I tried 4 different types of manicures in search of the GOAT. Here is my honest review.

Shellac/Gel. Acrylic. SNS. BIAB. There are more options for your fingernails than ever before. And just when you think you've found the best/safest/most durable/prettiest system that works for you, another abbreviation enters the conversation, and nail overwhelm ensues. 

But never fear. I have volunteered my nails, so you don't need to! 

First, a little about me and my manicure style... 

I'm 34, love nails that are mid-length and almond-esque in shape with slender sides and a slightly rounded point ("Ohhh, you mean pointy, not sharp!" said one frustrated technician). My nail colour palette is pretty much restrained to natural/light pinks, classic red or wine. Think rosé, apples, and shiraz; no wild colours to be seen here (but kudos to you crazy kids who play!). 

So, with intros out of the way, come, friend. Let's get straight to it.

SNS/Dip powder.

"My name is Rebecca Davis, and I am addicted to SNS."

Well, past me was. 

For five years straight, I kid you not; I had a standing monthly appointment. I was lured away from one brief flirtation with shellac by the promise of "healthier nails" and "it'll last longer". 

I doubtfully - but ever-so-willingly - gulped it up. 

My go-to autumnal-winter SNS mani. Image: Rebecca Davis.


SNS delivered on many fronts: good colour selection, super durable, and I could get a full month out of a manicure. 

And most gratifyingly for my type-a, perfectionist self? Not a chip nor a crack in sight after a week - or even four. Untainted, shiny perfection. 


But all good things must come to an end, and by that I mean... COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Just like that, the shiny fingered women of Melbourne descended into panic and the depths of YouTube with frantic searches like; 'How to remove SNS at home?'


I resisted, pushing past the four-week mark to the sixth, but drew the line at eight weeks.

These suckers had to come off. Either they did, or I would end up with bald patches from hair snagged beneath lifting SNS during a shampoo.  

But that sh*t is like cement. And the truth is, you need copious amounts of cotton wool, nail polish with acetone (I learned the hard way), aluminium foil, hardcore emery boards, gin and tonic, and patience. 

Lots of patience. 

When my nails finally saw the light of day, it was confronting. 

They certainly were not "healthier".

Shivers down my spine. Still. Image: Rebecca Davis.


While I always had a hunch that this outcome would most certainly be the reality, addiction is real.

But in that moment, I made a vow. No more SNS. Ever. Even after lockdowns, when I returned to hedonistic pursuits of vanity. 

Find a better way.

The home manicure.

Well, lockdown was... long. And thus began the quest to repair my nails. 

I trimmed them back, filed them into a squ-oval (the only shape I seem capable of doing myself), and with the devoted practice of a monk, night time became steeped in (nail) ritual. 

Bed. A slathering of the luxurious Aesop Rejuvenate Intensive Body Balm (it's richer than their hand cream) massaged into my parched hands. A delicate coat of Kester Black's Rest and Repair Mask. Sleep.

Packed with exactly 76 per cent naturally sourced ingredients, the Kester Black elixir contains antioxidant-packed organic white tea, fermented rice, kefir, sake, lily, sweet almond and vitamin E oils. 

It sounds a little bougie. But praise God, it bloody worked.

From weak and splitting nails, within just a couple weeks, it reinvigorated them with strength and natural gloss, and they actually all grew - without breaking. 


Nail resurrection achieved!

My reinvigorated nails. Image: Rebecca Davis.

Gel Nails/Shellac.

It took one month after our doors flung open following the final lockdown before my bottom was back on a nail salon seat. But not for SNS, no, no. This time, I was conscious of my nail health and determined to maintain their newfound natural loveliness. 

But I also had a wedding coming up, and wanted to feel a little special, ya know?


So, I went with a gel French manicure. 

The only pic I seem to have of said manicure... but also, the Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer is BOMB. Image: Rebecca Davis. 

It was very nice. 

Compared to SNS, I loved the extra shine, and it was so much more natural looking too.

So, I've done it a couple times.


Image: Rebecca Davis.

But, gel just doesn't last as long as I would like. 

And once the peeling starts at the 10 day/two-week mark, one must muster all self-control to not pick

Sadly, this is not me. 

My one tip when getting gel... make sure you are going to a good salon for the application, and most importantly, for the removal. It will be pricier, but worth it. Ensure your technician uses non-powered tools, and is gentle in taking off the gel - not scrapping at your fingernail.



Now this might just be the nail holy grail. Say hello to BIAB - Builder in a Bottle. 

It's basically the lovechild of gel and SNS. Like gel, it's super glossy and light (though not quite as light as gel, but not as thick as SNS with its 'hump' as it grows out). 

Similarly to gel, it's also applied as a paint and sealed under the UV lamp. 

Yet, it has the durability of SNS - minus the damage, and that's all because of the removal process.

The devil in the SNS is because it needs to be removed entirely from the nail before a new set can be re-applied. That usually means lots of acetone, and electric buffer tools. And, along with the SNS, a layer of nail is also stripped or damaged. 

But that's avoided with BIAB.

You see, the clear base is painted on, and then the colour applied on top of that. When you are ready to change your colour, only that top layer of colour is removed.

The bottom of the nail is in-filled (covering the new growth since the previous manicure), it's smoothed out, and a fresh colour is painted on top. And the base only needs to be replaced once every few months.

BIAB: I'm. in. love. Image: Rebecca Davis.


Almost four weeks since my BIAB manicure, and I can report, this manicure is still perfect! 

My heart is still. 

Because while the dogged pursuit of perfection evades most areas of life, I'll be damned if my nails are anything but. 

Yes, you can call me type-A crazy. 

But I'll just call me, happy. 

Keen to read more from Rebecca Davis? You can find her articles here, or follow her on Instagram.

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