My beautiful niece, who passed away on 02/18/15, would have been 10 today. Although it is nowhere near as substantial as anything she used to write, I dedicate this article to Sammy. I love and miss you more than I can ever express. If your Mom lived closer, I’d give her a great big hug today.
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. 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 Sephora Express Nail Polish Remover works extremely well. This removes all of my polish without stripping my nails. It’s been replaced by the Sephora Instant Nail Polish Remover, which I will probably pick up (when I run out) based on how much I like this one.
The Deborah Lippmann 2 Second Nail Primer is a fast-evaporating formula that removes dirt, oil, and residue from nails. It is a good idea to add this if you’re starting a manicure without removing polish. This cleanses the nail bad a little more gently than a nail polish remover, but nail polish remover works fine if you do not have a similar product. I do feel this or a polish remover gives me a cleaner base than when I go from buffing to painting without using anything.
The Seche Vite Restore is usually a miracle worker when it comes to dried out polish. I recently attempted to restore some more polishes (article coming). There is a Top Coat for this brand I have not been able to restore. After trying 3-4 times with this, I’ve decided to try once with the new Julep Restorer before giving up. That product is en route, so I will publish the article once I’ve tried it. This product has successfully thinned out polishes without ruining them or the way they look, so I know this can usually work its magic. It is harder to get it now that Ulta no longer carries it and Drugstore.com is closing. Hopefully, the Julep Restorer will be a suitable alternative.
The Swissco Elite Double Ended Nail Brush works extremely well to cleanse the nail beds and underneath the nails. This was especially helpful to remove the stickers I applied at the end of last month. Before I grabbed this, I could barely get the stickiness to budge. It still took some effort with this, but it was a lot easier. I can really press hard, so it cleanses with a lot more pressure than my fingers without hurting myself.
The Julep Emery Board files on one side and shapes on the other. It is better at filing than shaping, but I really like how durable it is. Of all emery boards I’ve ever owned, this one bends the least. I also like that it is large, because it is easy to grip. This is not the best one to pack for travel, but it does a great job at home.
The Trim Cuticle Nipper is difficult for me to use. This is nothing against the brand (even though it is one of the cheapest), but I cannot angle these properly to trim my cuticles. They look like they’re the same size as most nippers, so traditional nippers are just not for me. I mostly use the mini ones posted in the last article. These are somewhat sharp and when I do not place them perfectly, I cut myself. Some areas are a little dull. There are times I can place them perfectly, but it takes more than one snip to actually remove the cuticle.
OPI Expert Touch Lint-Free Nail Wipes are really lint free in the beginning. The trade-off for lint free removal is they require a lot of extra elbow grease. These are more difficult to maneuver across the nail than a cotton ball, so it also takes longer to remove everything. It dries out quickly, which is good and bad. I still end up using less nail polish remover than a cotton ball, because this does not absorb as much. When the little it does absorb dissolves, I can apply more to the same wipe and keep going. If I use the same wipe for too long, it will start to shred. Once it shreds, it is no longer lint free. Unless I am removing a glitter polish, I’ve found the sweet spot to dispose these is after using one per hand. With glitter polish or nails with decorations, it will take 3-4 for both hands.
The Tweezerman mini Stainless Steel Pushy Nail Cleaner is only available in the Mini Nail Rescue Kit. This tool is a little smaller than I prefer, so I do not use this often. Gripping it is difficult, because one side always jams into my hand. The nipper in that kit is incredible and the perfect size for my awkward hands. Thankfully, Tweezerman sells it separately if you want to forgo the kit. If I am on the go, I prefer to pack this. It does clean under nails with one side and push the cuticle with the other well enough to put up with the other side jamming into my hand (temporarily).
Q-tips are my favorite beauty tool of all time. What other tool can do so much! When it comes to nails, I mostly use these to clean up polish that crossed over to my skin while it’s wet or removing stubborn polish from the edges of my nail beds when it’s dry. The latter is much smoother since one wrong move can wreck the nail with the former. That is user error though and cannot be blamed on the ever so versatile Q-tip.
The Revlon Shape ‘N’ Buff File & Buffer got damaged from its case, but it still works well. I want to use this until it stops buffing. When the shine disappears, I will finally toss it.
The Sephora Crystal Nail File works nicely. It files my nail without the grinding feeling of a metal or cardboard one that sends goosebumps up my spine. I’d use this all the time if it did not take a lot longer, and if it did not produce an awful smell. It smells like acrylic nails.
I received this Sally Hansen cuticle stick in the Sally Hansen Problem Cuticle Remover box. These are not sold separately, that I can find, so I will need to buy another brand. The box has two, but I destroyed one in my restoring project. It’s likely the other will meet a similar fate when I complete the restoring project once my Julep Restorer arrives. I’ve had these sticks for a while, so they’re pretty durable. They work well, too. I use them to clean under my nails, remove wet polish from the side of my nail, and have used them to push my cuticles back before I got official tools for that. Based on the fact that they lasted this long, it disappoints me that I cannot purchase these separately.
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 Seche Vite Ridge Filling Base Coat does a great job filling in ridges. My base looks very smooth and somewhat glossy. Since I first purchased this, I’ve noticed bubbles form unless I am very careful with my strokes. I can work the bubbles out, but this is not the base coat I reach for when I am in a hurry. Compare this to my other base coats.
Zoya Zuza is a metallic blue-green that comes to life with micro glitter. This brand produces thin polish, so it is better with at least two coats for full opaqueness. I prefer to only use one coat when possible, so this is using only one coat. Compare this to my other green polishes.
