This $10 Nail Primer Made My Lazy-Girl Manicure LAST

Karina Hoshikawa
·4 min read

I’ll admit, even as a self-professed lover of DIY manicures, I’m a little lazy when it comes to nail prep. Choosing a shade? See you in ten minutes. Carefully sealing my finished work in a glossy top coat? Ensure no surface is unvarnished. It’s the pre-painting step that I tend to rush through — but, just as foreplay is key in any good hookup, a properly primed nail canvas is essential in any good manicure. This brings me right to Olive & June‘s newest launch: Nail Primer. Not to be mistaken for a base coat, this product is a pre-polish step that (much like a makeup primer) works to properly prep the nail plate for polish. Yeah, yeah, but is this a thing I *really* need? my inner monologue queried. In the name of beauty journalism and great nails everywhere, I put Olive & June’s new primer to the test IRL — below, behold my first-hand (!) findings.


What does a nail primer do?

“My goal in all of our products is that your mani lasts as long as you want it to last,” Olive & June founder Sarah Gibson Tuttle told me via Zoom. “Our inspiration is to always give people a salon-perfect manicure [at home], and hopefully, a salon one would last longer than one you do yourself — but now you can get those same results at home.” Enter, Nail Primer: A dehydrating liquid that has existed in salons for years, but is an industry secret no longer. “This is really, mani insurance,” explains Gibson Tuttle, adding that the extra step has the power to boost wear time up to three days. Challenge accepted.


How do you use a nail primer?

Unlike a base coat, Nail Primer (which has bonders and ethyl acetate, found in many removers, as a star ingredient) dries out the nail surface to ensure that no oil is left behind — which can affect how the polish adheres (or doesn’t); it’s the same reason most manicurists will apply a polish remover to your nails before going in with color. Since O&J’s polish has a built-in base coat, Gibson Tuttle recommends using Nail Primer as an additional prep step (after using remover) to really stretch your manicure’s life span. However: IF you want to prevent any staining, then she recommends using one coat of sheer polish sandwiched between primer and your color of choice.


How I applied Olive & June’s Nail Primer…

Some people may be reluctant to add another step to their home manicure kit. I, personally, find doing my nails to be one of the most mentally soothing activities there is (second only to watching The Great British Baking Show) and don’t mind an extra step — especially if it’ll keep my nails looking cuter, for longer. O&J stans will notice that while the rose gold bottle bears a resemblance to the chrome topcoat, the brush itself is shorter and denser. This is on purpose: according to Gibson Tuttle, since Nail Primer has the consistency of alcohol, it can easily run or evaporate before it hits the nail. A smaller brush really made applying it onto my nails easier and quicker, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into that. O&J: 1. I applied one coat of primer to my left hand (my right would be the experiment’s control), let it dry (which took all of 10 seconds), and went in with two coats of KMC (the darling pistachio hue pictured here). The nail primer didn’t noticeably affect how the polish applied, and I followed my usual steps of topcoat and Dry Drops as I watched The Bachelor. And then, I waited.


The End Results…

Sure enough, a few days later, I noticed a chip on my right ring finger. My left hand, on the other hand (heh) was flawless, my dear. “While we might sell fewer bottles of polish, we strive to create products that make your manicures last as long as possible,” Gibson Tuttle tells us. “That’s why we answer every DM, do masterclasses and [Instagram] Lives. We want to be a platform for a community where nails are making them feel good.” I imagine the 13.5mL bottle of Nail Primer will last me a very long time (or forever) since you only need a thin veil of it to do its job — AND since I don’t anticipate returning to the nail salon anytime soon. It’s certainly $10 well spent.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?