Julep Oxygen Nail Treatment (Take a Breather)

After that gel manicure in October 2016, somehow, my nails were just not as robust as usual. I know gel manicures aren’t supposed to really damage your nails, and maybe it was just the soak needed to remove the gel polish, but it definitely did a number on mine.

To try to combat the sudden peeling nails, I decided to try just using Julep Oxygen Nail Treatment ($18 regular, $14.40 Maven) for a few weeks. Julep calls it Take a Breather now, but I got mine before Julep rebranded everything. This is the original color, which is now called Sheer Pink, since there’s also other colors available:

This is a nail treatment and not meant to really provide much color, but the sheer pink tint seems to even out nail color and make it look brighter and cleaner. I only applied one coat, no base or top coat, and left it as-is for about a week each time. Then I’d take it off with a little of my home-brewed nail polish remover (just pure acetone with a tiny bit of distilled water and glycerin – I’ll make a note to share my recipe later!), wash my hands with soap, let them dry, and reapply one coat.

The good: The nail treatment seemed to be pretty durable and lasted almost a week. It’d start chipping after about five days, though, which is pretty average for me and polishes, but it seemed to hold up pretty well and glued together the separated nail layers nicely. The peeling parts were almost invisible while it was on. Easy to apply and dries fast, too.

The neutral or less good: I realize this is highly dependent on each person’s nails/nail chemistry, so I don’t hold it against the product itself, but it did seem to make my nails more brittle, unfortunately. After a couple weeks, I noticed chunks of the nail tips chipping off from just everyday activities, nothing rough. The brittleness got a tad worse in the third week, so I stopped using the treatment. My nails are naturally on the sturdy/hard (rather than flexible) side, and my skin and nails tend to be dry, so I guess I’m not surprised that I’ve been less compatible with the strengthening/hardening treatments I’ve tried. I think I might need something that encourages more flexibility instead. This treatment might work better for someone with softer or more flexible nails, though!

Overall, I like Julep Oxygen Nail Treatment and will probably still wear it sometimes when I feel like taking a break from nail polish, but I’ll probably have to restrict wearing it to one week or less at a time. I’ve heard good things about OPI Nail Envy but haven’t tried it yet. Do any of you have recommendations for me?


Throwback Thursday: Sally Hansen Nailgrowth Miracle Precious Pearl

I’ve never done a Throwback Thursday post, but hey, I just happen to be wearing the first nail polish that started this whole nail polish obsession: Sally Hansen Nailgrowth Miracle Precious Pearl. More on that in a bit.

This is in outdoor natural light, two coats, topped with Essie Good to Go top coat:

Precious Pearl is a very sheer, frosty ivory pearl with a strong pink shift. At two coats, it’s still almost transparent, especially from certain angles. The formula’s a bit watery, but it’s not bad to work with, especially in thin coats. It had an average dry time for me. Overall, it’s a decent polish, if you feel like wearing something sheer (which I was, for some reason, probably as a palate cleanser, so to speak).

I think the formula does possibly speed up nail growth a tad (at least when worn without base coat), though I can’t be sure because I haven’t taken down empirical data or anything. 😉 I have pretty fast-growing nails as it is, and I itch to trim them every few days, so I’m basing this purely on my qualitative impression that I’ve felt like trimming my nails again even sooner than usual.

Precious Pearl probably isn’t in production anymore; I haven’t seen it in stores in years. Also, if I saw it now, I think I would scan over and pass it up almost immediately, in favor of something loud, like a neon orange or teal holo. A few years ago, though, I owned zero nail polishes and had no interest in nail polish whatsoever.

