When in doubt at the nail salon, my go-to is always a barely there, milky nude mani. There’s something ridiculously chic about the hue—it gives that effortless I-woke-up-like-this flair we all wish we had. And while eccentric nail art and bold colors hold a very special place in my heart, if I had to choose one manicure for the rest of my life, no doubt it’d be that elusive no manicure-manicure.
Here’s the thing, though: While the look itself is simple, finding the right polish that delivers a “my nails but better” vibe is anything but. Sometimes the formula is too opaque, sometimes the shade is too orange or too pink—the list of problems goes on and on.
So when I heard about nail concealers, and that they could potentially give me that simple, refined mani I’ve been lusting over, my interest was definitely piqued. After all, there has to be a good reason the products went viral throughout the online beauty community. Read on for everything you need to know about nail concealer and why it’s the perfect no-frills polish you need in your beauty arsenal, with input from nail experts Gina Eppolito and Syreeta Aaron.
What Does a Nail Concealer Do?
Like traditional concealer, nail concealer is used to mask any imperfections on the nail plate. “Nail concealer is a one-and-done application to achieve the illusion of perfectly natural nails,” says Eppolito. Nail concealers tend to be slightly flesh toned to conceal imperfections like discoloration and damage while maintaining a natural, healthy look.
And these concealers don’t just hide imperfects, they cover and care for the damage all at once—most formulas contain strengthening and revitalizing ingredients that treat and protect nails from future damage. Aaron says she typically uses a nail concealer or similarly hued polish when a client is transitioning back to natural nails from soak-offs or any sort of nail enhancement (think a dip or acrylics).
Perhaps best of all, nail concealers are seriously low maintenance—as in no-top-coat-required low maintenance (though adding one will make for longer-lasting wear).
How Do You Use a Nail Concealer?
The application process for nail concealer is super easy. Apply one coat. Apply a second if you want. Let dry. And apply a top coat if you want some added lasting power. And there you have it.
Nail concealer is the no-makeup makeup of manicures. Eppolito says the product is meant to give a “picture-perfect, ultimate sophisticated manicure that looks effortless and polished at the same time.” And to put her claims to the test, I tried it out myself—twice. I used Londontown’s KUR Illuminating Nail Concealer ($20) in pink on one hand and Dermelect’s MAKEOVER Ridge Filler Dual Concealer and Nail Treatment Base Coat ($18) on the other. And just for good measure, I tried Londontown’s non-tinted Illuminating Nail Concealer ($20) on a few of my boyfriend’s nails.
As someone who usually opts for gel extensions, I’ve struggled to find the right lightweight nude for a while now—the options always feel just a little too opaque for my liking. Luckily, it looks like I’ve found a few good alternatives.
Both the Dermelect concealer and the tinted one from Londontown give off a slightly pink hue; think the perfect neutral pink. The Dermelect one has a subtle shimmer to it that appears almost blue depending on the lighting, while the Londontown concealer is glossy but decidedly not sparkly. The original Londontown shade is a milky, sheer white. It dries down to more of a veil or sheen.
Honestly, I’m a fan of both formulations. I love that they offer some TLC to the nails while still leaving behind a polished look. And in general, I really think nail concealers are genius. They make for an effortlessly sophisticated mani that’s nearly impossible to mess up—a staple in any beauty routine.