Warm weather rainbow nails (skittles)!

Sometimes one, two, or even three colors just isn’t enough, and a rainbow is in order. :]

This is by special request from Mr. ‘Fiend, and I was happy to oblige.

From left to right, these are Nicole by OPI Challenge Red-y, Zoya Arizona, Julep Korin, Nicole by OPI Pros & Confidence, and Julep Charlotte. I later threw in Julep Lexie (not pictured) for a free-handed swipe of yellow between Arizona and Korin because the rainbow just didn’t look complete to me with yellow missing.

Here’s two coats of each, except for only one coat of Lexie over Korin on the middle finger, topped with Julep Freedom Top Coat.

In outdoor indirect natural light:

Nicole by OPI Challenge Red-y (the cool-leaning, bright cherry-red creme on my thumb) and Nicole by OPI Pros & Confidence (the turquoise creme on my ring finger) are exclusive Nicole by OPI colors that I got for free from a Kellogg’s Special K offer in 2013. The formulas on these are great and apply like butter – they definitely had the best consistency of the bunch. The brush is the somewhat wide OPI brush, which I don’t always love but worked really well with these two formulations. Pros & Confidence could be a one-coater, but Challenge Red-y is a bit sheerer and looks better with two coats.

Zoya Arizona is the bright orange creme on my index finger. The color is almost mac-‘n’-cheese orange, but it looks to me that it’s got just that tiniest touch of white – not enough to make the color pastel, but enough to lend it a softer look. No complaint about this formula either, but it is a little thinner, so it may take up to three thin coats, depending on how thickly it’s applied. It’s got the usual short-stemmed, standard-sized round, square-tipped brush Zoya usually uses.

In outdoor direct natural light:

Julep Lexie is the warm-leaning cheery yellow creme on my middle finger, and the formula on this one is great, as well. (I also wore this color in an earlier nail skittles.) Julep Korin is the bright yellow-green creme on the other half of my middle finger. Korin’s formula isn’t quite as easy to work with as Lexie’s, since it’s slightly sheerer and goopier, but it’s workable enough. These colors use Julep’s newer, wider brush, which is similar in width to the OPI brush, but it’s stiffer, so I find it more challenging to follow the curve of the cuticle with the Julep brush.

Julep Charlotte is the grape-y purple creme on my pinky. This one’s also a potential one-coater. I could have left it at one coat because it looked evenly opaque in one, but I added a second just to make sure. My bottle of Charlotte is an older one from 2012 or so, so it uses Julep’s older, standard-sized brush, which is much easier for me to work with than the newer, wider brushes. Your mileage may vary!

All of the polishes featured in this post are pretty good, but again, I have to say that the Nicole by OPI Special K 2013 colors are the ones that really stand out, both in terms of pigmentation and application. The colors aren’t particularly unusual, but the formulas are so good. Highly recommended, if you don’t have these colors already and can find a bottle somewhere. I know there’s been new sets of Special K exclusive colors since the one I got, and Challenge Red-y was offered again, so it might be worthwhile to keep your eyes peeled. :]

(UPDATE 5/4/15: Stain alert! I’d forgotten since the last time I used it, but Julep Korin unfortunately causes horrible yellow staining, and Nicole by OPI Pros & Confidence also has a tendency to stain. The other polishes are fine, with Zoya Arizona being easiest and cleanest to remove. Just a heads up!)

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Nicole by OPI Lay it on the Lime

Nicole by OPI Lay it on the Lime is from last year’s Seize the Summer collection and the only one that caught my eye out of the set. It’s a fresh and bright melon-y, citrus-y yellow-green creme – almost neon and almost pastel, but not quite either. Very fun, though.

This is three coats, topped with Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat (which I actually don’t recommend paired with this polish because of some color transfer issues), in direct outdoor natural light:

The color is fantastic. Cheerily bright, almost loud, but just slightly softened with a milky touch.

The formula is thin, so it goes on a bit patchy. I used thinner coats because the polish seemed to take slightly longer than average to dry for me, and even after three thin coats and a glossy top coat, it still wasn’t entirely smoothly opaque. Maybe thicker coats were in order, but the dry time might be on the long side if it’s applied more thickly. I might have added a fourth thin coat to even it out, if I’d had more time during my lunch break. ;]

The Nicole by OPI brush is a flat, wide, square-tipped brush, but not as mop-like as some, so I didn’t have any trouble with it. Application, other than the challenges of a patchy thin formula, was pretty easy. No complaints overall.

