Collection Review – Orosa “Summer”

Collection: “Summer” by Orosa, summer 2019

Link: https://orosabeauty.com/products/summer-set

Initial notes: Primary colors! This is a fun way to launch a brand. Also I’m always drawn to a collection with a mid-toned blue.

Polishes:

  • Blossom: A classic dusty pink. I’m not always a fan of these, but it’s pretty nonetheless.
  • Clementine: Ok I lied when I said primary colors. This is actually an orange that wears about one shade away from a red. Quite pretty!
  • Moon: A cool neutral, Moon is the kind of subtle nude I prefer.
  • Twilight: YES! I was so excited for this baby, and it didn’t disappoint. Twilight is a dusty blue, which is one of my favorite tones for my skin.
  1. Star: I think the two colors nail bloggers like disproportionally to the rest of the nail polish wearing world are yellow and blue. I love Star! It’s smooth, creamy, and pops beautifully.

Snow: This polish is a softer take on white. While true white can be a bit much on the nail (not to mention the “white-out” feel lots of true white formulas can have), Moon is light and smooth.

Takeaways: Orosa has a great aesthetic, cute bottles and packaging, and a fun color palette. I love an unconventional debut, and Orosa delivers with personality. The thicker formula took me a little getting used to, but it lasts quite well as a result.

My favorites: It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love “Twilight.” It’s definitely my favorite from this set. But I also need to add “Snow” for being a white polish I actually WANT to wear. The whole set is lovely; these two just stand out to me personally. That’s the joy of colors though, no two people have the exact same taste. I find that a fun part of nail blogging and following other bloggers and swatchers!

Collection Review – Zoya “Twinkling”

Collection: “Twinkling” by Zoya, Holiday 2019

Linkhttps://www.zoya.com/content/category/ZOYA_COLLECTION_TWINKLING_MAIN.html

Initial notes: This collection isn’t as cohesive as others, but I love how full of character these polishes are. Lots of brights and bolds!

Polishes:

  • Kaede: What a unique bottle! I used two coats here, being careful to spread out the large foil particles evenly. The base is clear with small gold flecks to give this a warm tone on the nail. Make sure to finish with a coat (or two!) of top coat to smooth things out and lock the foil down.
  • Enza: Warm toned beige polish. Easy two coater. I didn’t love this on my skin tone, but it applied evenly and is pretty opaque.
  • Steph: This is a neutral I can get behind! Two coat light, muted pink polish that’s bright and natural.
  • Mai: Dusty pink at its finest. I used two coats to get this classic look. Mai has the same lovely cream formula as the rest of this collection.
  • Tieran: Oh my! I didn’t realize until this polish how few collections come with a grey shade, and boy am I happy about the inclusion of Tieran. Easy two coats, beautiful bold, neutral-toned grey.
  • Tanya: Last collection we got Margaret, and this is its brighter cousin. Tanya applies beautifully in two coats and is as bright and shiny as the classic red of your dreams.
  • Rosa: This reminded me immediately of Taryn from last year’s holiday collection. It has the same finish, and it took me only two coats to get here. It’s a warmer pink than Taryn and doesn’t have the purple undertones, which makes this one really pop as a hot pink.
  • Gabi: Pretty purple here! Easy two coat cream. It’s bold, yet not too bright.
  • Sedona: This polish took me on a journey. I’m usually not a superfan of browns, but this brown-based polish has such a rich red shimmer than it jumped to the top of my list the moment I put it on. In two coats, this one is subtle in shade and RADIANT in the light.
  • Jen: How I love a good blue! Jen is the absolute deepest sapphire with a beautiful shimmery shine. I couldn’t believe how rich this was after only one coat! I added a second, but boy did this get opaque fast.
  • Alessia: Zoya does a great job with glitter polishes, and Alessia’s formula was super sparkly as expected. I used two coats here. The color isn’t something I would wear every day, but the sparkle makes it a great holiday treat!
  • Jett: Opinions have been mixed on this polish, but I will admit I like it. I used two coats. The texture reminds me of Storm from last spring’s collection, but everything is a consistent grey color. This polish dries matte, but shines up nicely with a glossy topcoat. I get a steely concrete vibe from this and have no idea why I like it so much but here we are!

Takeaways: I am so happy with Zoya’s cream formulas lately. The Barefoot collection creams were mostly three-coaters for me, but both the Sensual collection and this one have been rich, creamy two-coaters. Great work, Zoya! All six of these creams rule! As for the other finishes, I’m a sucker for deep shimmer polishes like Sedona and Jen. Lighter polishes with shimmer are kind of boring to me (does the shimmer even do much if you’re already beige?), so I was happy to see shimmer in dark formulas here. Kaede is truly unique, and Jett gets originality points as well. Alessia is more of a novelty than a wearable shade, but it’s still fun to see Zoya go outside the lines.

