Transformative Beauty: Letting My Inner Vampy Nail Polish Shine Through

While I’ve always been a beauty junkie, for a long time I was a bit… traditional. Safe choices that didn’t really draw too much attention. Conservative. Only ivory and taupe eye shadow. Pink lip gloss. Oh, and I had a pretty decent collection of pale pink polishes.

Well, the truth was that while I was super conservative at work, I was a bit more daring at home. The trouble was, with my long work hours, there was a lot more time at work than at home.

One weekend, I didn’t have time to change my nail polish. I had worn a really dark shade during my 24 hours off, and in the harsh florescent lights of the intensive care unit it looked black. Definitely not my usual light pink mani! While this was a bit fashion forward at the time (it was 2007), it was pretty popular in our area.

All morning, I wasn’t sure if I regretted not taking the extra few minutes to remove the polish. I debated about using nail polish remover in the ten minute lull between checking on my patients and rounding with the attending physicians. In the end, I decided to let a little more my myself shine through at work.

When rounds started, one of my attendings did a bit of a double take when he noticed my nails. The goth comments started and wouldn’t relent, though they weren’t harsh (this was a guy that once changed his ring tone to the University of Michigan fight song for a month in honor of me during my internship). He didn’t believe me that the polish was actually purple, and while he was friendly about it, the comments were nonstop! Finally, an hour later at the end of rounds, one of the other attendings told him to stop. His wife and daughters frequently wore dark polish, and he didn’t think it was a big deal. My defender happened to be the director of the unit.

That morning was definitely a turning point for me. Instead of wearing pale pink every day, I started wearing my “home” nail polishes at work. I started lurking on the Makeup Alley Nail Polish board, and I fully admit that I started buying a lot of nail polish. My polish collection started at about 15 bottles, but started to grow exponentially.

Buying nail polish turned into one of my favorite activities. It turned out that a 2 mile detour off of the freeway when driving in between my hospitals put me in the middle of nail polish heaven. Heaven. Imagine a town filled with nail supply shops. Every top brand… all at discounted prices. And anyone could purchase from the stores, licensed professional or not!

Well…. just about anyone. I admit that I wasn’t the typical customer in these stores, and on more than one occasion I was asked if I “knew how to use the polish”. I usually laughed and said that “Yes, I definitely know how to use the polish”, while flashing a perfect manicure. At work the nurses knew me for my polish, and I would have frequent requests for manicure tips or questions about the shade of the day.

I’m still wearing whatever nail polish I want to work, and at my current job I’m not the only one. The nurses in my unit wear glitter, shatter, any color of polish they want. I also wear bright pink lippies, navy eye liner and non-taupe eye shadow! My collection of polish is now so large that I’m afraid to count the bottles, but I’m probably in the 1000 bottle range.

Do you wear what you want (within reason) at work? Do you feel supported in doing so?



  1. November 8, 2012 / 1:41 am

    I'm pretty sure I grabbed Starter Wife for this one, but I already put it back in one of my Essie drawers (yes, there are multiple…) so there's no really knowing. 😀 I usually take a pic of the bottom of the bottles too, but I stupidly forgot.

  2. November 8, 2012 / 6:41 am

    I wear whatever I want as long as it is decent hahaha. But with my nail polishes, I used to put on light colors especially during weekdays and I need to go to my office. I find it simple but elegant.

  3. Anonymous
    November 8, 2012 / 2:18 pm

    i love this post! working in a male dominated field (i am a chemist) the guys always feel the need to comment on makeup and nail polish if i wear something a little bolder than normal. i dont go too crazy on the makeup (love bronzes, browns, and taupes…in the winter and fall i add in purples and burgundies), but i always wear whatever nail polish i want including glitter, shatter, fun accent nail, etc. i even noticed some of the other girls in my lab starting to wear fun nail polish now too! it's a way to express myself, so as long as my boss doesnt mind then i figure why not? if i have an important meeting where i need to look professional, essie sand tropez is my go to. and i'm totally jealous of that nail polish heaven! sounds amazing!!
    -Alex 🙂

  4. November 8, 2012 / 8:52 pm


    I thought I was bad with lipstick/gloss. I probably own 500 of them. You win makeups. 🙂

  5. November 9, 2012 / 4:43 am

    When I was teaching I wore pink to start the year and then red after they got to know me. If I was still teaching my students would be fighting to see who got to see the polish color first. They loved seeing a little bit of reality with my choices of jewelry, makeup and clothes. Be yourself always. And can I steal some of your 1000? You have me beat and I didn't think that was possibly.