So what got me started on nail polish? Wrecked nails after a gel manicure (my first manicure ever!), which I got for my wedding. I think my nails got buffed a bit too much before the gel polish was applied, so they felt horribly sensitive after the polish was removed. I ended up going to the drugstore that night and picking this up, hoping the Nailgrowth Miracle part wasn’t just a gimmick and wanting something that looked as close to my natural nails as possible…without being too boring. 🙂

And with that, my fate was sealed. I’m still not big on getting salon manicures (well, I’ve only ever had three in my life, two for weddings and one freebie when I got that first gel manicure removed when I didn’t know how to do it myself yet!), but maybe fourth time’s the charm? I usually feel bummed out afterward that my fingers are sore and that I could have painted my own nails just as well and cheaper. Maybe tomorrow’s (again wedding-related) salon visit will be better. ❤

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. (7/11/15 UPDATE: It’s up!) 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!

Julep Phia, with Julep Oxygen Smoothing Base Coat and Julep Oxygen Performance Top Coat

This is two coats of Julep Phia, from the  Julep Maven June 2014 It Girl monthly box, in natural light:

Julep describes Phia as an “[a]lluring orchid iridescent chrome,” though the metallic finish has much more scatter to it than I would have associated with a chrome. Then again, I tend to group chromes, metallics, and foils together as metallic for the sake of tagging posts on this blog, since different brands use these marketing terms to describe different effects, and I’m not entirely convinced there’s no overlap.

Anyway, Phia’s a lovely pale purple-pink that I’d probably have described as a foil because of the more noticeable scatter/sparkle mixed in with the finer, smoother gleam of the base metallic finish, except that it has an added gray shift from certain angles that reminds me of Julep’s molten-finish polishes, like Blakely. The fine sparkle I mentioned earlier is iridescent and mostly twinkles magenta to green in stronger light, though it doesn’t show in my photos. Phia’s interestingly complex if you look really hard, but from a quick look, it’d probably just come across as a pinkish-purple metallic. I do like how it looks paler or darker from different angles because of the gray shift, though.

Another angle to show how the color shifts with the light your viewing angle:

Subtle, but neat.

Phia goes on very sheer on the first coat, and it’s technically still sheer on the second, but the metallic particles are dense enough that you won’t really notice unless you look carefully. Dry time was faster than average, and the Julep brush – which is slightly wide, stiffer than average, and square-tipped – works fine and is the same brush I’ve seen with all Julep polishes from the last few months, at least. It’s not the easiest to mimic the curve of the cuticle when the brush is so wide, stiff, and square, but it’s manageable.

I used Julep Oxygen Smoothing Base Coat ($18 regular, $14.40 Maven) under Phia. I mentioned in a previous post that this base coat didn’t protect my nails from staining when I wore Julep Jennine. With Jennine, though, the nail color swiped onto the base coat evenly, whereas with Phia, I noticed that the base didn’t bond as well with the color and went on unevenly on the first coat. That was a little odd, but the second coat of color looked fine and even. No chipping or flaking yet on the second day.

I topped it all off with Julep Oxygen Performance Top Coat (also $18 regular, $14.40 Maven). For those of you who have used Julep Freedom Top Coat: in comparison, Oxygen Performance Top Coat goes on much thinner, but it gels up and dries super fast – faster than Freedom, I think. I’m only on the second day of these nails, so I can’t attest to its longer-term durability, but it’s holding up really well so far, and I opened up a computer and dug through its scratchy guts today, so I take that as a good sign.

I’ll update my thoughts on these products again when I’ve had a chance to test out their durability some more.

UPDATE 7/21/14: The combination of Julep Oxygen Smoothing Base Coat and Julep Oxygen Performance Top Coat provided great durability with Phia! Even after a full week, I mostly only had very minimal tip wear, despite typing constantly throughout most of my waking hours, vigorous piano playing, dish washing, hand washing, showers, and all that. I also had some minimal chipping, but that only happened from the nails themselves breaking from my being rough with my hands (e.g., forcefully hitting piano keys, prying open and working with electronics, and installing computer hardware). If you don’t engage in activities like that, you could probably get through the week without significant wear. Impressive!

ibd Just Gel Polish Siberian Minx

I don’t normally swatch gel polish because I don’t normally use it, but since I got a gel manicure for a friend’s wedding last weekend, I figure I may as well post a swatch for the reference pleasure of the Internets.