My favorites: My Instagram “Zoya Twinkling Bracket” saw Sedona and Jen in the finals (shoutout to Jen, the champ!), and I will say they are two of my personal favorites. Rounding out my picks are the beautiful grey Tieran and the electric hot Tanya.

Collection Review – Suite Eleven “Ken”

Collection: Fall 2019, Suite Eleven

Link: https://www.suiteleven.com/collections/nail-lacquer

Initial notes: This quartet is soft and chic! I love the palette, especially for this late summer / early fall period.

Polishes:

  • NY Who?: An absolute beauty! I’m usually not a green-wearer, but this blew me away. It’s green, but soft and cool-toned. This was a two coater easily.
  • Tea Time: This was the softest, most delicate mint polish. Essie has lots of pretty mints, and I’m so happy to finally have a beautiful, cruelty-free alternative! I used two coats.
  • East Coast West Coast: I firmly believe sky blue looks flattering on everyone. The application with this polish was smooth and creamy with a beautiful shine and richness. Two coats.
  • Brown-ish: I’ve tried plenty of browns, and usually find them too dark or too light. Suite Eleven figured out a great balance with this one, giving it a boldness and depth that doesn’t lose tone. Easy two coats.

Takeaways: Suite Eleven flexed with some perfect neon creams last collection. Neons are a notoriously tricky formula to master, so I had a feeling they’d be up for the challenge of pastels. They absolutely delivered. Unsurprisingly, the dark green and brown formulas were effortless to apply as well. I am continually impressed with the quality of Suite Eleven; most brands don’t come out of the gate with a perfectly dialed in formula! Again, these four colors work beautifully together and offer nice fall variety.

My favorites: NY Who? took the cake for me with this collection! I really liked all four, but I was so won over by the dark green when I started painting. By the time I top-coated that manicure, I knew it was a special polish.

Collection Review – Elsamarit “Glow”

Collection: “Glow” by Elsamarit, Debut Collection 2019

Link: https://www.elsamarit.com/nail-polish

Initial notes: These are five super-wearable shades that come together as a perfect capsule set!

Polishes:

  • Spark: Apparently I adore blush-toned nudes?! Who knew? Well, obviously Elsamarit did. This is two thicker coats, with a hint of nail line peeking through.
  • Flicker: Ahhhh, lavender!!! Pale purple is the new nude, everyone. Two coats.
  • Blaze: This bright red has orange notes to keep it ultra bright. Easy two coater.
  • Flame: Literally never complaining about another silver. This one applied beautifully, and I almost didn’t need a second coat but I did one for smoothness. 10/10, silvers for everyone!
  • Flash: I don’t usually reach for navy (both my high school and college school’s main color, which might explain my exhaustion), but this one surprised me. The formula is smooth and dark, resulting in a shiny, polished-looking manicure. Two coats.

Takeaways: I love all five of these colors! Collection cohesion is tricky, and Elsamarit created five unique shades that work flawlessly together, which I appreciate. The application can be tricky, since the brush is small and round rather than the wider, flat brushes brands are switching to. However, that was only an issue for me with “Flash” and “Blaze,” because slightly jagged/messy cuticle lines blended pretty easily with my skin tone on the other three. However, the rich navy and red are worth the struggle. The price point is high and I tend to only pay that much if the application is easy (read: Veque, Londontown), but each resulting Elsamarit manicure I wore was gorgeous.

My favorites: Flame was an obvious favorite (did you know I love silvers?!), but Spark and Flicker were beautiful nudes I didn’t know I would be so drawn to! Honestly I can’t leave out Flash either; it’s one of the deepest navy polishes I’ve used. Blaze was awesome, but I have other reds I prefer.

Collection Review – Londontown “Modern Opulence”

Collection: “Modern Opulence” by Londontown, Fall/Winter 2019

Link: Modern Opulence

Initial notes: Wearable! All four colors are pretty and less bold than the previous season summer launches. That’s a trend I’m seeing this fall (Zoya, Orly, and China Glaze seem to be on this train too).

Polishes:

  • Honeymoon: This neutral has hints of mauve that give it a uniqueness. I wore this for a few days and struggled to take it off it was so lovely!
  • Crowning Crumpet: What a gorgeous neutral polish! It took three coats to be opaque, but I believe it is purposely sheer. It would make a pretty one-coater as well! The formula was super smooth and creamy.
  • Cashmere: Gorgeous mink-grey cream here. Two coats. I love this color as a slightly more interesting neutral polish.
  • Starstruck: YOU KNOW I LOVE A SILVER! This one is sheer but full at the same time. I used two coats here to stunning effect. This would also make a fun one coat topper, but I love it most alone.