  6. November 9, 2012 / 6:30 am

    Fellow polish junkie here; you should post more of your manis!

  7. Anonymous
    November 10, 2012 / 4:20 am

    what i am wondering is how a color of nail polish is so ….um daring? so what! i mean i understand him calling you a goth if you were to walk about in full makeup but even then that wouldn't matter!

  8. Sybil
    November 11, 2012 / 5:50 am

    artificial nails have been linked to increased rates of nosocomial (hospital acquired) infections–so hope the nurses you mention have the glitter etc on their own nails and not acrylics. 🙂

    I used to think dark colors looked funny on my nails kept short to avoid poking my patients but yours look great! Can you re-post the link to your article on home manicure technique. Thanks!

  9. November 11, 2012 / 12:22 pm

    Yeah, I'm well over 1000 bottles, but I'm afraid to admit it to myself (and my husband!) so I haven't counted in a really, really long time. 😀 I have a ton of pics, after some stuff this week I"ll post more pics!

    @Anon- I think if you worked in a very conservative, male dominated and hierarchical field you'd understand. Wearing this nail polish called a LOT of attention (that same routine repeated multiple times a day for several days over a dark vampy color…) it was definitely considered daring!

    @Sybil- You're right, artificial nails have been linked to a lot of things! I've never worked at a hospital that allowed artificial nails on anyone remotely involved in patient care (even the housecleaning staff isn't allowed to wear them at my current hospital), and we aren't allowed to have nails longer than 2-3 mm past our nail bed so everyone has short and natural nails 😀 Our ID attending is a bit crazy about it, so she's constantly checking my nails, I guess because my nail bed is a bit long she always thinks my nails are longer, but I usually have them about 1mm long, I can't stand long nails any more!

    Here's my link to my home manicure technique. It's crazy long and I've been meaning to update it, I've even taped a video for it that I need to edit!

  10. Sybil
    November 13, 2012 / 5:17 am


  11. Ani
    May 1, 2013 / 9:52 pm

    I just found your blog…and I think it’s so great! I found it because of this post…I’m pre-med, starting a hospital internship this week…and we’re supposed to dress “professionally”…of course, no jeans or anything like that. But, I’m always too embarrassed to ask about nail polish. I barely wear any makeup, or any usually…but I think nail polish is where I can be more fun/daring. I was going to a wedding this weekend, so I was debating if I should even bother to paint my nails for one day…b/c I’ll have to be at the hospital the day before and after the wedding…I’m happy to know I’m not the only one that feels this way! 😉

  12. May 2, 2013 / 11:59 am

    You're not!
    Pretty universally hospitals won't allow fake nails if you have any patient contact, and your nails can't be longer than 2 mm beyond the end of your finger. I've heard rumors that some won't allow polish at all, but I've never worked at one with that rule. When I was in training (which I'm talking about here) we were pretty conservative with polish and I was REALLY pushing the envelope and a lot of nurses ended up following my lead. Where I work now, they were already pretty daring and I fit right in! I'd go bare nailed on my first day to scope it out.
    Congrats on your internship!

  13. Anonymous
    August 19, 2013 / 10:54 am

    What colour is the yampy poish?

  14. Marissa
    October 26, 2013 / 6:25 am

    Ooh, so glad i discovered your blog. I'm a junior doctor in Singapore and i absolutely love my nail polish. I've mostly just been wearing nude/pale pink polishes to work. The most daring i've been is probably the one time i wore a metallic gold polish. Don't think i'm brave enough to wear vampy or bold bright colours yet… i'm not even sure if it's acceptable, though no one has told me off!

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