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Sherri Richards, Published June 27 2012

Thursday review: Nail polish strips a fun manicure alternative

FARGO – The last salon manicure I splurged on was ruined before I got to my car. The pearly polish on my fingernails chipped and smudged as soon as I grabbed my keys out of my purse.

By comparison, Sally Hansen Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips provide a relatively durable paint job and a shiny, funky finish, though the application is a bit awkward.

The strips come in 40 colorful patterns. I considered a pastel butterfly print before purchasing “Animal Instinct” – black zebra stripes on fuchsia.

The kit includes 16 (yes, 16) nail polish strips in a variety of widths, and a cuticle stick, mini file and buffer.

The directions stressed how important it was to start with clean, dry nails, and insisted the nails be swiped with nail polish remover one last time. “Warm hands” are also recommended for “maximum flexibility and stretch.”

I had some trouble peeling the plastic fronts and backs off the strips, and all the extra pieces made a mess of my work area.

A variety of sizes meant some strips did fit the width of some of my fingernails perfectly, while in other cases I had to choose between a strip that was too wide or too narrow. (All were comically too long for my nails, most which extend just beyond the tips of my fingers.)

The directions say to gently stretch the strip for a perfect fit, though doing so created a couple of small tears in the polish strips. The directions weren’t clear on what to do if the strip is too wide, so I ended up trying to pick off the extra.

After smoothing the strip onto the nail, you’re supposed to run the cuticle stick along the strip to firmly bond the strip to the nail, smooth the excess over the edge of the nail, and file away the extra. This was easier said than done, especially on my shortest nails.

Application took about five minutes per nail. I imagine it would take less time with practice.

I did appreciate that I could stop between nails and not have to worry about smudging the polish, as there is no dry time required.

Though my nails weren’t wet, I found myself holding my fingers out straight and wide as if they were. The strips felt a bit foreign on my fingernails at first, but I was able to type on my keyboard and do household chores immediately.

The product says the polish lasts up to 10 days, though that wasn’t the case for me. After a day or so, there were chips at the bottom and edges of my nails where the strip’s edge had peeled and torn away, perhaps because I didn’t do the best job adhering them. Within two to three days, the tips had chipped slightly from wear and tear.

This sort of wear is far less than I usually have with regular polish, but I wasn’t able to touch up the paint job with a dab of polish like I normally would.

Bottom line: The polish strips are cheaper than a manicure (I paid $8.50 at Walmart but saw them later for $5 at Family Dollar) and the patterns would be difficult to duplicate at home. They’re a good option for an occasional set of flashy fingernails but not a replacement for plain old polish.