The color reminded me of another bright yellow-green polish that I own – Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Chartreuse Chase – so I thought I’d post a quick bottle shot for your referencing pleasure:

In person (and in my swatch post linked above), it’s easier to see the fine turquoise shimmer in Chartreuse Chase, so the colors have a somewhat more similar feel. As you can see from this photo, though, Chartreuse Chase’s base color is definitely yellower and not quite as bright as Lay it on the Lime’s. Both are excellent colors, and both have slightly patchy formulas, but Chartreuse Chase definitely dries faster, true to the Insta-Dri name.

Bottom line: Lay it on the Lime doesn’t have my favorite formula, but I love the color enough that I don’t really care. 😀 What about you? Are you a fan of this almost-fluorescent green?

Nicole by OPI Iceberg Lotus | Face-off: Julep Freedom Top Coat vs. Julep Matte Top Coat vs. Julep Silk Effect Top Coat

I picked up this beautiful Target-exclusive polish, Nicole by OPI Iceberg Lotus, some time ago and hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet. Today was the day!

Iceberg Lotus is a stunner of a color – peacock blue-green glass fleck-y shimmer, with a dichroic teal-to-purple shift – but it’s very sheer. For your reference, this is one coat (in natural light):

See what I mean? Even after three coats, it’s still kind of sheer, as in there’s definitely visible nail line going on. It probably could have used four coats, but the polish has a bit long of a dry time, so I didn’t have the patience to spend the extra time. The shimmer is bright enough to mask the sheerness somewhat in most light, at least, but I still wish it was a bit more opaque.

On the flip side, the sheerness might make Iceberg Lotus a good transformative topper over a base polish, such as a black creme.

This is three coats, no top coat, in natural light (please excuse my dry skin – I didn’t want to apply moisturizer until I’d swatched the top coats!):

Other than the sheerness, the formula is good. The wide Nicole brush wasn’t hard to work with, fortunately, even with my smallish nails.

I used Iceberg Lotus as the base for swatching three Julep topcoats: Julep Freedom Top Coat (their basic, fast-drying glossy top coat – ring finger), Julep Matte Top Coat (middle finger), and Julep Silk Effect Top Coat (semi-matte with fine, pearlescent shimmer – index and pinky fingers).

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Again, in natural light:

The differences look pretty subtle in the straight-on photo, but it’s slightly more visible in this second photo, as well as in person:

The top coats work as expected. The glossy top coat is pretty self explanatory, though, from my experience, Freedom Top Coat seems to dilute the polish underneath if applied more thickly, as it did on the right edge of my ring finger in the photo above. The Matte Top Coat gives that squishy, velvety look that I love.

The Silk Effect Top Coat, meanwhile, adds a bit of a milky cast with a fine pearlescent shimmer that still dries glossy, though it’s not obviously different from a glossy top coat over Iceberg Lotus, unless directly compared with Freedom. If you’ve tried any of Julep’s silk finish polishes – like some of my favorites, Noelle and Shannon – this top coat does seem to add a similar finish.

I think I may have to swatch these top coats over another polish later on, especially to better demonstrate the silk effect top coat. I’ll update this post if I do!

UPDATE 1/17/2015: This polish/top coat combination had pretty good durability and lasted most of a week (about 5-6 days) without chipping. Even then, only my right thumb (using Julep Matte Top Coat) chipped, and tip wear was only minimally visible on all nails. Iceberg Lotus slightly stained my nails on removal, though, even with a base coat. I guess that’s the typical price for wearing teal!

Nicole by OPI Gumdrops My Cherry Amour

I’ve had this polish sitting around untried for a while, and I have no idea why I’d never gotten around to wearing it. It’s amazing! I finally ended up trying it out because I wore a black dress for a friend’s wedding and wanted something bright and contrasting to keep my ensemble from looking too heavy.

I love textured polishes, and this one’s a fantastic one with a semi-sheer berry-colored (pink/purple) jelly base and a relatively fine texture (similar to, though maybe a tad coarser than, Zoya PixieDust) mixed with a fine holo glitter. My photos don’t quite capture it, but the holo effect is fantastic and really gives off a subtle, scattered rainbow sparkle throughout. The base dries a nice, squishy-looking semi-matte in the way of jellies, without dampening the shiny of the glitter.