This is ibd Just Gel Polish Siberian Minx, from ibd’s Haute Frost collection, which is “[i]nspired by royal Russian winters, elaborate frocks and plush furs.” Two coats in these photos, indirect natural light. (I got this done at the salon, so it’s not my own work this time.)

Siberian Minx is a sheer base densely packed with pale, almost-silver gold shimmer. True to its “plush furs” inspiration, the color really strikes me as the shade of warmed silver-gray I associate with timberwolf fur. Unless you’re looking at my nails up close, like in these photos, it’s actually not that easy to tell it’s sheer because the dense sparkle provides pretty good coverage. I can’t speak as to the formula or anything, since I didn’t do it myself, but the manicurist didn’t seem to have any issues with it.

Also, my manicurist complimented me on my last manicure when she removed it, and I felt all flattered that a nail professional thought I painted my own nails well. She was flabbergasted that I never trim my cuticles, though.

I think I may be an odd beast because I actually don’t really like getting salon manicures/pedicures all that much because of the trimming and pushing. I enjoy the soaking and massage parts of the process, but all the trimming and scraping makes my fingers and toes sore for a couple days afterward. I also find that my cuticles tend to crack and peel if messed with at all, either by me or a trained professional, even if I put on my usual cuticle oil and balm afterward. I’ve only ever gotten two professional mani/pedis in my entire lifetime (once for my own wedding and this time for my friend’s wedding), each at different, well regarded salons, and I had the same discomfort both times. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, though, I do have exceptionally sensitive skin with dry patches and eczema, even with careful skin care, so that could be it. My friends who came with me didn’t have my experience, so I certainly don’t blame the nail techs. I don’t blame it on anyone but my own irritable skin.

Also, at least half of the reason I paint my nails at all is because I enjoy the painting part, so there’s generally not much incentive for me to pay someone else to do it for me. :]

Anyway, I may not repaint my nails for a while because I figured I should get the most out of the salon service that I spent $45 + tip on, so it might be a little while until my next swatch post. We’ll see how long I can go without needing a change of color!

Julep June 2014 Maven Box: The Three Wishes Collection, It Girl (with promo codes)

I got my June 2014 Julep Maven monthly box in the mail today! I went with the It Girl box this month because I liked the colors best. I did want to try the new oxygen base and top coats, so I threw in the set of them as an add-on. I had enough Jules (loyalty points) to get the whole shebang for free, so that was awesome.


Here’s what was in my box:

  • Jennine – “[f]ull-coverage borealis blue stardust (matte glitter)”
  • Phia – “[a]lluring orchid iridescent chrome”
  • Savoy – “[a]ntique gold chrome”
  • 3 Pixy Stix, this month’s surprise freebie (it kind of amuses me that Julep misspelled these as “Pixie Sticks” on their ingredient/allergen warning insert)
  • A 30%-off promo code for the new base and top coats (Oxygen Smoothing Base Coat and Oxygen Performance Top Coat): OXYGEN2
  • A $10 off $20+ code: PERK1020
  • This month’s inspirational quote: “Promise me you’ll never stop dreaming.” – Melina Marchetta

Hey, I hate to be a downer, but I feel like I have to get some things off my chest. Is it just me, or is Julep trying just a little bit too hard on their color descriptions these days? I know it’s hard to uniquely describe ten-ish new colors per month, and maybe it’s just my being a straightforward kind of person, but words like borealis and alluring just mean next to nothing to me when it comes to color. Yeah, okay, Jennine’s got a bit of holo sparkle, and borealis could be short for aurora borealis, referring to the rainbow color shifts in auroras, but borealis itself just means “of the north.” I dunno, it’s a bit of a stretch. And alluring? That’s so oddly subjective. Personally, I don’t get how a color can be seductively attractive.

Maybe it’s just me.

