Nails Inc Kensington Topcoat (mini, full size £12) // OPI Matte Nail Envy, £18.55 (but currently £6.44 on Amazon!!)
OPI Matte Nail Envy
I picked this up from BuyaPowa as part of one of their co-buys, meaning it cost me about £8 rather than the eye-watering RRP of £18.55. Honestly, I'd never really bothered with a base coat before, I just settled for having slightly-stained nails after wearing darker colours. I also don't usually have my nails very long, because they annoy me, but despite this they still used to break and flake quite a lot. Since I've been using Nail Envy, though, they've been a lot stronger and it's reduced the flaking quite substantially - in fact, I can't remember the last time it happened! I use this every time I paint my nails, for me it's an essential for keeping them healthy and being the first step in a manicure. It can also be used over the top of a polish, to give a quirky matte-look manicure, and the brush makes for very easy application. The only issue I have is with the price, and as much as I love using it I don't think I could bring myself to pay the full RRP for it - but the Amazon price is much more affordable, and the results are definitely worth six quid - plus the bottle will last ages!
Nails Inc Kensington Caviar Topcoat
I got this little mini in a Glossybox, and it claims to give a glossy finish that dries in 45 seconds - and it actually delivers! Impressive, right? Having said that, it's only 'touch dry' rather than fully dry, so I'd say it's best to still not do anything too fiddly for a while after you've applied it. I've always been quite clumsy with nail polish, and smudged it before it dried, but using this I've found it a lot easier to have neat looking nails with no smudges or dents. It's also really good for preventing chips, I'm the type to end up chipping my nails right from the day after I paint them, but this makes a manicure last for up to 4 days, practically chip-free.
What are your manicure essentials?