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The thing about wearing bright red nail polish is that no matter your skin tone or hair colour, it's always going to pop. In fashion, we've seen the red accent trend play out in socks and tights and cute cardigans. So it's no surprise that the humble red manicure is having a moment this winter. Happily, I've discovered a fabulous '90s-inspired red nail polish that's casual enough to paint on in five minutes yet makes me feel effortlessly styled.
Over the years of beauty editing, I've tried more red nail polishes than I can count and I have a few favorites (which I'll get to). But this new red is an unexpected discovery. It's not a polish from the familiar brands, like Essie, CND or OPI. It was dreamed up and formulated by legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown. You've probably heard about, or even tried, Brown's makeup label Jones Road, which launched in 2020. (Remember the foundation in a jar that went viral when TikTok creator Meredith Duxbury slathered it all over her face like wet cement?) Today Brown extends beyond barely-there makeup, giving us the product category that we didn't know we needed from her: nail polish.
Jones Road Nail Polish Kit
A Jones Road nail polish immediately piqued my interest. After following Brown for years, I know of three things to be signature to her look: almost no makeup, rectangular-frame glasses and short, red nails. People have been asking her about the latter for years, so she decided to make a Jones Road Nail Polish Kit, complete with her signature poppy red polish, plus a ballerina pink ("the perfect sheer pink," according to Brown) and a clear polish that doubles as a base and top coat in one.
The red polish is the hero of the kit. Brown says its origin story dates back more than two decades. "Back in the '90s I was at a photoshoot," Brown explains. "In walks a supermodel in the most casual outfit, barely any makeup, hair pulled back and bright red, short nails. Every person turned their gaze in awe. The next day, everyone walked in with the same red nails — including me. I'll never forget how magnetic and impossibly chic it was," says Brown.
A model influenced Brown to make short, red nails her signature and in turn, Brown influenced me to try it. I've been going gel-free for about three months now, mostly to save time, but I was feeling a little bored with my go-to sheer polish, so this kit came to me at the perfect time — maybe the perfect time for you, too, if Valentine's Day red speaks to you.
As a makeup brand, Jones Road doesn't specialise in nail polish formulations, so I wasn't sure this would be up to snuff against my time-tested CND, Jinsoon, and DazzleDry polishes, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is the brush small and tight (I have small nail beds, so this is a must for me) but the poppy color is super pigmented; one light-handed coat and my nails were bright red and glossy. I didn't even need the clear coat. Not for nothing, the dry-down time was less than five minutes, which was all the time that I gave them before getting dressed and running to get in my Uber.
After almost a week of wear — and no chips to speak of — I'm newly invested in making short, red nails my signature. (That is, before I decide I want to try Ballerina.)
If you don't want to spend £44 on the Jones Road Kit but want to find a good, red polish to have at home, try Max Factor Masterpiece Xpress Nail Polish She's Reddy, £5.99, which dries in next to no time or Rimmel Super Gel Nail Polish Rock N Roll, £6.99. You also can't go wrong with OPI Big Apple Red, £14.90, — it's a consistent top-seller for a reason. Black-owned nail-care brand Emolyne makes a stunning, true red polish (Port Elizabeth, £13) that's chic and foolproof.
According to Brown, short, red nails are the ideal accessory for a "casual" beauty person. "Really, there's nothing polished about me," Brown says. "My hair is always wet or in a ponytail and I'm in a casual outfit. But my red nails make me feel confident," she explains. Writing this in my leggings and sweatshirt, watching my little red nails fly across the keyboard, I have to agree, a red manicure complements my casual style.