July 4th: The Lady Varnishes Stay Puft, Pure Ice Deja Vu & Sinful Colors Star Blast-Off

I’ve swatched a few festive colors for July 4th! Here’s The Lady Varnishes Stay Puft, two coats, on all fingers except the ring, which is two coats Pure Ice Deja Vu layered with one layer Sinful Colors Star Blast-Off.

This is day two of this manicure in outdoor natural light, all nails topped with Essie Good To Go top coat:

The Lady Varnishes Stay Puft, from The Lady Varnishes’ I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost collection, is a fun glow-in-the-dark glitter topper with a sheer white base and multi-sized matte white hexes, translucent blue-raspberry blue and red hexes, and white glass-fleck-y shimmer. The sheer white is subtle but gives the nails a cleaner look. Also, my bottle is marshmallow scented!

The formula is a bit goopy and clumpy, but it’s not too bad to work with, since it’s sheer and hard to mess up. The brush is a bit thicker and wider than the typical standard nail-polish brush and easily fans out to cover the entire nail. I typically prefer the finer standard-size brushes, but I didn’t have trouble with this one, though it did pick up a lot of glitter at once. Dry time was super fast, always a plus.

Did I mention that it glows in the dark? It’s beautiful, too – the glow is primarily a soft blue and looks like a galaxy with all the glitters:

Super sweet!

Pure Ice Deja Vu is one of my favorite Pure Ice polishes. It’s a royal-blue metallic/shimmer with a fuchsia/purple duochrome/dichroic flash, and it’s opaque in two coats. The formula is a tad more watery than optimal, but it’s not too hard to work with, and the brush is pretty standard. Dry time seemed average.

Sinful Colors Star Blast-Off, which I picked up at the same time as Green Ocean from the Having A Blast display at Walgreens, is a glitter topper with matte white stars, small matte white round and hex glitters, and medium matte blue and matte red hexes suspended in a clear base. The base is a bit watery, so some fishing, dabbing, and manual glitter placement is needed to get a good distribution of glitters. The brush is pretty standard and picks up glitter decently. Dry time was a bit longer than average for me.

I think Stay Puft is a new favorite for me. I even like how it looks sheer. :) It goes for $11 at The Lady Varnishes’ Etsy store and is still in stock as of this writing. The other two polishes were $2 polishes at Walmart for Pure Ice and Walgreens for Sinful Colors.

What are your favorite July 4th polishes?

Have a happy and safe Fourth!

Zoya June 2015 Mystery Trio Box swatches: Zoya Temperance & Zoya Violet

Quick swatch post – here’s Zoya Temperance (primary) and Zoya Violet (accent), two of the three colors introduced the Mystery Trio Box released earlier this month, two coats each, topped with Essie Good to Go top coat. This is day two, hence the tip wear, without cuticle cleanup (sorry, no time!).

Direct outdoor natural light:

Temperance, shown on all nails except for the ring, is a somewhat cool-leaning gray creme/crelly, warmed up with subtle pink/green/gold shimmer, which gives the gray an almost purplish cast. The result looks neutral enough that I’d expect it to go well with most, if not all, complexions, and I don’t have any other polish like it. The formula is great, too – not too runny and not too thick – and even though it comes in a mini bottle, the regular Zoya brush tip (one of my favorites) and cap shape make it just as easy to apply as a full-size Zoya. It dried on the fast side of average for me.

Indirect outdoor natural light (shade):

Violet, on the ring finger, is a straight-up neutral-toned medium smoky violet crelly. The formula is a bit thinner than Temperance’s, but it’s pretty similar otherwise and applies well. The brush, as expected, is the same, and it also dried on the fast side of average.

I have no idea if Zoya will be releasing these never-before-seen colors for sale, now that the Mystery Trio Boxes have been sent out. Both colors are fantastic, though, and would make excellent additions to their huge lineup. When I have a chance, I’ll swatch the last of the three colors – Zoya Marion – in a face-off post with Julep Phia. Stay tuned!

Zoya June 2015 Mystery Trio Box unveiling

I’m such a sucker for Zoya deals. Late May, Zoya sent out an e-mail offering yet another Mystery Trio Box, promising “3 brand new, never before released or produced colors in adorable mini 0.25oz sizes,” promised to flatter all skin tones, plus a “special gift,” all for $15 and free shipping. I figured that with a newborn to take care of, I’d probably be too occupied to keep up with my nail-polish obsession for a while, so this might be kind of my last hurrah for now. :]

Here’s what I received last Saturday! (Yep, this blog’s probably going to see sparser updates for a while.)