The Seche Vite Top Coat I used was a mess. It was really thick and goopy. This is a somewhat glossy top coat, so it does make polish a little more shiny. I could not get an even application. This nail polish is somewhere between 2-3 years old, so it is not like it is a new polish. If you’ve seen any of my nail polish articles, you know I do not believe in specific nail polish expiration dates. Until they are no longer usable, I believe they are viable. Compare this to my other top coats.
I added the white and black Fine-tip nail art pens from the Sephora set mentioned below for my accent nails. These are really pigmented polishes with very thin brushes. This combination lasted seven days. It probably could have gone longer, but the top coat made it look somewhat messy from day one. There was not a lot of chipping when I removed the polish, so having a Seche Vite topcoat in perfect condition will elongate wear and make it look better. There was an event that I wanted special nails for, so I removed this at the perfect time.
The Sephora Collection Art At Your Fingertips Nail Kit includes: Metal dotting tool, Fan brush, Flat brush, Pointed brush, Fine-tip nail art pen in black, Fine-tip nail art pen in white, and the Go-anywhere travel case. I also purchased a larger, double-sided dotting tool from Sephora a while back that is no longer sold. All of these tools work extremely well. There is no weak link in the set. Every tool in the set assisted this look. I placed this with the polish, because all of these tools come in when the polish does.
I used the entire Formula X Pyrotechnic The System To Go Set Sephora and Kendo sent me for free on this look. After using the Cleanse Nail Cleanser to make sure my nails were clean, I applied the Prime Base Coat. This base coat went on smoothly and is semi matte. Compare this to my other base coats.
I used Julep Vanna on my ring fingers, so I could have an opaque, white base with just a hint of pearl. It took two coats to build opaqueness, so it started a little thicker than I would have preferred. Ulta Baby Doll is the pale pink shade on my other fingers. I love the sweet natural color. It is very thin, so it took 3 coats to build this level of opaqueness. A fourth would not have hurt either. Compare these to my other pink and white polishes.
I used Formula X Pyrotechnic from the Formula X Pyrotechnic The System To Go Set for the large dots and the bows. It is a beautiful, almost fire engine red. Using the larger dotting tool that I purchased separately from the kit above helped the red dots stand out. Julep Vanna with the smaller dotting tool helped break up the space in Ulta Baby Doll. The bow, the accent, and the Minnie Mouse head used their own brushes within the set. To make the bow sparkle, I used the last clean brush to add Julep Hot Magenta pigment just over the bow. Compare this to my other red polishes.
To lock all the artwork and polish, I added the Formula X Top Coat from the Formula X Pyrotechnic The System To Go Set. I probably should have waited a few minutes longer, because a few of the dots smeared. It still looked pretty good, so I did not go in too soon. As expected, the hot magenta pigment did not stay perfectly in place. In retrospect, I should have added it mixed with a top coat and a small nail brush. That was a learning experience, so I will remember that next time. Compare this to my other top coats.
For those who recognize the plate or what it represents and want details, I promise the article is coming soon. I wore this look for a whopping 13 days. The top coat started cracking on the third day (the picture with the plate is on day three, so it is somewhat visible). Although I saw some regrowth at the base and some slight chipping at the tips, I did not experience any major chips until day 11. It seriously impresses me that the polishes underneath stayed on when the top coat failed them. Vanna and the Sephora Collection nail art pens from my accent nails held on like champs. Part of the reason I wore this for so long was the artwork on the accent fingers still looked good when I removed it.
My all-time favorite base coat is the Julep Oxygen Smoothing Base Coat. This always goes on perfectly. It smooths everything out and dries completely matte. There is never any doubt that the polish is dry, because it does not even look like there is any polish on your nails once this is dry. I’ve never had nail polishes on top bleed through this specific polish either. Compare this to my other base coats.
Julep Leo is the latest member to the Zodiac Collection. Virgo is en route, so I should have that soon. I had to use two coats, which is unusual for Julep polishes. This regal, golden honey is a lot prettier than I expected. It is a shimmery, bronze-golden glitter polish. Compare this to my other bronze polishes.
The Julep Oxygen Performance Top Coat makes my nails feel like they can breathe. This is not thick at all, and adding it does not really change the way the polish underneath looks. I always get an even application, because this is easy to spread. It also dries quickly. Compare this to my other top coats.
The finished look is above. This combination (3 polishes) was on for seven days. I actually got a really noticeable chip on the second day when I was opening a package. My left thumb nail got caught in the tape, and the upper right edge peeled right off. That is unusual for a combo that only includes Julep polishes. I added an extra coat of Leo to that nail. Even though it looked like I painted over an obvious chip, it did not chip badly again until day seven. On the third day, I jammed my left ring finger, and the nail ripped off. Surprisingly, I was able to file the nail and add a touch up to that tip. That nail actually looked better (albeit a lot shorter) than my thumb nail. There was some light chipping at the tips and some regrowth at the base, so it was time to remove it. There was a Julep event that evening, so I chose to go manicure free to swatch polishes. Those swatches will appear in the Julep article I am publishing tomorrow. They were not a part of an official manicure, so they do not belong here. I also only painted seven nails. It’s a hot mess.
Disclosure: Affiliate Links
I'm Kimberly. Shopping is always more fun when I've found the best deal available, so I am always on the hunt. My father instilled that in me, and I love that I carry a piece of him. Sometimes, my husband and sons (12 and 7) let me shop for them, too. They do not use as many beauty products as I do. We can all benefit from nice products, even though their routine ends with moisturizer. That is when I can convince my 12-year-old to apply it.