Here’s two coats of Nicole by OPI My Cherry Amour from the Gumdrops line, no top coat, photographed in outdoor natural light:

Something about the color made it impossible for me to photograph correctly – at least on my phone, which I use for most of my swatch photos. The color looks almost hot pink in the photo, but in life, the color is more like what you see in the bottom of the bottle, toward the bottom right corner of the above image. It’s bluer toned, purpler – kind of an intense raspberry jam color.

Here’s another shot in natural light:

 

 

Again, it wouldn’t come out as anything but neon rose in my photos, but I promise you it was purpler and a bit deeper in life. The formula is flawless, and even with the fat OPI brush that I find a tad clumsy to use on my smallish nails, I had no problems applying it easily. No complaints about anything regarding this polish, seriously. It’s so juicy-looking that it really cheered me up whenever I caught sight of my nails during the day.

Here’s another shot in the shade, again in natural light, though it still came out neon:

I also tried indoor artificial light, as well as my iPad and my real camera, but the color just will not photograph right! I suppose I could color correct in Photoshop, but it’s not the same. Ah, well. You’ll just have to take my word for it – go by the bottle color in my top photo, bottom right corner. :]

I think this color is still readily available in stores, and it’s not particularly new (or in-season) at this point, so it should be easy to find it on clearance or at a significant discount. I bought my bottle for $3.99 at an Ulta. Totally worth it.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel B Girl & top coat | Face-off: Julep Paris vs. Nicole by OPI Lips Are Dripping Honey

This post is kind of a two-birds-one-stone kind of deal.

CVS recently gave me a coupon to try out Sally Hansen’s new Miracle Gel polishes, so I decided to go ahead and give them a shot. After all, I’d read some good things about these polishes. I was pretty intrigued by the promise of gel-like durability in a regular nail polish. I know Miracle Gel has the world gel in there, but after reading up on it, it sounds more like a regular nail polish with a top coat that reacts in sunlight to bond with the nail color underneath. It’s supposedly easily removable without soaking, and you don’t need a UV lamp. Yeah, that sounded pretty good to me, too!

This is three thin coats of Sally Hansen Miracle Gel B Girl in natural light, topped with one coat of Julep Paris on the ring finger and one coat of Nicole by OPI Lips Are Dripping Honey (from their Carrie Underwood collection). All of that is topped with Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat, which is what supposedly makes the magic happen.

B Girl‘s formula is fine, though it looked patchy even after two coats, so I added a third for evenness. It looked decent on the third coat, and I love the creamy, minty green-blue color. It’s exactly the kind of color I’m always drawn to. Dry time was average.

Once that all dried, I applied one coat Julep Paris on the ring finger and one coat Nicole by OPI Lips Are Dripping Honey on the middle finger, which I’ll compare in a minute.

Here’s another angle to show the rainbows in the holo glitters:

The main problem with B Girl’s application was the wonky brush, which, frankly, sucked. It’s a wide, almost mop-like brush, with a curved tip, which is fine, but the bristles were unevenly trimmed and resulted in some bristles pressing into the polish and causing streaks. Ugh. At least the polish formula was somewhat self-leveling, though it didn’t quite make up for the bad brush.

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Anyway, it all worked out in the end, thanks to the Miracle Gel Top Coat. It’s a somewhat viscous top coat, though not nearly as thick as Seche Vite. Like with Seche Vite when not applied carefully, I did have some polish transfer onto the brush when I applied the top coat, even though the nail polish underneath was dry to the touch. I did my best to glide the top coat on a la Seche Vite, but it’s harder with the thinner formula. The top coat dried like a normal top coat and took a while, though that was because I painted my nails at night, and I couldn’t use the sun to cure it quickly. I’d recommend using this during the daytime, if possible, so you can take advantage of the UV curing. I’d suppose that a UV lamp could do the same thing, but I haven’t tried this and can’t confirm.

It’s currently one day in, and the nails are looking good, as promised – no tip wear at all yet! I’ll update this in about a week to add notes on durability.

