If you have to buy it, get the best deal!
My nail polish collection is large, and thanks to my Julep Maven subscription, I keep adding to it. That means Julep polishes represent my biggest percentage, but I own a lot of brands. I started a nail polish challenge around the beginning of 2015 to put more of my polish to use. Sadly, my challenge got derailed when life got in the way. Halfway through this month, I decided to start regularly painting again. Instead of challenging myself to paint my nails at a specific time, I will just paint when I feel like it. Once a month, I will share all of my monthly manicures listing the polishes I used, how many coats of each I used, and how long each lasted. This should give me a great opportunity to use my polishes more often and actually review them. Since my polish collection keeps growing rapidly, I am not going to list them all in one place. Swatches and descriptions of every polish I own go into an article listing all polishes in the same color family. Typing the name of the polish you want to see in the search bar will pull up its respective article if I own it. If you have any requests on polishes I own that you want reviewed, please list them in the comments. As long as the polish you want reviewed is close to the color or finish I am looking for when I paint, I will consider it.
Tools of the Trade
I will only share pictures and reviews of each manicure tool the first time I use it in an article. If I use the same tool in the future, I will not picture it or review it again, unless it either improves or falls short from its past performance on a subsequent use.
The Ulta 6-Way Nail Buffer is a lot more colorful now. It works extremely well and is definitely worth $5 (if you do not buy it with a coupon or promotion). When this breaks down, I will purchase the bright new one. Every side works extremely well. I prefer a traditional file, so I rarely use the shape side. When I use it, I also use the smooth side. They work as a combo the way a regular nail file works on its own. Step 1 (remove ridges and stains) and step 2 (satin finish) get used every time I give myself a manicure, so those sides will probably give out first. If I am skipping polish, I will also use step 3 (buffing prep) and step 4 (brilliant shine). What I really like about this tool is it gives you every tool you need for a basic manicure. If you are not polishing, there is no need to push your cuticles back. That means you could use all six steps and go polish free. I’ve done that a few times, but I usually polish when I take the time to give myself a manicure.
The OPI Expert Touch Lacquer Remover is almost effortless. Even dark and glitter polishes remove quickly without drying out my nails. It claims to leave cuticles soft and while I would stop short of saying it does that, it does not seem to harm them.
The Julep Tada Quick Dry Drops work extremely well. When I apply these drops a minute after adding my top coat, my nails always dry faster than when I leave them to dry on their own. This also has vitamin E and sweet almond oil that hydrate and condition. It is so refreshing. My hands and nails always feel so dry, because I do not apply lotion once I start a manicure until my nails dry. As someone who has very dry skin and hates to skip a single lotion application after a hand washing, my skin and cuticles feel uncomfortable until this step.
The Sally Hansen Problem Cuticle Remover works better than any other at home cuticle remover I’ve tried so far. Even when I go weeks or even months between a proper manicure, this softens cuticles with ease. It never hurts to remove them, although I am not as talented at removal as the professionals, so I occasionally nip a little higher than I should. That has nothing to do with this product and has more to do with bad depth perception and shaky hands.
The Julep Crystal Nail File is an incredible tool for someone who feels uncomfortable or gets goose bumps with metal files. Metal files are faster and more efficient, but they make my skin crawl. This takes a little longer to smooth out, but it is completely comfortable. There is an odd smell this omits when in use that a metal file does not, but it is not too bad. It smells almost like the chemicals and materials used to create fake nails.
I got my Tweezerman Fingernail Clipper in a Combo Clipper Set at Macy’s. It appears the one I purchased is no longer available, but Ulta has a nice set for $11. My order history at Macy’s no longer shows this, but I think I paid more than $11 meaning the one at Ulta is slightly different. The black handle could be the only difference though. Tweezerman tools are sharp and this clipper is no exception. It provides quick and precise cutting. Some clippers make you cut more than once to remove the nail, but I’ve never had to cut more than once with this one.
I got the Tweezerman Gear Mini Hangnail Squeeze & Snip Nipper in a Mini Nail Rescue Kit from Macy’s. My $22 kit did not include nail clippers, which appear in the ad picture. It says this is a 3 piece set and the nail clippers would make it a 4 piece set, so I think they are not in this set. This is my favorite item in the set and retails on its own for $12. The snipper gives ultimate performance and handling. It is very easy to grip and maneuver into small areas, so it trims cuticles & hangnails with precision. This is very sharp. That means it will not tug, but it will cut if you are not precise. I love this nipper more than any other I’ve worked with so far, and I am certain it would be harder to handle if it was larger.
