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Nail polish is a tool of expression. Nails are like a canvas, and polish color is a way to document the style, feelings and emotions of the moment.

Nail polish is a mirror to the soul.

But nail polish can also be a college girl’s best fashion accessory. What better way to spice up a plain outfit, be fashionable and show your personality all at the same time than with a favorite, fashionable polish?

Journalism junior Jennifer Young says nail polish is the easiest way to show her personality.

“Nail polish is a fun way to express myself,” Young said.

Polish color has been, and continues to be, a staple topic of discussion in the style world. Blogs are dedicated and articles are written on the newest and hottest hues of the season.

Polish is a big deal.

So what colors work? Which colors should be avoided?

Sales associate at Salon Luxe Selena McCalip says color should be based around personal style.

Color has more to do with style and what clothes you wear,” McCalip said. “You don’t want to have crazy nails that never match anything.

So what are the best colors?

Owner of Salon Luxe Christine Thompson says bright colors are very popular for the spring and summer seasons.

“Neon colors and colors you normally wouldn’t find nails painted, like bright green and blue, are very popular,” Thompson said.

McCalip also says funky polish parings are extremely popular in the fashion world, and the ideas are slowly coming to San Luis Obispo.

“Having a single nail painted a different color than the rest is starting to be popular,” McCalip said. “Also, nail art is very popular because it is a contrast to regular polished nails.“

In regard to the colors of the season, the spectrum of colors is broad. Allure picked their favorite five, Nail Magazine designates shades to occasions, and Refinery 29 recognizes eight polish trends.

So the options are numerous.

However, on a tight budget, students often cannot afford to get their nails done every time they want to express themselves. They also don’t have the time to re-paint the chips and scratches that happen with life. For these two big reasons, painting the nails at home is the most practical form of action.

Young says investing in a good set of tools and polish will pay off (literally) in the long run.

“By getting a manicure kit, you can keep your nails up yourself when you need to,” Young said. “You will spend the (initial money) upfront, but by doing that you can have long-time use. But if you get your nails done, that’s money each time, and that’s a splurge.”

The thought of constantly maintaining polished nails is often overwhelming. But what many don’t know is by following some tips and rules, salon quality nails are within reach. SLO Style Watch hit the streets to find out what it takes to get those long-lasting nails.

1. Get those nails squeaky clean

It’s all about the preparation, Young said.

“I make sure there is no old polish on my nails before I start,” Young said.

Believe it or not, although nails may look clean, residue and daily grime are the invisible enemies. To make sure nails are the cleanest they can be, swipe nail polish remover over the nails before applying the polish.

2. Create a base.

This is one of the most important steps, and unfortunately the most skipped over.

Not only does a base coat create a foundation for the polish to stick to, it also protects the nails from the effects of the polish, Young said.

“I make sure to use a base coat to protect my nails so they don’t get yellow,” Young said.

3. Paint away

After the base coat is dry, it’s time to apply the polish. To avoid streaks and thin layers, apply two to three coats.

Professional Tip: “Seal the edge of the nail with the polish, “ Thompson said. “This keeps the polish from chipping.”

Have trouble painting with the non-dominant hand? Young suggests using the non-dominant pinky as an anchor.

“Use your pinky to hold your hand steady,” Young said. “Instead of your hand being in mid-air, use your finger to steady the hand to avoid shaking.”

4. Wait, wait and wait some more

After the polish is applied, it is time to play the waiting game. This step is usually the most time-consuming and most discouraging, and there can be detrimental side effects if cut short. There is nothing more frustrating than those familiar wrinkle marks and smudges.

This step usually involves a lot of arm flailing, time in front of the fan and sitting in one spot.

Experts have suggested several speedy fixes, including dipping hands in cold water or using a hair dryer.

5. Top it off

After the polish has (finally) dried, put on a top coat. Young says a topcoat makes the polish shiny and protected.

“I use a top coat from OPI that is a rapid dry,” Young said. “It dries really fast and prevents you from getting those print marks on the nails.”

Voila! In five easy steps you are prepared to live life  – all while looking polished from your fingertips to your toes.