Takeaways: If you are just getting into at home manicures, this is an incredible four pack to get you started. Neutrals and a pop of glitter are enough to inspire anyone to self-manicure!

My favorites: Starstruck OF COURSE. But Crowning Crumpet was a surprise favorite as well! The other two polishes are pretty as well, but Starstruck and Crowning Crumpet are ones I would (personally) absolutely buy.

Collection Review – Vivre “L’Amour au Soleil”

Collection: “L’Amour au Soleil” by Vivre Cosmetics, Summer 2019

Link: https://vivrecosmetics.com/

Initial notes: I was psyched when I saw these four announced, since Vivre’s current lineup features mostly traditional pink/red/nude tones. Blue?! YELLOW!?! Sign me up.

Polishes:

  • Soft Serve for Two: I thought this was a true white, but it’s actually an off-white, vanilla ice cream color, which I adore. This took only two coats, and it wore beautifully.
  • Butter Drizzle: This is a yellow with plenty of tangerine-orange notes. I did this manicure with two thicker coats, but if I did it again I’d use three thin coats. I love a good yellow, and this is pretty darn near KL Polish “Tropicana,” which was maybe my favorite yellow to date.
  • Ferris Wheel Affair: This pretty polish wore like a true “baby blue.” I used two coats, and the shine on this one even before topcoat (pictured here WITH topcoat, as always) was impressive. I loved this one.
  • Win Me A Teddy: This soft pink is full of tiny glitter to give it a shimmery, pearly effect. I didn’t love this color on me personally, as I feel it’s too close to my skin tone and brings out the red undertones, but it’s still a pretty color. I used two coats here.

Takeaways: Props to Vivre for expanding their polish line in a playful way. The formula in all four of these was thicker and more opaque than Vivre’s other polishes, which is especially helpful for the pastel and bright creams in this collection.

My favorites: No question about it, my favorite is Soft Serve for Two, with Ferris Wheel Affair coming in as a strong runner up. Butter Drizzle gets honorable mention.

Collection Review – Zoya “Sensual”

Collection: “Sensual” by Zoya, Fall 2019

Link: https://www.zoya.com/content/category/Splash_Page_Sensual.html

Initial notes: Wow this collection is gorgeous. It doesn’t scream “fall” to me, but I don’t care. Almost every shade in here is something I would wear.

Polishes:

  • Joss: This creamy two-coater is rosy blush that applied smoothly. Easy to wear.
  • Kinsley: I personally view this color as a foundation that’s several shades too deep for me. Lots of you know I prefer a lighter nude on my skin, so this wasn’t a personal favorite, but it applied easily in two coats and would definitely be pretty for lots of people.
  • Foster: This built up in two coats to look like an edible chocolatey brown. Decadent.
  • Briar: Described as a “terra cotta” toned red, this two coat cream gave me a dusty rose tone that was wearable and classic.
  • Margaret: Speaking of classic…this is the red! It was almost a one coat polish, which is insane, and it wore so elegantly.
  • Rashida: This gorgeous red has depth, warmth, shimmer, and shine. It almost wore like a jelly AND a metallic at the same time. I know that’s not a thing…but try this polish and you’ll see what I mean! Stunning.
  • Etta: This shimmery polish seems like a cousin of “Rihana” with a little more red. Two coats and you’ve got an incredible manicure.
  • Ripley: A berry/plum purple dream. I always think of polishes like these as being “Barney purple,” and while I don’t think I’m wrong, I also don’t mean it as an insult. Super fun.
  • Michaela: Dusty, muted purpley-grey in two coats. Wearable, and one of the more fall-esque polishes of the bunch. Love it!
  • Vesper: I loved this blue-purple cream. Two coats, no problem. This is a keeper!
  • Elliot: This deep blue cream surprised me. I assumed it would wear more like a navy, but the color pushed through beautifully. Two coats.
  • Ashton: No surprise here, this polish was incredible. Two coat metallic polish with an incredible sparkle and shine.

Takeaways: As anticipated, I loved this collection. Almost all of these polishes are ones I would buy. The first three neutral polishes aren’t anything special (Zoya has launched better ones, in my opinion), but THE COLORS are something to write home about. I found the Barefoot summer creams to be three coaters, but all the creams in this collection are two coaters with no streakiness whatsoever. The metallic and shimmery polishes were really special in this set, with the exception of “Etta” (which is stunning, but similar to Zoya’s “Rihana” and “Haven”).

