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I’m a very proficient self-manicurist (if I do say so myself), but when I have the urge to treat myself to a professional polish, my go-to salon is Sundays. The AAPI-owned studio is a self-care oasis that offers treatments like Ancient Rituals Foot Soak and Guided Meditation Manicure. The drool-worthy, pastel aesthetic is feminine-hygge (the best way I can describe it is if goop and Essie had a baby). The relaxing atmosphere and non-toxic formulas are a huge draw, but as I mentioned before, I am capable of giving myself a passable manicure so a studio visit is very much a splurge. That’s why I was so excited to discover that Sundays offers an at-home manicure set ($78) that features their famous 10-free products (Essie is 8-free). Caveat emptor: it’s suited for intermediate-to-advanced painters (there are no explanations on how to use the tools or step-by-step instructions). Read on to hear about my experience with Sundays’ mani kit.
- Long-lasting, 10-Free formulas
- Actually nourishing, non-acetone polish remover
- Gift-worthy and packable
We don't like
- Set doesn’t include polish
- Formulas take a long time to dry
What’s in the Kit
The kit includes everything you need to prep your nails (clipper, file, buffer, cuticle eraser, nail polish remover), even cotton. You get a base coat, top coat, and quick dry drops, but polishes are sold separately.
Off the bat, I noticed a few differences between the kit pictured on the website and what I received. The glass nail file was a much-appreciated upgrade from the standard, sandpaper-style emery board I was expecting.
But I was disappointed that there was no hydrating cuticle serum included in my set. Everything else in the kit corresponded to the product image (and there were a few extra wooden sticks).
To get technical for a moment, let’s talk about what’s not in Sundays’ polishes. 10-free means the formulas are free of the following: TPHP, toluene, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, parabens, and tert-butyl, hydroperoxide. The last three ingredients (in bold) are the ones that 7-free polishes fail to omit. As someone who is a frequent nail painter, but also a nail health hypochondriac, it’s important that I’m using the least toxic polishes possible. I don’t want brittle or discolored nails and if I ever feel I’m trending in that direction, I give them a break and go sans polish for a few weeks.
Before I learned how to give myself a manicure (pandemic skill) I was confused when nail techs used polish remover even when I had bare, natural nails. I later discovered that dehydrating the nail allows the polish to bind better (the only time dehydration has ever been classed as a good thing) and resigned myself to the fact that the ends (that awful, chalky sensation) justify the means (beautiful mani). Then I met Sundays’ soy remover — and now I can never go back to the astringent, pungent formulas I used to rely on.
At time of writing, the bestselling, acetone-free, grapefruit-scented Soy Polish Remover ($28) is out of stock — but you can still get it as part of the manicure kit. It’s no surprise that keeping this product on shelves is a challenge because it’s managed to accomplish something that I’ve never experienced before: it feels like it’s nourishing your nails rather than stripping them.
When I first daubed it onto cotton and felt the light oil texture I had to double-check that I was using the right product. Sure enough, it was remover. It took a bit longer to remove polish with this product than with a hyper-toxic acetone polish, but absolutely I prefer a less toxic experience that takes a bit more time. I did a rough pass over my chipped nails and then, for the stubborn edges, tried my hand at the professional cotton-wound-around-wooden-stick technique I’ve always observed nail techs implement. And this is key to getting the most out of this mani kit, it’s not for beginners.
If the contents of the kit looks like a jumble of implements to you, you might be better off starting with a beginner-friendly set. There’s an expectation that you know how to use a buffer, shape your nails, and handle your cuticles.
Furthermore, the polish/top/base coats are very unforgiving (AKA smudge easily). I love Sundays’ powder pink shade L.01 ($18), but you need to have a steady hand and many manicures under your belt to pull off a mistake-free mani. In my first two manicures with this kit, I had to redo several nails after smudging the polish because I expected it to be drier than it was. The top coat is very thick (and definitely adds to the dry time) but the lustrous finish is worth an extra fifteen minutes of fastidiousness.
At first glance, this kit feels like it’s designed for a somewhat niche audience (experienced and chemical-wary). But if you’re in the practice of regularly doing your nails, you necessarily gravitate toward what this set offers. Frequent manis are damaging, but Sundays’ 10-free formulas will stave off yellowing and ensure your nails don’t get ravaged. The more manis you do at home, the more refined your technique becomes and this kit provides all the tools you need and nothing superfluous. I’ll be taking this kit with me on all trips longer than a week and you can bet I’m stocking up on Soy Polish Remover the second it’s back in stock.