not a professional. just crazy.

This $18 Nail Strengthener Put Me Off Dior Nail Glow

Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

Odds are I’m wearing one of two manicures: fun, colorful gel extensions (usually with some kind of French detailing) or natural, glossy, bare nails. Sometimes I keep my nails short and simple for utilitarian purposes (like when I was performing facials in aesthetician school), but more often than not, short nails mean that I’ve had the recent and impulsive urge to abandon my extravagant extensions and embrace a more minimalist approach to beauty. This might sound strange, but sometimes I just don’t want my nails to be a thing, another accessory I need to upkeep, spend money on, and think about when I’m getting dressed.

But the transition from my long, elegant, decorated nails to short little nubs can be jarring, especially when my naked nails are looking a little tired and worn out from weeks of supporting extensions. But nothing, and I mean nothing, breathed instant life into my cracked and brittle nails quite like Dior Nail Glow. I learned about the polish years ago from a friend who occasionally works as a hand model for jewelry brands. Needless to say, my friend’s nails always looked immaculate — super-shiny, meticulously filed, and healthy — and when I asked if she took any supplements or did any special treatments to maintain them, she shook her head and shared that Dior Nail Glow was her secret.

There’s no denying that the chic, sleek packaging adorned with a Dior logo adds a certain level of luxury to the application experience. But that aside, the polish itself is something to behold: It’s a glossy top coat with a blush hue that, when applied to the nail, has this remarkable brightening effect that just makes your nails look radiant and healthy. Over the years, I’ve tried countless sheer pinks, nudes, and glossy top coats in an attempt to find an alternative, but there’s something about the specific, reflective bluish tone in Nail Glow’s pink tint that cancels out yellowness in the nails and leaves them looking particularly vibrant.

I’d be remiss not to mention that there are, however, some significant cons to falling in love with Dior’s Nail Glow: For starters, the polish is $30 a bottle, and the bottles are teeny tiny. And if that doesn’t put you off, this just might: Dior just reformulated Nail Glow in the past few months, and the reviews have been pretty lackluster. It sounds as though the new formula doesn’t have the same exact pink hue (it’s a bit subdued) and it tends to chip more quickly.

In light of the reformulation, I’d been keeping my eyes peeled for an alternative. It hadn’t been going well until a few weeks ago when I had lunch with a friend who showed up with nails that had that sheer pinky-purple hue that I had long been coveting. It wasn’t Dior Nail Glow — though she confessed that she was also obsessed with Dior’s original formula — but a strengthening polish from the brand Butter London, which she had originally purchased to treat her brittle nails but had since fallen in love with its beautiful sheer tint. And to make things even better, this polish was only $18, which is nearly half the price of Nail Glow.

Looking at it in the bottle, Butter London’s Jelly Preserve Strengthening Treatment in Victoria Plum looks like it would be a deep-purple shade, but once you give it a good shake and apply, it leaves a sheer, jammy pink that makes your nails look strong, bright, and healthy. If you prefer one, barely noticeable coat of Dior Nail Glow, rather than the stronger tint you get with two or three coats, you might not love this polish, as one coat of Jelly Preserve replicates the effect you get when you build Dior Nail Glow up. As far as the color goes, I’d also say that Jelly Preserve is a slightly deeper orchid to Dior Nail Glow, which is more of a lavender rose, but I actually prefer it, as I think it does a better job of concealing damage or yellowness on the nails (and I’d even argue it’s a better fit for fall!). Jelly Preserve also has a bit more of a satiny finish, so I like to apply whatever top coat I have lying around the house on top of it just to lock in an ultraglossy, high-shine finish.

Aside from the shade similarities to Dior Nail Glow, the best thing about Jelly Preserve is undeniably its nail-strengthening capabilities. The formula uses vitamin E, hydrolyzed keratin, calcium, and bamboo extract (among other things) to strengthen weak nails, keep them hydrated, and prevent future damage. I used Jelly Preserve after having a pretty botched nail-extension removal (the technician was rather aggressive), and within a week, my nails felt stronger, less brittle, and were no longer constantly breaking. A week or two of using Jelly Preserve combined with cuticle oil before bed has become a staple in my post-extension nail care, and it’s something I know I’ll continue to do each time I’m phasing out my extensions or just simply wanting to give my nails a bit of TLC. If you’re someone who, like me, fluctuates between natural nails and extensions, this polish is the perfect way to nurture your nails back to health with a neat, barely-there manicure.

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This $18 Nail Strengthener Put Me Off Dior Nail Glow