My favorites: It’s hard to limit this down, but if this collection were taken away from me, I’d for sure buy Margaret, Rashida, Vesper, Elliot, and Ashton (maybe Michaela as well). Ashton takes the cake (as predicted by my girl Olive Ave), and I’m so happy Zoya made it. I’ve been waiting for a cruelty-free version of Essie’s “Tribal Textiles” and that’s what we have here, although I personally think Zoya’s has more shine.

I tried gel (at home)!

Ever since my first salon gel manicure, I have attributed the instant dryness and consistent shine to magic. At home I have stuck to traditional lacquer manicures because the barrier to entry felt minimal, and I will continue to love lacquer because it is NONCOMMITTAL. However, when Madam Glam approached me to test out their gel polishes, I decided to expand my horizon and give gel a shot (30% discount code at the end of this post, if you’re curious to try!). I was drawn to this brand because they make VEGAN & CRUELTY FREE GEL. Also they sell a “fabulous gel kit” that contains a mini LED lamp and three gel polish colors of your choice (and a few accessories like foil wraps for removal, a wood stick, and a little file). Gel is intimidating, and a kit aimed at beginners is a great idea. MG sent me a kit, as well as bottles of their base gel and top gel (for some reason, these don’t come in the kit, which I don’t understand at all). With supplies in hand, let’s dive in!

Road Map

Gel polish differs from lacquer primarily because it “cures” on the nail rather than “drying.” Whereas lacquer drying happens via time, gel curing happens via light exposure (this is why lacquers can be sold in clear bottles and gels cannot be). With this major difference, let’s take a look at the high level processes for each manicure type:

Gel Polish Manicure

  1. Prep nails (file, buff, remove oils, etc.)
  2. Apply base coat
  3. Cure under light
  4. Apply color coat
  5. Cure under light
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until opaque (or desired coverage achieved)
  7. Apply top coat
  8. Cure under light
  9. Wipe sticky residue layer off with rubbing alcohol
  10. Manicure is ready and can handle activity

Lacquer Manicure

  1. Prep nails (file, buff, remove oils, etc.)
  2. Apply base coat
  3. Allow several minutes to dry
  4. Apply color coat
  5. Allow several minutes to dry
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until opaque (or desired coverage achieved)
  7. Apply top coat
  8. Allow several minutes to be “touch dry”
  9. Allow at least an hour for lacquer to harden
  10. Manicure is ready and can handle activity

So really, the process is pretty similar in theory. However, I found there are some major differences in practice I hadn’t noticed at the salon:

  • Gel polish has a completely different consistency than any lacquer I have ever used. It is significantly thicker and more “sticky” than lacquer, and the painting process made me feel like I was doing my first manicure all over again. I tend to apply regular nail polish as follows: one thin-ish coat to cover the nail and get a good line around the cuticle and nail sides, followed by one thick-ish coat for smooth coverage and to avoid streakiness. I learned quickly this is NOT THE MOVE for gels. This polish needs to be painted in thin, even layers. Otherwise, the polish might run on the nail (this led me to accidentally fuse my thumbnail to the skin on the right side with top gel I hadn’t seen run and threw under the light, which felt like those superglue accidents I know we’ve all had). Also, thin layers allow the gel to cure evenly without wet pockets.
  • Additional layers of gel polish don’t lead to lumpy nails like too many lacquer coats do. Ever go in for a third (or fourth) coat with lacquer and instantly regret it? With gels, I feel like I could do five thin coats and have consistency.
  • Errors while painting with gel can be corrected much more easily. Since each coat is completely dry after curing, any errors can be wiped away (even with acetone if needed!) without causing any damage to the layers beneath. This is ESPECIALLY helpful for nail art, and one of the reasons I hate doing nail art with lacquer so much. Gel allows forgiveness (and when it’s time for the topcoat, the design beneath won’t smear).

If it sounds like a lot of extra effort, it is. Here’s why it’s worth it.

  • Shine: No matter how good your topcoat is (I’m looking at you, Londontown Gel Genius!), it will never have quite the same shine as a gel manicure.
  • Longevity: If you like a long lasting manicure (and I think most non-swatchers do), gel is hard to beat. Gel doesn’t chip or peel nearly as easily and can last for literal weeks.
  • Design: Nail art is much, much easier with gels (see my last bullet in the previous section).

Madam Glam “Perfect Black”

Star design, featuring Madam Glam “Stardust” and “Perfect Black”

Why doesn’t everyone wear gels?