The Julep Cuticle Pusher is very gentle. It pushes cuticles back, but I have not mastered this tool yet. When I use this, it slides around on me. I rarely finish my cuticles with this, but I generally start with it.
The Julep CleanUp Tool is my favorite nail tool. It works as intended to clean under nails and wipe polish off skin. I also use this to push up my cuticles when I grow frustrated with other tools. If You’re talented, you could even use this for nail art. This is rough, so you I am very gentle when I use it this way. Between this and a great cuticle softener like the one above, my cuticles do not stand a chance.
These OPI Toe Separators are pretty durable for foam. I’ve used these several times (which does not gross me out considering I always have clean feet when I start). Only the part that goes over the pinky toe is starting to bend. That is more from the lower angle of where my pinky toe sits on my foot. People without a crescent shape to their toes may not even have this problem.
This white, hexagon foot file is double-sided, and the side showing is the more gentle, smoothing side. I cannot remember when or where I picked this up. There is no brand name written on it, but it does say Made in China. My guess is I got this in some bargain bin or something. It works fine, so I will use it as long as it lasts.
I got my Tweezerman Toenail Clipper in a Combo Clipper Set at Macy’s. It appears the one I purchased is no longer available, but Ulta has a nice set for $11. My order history at Macy’s no longer shows this, but I think I paid more than $11 meaning the one at Ulta is slightly different. The black handle could be the only difference though. Tweezerman tools are sharp and this clipper is no exception. It provides quick and precise cutting. Some clippers make you cut more than once to remove the nail, but I’ve never had to cut more than once with this one.
The Julep Clean Slate Polish Corrector Pen is difficult for me to work with. Granted, I’ve never been able to use any nail polish removing stick well thanks to shaky hands. This one is thicker than an average pen, so holding it with precision is even more difficult. I like that it comes with refills, because I like to toss the heads when they get stained. While the chiseled tips do help angle them away from the nail, they dry out quickly. When I reactivate it with another polish remover, it drips at times. It is nothing I would repurchase, but I would use it again if it came in a set.
This Revlon Emeryl Compact Nail File is very durable. I’ve had it a long time, and it still works as well as when I first got it. Metal files still make my skin crawl (a little), but this one files quickly. It is not so bad.
Polish and Nail Art
I will always include every product I add to my nails from start to finish (even if I’ve reviewed the product in the past). A different product combination can affect wear time. Unless I use a single product on its own (which I have and will do), it is almost impossible to attribute the single product responsible for poor wear time or longevity. Only when I wear a single product will I review wear time for the individual polish. When I wear multiple polishes together, I will review wear time for the combination.
The Butter London Nail Foundation was actually one of the things I purchased with my $10 birthday coupon at Ulta. It looks like there is new packaging on the product, but I am unsure if they changed the formula. This dries very fast into a pale yellowish color. As promised, it smoothes and fills ridges, promotes stronger and healthier nails. I have not noticed any stains while using this, but I have not tried it with any dark colors yet. Compare this to my other treatments, base coats, and top coats.
Rococo Flower Child Creme is a soft yellow. The polish brand is no longer sold at any authorized retailer in the US. I got this from the US SpaceNK, but it looks like they dropped the brand. It is a really great spring or summer color that is bright but nowhere near neon bright. This polish is very thin, and application is patchy. Even with two coats, there are parts that are not solid yellow. I could have added a third coat to make it even, but that usually makes polish chip faster. If you own a Rococo polish and are willing to add a third coat, it will probably look even. Compare this to my other yellow and gold polishes.
I got these Essence Nail Art Stickers at Ulta. They are no longer available, but I will continue to purchase other items from this line. This design is Just Magic 09 and set me back $1.99. For the price, they work well. Even when I had to pull them off to push them down again, they stay on with a topcoat. There was no polish stripping either. Other countries still sell these, but I do not love them enough to have them shipped to the US.
