Polish Showdown: OPI vs Sally Hansen vs Essie

Hello all! Today I’m doing something a little different. I’ve been on the hunt for a long-wearing nail polish formula for quite awhile. In my search I’ve collected polishes from Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, OPI Infinite Shine and Essie’s new Gel Couture line. Each of these promises gel-like shine & longevity, without the UV lamp of traditional gel polish. But do any of them live up to their claims? Well, I’m going to give them a whirl and see who comes out on top!

Prepping the nails: I’ve discovered that the proper prep can add days to my manicure. I like to buff my nails first, to give a better base for adhesion. Julep Buffer Blocks are my favorites ($5 / 4 pack). Next I clean my nails with Formula X Cleanse and let dry for a minute.

About the Formulas:

OPI Infinite Shine – Infinite shine differs from the other two formulas in that it is 3 steps instead of 2. Unlike the other two, this sytem contains a base coat that “Goes beyond base – it actually primes nails for a revolutionary grip on color while preventing staining“. It promises “Lasting, high shine nail color. No LED or UV light. Lasts up to 10 days. State-of-the-art formula includes gel polymers that cures to a hard film in natural light, yet removes easily without soaking“. Price is $12.50 (0.5 oz)

Essie Gel Couture – Essie Gel Couture promises “Up to 14 days of color and shine in unique, couture-inspired shades. No lamp required. Easy removal. Shatter-proof, hard shell technology extends wear and prevents chipping“. As far as I can tell, this formula is the only one that doesn’t use light to cure. Price is $11.50 (0.46 oz)

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel – Miracle Gel was the first at home not-quite-a-gel system I tried (it may have been the first one out). They are on the second formulation of the top coat. According to them, “The only true 2-step gel manicure with no light needed. Shades that wow! Leading the revolution in gel technology. Patented & exclusive gel color system. Natural-light-curing technology“. Price is $9.99 (0.5 oz)


OPI Infinite Shine – The bottles are nice, basically the same as all of OPI’s other packaging. The frosted glass of step one is a nice touch, as is the silver top and lettering on the bottles. Unfortunately, the brush puts it in last place here. It’s not much thicker than a standard brush, and has square edges, which makes for more difficult application.

Essie Gel Couture – I think Essie is the clear winner of this round. The bottle is a lovely X shape, with the brush stem mirroring the swirled design. The brush itself is thick and rounded, which is great for even, neat application.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel – Sally Hansen has the least exciting packaging, in my opinion. It’s got a more pop-y youth focused vibe to me. The bottle is very sturdy glass though (I’m prone to dropping things I’m carrying, so this is a plus). It also has a thick rounded brush, which puts it slightly ahead of OPI.

Application & Formula:

OPI Infinite Shine – Application was the most difficult of the three, due to the brush.  The color formula itself was fantastic – very pigmented. Solid color after two thin coats. The promised drying time (to fully dry) was 15 minutes & I would say that’s about right. It was very quick. Obviously you can’t go roughing up your nails, but it is dry enough to do most things. Dried down the fastest, not by much.

Essie Gel Couture – This one had the easiest application, thanks to the brush and evenness of the formula. All the colors I tried covered fully in two coats. Also very quick to dry. It took a bit longer than OPI to be touchable, but not much.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel – Also very easy to apply, due to the brush shape. It has the thickest formula of the three, but is not what I consider thick. There is some inconsistency in the color coverage. Some cover evenly after two coats, but many shades maintain a translucent quality if you look closely. They don’t look streaky or bad (or really noticeable), but its something to be aware of if you like more cream-based formulas with solid coverage. This one takes a long time to dry down as well. I wouldn’t touch it for at least 45-60 minutes. 

Color & Shine:

Grapely Admired

OPI Infinite Shine – This one had the least shine, but was still considerably more shiny than most topcoats. The colors are lovely on the nails – creamy and solid. There are a lot of basics here, and some really gorgeous shades but nothing terribly unique. From what I can count, there are about 79 colors in the line. Some faves are Grapely Admired, Lincoln Park After Dark, You Don’t Know Jaques!