The three mini-sized nail polish colors, from left to right:

  • Mini Temperance ($5 retail for Zoya mini polishes), a cool-leaning medium gray with dichroic/duochrome gold-to-magenta shimmer,
  • Mini Marion ($5), a dichroic/duochrome green-to-purple metallic, and
  • Mini Violet ($5), a dusty violet creme.

As promised, these are the Zoya mini 0.25 fl. oz./7.5 mL sizes, only slightly smaller than a bottle of Julep polish (0.27 fl. oz./8 mL). All three colors are ones I’d be happy to wear, and I’m especially excited to try out Temperance, which is different from anything else I currently own.


Just from looking at the bottles, Marion looks like it could be pretty spot-on as a dupe or near dupe for Julep Phia ($14 regular, $11.20 Maven), a color that I love. I’d like to do a face-off post later on, if I can find the time. If Zoya releases Marion as a regular nail color later on, I suspect it could be a more economical substitute for Phia, as Zoya frequently has excellent deals. Even at full retail price, Zoya full-size polishes are typically about $5 less than Julep polishes for about double the volume of polish.

The “special gift” turned out to be two items:

  • A 1 fl. oz./15mL bottle of Zoya Remove+ nail polish remover ($2.30 estimated retail value, based on $4.60 for the 2 oz. size) and
  • A 12 g/0.42 oz. tube of Zoya Hot Lips Glossy Lip Balm in Sweet Tart ($6), which looks like a lovely raspberry/plum with fine silver shimmer. (I found a swatch posted by another blogger, if you’re curious how it looks when applied.)


The estimated retail value of this box is about $23.30, based on Zoya’s regular website prices. When you think about it, the $15 price tag is significantly lower than that of a Julep monthly box ($19.99/month for grandfathered-in older Mavens or if you prepay for three months as a newer Maven with the option to fully customize your box, else $24.99/month), and the items are arguably a better value than what you’d get with a default Julep It Girl box – not that I’m saying that Zoya and Julep are necessarily interchangeable, but for those that don’t prefer one brand over the other, there it is. Not bad, not bad.

Did you pick up this mystery box, and did you like what you got?

Disclosure: This post contains a referral link. I don’t expect you to use my referral links unless you want to, of course, and they don’t affect me giving my honest opinion. Referrals go toward products reviewed on this site – thanks!

More Julep May 2015 Mystery Box swatches: Julep Bea & Julep Marcella (plus Julep Marcy & Revlon Whimsical)

I didn’t think I’d make it to another swatch post before I became too busy with ‘Fiend Jr. to paint my nails, but I guess she’s still too comfy in there to bother coming out. ;)

Anyway, I liked this month’s Julep Mystery Box colors a lot and wanted to swatch more of them! Here is:

  • Thumb: three coats Julep Bea,  a “[l]emonade crème,”
  • Index & pinky: two coats Julep Marcy, a “Prosecco silk (semi-matte opalescent)” released this March that wasn’t actually part of the Mystery Box but which I got for free with my order using code SPRINGFUN,
  • Middle: two coats Julep Marcella, a  “[w]eathered pink crème” and the other Mystery Box new exclusive aside from Shayla, and
  • Ring: seven(!) coats Revlon Whimsical, obviously not part of the mystery box, but it’s one of my absolute favorite nail polishes ever.

This is in outdoor indirect natural light (sun’s setting over here), and Bea and Marcella are topped with Essie Good to Go top coat (the other two have no top coat):

First, the two May 2015 Mystery Box polishes:

Julep Marcella (middle) is a cool-leaning medium orchid-pink creme, and it’s wonderful. I doubt I’d ever wear a full manicure of this type of pink myself, but its brightness is fun in small doses (you may like it in large doses, too, if you’re a pink lover!), and the formula is excellent. It was almost fully opaque in one coat and could probably be a one-coater if I’d been more careful. With a glossy top coat, the creamy texture really shines through. Great application, and dry time seemed on the fast side of average.

Julep Bea (thumb) is a pastel lemony cool-leaning yellow crelly/creme, and its formula is a bit more watery, though not difficult to apply. It was still a tad patchy/streaky after two coats for me, so I needed a third to even it out. A fourth coat may help even more. It also dried on the fast side of average for me and, besides the thin formula, I found it pretty easy to work with. I love the bright-but-muted color, but the extra coats required is only somewhat mitigated by its relatively fast dry time.

Julep Marcy (index & pinky) is an off-white silk-finish polish with gold/pearlescent shimmer – basically what I’d hoped Julep Bunny would be like, as Bunny’s advertised gold shimmer just doesn’t show on the nail. Marcy, thankfully, does have decently visible shimmer! It dries to a mildly textured matte similar to an eggshell finish. Great formula on this one as well – it takes about two to three coats for full opacity, depending on your application style, but it dries so fast, you probably won’t care, even if you need to add a third coat. It’s meant to be worn without top coat and looks nice that way. I haven’t tried it with top coat, but I bet it’d be lovely when glossy, as well.