I applied the MAC Pearl Highlight as the top coat. It changes the look with its slight blue sheen, but not by a lot. Adding this is a great way to make a matte or crème polish look glossy. With a matte top coat, this semi matte nail polish would have looked very different. This is only available directly through MAC, which rarely offers any actual discounts. When I purchased this from them, I did it when they offered free upgraded shipping. They always have free standard shipping though. If you have to purchase direct (because no one with a promotion offers it), at least wait for upgraded shipping. Compare this to my other nail treatments, base coats, and top coats.
The finished look is above. I am not creative, so I did not even try to apply the nail stickers in any pattern. These stickers started stripping within two days. There is a clear strip underneath the color on the sticker and the polish held on, so the clear strip was barely noticeable. This combination (3 polishes and nail art) lasted 9 days. It started chipping on day four, but it only had one major chip on day seven. On day nine, the chips no longer looked presentable.
These Incoco Coconut Nail Art Nail Polish Strips came in a Walmart Subscription Box. They contain actual nail polish, so they are unlike other nail stickers. I only used nail stickers two times before this and did not have a particularly great result with either. Both were with more expensive brands than this one. My experience with these was they were somewhat easy to apply. The tips filed away easily, and I found the mini pink file that come with these did a great job. It smoothed the edges out beautifully. Nippers helped me clean around the fingers were the nail sticker overlapped my skin. Although I did not nip all the sides perfectly, I consider that more user error than a design flaw. This nude color probably would have looked better if the flowers were not black (even dark brown would have looked better). It made an otherwise beautiful design look a little dark. Not that I mind dark, but I do not think they would have chosen a nude if they were going for a bold look.
The pinky and pointer fingers have accent pieces. I would have preferred one accent finger per hand instead of two. Other than that, I am very happy with this set. This is 100% sticker. There is no polish with this. Both of my previous stickers requested a top coat. A top coat probably would have improved this. Around day four, the stickers started separating at the base, which was particularly annoying when they caught my hair while I was washing it. If I use nail stickers again, I will use a top coat whether it requests one or not. Today is day five, and these still look great (even the nails that are peeling at the base do not look bad yet). It just looks like I did not apply the stickers to the deepest part of the base (even though I did). My nails are either growing faster than usual or the bases are gently peeling away. On day seven, the base started peeling back a little more. Some of the tips started peeling on day nine, and that is when I decided to remove them. I was ready for a fresh look. These were messy when I removed them, and the sticky feeling was everywhere on my hands. I had to clean them a lot to make my hands feel clean again.
The Julep Oxygen Bonding Base Coat is a sheer version of the Oxygen Smoothing Base Coat, which leans sheer-white. It prevents staining as promised (although I have yet to try it with greens and blues, which stain the worst). This grips nails at the base and holds tight to color on top. My nails (which are naturally flimsy) feel a bit stronger when I remove this polish, so it does encourage strong, healthy nails. It goes on smooth and never has air bubbles. On fingernails, I really believe a nice base coat help the polish last longer. With toenails, I feel the opposite is true. After a pedicure, I can get a month of decent looking wear when I only use polish. When I add a base or top coat, I am lucky to get two weeks. Although I did get over a month with the red polish I recently removed, I also got staining, especially on my big toe. I’d rather paint more often than have stained nails, so I put a base on again for this pedicure. Compare this to my other nail treatments, base coats, and top coats.
Julep Kimberly is one of my favorite polishes. I am partial, because she is my namesake. The blue glitter is a little thick, so applying it evenly is a chore. It probably looks better evenly, but I already applied two coats to even this out. Since toenail polish lasts a lot longer with very few coats, I will never consider applying more than two coats of color polish. Purple is also my favorite polish color as you will see if you compare this to my other purple polishes. There are more purples than any other shade in my collection. It gets even bigger when you see the purple tones I filed with salmon and wine polishes.
I use the Julep Silk Effect Top Coat for a soft, opaque transformation. Kimberly looks more glossy in the shot above than she does in the shot below. This is the main reason I swatch my polishes with nothing on top. A top coat can transform the look of the polish. This one diffuses and gives a look that is not as dramatic as the MAC pearl, but it is similar. This is far from clear. Compare this to my other nail treatments, base coats, and top coats.
The finished look is above. This combination (3 polishes) has only been on for five days. Sadly, there is already slight chipping at the tips of the nails. Using multiple coats is always risky on toenail polish. It still looks presentable, so I am not removing it any time soon. I added some additional polish to the tips on day nine, and it looks decent enough to hold on.
Disclosure: Affiliate Links