Try It: Fume-Free, Foolproof, DIY Nail Art

Photo:  Kim Lucian

Photo: Kim Lucian

A couple months ago, I decided to make nail polish art, which—it turns out—is a horrible idea unless you want a nail polish high/headache for the rest of the day. I'm pretty sure the whole fiasco is bound to repeat itself if I ever actually attempt the nail art class I bought from Brit + Co, so I've been keeping my nail art simple—and fume free—with Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Polish Strips. It's real nail polish that binds to your nail like a piece of tape, zero drying time required.

When polish strips were all the rage in the early 20-teens, I tried all of them. The Essie versions for $12. An absurdly expensive set from Skins 6|2 in Vegas. The textured Sephora variety. For price, ease of application, and durability, the Sally Hansen nail strips are the best: they're less than $10, and they usually last 10 days. When you're over it, use acetone-based nail polish remover to return to normal without destroying the finish of your nails.

The problem with nail strips is they were a hot trend for a hot second, and then Vogue declared nail art dead and most companies stopped making them. It's hard to find them IRL now. The bigger Bay Area Walgreen's stores—like the fancy outpost on Powell Street—continue to be reliable sources, but they're among the last holdouts in the nail strip world.

So why get your hopes up about a product that's increasingly difficult to locate? Because it's a great product, and there are still loads of these beauties on Amazon for next to nothing. Granted, a lot of the designs are tacky, and nail art isn't everyone's jam, but there are plenty of solid options as well. Think about it: fresh nails in 10–15 minutes, no drying time required. (I wouldn't recommend doing dishes right after you finish applying them, but you could wash your hands or rifle through your bag within an hour without ruining them.) Whether you want outrageous art, or just a pretty, solid manicure, that's a tempting proposition. 

I've assembled a few of my favorites below, including solids. All of these ring in at the $5–$10 range, and are either available on Prime, or come with free shipping.


Need help getting started? Here's a 2011 video from someone who lacks perspective on camera angles and the general terror of giant lace fingernails waving in your face; it's actually one of the better tutorials on YouTube. Full disclosure: the first time you work with nail stripes takes a little longer, so budget 30-45 minutes. Once you get the hang of it, you can apply a full set in about 10–15 minutes.