Sharing Nail Polish at the Salon. What Would You Have Done?

March 18, 2013 | By | Comments (13)

Woman Getting a Manicure

On Friday night after work, I went to the salon to get my nails done. I spent my Saturday demo-ing crafts from my friend Sarah’s book, and well-manicured nails are a necessity when you’re teaching people how to sew all day long.

As I normally do when I get my nails done, I brought my own polish—not because I’m overly concerned about sharing polish, but more because I have colors I like, and I want to be able to do touch ups to extend the life of my manicure. While I was sitting there, the woman next to me complimented the color I’d brought and asked the name. (It was Essie’s Bermuda Shorts, my go-to bright pink and apparently a highly sought-after discontinued shade.) Turns out, that was the polish that she had been searching for at the salon, but they didn’t have it. I explained that I’d brought my own bottle, and that was that.

But I had this nagging feeling for the rest of the night that I should have offered to let her use my polish. I was far enough ahead of her in the manicure process that she could have easily used the polish, and would have been done with it by the time my nails were dry.

What do you think, was I rude for not having offered my nail polish or was it fine to just leave things as is, and let her use a polish that was available at the salon? What would you have done if you were me?


  1. Kristina

    If you’re not concerned with sharing polishes, I would have offered to share. I’ve often wondered about that–bringing my own polish to the salon, for the exact same reasons.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm
  2. Lorie

    You have no reason to offer your shade (and discontinued at that) or feel bad about not doing so. She had hundreds of colors to pick from at the salon (or could have brought her own like you and I do). I would never ask a stranger or a friend to use her polish.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm
  3. Kathy

    I too bring my own polish to the salon, have for years. I started doing it for the same exact reasons too.. I’ve been in a similar situation and I chose not to offer my polish, but I did offer the bottle to her so she could match the shade as closely as possible from the salon’s stock. She gladly accepted my offer and wrote down the new shades name so she could purchase her own bottle.
    I think it’s one of those situations women don’t have to explain and is understood by all. There are just some things you share and some you don’t. After all, would you feel bad when the bottle is empty and you can no longer get that shade? I know I might.

    March 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm
  4. AJ

    You are overthinking this: no, it is not a terrible thing to not offer someone your own polish. You did give her the name and if she’s interested, she can look it up online.

    But if it bothers you, you could always do it whenever you feel like it next time. No worries!

    March 19, 2013 at 8:05 am
  5. Charly Lastenbrunner

    I guess this article and the resulting comments just further proves how different we all are. After giving it much thought, I think it’s best that you DIDN’T share your polish … and here’s why: By not sharing, you create a happier life for the people that WOULD share. The next time Salon Lady is in a similar situation, she might be sitting next to someone that instantly says “Of course! Use it! I’m pleased we have similar tastes!”. We’ll call that new person “Grace”. Grace’s generosity will be the polar opposite of your nail-polish hoarding reaction, and will therefore stand out. A lovely conversation will ensure between Salon Lady and Grace, and who knows where that could lead.?!? Grace’s son might be looking for a job in Salon lady’s industry. Salon Lady might have a hook-up at a place to which Grace will soon travel. Who knows!?!?*

    *For those that think this is just my doe-eyed, rainbows and lollipops, view of the world, I can assure you that I could write a book on the number of amazing opportunities I have been granted as a result of a simple act of kindness. And most of those acts are much less than sharing 3 grams of discontinued nail polish. Some were just a kind word to someone having a bad day.

    Grand gestures of kindness are not required when my acts are being compared to the general population. I can stand out as long as the general population continues to be selfish, complacent, etc. I don’t actually do insignificant nice things for random strangers because I am expecting something in return, but it is a nice side effect! I do it because of my motto “Who am I to deny someone their happiness?”. Within reason, of course … I don’t go around giving out free sex just because I don’t want to deny a horny guy is happiness.

    I have no doubt that this reply will result in a number of angry rebuttals, but it won’t bother me. Anyone that didn’t understand why the nail polish should have been shared in the first place will never understand how their actions have unseen consequences (positive or negative, depending on the 1st action). And those people offer me an immense amount of entertainment every single day. I am now going to remind myself of all of the amazing friends, clients, experiences, trips, and products I have been given as a result of showing less than 3 grams of kindness. A recent highlight was getting a new Ipad for sending a Thank You note to a company that had greatly exceeded my expectations. Unexpected, but greatly appreciated!