Revlon Whimsical (ring) is part of Revlon’s permanent collection and probably the polish I’ve worn the most times – which says a lot because I own so many that I don’t repeat colors too often, even ones I really like. It’s a very sheer baby blue/soft aquamarine jelly with a sprinkling of multi-sized hex glitters in pink and blue. This polish takes patience, as it’s very sheer and looks best with multiple thin layers applied when the layer underneath dries completely for that yummy, milky, squishy jelly-sandwich look. I’m not exaggerating when I say I used seven thin layers to get the opacity pictured above. You can use a similar-colored creme undercoat to speed things up, but I personally prefer the glassy, slightly translucent layered jelly/glitter look. Your mileage may vary, but I think it’s worth applying the five to seven layers! Dry time is average, and other than needing lots of coats if you want any semblance of opacity, application is great, with no special glitter placement necessary.

Bottom line: Marcella and Shayla are both excellent exclusives that make the May 2015 Julep Mystery Box a real winner for me. Totally worth it. Thanks for renewing my interest in trying out future mystery boxes, Julep! <3

Julep Shayla & Essie Good to Go Top Coat

Julep Shayla is one of the new, exclusive polish colors that came with Julep’s May 2015 Mystery Box, which I received a couple days ago. It arrived at a great time, since my last paint job was just starting to chip mightily.

Here’s three coats on day two of these nails (hence the slight tip wear), topped with Essie Good to Go top coat, in outdoor natural light (overcast):

Julep describes Shayla as a “[p]urple perennial full-coverage microglitter,” another one of those empty marketing phrases that really means next to nothing and doesn’t help me understand the color of the polish. (What kind of purple perennial? There are so many, and they’re very much not all the same purple! It also says nothing about the holo particles mixed in, which I think would’ve been a great selling point!)

To my eye, it looks like a clear base packed with a variety of microglitters, primarily grape purple and holographic – and the latter throws out fabulous rainbow sparkles in bright light! Also great: the overall mix of colors from the holo glitters helps create a fairly neutral impression of purple that I expect will probably look great with most/all skin tones and many outfits. I’m a fan.

No complaints about the formula. It dries faster than average to a matte finish, and though it seems to need at least three (thin) coats for reasonable opacity, it dries so fast that it shouldn’t be too much of a pain to slap on an extra coat or two. A shiny top coat helps bring out the best in this polish.

On another note, this is the second time I’ve used Essie Good to Go top coat now, and my experience so far is that it dries very fast to a glossy sheen that stays shiny pretty well, but it does seem to wear down quickly on the nail tips and doesn’t have the durability of Julep Freedom or Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat, two of my other go-tos. (My favorite used to be Seche Vite, which I still miss, but I stopped using it because it’s not toxin-free.) On my last paint job, Good to Go lasted about three days before chipping slightly and five days before chipping significantly, whereas Miracle Gel top coat can typically last a full week and Freedom almost a week on me.

Anyway, there you have it! This may be the last swatch post before ‘Fiend Jr. makes her grand debut, so if I’m MIA for a while, that’ll be the reason. :] Wish me luck! <3

Julep May 2015 Mystery Box (Version 1) with Julep x Brika bag

I just realized that I haven’t picked up a Julep mystery box in over a year! This time, though, I was in the market for a light slipcover for my iPad, and the faux leather Julep x Brika bag with its candy-bright crystalline shapes was calling my name. At $29.99 for the entire mystery box package, guaranteeing the Julep x Brika bag and two new polish colors I liked, I was confident I’d get enough value out of the mystery box, no matter what the other items were. Julep promised a total product value of at least $150.00, though this is based on their arbitrary full retail prices. Anyway, here’s what came in today! julep150515 The Julep x Brika bag does not disappoint. The cheerful print is just as vibrant in person as it is in the promotional photos, and the bag looks well made and sturdy enough. The outside is faux leather, the inside is lined with mint-green cotton, and it’s got a small, flat, zippered accessory pocket inside. It’s not terribly padded as far as tablet cases go, but it’ll do for the light protection I was going for. In Julep’s blog post about the 9″ x 11″ pouch, they said it could fit an iPad Mini, but the bag is actually a great size for my iPad Air 2, too. julep150515e I think it’s an exclusive, so it’s not available at Brika, but significantly smaller pouches (around 9″ x 7″) at Brika seem to go for $28.00 to $36.00, so it’s probably safe to say that the pouch itself has a retail value of at least the entire mystery box price. Now, on to the Julep products the bag came with. According to my invoice, I ended up receiving May Mystery Box Version 1. In beauty products, I received a Julep Length Matters mascara ($24.00 regular, $19.20 Maven) and a Julep Lip Gloss in Vivid ($20.00 regular, $16.00 Maven). julep150515b I’ve never used the Julep mascara and am looking forward to giving it a try. Meanwhile, Vivid is described as an “[i]ridescent burgundy shimmer with Power Cell Complex™” and looks pretty accurate to the description. I’m also looking forward to testing this out and hope my super sensitive lips don’t hate it! julep150515d The five polishes included in my box were:

