A Science-Based Beauty Guru’s Top 10 Picks for the Best Nail Products

Lab Muffin Michelle
Lab Muffin
Michelle Wong has a PhD in chemistry and explains the science behind beauty products, debunks common myths, and helps people make smarter decisions at her blog, Lab Muffin Beauty Science. She also has a YouTube channel. You can find her on Instagram at @labmuffinbeautyscience.
Whether you frequent your local nail salon or paint your nails every other Sunday afternoon, taking proper care of your nails is more important than you realize. And there's a lot of information out there, whether it's about methodologies or the goods themselves.

In order to sift fact from fiction, we asked Michelle to tell us about some products that actually worked for her and, more importantly, why they work.

Michelle's Top Picks

Blue Cross Cuticle Remover

Blue Cross Cuticle Remover

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Price : $6.05

No More Cuticle Cutters: Clean Up Around Your Nail with this Cuticle Remover

This is really good for cleaning up around the base of the nail. If there’s any stray bits of skin, it preps the surface of the nail for nail polish application. It makes it really smooth and cleans up without the risk of cutting into your living skin. If you use it regularly, you can apply it about once or twice a week. Eventually, you wont have to use any cuticle cutters. It's a huge bottle so it doesn't run out quickly!

Sometimes, I’ve had a small cut near there and a little bit has gotten in and it hurts. Also, if you leave it on too long, it’s not good for you. I find that it is a little bit watery, but I don’t mind it because it's really cheap. I sit still while it's on, but if you want to move your hands around a bit, a thicker one would be better.

LUSH Lemony Flutter

LUSH Lemony Flutter

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Visit LUSH for more details

Price : $39.95

Shea Butter-Infused Cuticle Butter for Ultimate Moisturization

The skin around my nails tends to get hard very easily, so I need moisturizers to soften it. This is a very greasy, paste-like balm. And I find that if I put it on overnight, it softens the skin around my nails really well. The Lemony Flutter is a bit too greasy to use during the day because it tends to get on my keyboard and stuff like that.

The scent is a bit strong, but I personally like it. The main ingredient is shea butter and I think that if you find another shea butter-based balm, it would have a similar effect. For overnight treatments, I’m okay with a thick balm. But if I’m moisturizing my fingers during the day, I much prefer an oil; the oils sink in a bit more easily.

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat

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Price : $7.75

Don't Fret Over Small Mistakes: Smooth it Out with this Top Coat

I like this top coat because it dries very quickly. It takes about 5 minutes to set reasonably solidly. If you bump your nails while they’re not quite dry, you can use this to smooth them back out. Also, if you didn’t apply the nail polish very well, it evens it out and makes it look very professional afterwards.

You should apply it before your underneath layer is completely dry; otherwise, it doesn’t work quite as well. Also, you need to apply it to the very edge of your fingernails as well. If your polish does chip, then it tends to chip very badly and peel off very quickly. But for me, the fact that it looks so nice kind of counteracts that.

OPI Nail Lacquer Skull & Glossbones

OPI Nail Lacquer Skull & Glossbones

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Price : $15.99

Consistently Good Quality Nail Polish and a Classy Color

I like the fact that OPI's formula is very consistent. If you pick up an OPI nail polish, it will be quite good. I also like the fact that most of their colors are completely opaque in just one or two coats. I also like their brushes; they’re quite fat, so it doesn’t take so many strokes to apply the nail polish.

I personally like "Skull & Glossbones" because it’s a very pretty grey color that looks good on most people. And I like that it's office appropriate without being boring.

Duri Rejuvacote

Duri Rejuvacote

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Visit Duri for more details

Price : $14.00

Let Formaldehyde Help Strengthen Your Weak, Brittle Nails

Duri Rejuvacote contains formaldehyde. A lot of people are scared of formaldehyde, but it’s not that dangerous. The main thing that formaldehyde does is strengthen your nails because it forms extra chemical bonds in between the nail protein fibers. So if your nails are weak, brittle, and flaky, it can really help with that and make your nails stronger.

In general, if you use it in a well-ventilated area and try not to breathe it in too much, it’s pretty safe. I don’t, however, recommend it to pregnant women. For people who are just doing their nails at home, it’s pretty low risk. But if you’re a nail salon worker, for example, you should be much more careful about ventilation.

CND Solar Oil

CND Solar Oil

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Visit CND for more details

Price : $49.95

A Not-Too-Greasy Moisturizing Nail and Cuticle Oil

Solar Oil is a light moisturizing treatment, which I typically use during the day. It’s for softening dry skin around the nails. It contains a lightweight mixture of jojoba oil, rice bran oil, sweet almond oil and vitamin E that can sink into your skin easily.

It also keeps them moisturized without being too greasy. I use it maybe once every couple of days.

ZOYA Remove +

ZOYA Remove +

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Price : $10.00

This will Remove Nail Polish while Moisturizing Your Fingers

I like that this remover contains glycerin. Glycerin is really good for moisturizing your fingers. Usually, after you remove nail polish, your nails are dried out a bit because remover is a strong solvent and it removes some of the oils from your skin. But because Zoya Remove + has so much glycerin in it, it makes sure your nails stay hydrated.

It also has acetone, which is the strongest nail polish remover, so it removes polish really quickly while also moisturizing your nails. It’s a bit hard to find in Australia, so I make my own formula.

Orly Basecoat Bonder

Orly Basecoat Bonder

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Price : $8.19

A Basecoat that will Make Your Nail Polish Last

I find that this keeps my nail polish on longer. It’s the base coat that works the best for my nails and it also helps prevent staining of the nails.

I've heard that body chemistry differs among different people, so different base coats will work for different people. That being said, Orly Bonder works for most people. It's one of the most popular base coats amongst nail polish addicts.

VAGA Glass Nail Files

VAGA Glass Nail Files

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Price : $4.99

An Efficient, Reusable Nail File

Glass files have a very fine grit, so they’re less likely to damage your nail while filing. They’re also reusable, and they don’t wear down as quickly as a regular nail file. Metal files are also fine, but the grit isn't as fine as that of a glass file.

Glass nail files are all typically similar in both style and quality. However, I've heard that other people have broken them. So be careful, because if you drop them on a hard surface, they will shatter.

Pana Acrylic Nail Brush

Pana Acrylic Nail Brush

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Price : $15.99

Clean Up the Edge of Your Nails with a Paint Brush

After I apply color, I dip the paint brush into nail polish remover and then I clean up the edges of my nails. Even with tons of practice, I still find that I paint a little on my skin or the edge of the nail polish is not completely smooth. Using the paint brush means that I can smooth it back out and fix any mistakes.

I found that the nail polish remover does tend to melt the glue inside the brush a bit, so the bristles fall out after a while. So I usually look for something quite inexpensive so I can easily replace it.


Michelle's walked us through her methodology, introducing both nail giants, like OPI, and quirky tools, like paintbrushes. You can try all of them or just a few select items. But, in any case, with Michelle's top 10 nail care products, we hope you'll have healthier, more beautiful nails!

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