  • Longevity: Not everyone actually likes to wear the same color or design for weeks. I am in that camp.
  • Removability: Gels are notorious for requiring you to soak each nail in remover (acetone works best, unfortunately) for 10-15 minutes. Most gel wearers dip cotton pieces in remover, place one on each nail, and wrap up in aluminum foil. Not only is this acetone soak HARD ON YOUR SKIN AND NAIL, but if you don’t wait until the remover has worked it’s way through the gel, you will be tempted to scrape the remaining gel off, causing damage to the nail underneath.
  • Intimidating: Gel manicures require a lamp, and buying a nail lamp feels like a lot of commitment for the average polish wearer. In reality, there are tons of small, cheap lamps out there, but the barrier to entry is still there.

Madam Glam “Ready Red”

Takeaways

There are pros and cons to gel. It was honestly easier than I anticipated (I thought only salon magicians were capable), and cheap lamps make it more affordable than I assumed. Huge thanks to Madam Glam for supplying me with their Fabulous Gel starter kit, and for supplementing the kit with bottles of their base and top coats. If you’re interested to try Madam Glam, use “DIMONDSNDPRLS30” for a solid 30% off. MG knows gel is intimidating, which is why their basic kit is minimal. When I opened it, my first reaction was “Polish and a lamp? Why was I so scared of this?” which is what I assume MG is going for. I’m still not sure why the kit doesn’t come with base and top coats from the get go, because they are obviously needed. Either way, the products were great, and the colored gels looked stunning. Am I a pro yet?

Collection Review – Butter London “Springtime Romance”

Collection: “Springtime Romance” by Butter London, Spring 2019

Link: https://www.amazon.com/stores/page/38D4CB33-4407-432C-97AD-4DBD0B4B9700?ingress=0&visitId=e6337c3f-dc2d-49c4-8e2d-54fa4b0a8f1e

Initial notes: Right off the bat I see a more earthy nude set than most, which has me intrigued.

Polishes:

  • Starkers: This has a khaki tone that I didn’t personally love. I wore in three coats.
  • Royal Blush: I love this polish! It was a bit patchy to start, but three coats got me opaque. I find this to be the pinker twin to Zoya’s “Tatum.”
  • Frisky Business: I was surprised by this one. Again, three coats. It’s like a burnt peachy salmon, if that makes any sense, and is somehow pretty.
  • Violet Pastilles: This is an easy wearing grey with some warmth to it. Not a personal favorite, but not bad either. Three coats.
  • Warm Fuzzies: A cooler grey is where it’s at for me, and this is it. Three coats for this one. This wore easily for me, and it’s a keeper.
  • Mink Grey: My favorite! The second I put this one on, I couldn’t unsee “soft serve chocolate ice cream.” This is a cool toned brown that I am all about. Three coats.

Takeaways: If you are really fussy with nudes, not all of these will work. However, it’s a fun set to play around with to learn what subtleties you like and which you prefer with your skin tone. These are all on the earthy side, and although there is some pink in “Royal Blush,” this collection stays away from the traditional pink nudes. All six of these gave me awesome shine, but I did need three coats on them to avoid patchiness.

My favorites: My clear standouts were definitely “Mink Grey” and “Royal Blush,” which were both lovely and worked for me and I preferred them the most with my skin. I’ll also hold onto “Warm Fuzzies.” The rest definitely did not spark joy on my nails, but easily might for someone else.

Collection Review – Zoya “Barefoot”

Collection: “Barefoot” by Zoya, Summer 2019

Link: https://www.zoya.com/content/category/ZOYA_COLLECTION_BAREFOOT_MAIN.html

Initial notes: This collection is more playful and diverse than last summer, and I am here for it. Notably, Zoya finally made a yellow like OPI’s “Bee Mine Forever” and added an actual cute topper (remember Leopard Spots from Jubilee?). Five polishes have a glitter or shimmer to them, and there are plenty of non pink/red shades I am excited about.

Polishes:

  • Dallas: This is a special finish polish I can get behind! There are baby silver and white glitters that give great shimmer in the light, and white hex pieces that give this topper a unique vibe. I used one coat of Dallas in these photos, and prepped my nail beneath with Zoya’s Naked Manicure pink perfector and white tip corrector.
  • Bee: What a cute yellow! While a bit streaky (that’s a light cream curse), three coats got me to a gorgeous finish.
  • Eleni: Sky blue cream in three thin coats. You can’t go wrong. I liked this more on my nails than expected.
  • Walker: Of COURSE I am here for Walker! It’s a mix of Londontown “Iconic,” KL Polish “Porter Miami,” and Essie “Butler Please” all in one. Definitely a new addition for my favorite blues.
  • Rie: Another pleasant surprise, Rie is essentially a Barney purple (weird that my mind went there…) with warmth and boldness. This magenta-toned purple is brighter in the light than I expected, which I loved.
  • Dacey: This is a near-neon pink in three thin coats that’s more of a weekend wear (if you work an office job like me). Loved this on my nails!
  • Robbie: I am absolutely here for this glittery red. My photos don’t do the gold glitter justice. The base is a jelly red, so the glitter builds up and shines through the three coats nicely.
  • Liza: This is an easy red with pink undertones. Nothing wrong with it, but wasn’t particularly moved by it either.
  • Marcy: Fire in a bottle. The formula is the same as “Taryn” from Zoya’s Jubilee collection, and built up similarly in three coats. I felt ELECTRIC wearing this polish!
  • Keira: A great alternative to gold glitters, Keira is a laid back khaki with gold shimmer. I didn’t love it with my skin tone, but it’s still a pretty neutral. I wish the shimmer got a little more play.
  • Tessa: Peachy nude with shimmer makes a great alternative to boring beige nudes. I used three coats to let the shimmer build.
  • Joey: I thought this would bore me, but here I am, falling for this pale pinky-beige. Three thin coats since it was a bit streaky, but for the right polish I don’t even care.