  • Chatoya, a “[b]right platinum glitter top coat” from December 2014,
  • Marcella (new for the May mystery box!), a “[w]eathered pink crème” that reminds me of orchids,
  • Shayla (new for the May mystery box!), a “[p]urple perennial full-coverage microglitter,”
  • Brandis, a “Taos turquoise crème” from February 2015, and
  • Bea, a “[l]emonade crème” from August 2013.

I liked how the colors kind of match the Julep x Brika bag – and, hey, I didn’t get any duplicate nail colors this time, either. :] I threw Marcy (“Prosecco silk (semi-matte opalescent)”) into the photo below, since I picked it up as an extra freebie polish in my mystery box order with promo code SPRINGFUN, which may still be active at the time of this writing. Doesn’t hurt to give it a try! julep150515c julep150515f Julep nail polishes retail for $14.00 regular and $11.20 Maven. Altogether, that comes to a total retail value of $114.00 regular and $91.20 Maven for the beauty products on their own. I’m guessing this means Julep values the pouch at $36.00, which isn’t unreasonable, given the prices of the smaller pouches at Brika. Overall, I’m well satisfied with this mystery box. It’s unfortunately no longer available on Julep’s site, so I think it’s sold out, but the SPRINGFUN promo code for a free nail polish with your order may still work. And, if you’re not a Maven yet and want to try out the monthly box, you can currently get a free 4-piece welcome box with promo code SPRING. Happy Friday!

Essie Fashion Playground & Essie East Hampton Cottage

I never tire of mint green.

This is Essie Fashion Playground from last spring’s Fashion Playground collection, three thin coats, on all nails except the ring finger, which has four thin coats of Essie East Hampton Cottage, all topped with Essie Good to Go top coat, in outdoor direct natural light:

Essie describes Fashion Playground as a “plucky pistachio shimmer,” but personally, I think the color is too blue to be pistachio. It’s definitely more of a minty green that reminds me of some jadeite milk glass dishes and mint chocolate chip ice cream (my favorite!). I’m full of love for this color. <3 It mostly looks like a creme, but it’s got a subtle, fine glass-fleck shimmer similar to Essie Full Steam Ahead – you probably won’t see it unless you’re looking for it, but it adds a touch of sugary sparkle.

East Hampton Cottage is, per Essie, “a beachy sand pink with hints of sheer shimmer perfect for a French manicure.” True, it’s a pale pink in the bottle, but on the nail, it comes across more like a pearlescent/frosty almost-white. It’s meant to be sheer, but I like the milky opacity built up over four thin coats, as shown in my photos. The brushstrokes aren’t overly visible, despite the finish, especially with top coat.

In outdoor indirect natural light:

Fashion Playground did take three thin coats, minimum, for even opacity, though. Application’s not bad otherwise, and the polish seemed to dry on the fast side of average with thin coats, but as always, the multiple coats take some patience. I haven’t tried it with thicker coats, but I wonder if applying the polish more thickly would work better with this particular formula.

East Hampton Cottage was similar in application to Fashion Playground in that it’s sheer and required four thin coats for the opacity you see in my photos. No complaints about the Essie brush, which is short-stemmed and pretty standard-sized and round with a square tip, though my Fashion Playground brush had a weird rogue hair that luckily curled up away from the tip and didn’t affect application.

Also, I have nothing but good things to say about Essie Good to Go top coat, which I actually used for the first time with this manicure because I got it for free when I purchased these two polishes at Ulta recently. It’s not thick and goopy like Seche Vite or Julep Freedom, but you can brush it on half-dry nail polish, and it hardens pretty fast into a nice, smooth, glossy finish. I’ll have to use it more times to fully confirm how I feel about this top coat, but so far, it’s a winner.

Finally, here’s a bottle shot (left to right: Fashion Playground, Mint Candy Apple, East Hampton Cottage), just to show how much bluer Mint Candy Apple is compared to Fashion Playground:

As I mentioned in my swatch post about Mint Candy Apple, I’d hoped that it’d be more the color of Fashion Playground, but now that I have Fashion Playground, I think I’m set. :]