The Secret To A Perfect Manicure Isn't What You Might Think

You know that feeling when everything goes right with your manicure? The polish covers every. last. micrometer of the nail, but none of the skin? There's not a single bubble or streak? No fingerprint smudges from checking if it's dry? That's what we call a good paint job — and it's likely one you haven't pulled off at home.

But maybe, just maybe, that's because you haven't been introduced to your brush soulmate yet. Allow us to take you on a tour of the Nail Brush Hall of Fame. (Oh, you haven't heard of it? Weird. It's kind of a big deal.)

The Nail Brush Hall of Fame highlights the polishes with brushes that do all the work for you. Looking to coat all ten fingers in record time? We've got you. Need something that's precise enough for small nails? No problem. Ready to accept a nail painting challenge? There's a tool for that. Ahead, manicurist Jessica Washick, Creative Director for Van Court Nail Studio, explains what makes a polish brush a star. Get ready to line up your team.
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Brush Type: Oval stem with rounded, flat brush

Pros Say: This is great for a fool-proof, perfect manicure shape around the cuticles without too much effort. This brush allows for quick application — with one caveat: Thumb nails, which are often more square, can be trickier to fully cover in one swipe.

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Fast Drying Nail Color, $4.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Brush Type: Short and narrow

Pros Say: The narrow brush gives more precise application and control when painting — making this a great tool for all skill levels. Washick warns against heavy-handedness with this brush, though, saying it may cause pull-up around the cuticle when the second coat is applied.

Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish, $11.49, available at Target.
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Brush Type: Long and narrow

Pros Say: “I've always found Revlon brushes to work well across the board. This brush helps you lay down a good, smooth first coat of polish,” says Washick. Though it's a great brush overall, the length of the bristles can make it a bit more difficult to get perfect detail when attempting nuanced nail art.

Revlon Nail Enamel, $5.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Brush Type: Wide and thick

Pros Say: This brush is best for those with nails on the larger side. “I always feel like OPI's brushes are best for large nail beds since the brush is so wide,” says Washick. The wide, thick brush creates a smooth application, making this a great choice for more skilled painters. Washick also warns against picking up too much polish when using this brush.

OPI Top Coat, $10, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Brush Type: Long stem with thin, rounded, flat brush

Pros Say: This brush is great for precise application around the cuticle — from the pinky to the pointer finger. The flat brush applies color easily in fewer swipes, but the thinner style makes for more accurate strokes.

Lancome Vernis In Love, $15.50, available at Lancome.
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Brush Type: Thick and flat with triangular bristles

Pros Say: This brush smooths polish evenly over the nail and lays down a good first coat even if you’re heavy-handed. But getting accuracy around rounded cuticles takes a little more skill.

CND Vinylux Weekly Polish, $10.50, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Brush Type: Long and thin

Pros Say: “If you're heavy-handed, this is a good one for you. With the thin brush, you can lay on some paint and then smooth it out over the nail,” says Washick. “If you're not heavy-handed, you may have to do a few strokes to get a good first coat, and if you're not careful, you can end up with an uneven looking mani.”

China Glaze Nail Lacquer with Hardeners, $6.99, available at Sally Beauty.
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