Takeaways: The versatility of this set is strong, and I was pleased with how many polishes I liked that I didn’t expect to care about. I also used the Z-wide brush for my swatches and am 100% converted. I highly recommend ordering a few.

My favorites: I liked so many in this set I can’t narrow it down much. I pretty much like everything on the B-side, with Walker, Rie, Eleni, and Dallas being my favorites. I LOVED Joey, and found Robbie to be particularly stunning. Those are the six I personally would re-buy, and there is nothing wrong with the others. Strong collection. Bring on the summer.

Collection Review – Zoya “Innocence”

Collection: “Innocence” by Zoya, Spring 2019

Link: https://www.zoya.com/content/category/Splash_Page_Innocence.html

Initial notes: Can spring get lovelier than this? I am pleased with the diversity in this sextet.

Polishes:

  • Agnes: Not a bad way to start. Definitely safe (which I find a bit dull), but quite pretty.
  • Birch: As I’ve said before, nudes with a tint of color are much preferred to perfect skin-tone matches by me. This lilac-grey is absolutely doing it for me.
  • Evette: Purples aren’t my favorite, but somehow this one draws me in. Dang Zoya creams always get me…
  • Aire: I expected this to be a quick favorite and was not disappointed. It’s a tad brighter than my favorite *NONVEGAN* polish (OPI “Less Is Norse,” I need a true vegan dupe STAT) but is still amazing.
  • Fern: This pale sage is spring in a bottle. The shimmer is just an added bonus!
  • Theo: Usually polishes with flakies/stuff in them aren’t this opaque. Can you believe this is just a two coater? Plus, it dries super fast. This probably isn’t for everyone, but it IS for me.

Takeaways: This collection is cohesive, wearable, and diverse. Well done, Zoya! Pretty lights, tame bolds, and fun finishes give this six pack tons of mileage. Zoya absolutely stepped up their spring game with this year’s installation.

My favorites: Birch, Fern, Aire. And Theo. And honestly maybe Evette. So what I’m saying is I will rewear 5/6 of these. There is nothing wrong with Agnes either; it just bores me. Fern is really lovely and the best unique Zoya in a while, plus it’s muted enough for everyday wear if you prefer subtlety. Birch is entering my top nudes. And until I find “Less Is Norse,” Aire is holding court.

Collection Review – Suite Eleven “Coachella”

Collection: “Coachella” by Suite Eleven, Summer 2019

Link: https://www.suiteleven.com/collections/nail-lacquer

Initial notes: Suite Eleven came out of the gates in fine form with these summery brights.

Polishes:

  • LIT.erally: an actual highlighter yellow. I used three coats and got total opacity with this formula, which is not easy to do with neons!
  • Coachillin’: bring on the summer blues. This one is a great two coater for my collection.
  • Valley Vibin’: it’s a hot pink, but has gorgeous fuscia undertones that make it unique.
  • Turnt Up for Haze: grassy green and went on super smooth. Not my favorite color, but a pretty green if you’re into that.
  • Tangerine Dream: this orange is more yellow than red (most oranges trend toward red). I love the mango tone of this one!
  • The Golden Hour: it’s a super-sheer topper and would probably look good over anything. Here it is over “Tangerine Dream” for a little extra effect. Don’t apply too thickly, or the gold sparkle will pool up on the nail.

Takeaways: This splashy set is a strong debut from Suite Eleven. I was happy with the smooth, opaque formula, flat, midsize brush, and chic packaging. I found all of these colors easy to work with (once I learned to stick to the thin side for “The Golden Hour”).

