For as long as I can remember, I’ve collected nail polish. Currently, I have more than 100, which I regularly use. I rarely get my nails done in salons and prefer to paint them myself at home every few days. On the rare occasion that I do go to a pro—usually for gel manicures or Insta-baity extensions, I get a strong urge to change the color within a couple of days. I’ll admit, it’s time-consuming. But in my opinion, so is going to the salon.
Another thing about me: I’ve always had a fascination with spray paint. I collected cans as a kid and would go out in my backyard to spray random cardboard boxes for fun, in shades of silver, gold, and neon. So, when I heard spray nail polish was a thing a few months ago, I knew I had to get my hands on some. Spray color not only promises a faster, more precise at-home manicure, but the process is obviously a novelty, too—especially for those of us who can’t seem to nail the whole steady-hand thing while doing our own polish.
Nails inc was the first brand to debut the product (to much online excitement, I might add), but others quickly followed. Here, I put three different brands to the test.
Nails Inc Hoxton Market Paint Can Spray, $12
Since this was the original spray nail polish, I had high expectations. The application is simple enough: Apply a base coat, wait for it to dry, and spray the polish over your nails while holding the can a couple of inches away. Then let dry, apply a top coat, dry again, and wash off any excess color on skin. Easy!
I will say that the application process is extremely fast, but I found this particular formula to have a strange texture. On my nails, it didn’t dry as one even coat, and it looked bumpy and streaky.
Also—while the bottle claims it easily washes off your skin, I had to scrub hard with soap and water to get the excess color off my skin. In the process, some of the actual nail color started to chip off my nails, and the next day when I woke up, I had chipping on the tips of my nails. A disappointing beginner experience—but I plan to try it again because of the range of colors (hot pink, silver, taupe, baby pink, copper, gray, and red) and because it is fun to apply. Maybe there’s a learning curve?
Milk Makeup Spray Nail, $12
With all the excitement about Nails inc’s sprayable polish, Milk quietly released its own version around the same time. The application is no different and the formula comes in three shades: Throwie (light iridescent pink), Dubs (metallic silver), and Burner (bronze).
What I loved about Milk’s version is that the polish went on evenly during my first try. The coverage was killer—not streaky—and the excess color on the skin around my nails came off immediately with warm water. Even better: The results lasted almost a full work week without any chipping. What’s more, Milk also encourages the product to be used with a stencil or as an accent color sprayed on the tips of already-painted nails. Think of it as a new, chicer version of ombré.
Since it’s so easy to use, and the results last, it’s a great alternative to just throw over some already chipped nails—whether you cover the entire nail or just the tips.
Spray Perfect, $19.99
This recently released as-seen-on-TV product is pricier than the other two options, but it comes in wearable colors the other two brands don’t offer—black, white, and purple. Again, the application is exactly the same. While applying this particular formula, I became aware that because of the way my nails are curved, lifting my hand to ensure the sides get coverage is essential.
I tested out the red color and loved the unexpected metallic tint—so cool. It also easily washed off of my skin. Still, I have to dock a couple of points because—despite applying two layers of top coat—some big-time chipping started a few hours later.
The moral of this spray-polish story? The color is really, really fun to use (and making Boomerangs on Instagram while applying it is also pretty addictive), but I think it’s best used as an accent color. Also, things get messy—like, elementary-school-art-project messy. You’ll definitely need a paper towel or piece of printer paper underneath before the spraying can begin.