Meanwhile, here’s a face-off between Paris and Lips Are Dripping Honey. When I saw LADH on sale at the drugstore, I was immediately drawn to it…and then I realized I already had its twin at home. Of course, that motivated me even more to pick it up because I love sniffing out dupes. Here’s a close-up (Paris on the left (ring finger) and LADH on the right (middle finger)):

They’re basically the same thing, as I’d suspected: holo hex glitters that are gold on one side and silver on the other, mixed with a smattering of holo microglitters in a clear base. The only real difference seems to be that Paris is noticeably thicker and suspends the glitters better, so that they generally apply in a good distribution, even if you just brush it on like you would a regular nail polish. I didn’t really have to place glitters for LADH either, per se, but just swiping on the polish left a much sparser distribution of glitters. My swatch shows both basically just brushed on without any special technique, though I did end up pushing/dabbing a little with LADH, just because the thinner formula made it a little more challenging for glitters to stay put on the nail. They both dry pretty fast.

Otherwise, I honestly probably couldn’t tell these apart without being told, and you can get the same glitter density with LADH if you just put on two coats. There’s a huge price difference between the two, though. Paris goes for $14 regular ($11.20 Maven) for 0.27 fl. oz./8 mL, while LADH goes for about $7.99 at CVS for 0.5 fl. oz./15 mL, easily cheaper if you have a coupon or catch it on sale. Using the regular prices, though, by volume, Paris is about 3.3 times the price of LADH, a little better (about 2.6 times) if you’re a Maven. I prefer Paris’ formula, but I don’t know if it’s worth the price premium.

The Sally Hansen Miracle Gel colors and top coat go for $9.99 each at CVS and can be much better priced if you can scare up a coupon. :] If you’ve tried Miracle Gel, what did you think?

UPDATE 7/29/14: I wore these nails for 8 days to test out durability, and it stood up pretty well to my being pretty rough with my hands. The only nails that had any chipping or significant wear were the ones where part of the nail itself chipped off (mostly from emphatic piano playing, again) – both thumbs and my right pinky. The rest of the nails stayed amazingly intact! Also, removal was a breeze. The nails with the additional glitter took the usual 10 minutes to soak off, and the rest came off effortlessly in seconds, like a normal creme polish. I think Sally Hansen Miracle Gel is a winner!

Next, I’ll be testing Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat with other polishes, to see if it does the magic on its own. Stay tuned!

Face-off: Julep Jennine vs. Nicole by OPI Gumdrops That’s What I Mint

I didn’t realize it until I saw  Julep Jennine in person, but as soon as I held the bottle in my hand, I realized that it really reminded me of Nicole by OPI That’s What I Mint from the Gumdrops line. My gel manicure happened to suffer a bit of a mishap at work yesterday, so it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to go ahead and do a face-off.

Both shades are pretty true to how they look in the bottle. That’s What I Mint is visibly greener/yellower than Jennine. If you don’t look carefully, though, they’re similar enough to be mistaken for the same polish. Both colors are teal textured glitters with flecks of blue, green, and purple.

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(UPDATE 7/23/14: My bad. I posted it on Instagram, then forgot to tell you in the blog post which colors are on which fingers! Jennine is on my middle and pinky fingers, and That’s What I Mint is on my ring and index fingers. Thanks for catching that, Joanna!)

Two coats each, no top coat, natural light (wow, did my skin actually learn to tan this year?):

Another angle that shows the color differences slightly better:

You can maybe see the difference a bit better on my right hand, since I applied thinner coats with my less-dominant hand:

Jennine is also slightly chunkier in texture than That’s What I Mint. Otherwise, they’re pretty close – close enough that I wouldn’t necessarily notice unless I was actively searching for differences. Jennine is a tad sheerer on the first coat, but both have easy-to-apply, fast-drying formulas that cover opaquely in two coats. They both dry semi-matte, which I like. I’m willing to bet money that both these colors would be amazing with glossy top coat, though.

My final verdict? Though they’re not exactly the same color, they’re similar enough overall that you probably don’t need both. The NOPI color is the more economical choice, of course, at 15 mL/0.5 fl. oz. for around $8-9 full price at my local CVS (easily cheaper on sale or with a coupon), whereas the Julep is 8 mL/0.27 fl. oz. for $14 full price ($11.20 if you’re a Maven).

By the way? Removing gel polish is such a royal pain! D: Honestly, I think that’s the primary reason I haven’t started doing my own gel manicures yet. It’s going to be regular nail polish for me for now.