My favorites: As I anticipated, I had three strong favorites after swatching this collection:

  1. LIT.erally
  2. Coachillin’
  3. Valley Vibin’

Unless you prefer orange or green, I recommend starting off with this bold trio of primary-esque colors. Because they are bright and opaque, I imagine they will flatter a variety of skin tones (they colored up my pasty winter color, that’s for sure). The yellow is the most fun summer polish around, and the blue and pink will be making their way back onto my nails later this season.

Brand Review – Shezaadi

Find at: https://shezaadi.com/

Polish stats: vegan and cruelty free, halal, 100% natural

Grades:

  • Paintability: “B” – Shezaadi uses a traditional skinny round brush. It paints on fine, nothing special here, but the long brush means polish can drip down throughout the painting. Make sure to wipe off excess; better safe than sorry!
  • Consistency: “B” – The formula pretty smooth and applies fine. Thinner application led to streaking, but applying slightly thicker coats did the trick. However, the Shezaadi topcoat caused the polish underneath to streak a fair amount, so I stuck with my Londontown topper.
  • Color and variety: “B” – Shezaadi only has nine colors out currently, and most are bright and bold. If you are looking for subtlety, this isn’t your lineup. However, the lack of variety is nearly made up by the STUNNING metallic, “Cleopatra’s Soul.” It’s nothing like the website’s photo; it’s a true metallic that is both silver and gold. I was and still am blown away by this shade.
  • Removability: “A” – These polishes removed just fine. Slight glittery residue from “Cleo” but not really problematic.

What sets Shezaadi apart: Shezaadi is new to the game, and offers up a more opaque and fun set of colors to the more traditional Vivre breathable shades and darker leaning 786 halal polishes.

Bias: Everything except the topcoat worked out fine enough, but not much joy was sparked, save for the following two areas:

  • Metallic of the year: “Cleopatra’s Soul.” I can’t say enough about this polish. I am impressed such a small brand made such a knock out shade!
  • The polishes are packaged in baby “shoe box” shaped boxes that I’m embarrassed to admit I swooned over. I haven’t thrown them away even though I have literally zero uses for them, they are that cute.

My Favorite PINKS

From subtle classics to bold brights, here are my favorite pink polishes:

  • Zoya “Monroe” – This pink is easy to wear, bold but not too bright, and opaque in two coats. Definitely a good staple.
  • Veque “Royale” – The classic ballet slipper pink. I like the Veque version of this shade because it applies really smoothly, helping me get it tight against my nail line.
  • Vivre “Macaron Mania” – I was surprised how much I loved this brighter pink on my nails. It looked pretty standard in the bottle, but after wearing, it’s becoming a favorite pink of mine. It took three coats, but it’s worth it!
  • Zoya “Allison” – I love a bright pink, and especially love this one because it’s on the redder side.
  • KL Polish “Jane” – Slightly darker than “Monroe” above, this polish is smooth, professional, and lovely.
  • Zoya “Minnie” – Keep it bright with this polish! It isn’t quite neon, but pops so well on the nail.
  • Shello Polish “Girl Boss” – This is the orange-tinted cousin of “Minnie.” I’ll be honest, I don’t adore purely peach polishes, so mixing peach with pink is ideal for me!

My Favorite BLUES

Neutrals are great, but nothing pops on the nail like a good blue.  Pastel blues, bright blues, dark blues…I love them all.  I have a lot of favorites, and here they are:

  • KL Polish “Porter Miami” – My love for this shade was unknown until I got into doing my nails. Especially with bright/bold colors, a wide brush like KL’s makes sure your lines are clean, which is why I much prefer this to Essie’s “Butler Please” (a near dupe).
  • Londontown “Iconic” – If you weren’t able to pick up “Porter Miami” before the end of KL Polish, this should absolutely suffice. The formula is smooth and creamy, the color is just as bold, and Londontown is vegan/cruelty free.
  • Veque “Soiree” – Darken things up with this sophisticated near-navy. As per usual, this Veque polish glides on the nail and is nearly a one-coater!
  • Zoya “Marina” – Blue and grey were a match made in heaven, and this blue-grey polish even has sparkle to boot.
  • KL Polish “St. Clair” – This is an absolute heavyweight blue, and for good reason. (Sorry this seems to be sold out! This Londontown polish looks surprisingly similar. I don’t have it, so if you do or try it, let me know if it’s a dupe! Maybe it’s more purple than St. Clair?)
  • Veque “Mint Ice” – This blue is a slightly warmer counterpart of “St. Clair” that just begs for spring!

Collection Review – Londontown “Dreamscape”

Collection: “Dreamscape” by Londontown, Spring 2019

Link: Dreamscape

Initial notes: This is a small but mighty set of springy pastels. All were perfect in two easy coats.

