it’s just been the week of green nail polish for me.

  17. Yes! In the last two months this has become something I also love to do! It’s relaxing and it drives everybody else away (the smell) and so it’s just me, my polish and usually a rerun of Buffy. And I feel kind of victorious because as someone who was never very good at this sort of thing I have, with practice, become pretty damn good at painting my nails.

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