#80 Twill Seeker

Essie Gel Couture – Essie is just about tied for first place in the shine category. The colors are very pigmented, covering fully in two coats. There is a sheer line, but I didn’t try any of those. A few of my favorite shades are in this line – it has a couple of unique shades that really stand out. So far there are 42 shades to choose from. Some standouts for me are Twill Seeker, Zip Me Up and Hang Up the Heels

#839 Stilettos & Studs

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel – The Miracle Gel formula has the most shine of the three, barely edging out Essie. I would say it is on par with most gel formulas. The colors are more varied with a good mix of metallic & cream shades. Fairly basic offerings for the most part, with a few more unique colors being made lately. This line has about 76 shades thus far. My favorite colors from this line are Stilettos & Studs, Terra Coppa, and B Girl


OPI Infinite Shine – The wear time of this line seems to vary by shade. Average wear without chips seems to be about 3-4 days. The tip wear is very minimal, even after 5 days. I think Its important to note that the chipping only happened on the weak corners of my nails, so if you have stronger nails than I, you’ll probably get better wear out of it.

Essie Gel Couture – This one is the loser, which is sad for me because they have some of the prettiest colors. The lighter shades wear about 1-2 days on me before major chipping, which I find unacceptable in a polish that claims to be long wearing. The darker ones last about 3 days depending on the shade. It’s not completely unexpected, but I was hoping for better (Essie’s regular formulas have an average wear time of 8 hours before chipping on me). Since it’s also not cured by UV, I think that adds to the shortness of wear compared to the other two.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel – Most of the Miracle Gel shades last about a week on me (very minor tip wear after 4-5 days). For me, that is amazing. Clear winner for me in this area.

Final Thoughts:

First off, everyone’s nail chemistry is different. So what works for me, may not for you. Formula-wise Essie is the loser for me because of the extremely short wear time. Essie always performs poorly on me, so if you like their regular formula you may have drastically different results than I.

In second place is OPI. I was surprised the wear time wasn’t better to be honest. It’s only a day or so longer than their regular shades. I’m not sure that’s enough to justify the higher price tag. Most of the colors are easily duped, so I’m feeling pretty ambivalent on this one.

The winner by far is Sally Hansen. It has the longest wear time and the shiniest top coat. The only drawback is the dry time, but it’s well worth it for something that actually wears a long time on me.

9 thoughts on “Polish Showdown: OPI vs Sally Hansen vs Essie

  1. Thanks for this informative post! I was planning on trying out essie because of the 14-day promise , but I’m glad I read your blog first. I have been using sally hansen for quite some time now, and they do last, as you said, up to 4-5 days without chipping. but the chipping is so minimal I can wear them longer without my nails looking ugly. I am a busy mom and don’t really have the luxury. Thanks again!

  2. Great post! I just tried the Essie, and I like it a lot better than the Sally Hansen because it isn’t as thick. Especially the top coat; I always seem to get little threads trailing off of a bead of top coat, and it takes a lot more effort to get it to cover the whole nail.

  3. Agree with others – great post. I’ve been getting gels for 6 years and love the wear on my soft nails, but think it’s time to step off gel train. Bought Essie before I read your post & day 2 of home manicure already have similar issues. Will try OPI, which my salon carries & also look for Sally Hansen @ store. Thanks for pointing out nail chemistry is different! That’s a big issue for me – most polish won’t last more than a day for me.

  4. I’m so glad I read this. I can’t use uv cured gel polishes, my nails are thin and peel easily. The few times I’ve gotten gel manis, I’ve suffered damage that takes months to repair. I have been using X Formula (formerly by Sephora) with pretty good success, but I sub in laquers from Opi here and there and even Essie, if I love a color. Much to my chagrin X Formula has gone away–although, I can still get base and top coats on Amazon as well as some cool effects colors. I get 4 to 6 days chip free, which is great for my weakish, constantly peeling nails. My only issue is that eventually it will be impossible to get and the top coat gets thick after 10 or 12 uses. If you are polishing your nails every 4 to 6 days, like I typically do, it doesn’t go very far. I often have half a bottle left and it’s too gloopy (is that even a word) to use. Once it gets thick, it causes bubbles in the final product and doesn’t look great. I’ve thought about thinning it, but suspect that will diminish the strength and staying power of the polish, not to mention adding more unneeded chemicals to my life. I may have to bite the bullet and try one of the others but drying time is a big factor for me. I cannot wait an hour for polish to dry. Oh well…I’ll have to pick one and go for it. Thanks again for the post!

    1. Glad you liked the post! I myself had very poor luck with Formula X (love the colors, just doesn’t last on my nails). I tend to just let things dry naturally, but if drying time is a factor, quick dry drops (Zoya has some good ones) or one of those fan thingies that salons use might be your new best friends. I just did a quick Amazon search for “nail fan” and several popped up for reasonable prices.

      I’ve also had a lot of luck with the Orly Won’t Chip top coat. It dries very quickly and seems to actually have pretty good longevity on me. The only trade up is it isn’t as shiny as the gel-like ones, but it still looks pretty nice.

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