Polishes:

  • Lemonade Pop: this cotton candy pink gorgeous and flattering on the nail
  • Afternoon Tea: you can’t go wrong with a whitened pink, especially in the springtime.  Classic color!
  • Dainty Daze: this periwinkle closely resembles Deco Miami’s “Frenchie,” although maybe a tad more blue in this one?  Definitely gorgeous.
  • Peach Please: peach is an absolute spring treat on the nails, and Londontown created a lovely muted one that is a great alternative to a beige nail

Takeaways: All four colors are so dang easy to wear. They are fun, yet refined, and absolutely lovely for spring. I wish there was a bluer blue as a partner for the almost purple Dainty Daze, but I can deal.

My favorites: Lemonade Pop was a surprising favorite! I think it has just enough purple undertone to set it apart from basic pinks, and it looked really nice applied. It’s my lock to buy from this collection. The other three are tied for me, and depending on the day, each one holds second place. Right now, I’d say Peach Please. While this collection might be less flashy than others, you definitely can’t go wrong with any purchase you make from it. I can’t imagine them being unflattering for anyone! Prove me wrong.

In Defense of Nail Polish Collectors

One distinction I have learned from my few years in the nail Instagram world is the difference between people who like their nails painted and nail polish collectors.

Collectors of things like comic books or vinyl records can get made fun of, but ultimately, these items seem societally acceptable to collect.  They are traditional.  They look neat when displayed.  They might even gain monetary value over time.  But most importantly, they are not feminine.

On the one hand, the guy with binders full of baseball cards is a nerd, but is also shown to be organized, dedicated, and full of historical knowledge.  On the other hand, the girl with a shelving unit dedicated to nail polish is superficial, consumerist, and “too into girly sh*t.”

I have been collecting nail polish for three years.  These trivializing opinions are not only irritating, but are also usually false.  I cannot speak for all polish collectors, but the most striking, if not surprising, commonality I observe is love of color.  This goes beyond having a favorite shade or liking bright things; polish collectors appreciate the complexity of individual colors, and are fascinated by the subtle differences that set close shades apart.  They care why they prefer one blue to another.  This sentiment is shared with Pantone-heads and color theory enthusiasts.  Beyond straight hue, polish has the added dynamic of existing in a variety of finishes, opacities, and textures, and each variant wields color in a different way.  A matte finish allows a single color to command all attention, where a duo-chrome polish is interesting for the colors that exist on the periphery, with light reflection causing blues, yellows, pinks, and even greens to appear.

While Rothko-styled art aims to overwhelm the senses with color on a large scale, nail polish is created to exist on the smallest of canvases.  I feel similarly when looking at small diamonds or gemstones; how can such a spatially limited thing produce such a sensory delight?  Every single bottle of nail polish was created for small-scale display, and I find that a fascinating thought.

Polish collectors are not looking for people to appreciate their nails each time they change their polish.  They purchase their polishes because they find them beautiful or interesting, and wear them for the feeling each chosen color provides them.  Notions like “you care too much about your nails” or “guys don’t like girls who wear nail polish” miss the mark completely, as they imply the polish wearer’s intentions are superficial and meant to serve others.  Nail polish is not superficial or trivial just because it is in the cosmetics aisle.

I understand the seemingly endless desire for more color.  Fellow polish collectors: own it.  The world could use more of it.

My Favorite BLACKS

It can be hard to resist the allure of a good black polish.  These are my absolute favorites:

  • Veque “Memorie” – This is my go-to black cream. Dark polishes are the least forgiving on light skin for errors, so Veque’s wide, nail line-hugging brush is a must for me.
  • Londontown “Cheeky Noir” – This shiny black is an absolute stunner on the nail. Pro tip: use my discount code “EMILYH” for 25% off your Londontown purchase. You’re welcome.
  • Butter London “Earl Grey” – I love this shade as an alternative to straight black. It’s basically the darkest grey you can get, and it applies and wears smoothly.
  • KL Polish “Casseopeia” – This glittery holographic black is more laid back than “Cheeky Noir” above while still giving off plenty of shine.

My Favorite GREENS

My taste in greens leans toward the lights and darks, and not much in the middle (unless it sparkles).  If you are willing to explore, here are my favorite greens:

  • Zoya “Danica” – This polish from the Jubilee collection is a smooth, flattering deep teal.
  • Zoya “Tabitha”  – Shiny forest green makes this Sophisticates collection shade stand out.
  • Zoya “Remy” – This polish could never get enough praise. Blue/green completely pops with glitter. You’ll be staring at your nails all day.
  • Zoya “Olivera” – This is a shiny cousin to Remy that wears dark and complex. It’s a great alternative to navy or black.
  • Pacifica “Mermaid” – This polish is a glitter topper, and wearing it over black like in the photos below was GORGEOUS.
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