    I am oddly grateful that I am the minority on this nail-polish-sharing issue. Would I “feel bad when the bottle is empty and you can no longer get that shade”. Nope — I’d remember that time I brought happiness to another human being, and I would smile at the thought of my empty bottle.

    To the author, Kristen. Please don’t take offence by my words. The fact that you had that ‘nagging feeling’ means that you knew there was another path available. I trust that, next time, the nail polish will be free flowing (even if you have to wait while that person gets their manicure done). A little investment of time and nail paint could yield amazing results. I’d love to see an RS article about testing out my theory :)

    March 19, 2013 at 10:26 am
  6. ecmoz

    Charly I very much enjoyed your comment. In fact I was curious and checked back today to see what people would say in response. What you said about how different people are is very true and there are a multitude of reasons for it, sibling placement, socioeconomic status growing up, etc. etc. etc. so for no means should those whose reaction is to keep the polish to themselves be judged negatively, IMO (and I don’t mean to imply that by the tone of your comment that you were, although some may mistakenly percieve your comment as such). In my experience it’s typically those with less that give most (and common wisdom affirms this–the percentage of charitable giving decreases as income rises). Your comment is a good reminder of a sentiment I was taught, which is it is a gift to be able to give, however negligible it may seem to you or others around you.

    March 19, 2013 at 11:09 am
  7. Phyllis S

    I am considered to be a very generous and helpful person, but I would not have shared my polish. First, I would not want to share a personal use product with a stranger . Secondly why would you share a discontinued nail polish unless you really don’t care if you don’t have enough to repair a manicure . You told her what is it and she can search the internet for a match.

    March 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm
  8. Phyllis S

    PS Charly – most people who are so charitable don’t brag so much about it. I kind of think your comment is a fake.

    March 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm
  9. Gabby

    The reason I bring my own polish is for sanitary reasons. If a person has a foot fungus that has targeted or is growing in their toe or finger nails do you want that polish on your nails. Next time you’re there look at some of the jacked up hands and feet. With that being said would you let a stranger at the gym use your deodorant no! It is just as nasty. But you’re painting nail polish on your feet or hands that may be fungus infested. Everyone should bring their own polish.

    March 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm
  10. Audrey

    Kristin, I think in that situation had you felt inclined to share, that would have been perfectly nice and certainly well beyond the call of duty/etiquette. But this woman wasn’t asking to borrow the shade, or anything, was she? She just noticed the bottle, realized it was the discontinued shade she’d hoped to see in stock at the salon… and that’s it. Maybe you commiserated a little over the discontinuation, but you were under no social pressure to offer up the bottle. I would consider it generous that you even stopped to think afterwards about whether you should have shared. In the situation, I believe it sounds like you behaved very politely and properly. Next time– if you feel the instinct to share, then certainly do so! And if not, no need to offer or share, even if directly asked. You’re well within your right to keep your personal bottle holstered.

    On another note, I really hate reading comments and I don’t know why I bothered to read these ones. Charly, I don’t care that you derive so much joy from sharing and caring. Any kindnesses you perform in your day to day life are far overshadowed when you pour your self-satisfaction out online. Ugh.

    March 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm
  11. Judy H.

    There is still bacteria present under nails and in any small nicks around the cuticle even AFTER you’ve had your manicure. If you share your polish, you are sharing your bacteria with others and their’s with you every time that brush goes down into that bottle of polish and out again. I cringe every time I see a woman come into the salon and pick a color off of the wall of polish. You wouldn’t or shouldn’t share your lipstick, blush, eye shadows or any other cosmetics, nail polish is just the same. The person who needs to be shamed (if you will) is the one who has the audacity to ask to borrow your polish)

    March 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm
  12. Judy H.

    Charly, I am glad you feel so wonderful about the chance of getting a “I';ll rub your back if you rub mine” surprise if you happen to share a bottle of polish in the nail salon.
    Sharing, kindness and generosity is lacking terribly in our society and need so badly to be restored. However, it must be done at the appropriate place and the appropriate time and with the appropriate person, not with the individual sitting next to you in the nail salon.

    March 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm
  13. Jeri

    Germs cannot flourish or multiply in Nail polish due to chemical make up of the polish. You can not get a fungus by sharing nail polish with someone who has a nail fungus. From a nail tech if 26 years.

    January 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm

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