Anyway! Close-up on the three nail colors:


I’m pretty excited about trying out Jennine. It looks pretty awesome. I like Phia, too. It looks like a slightly paler and less holo cousin of Reece, another Julep color I have in my stash. Check it out:



They don’t look like dupes, but they’re similar enough in hue that if I saw both at the store, I admit I’d probably only have picked up one of them, and I think I might have gone with Reece for the extra bling. (Sorry, Phia. I might think differently after wearing you, though.)

Savoy is lovely on its own, though because I have so many Juleps, I can’t help but think it’s basically Sienna (another Julep color) without the metallic sparkle. Here’s a comparison for you:


Yep, pretty much spot on, with Savoy being only a smidge redder. (The yellower tone near the bottom of the bottles is more accurate. I’m not sure why a pinker color came out in some parts of the photo. Might have been a lighting mistake, whoops.)

Here are the add-ons:


I’ll likely be posting a review of these at some point in the future, when I have a chance to try them out.

As an aside, my sisters and I were talking recently about how Julep’s marketing and other changes are frankly starting to turn us off a bit. The products are still generally nice, thankfully, but where Julep’s marketing used to be more to-the-point and professional, recent changes, like calling their polishes “Color Treat” instead of nail polish or varnish or lacquer, or whatever just feels very twee and artificial. Blech.

Similarly, their blog used to be mostly more (relatively) practical posts, like this one showcasing variations on the French tip and this one giving a tutorial on how to do newsprint nails. While these techniques can be found all over the web, and Julep still posts tutorials and tips, recently the blog’s also been bloated with a bunch of empty posts, like this most recent post that misleadingly starts off talking about “[m]acaron-inspired manis” and turns out to be just an advertisement for several pastel Julep shades without adding creative insight otherwise. What happened to better thought-out entries, like last year’s Julep MANven April Fool’s post, which actually made me laugh? This year’s Cat Color was just lame and didn’t elicit even a single chuckle from me. I think I groaned and regretted wasting my brain cells clicking that link.

Also, upping the nail polish add-on cost to $6.99 from the previous $4.99 just sucks. Why, Julep? Why? As if your steep prices didn’t already put your polishes out of the reach of many ladies who aren’t as fortunate as we are. 😦 Don’t even get me started on the wonkiness of Julep’s pricing math, either. Someday, I may write a separate post on that (or let my PhD-candidate sister do a guest post on it, since it especially annoys her).

Tl; dr – lately, my sisters and I have been feeling alienated by the shift in Julep’s marketing strategy, which now seems to target more of a flouncy, air-headed crowd than the smart, professional women that I thought Julep was trying to empower and inspire.

Okay, end of rant.

That being said, I’m still pretty excited about trying these guys out. As long as the products don’t let me down, maybe I’ll stick around for a bit longer.

Julep Shannon

Since I got my Julep Lucky Mystery Box on Thursday, I’ve been dying to try Shannon, the pale minty silk finish polish that was guaranteed in my box. I must admit, I bought the box mostly for Shannon.

Let me tell you, it was worth it.

This is three coats, no top coat, direct sunlight:

The formula is a little sheer, and like with Noelle, the brush strokes are sort of obvious until it dries – especially if, like me, you’re too excited about trying new colors and not always super careful. It dries super fast to a pearly, silky matte, though, and application is great. The dry time was even faster with the Ta Da! Quick Dry Drops, which do double duty as cuticle moisturizer. (They’re slowly growing on me, even if they don’t speed up the dry time by all that much.)

In indirect sunlight:

Ah, this color is so refreshing. I’m telling you, I just can’t get enough of mint green, and this one’s paleness and texture gives it such a delicious, sugary mint frosting look. Yum!

All right, so I was also less than careful with my application today because I’ve got a fierce case of the hunger shakes, but I really do think Shannon looks pretty yummy.

Did you pick up a Julep mystery box this month, and if so, which exclusive polish caught your eye?

UPDATE 3/22/14: Good durability on this polish. It lasted about five days without chipping.