There’s a line in the 2004 novel Bergdorf Blondes, written by former Vogue editor Plum Sykes, that has stuck with me. In the opening scenes of the book, the narrator says that her fingernails “literally hurt if they don’t have NARS Candy Darling pink varnish on them.” This is how I’ve begun to feel if my nails aren’t sporting a coat or two of Ella + Mila’s vegan nail polish. To say that their polishes are life-changing is not an exaggeration.
I had been loyal to a certain popular nail salon brand for most of my adult life, until I encountered Ella + Mila. Because I do a lot of things that are particularly hard on nail polish (rock climbing, guitar-playing, cooking), at-home manicures have always been the more practical choice for me. As such, I’m constantly on the hunt for nail polishes that are easy to apply, dry quickly, and won’t chip within a day or two.
I’ve always liked the idea of finding a 17-free polish brand that doesn’t contain potentially harmful chemicals, but most of the ones I’d tried in the past were either lacking in ease of use, color options, or staying power. But after my first time using Ella + Mila, I was in love. If it weren’t for the about section on their website, I wouldn’t have even known they were vegan.
The Perfect At-Home Manicure
The single most important factor in a nail polish to use at home, for me, is ease of application. I’m not a professional, so I don’t love a thin, finicky brush that’s designed for use by actual nail artists. The Ella + Mila brush is a little wider and more contoured, so I can cover my entire nail bed in just one or two strokes.
Each coat goes on relatively thin and smooth, so it doesn’t clump or wrinkle. It only needs two coats to reach opacity, and I have to do minimal “cleanup” of my manicure, which is great for those days when I’m just trying to get a quick coat of polish on my nails before I head out the door.
Normally, I skip base coats, because I’ve never found one that I feel like makes a noticeable difference in the end product of my manicure. Ella + Mila’s Firm Foundation base coat is an exception. I find that it not only helps my polish go on better, but it has helped to strengthen my nails over time.
And when I want my nails to have something on them but don’t have time to wait for several coats of polish to dry, I often reach for the brand’s All About the Base formula, which dries in minutes and makes my natural nails look a little chicer.
Since I am a pretty impatient person, I always prefer a quick-dry topcoat. For a while, I was using a regular topcoat and was still pretty impressed by how fast my nails dried (usually within 30 minutes), but with the In A Rush topcoat, my nails are ready to go in half the time.
If you’re in even more of a hurry, you can pair that with the Gotta Jet drops, which make the process even quicker.
Of course, a major part of finding a nail polish brand that you love is finding one that has colors you’re obsessed with. While my collection of nail polish is vast, it’s also kind of predictable. I gravitate toward anything on the spectrum of grays and clays, ballet-slipper pinks, and seasonal jewel-tones.
I love that Ella + Mila doesn’t just have one great light pink shade — they have around 20.
If you like the look of ombré or monochromatic-ish manicures, the subtle variations in the brand’s collection make these looks easy to achieve. Just scrolling through their color chart is enough to stir feelings in anyone who adores a gradient.
Even though I’m not great at nail art, I love trying to recreate manicures I see on TikTok, so with my latest Ella + Mila haul, I decided to go for a subtle clay-colored ombré with gold glitter accents.
The glitter polishes aren’t gloopy and layer really nicely over the brand’s solid colors, so I was able to achieve a manicure I was happy with in around 10 minutes, flat. It came out so well, I couldn’t stop staring at my nails, especially when the sunlight caught the glitter.
How Does It Hold Up?
The day after my ombré glitter manicure, I went to the climbing gym and was delighted to find that there was not a single chip.
In my experience, Ella + Mila’s polishes last for around a week, even if you tend to be pretty hard on your nails. If you tend to bite your nails, they have a topcoat for that, which can further extend the lifetime of your manicure.
Taking It Off
The very first Ella + Mila product that I became fully obsessed with was actually their soy nail polish remover. It removed not only a stubborn glitter topcoat but the residue of a previous dark red manicure that had started to stain my nail beds.
It also smelled like lavender, making the process of taking off my nail polish legitimately relaxing — though if you prefer an unscented nail polish remover, they make one of those as well. And for travel and unexpected nail polish emergencies, Ella + Mila sells handy nail polish remover wipes.
The fact that this could be achieved with an acetone-free nail polish remover was mind-blowing for me. Most non-acetone removers I’d used in the past were totally ineffective or required a lot of elbow grease. With this remover, you simply dab it on your nails, let it sit for a minute or so, and then the polish usually comes off in a single swipe. Even glitter. Seriously.
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