Hard Candy’s Founder is Back on the Beauty Scene with a New Nail Polish Brand

Smith & Cult just dropped with 30 L.A.-inspired high shine nail lacquers

Anyone who’s a serious nail addict knows her Hard Candy history. It was back in the mid-‘90s when USC pre-med student Dineh Mohajer and her sister Pooneh mixed up a couple of polish shades by hand to create the now iconic sky blue hue to match Dineh’s new pair of Charles David sandals. What started off as a dorm room experiment turned into the trendy multi-million dollar Hard Candy brand, which forever changed the way girls looked at been-there-done-that pink and red polishes.

Photograph by Osceola Refetoff

The brand was acquired by LVMH back in 1999, but Dineh is back with a new line of 30 luxe lacquers and nail treatments ($18 each) that include high-impact glittery, neon, and neutral shades. This time, her brand, Smith & Cult, has a new (and very likeable) bent: Each nail color has been inspired by the City of Angels and arrives with a personal story annotated from Dineh’s own Diary of a Beauty Junkie, a time capsule of sorts made up of personal stories, including both tragic and treasured beauty moments.

“To this day my memories are guided by color,” she says. “First kiss: pink dress. Breakups: too many colors, a rainbow of tears. Make ups: always shades of green—kind of weird that all my moments of making up involved the color of envy. The shade of my second grade teacher’s lipstick: glossy red (rumors were that she was Miss Michigan at some point in her life). My Dad’s required yet favorite gear: muted, almost-periwinkle blue surgical scrubs. My Mom’s bathrobe: simply white. All of the moments that stay with me begin with color.”

Smith & Cult lacquers are 5-Free, which means they’re formulated without dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor, and have a decidedly different vibe than Hard Candy originals. Even the polish bottles’ artsy gold hammered caps have an interesting backstory. “I had 50 or so perfectly polished, cylindrical aluminum caps created, only then to hammer them to death to create my final cap models (which felt highly therapeutic),” says Dineh. “I was slightly bummed when the process was complete and experienced demolition envy when I drove past construction sites. I loved the idea of adding a touch of destruction to a pristine object. For me, this balance is symbolic of the human experience.”

The polishes look stunning when displayed on my cherry wood dresser. They went on my nails flawlessly without streaking and wear extremely well for a few days with a high gloss finish. Next year, look for shiny glosses to match the debut line.

A native Angeleno, Nav is a Leo, hates cilantro, and has been testing beauty products for print and digital magazines for nearly a decade. She spends her days working in media and strategy and her nights sniffing out slightly quirky yet impeccably pretty things along with her German Shepherd, Le Tigre.