May 18, 2016

CDB Lacquer: Apocalypse Averted collection

I first discovered the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the 7th grade.  It was still airing its final season on TV, but I had to catch up on the first six seasons on DVD.  (Netflix was around at this time, but if they did offer instant streaming already, my family with its dial-up internet did not utilize it, and I didn't have much say over which DVDs we received.)  I quickly became obsessed and have since re-watched the show at least three or four times, plus several annual viewings of the three Halloween episodes.

When Cheyenne of CDB Lacquer released a Buffy-inspired collection last March, I knew that I absolutely needed all of them.  There was no way I would be able to buy just the blue and maybe one other polish, because that would feel too much like leaving out my closest friends in favor of only two of them.  So I got the whole collection in mini sizes, in order to save my wallet a little bit of the trouble.

Due to many silly reasons, it's taken me well over a year to finally get around to swatching all of these.  (You'll even get to see my old nail shape again!)  The polishes are long gone from, but they're far too beautiful for me not to share them with you!  Who knows, perhaps with enough demand Cheyenne will be incensed to bring them back to the shop.

I wasn't blessed with any sunny days at all when I was swatching these polishes, and they're all at least a little bit holographic!  Direct sunlight shows off holos the best.  Under my lamps, the holo glitters still look nice, but you don't get to see the rainbow sparkle very well.

Powerful Magics

"The magics I use are very powerful.  I'm very powerful."

That perfectly royal shade of purple, Powerful Magics draws its inspiration from the character Willow Rosenberg.  I think this color fits Willow perfectly.  It would compliment her fiery red hair very well, for one thing.  The holographic sparkles in this polish, which are subtle in indoor lighting but brilliant in sunlight, also remind me of Willow.  Like the sparkle, Willow's powers were subtle in seasons 1-3; then in seasons 4-7, she grew into herself, her confidence, and her power.

Two coats was enough for full opacity on this one, but I used three coats on my pointer and ring fingers just to see if it affected the color at all.  I think a third coat makes the color a little bit deeper and darker.

A Monster's Nightmare 

"I'm the thing that monsters have nightmares about."

This shade is inspired by Buffy herself.  It's a truly gorgeous shade of bright, ruby red.  I think Buffy would love this polish.  In the show, she mainly sported the delicate pinks and taupe-ish nudes that were so trendy in the 90s, but I think she would also really like this vampy color.  (Um, can I call this vampy if it's inspired by the Slayer??)

On the first coat, the color kind of reminded me of raspberry jelly!  I was tempted to lick my nails.  Two coats of A Monster's Nightmare is plenty for opacity.  I have three coats on my middle finger because my second coat came out a bit streaky (the downside of minis - tiny brushes tend to lead to uneven application).  I'm about 95% sure that the streakiness was only due to the small size of my brush, and not the formula of the polish.  As you can see, a third coat deepens the color a little bit, but not by much.

Removal of this polish is surprisingly easy!  With red nail polish, I usually wind up with red stains all over my fingers so badly that I have to exfoliate my skin in order to get rid of the red.  Not so with this polish!  My skin was nice and stain-free, and with two coats of base coat, my nails also escaped red staining.

He Sees All

“Seven years, working with the Slayer.  Seeing my friends get more and more powerful, all of them.  And I’m the guy who fixes the windows.  They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie.  To be the one who isn’t chosen, to live so near to the spotlight and never step in it.  But I know.  I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”

He Sees All is inspired by Xander Harris.  It's a lovely shade of blue-toned gray that reminds me of a starry sky.  That seems very fitting for Xander, in two ways: abstractly because his sight is as endless as the night sky; directly because many times throughout the course of the show, he speaks of his Christmas tradition of camping out under the stars to escape his dysfunctional family. 

As with the previous polishes in this collection, He Sees All is opaque in two coats.  I have a third coat on my pointer finger because a stray fuzzy forced me to ding up my second coat a little bit; as you can see, there isn't really a difference in color or glitter depth between two and three coats.

Bloody Hell

"Inspired by 'William the Bloody' aka Spike, a vampire who fights for his soul. Spike sacrificed his life in the final battle against the First Evil, permanently closing the Hellmouth."

If anyone in the show deserves a blood red color in their honor, it's Spike!  From his vampiric need for blood to his frequent British use of the expression "bloody hell," any time I see a vampy blood-red color I immediately think of Spike.

Bloody Hell leans a bit to the rusty side of the red spectrum, more reminiscent of half-dried blood than fresh blood.  But it doesn't look nasty rusty, because it sparkles!  Nothing that sparkles this much can truly look like a nasty patch of dried blood.

This one is the thinnest of the bunch, requiring three coats for full opacity. 

Apocalypse Averted

"Inspired by the several events that almost caused an apocalypse and were averted thanks to Buffy and her friends aka the Scooby Gang."

Throughout the course of the show, there were no less than eight apocalypses that the Scooby Gang thwarted off.  One could argue that there were more, and one would probably be right!

Apocalypse Averted has a clear base, and as a result it's very sheer.  I have two coats over my naked nail on my pointer finger; one coat over black on my middle; three coats over naked nail on my ring finger; and two coats over black on my pinkie.  Personally, I prefer the look of this polish on top of a solid color, but it does look good over the naked nail too!

This one is definitely the most holographic of the collection!  The microglitters are suuuuuper fine and holographic.  We're talking so fine that this almost applies as smoothly as a creme!

Macro at one coat over black

Angelic Demon 

"Inspired by Buffy’s true love, Angel aka Angelus. Angelus was cursed as vengeance for killing a member of a gypsy clan. They returned his soul, forcing him to live eternally in guilt over the countless crimes he had committed as a soulless vampire."

Angelic Demon is a thermal polish, which means that it changes color based on temperature.  When it's warm, it's significantly lighter than when it's cool.  I think a thermal polish is perfect for Angel because he's always so darn moody.  And blue makes it even better because blue is often associated with sadness, and Angel is definitely sad and broody most of the time. ;) 

This is my very first thermal polish!  I'm super impressed and may or may not have launched a new obsession.  My nails are so long now that, in a neutral state, the color is lighter near my cuticles and darker at my nail tips!  It's a lazy woman's ombre mani!

The shade of blue here is stunning.  When it's mediocre-warm, it reminds me of the blue raspberry jellybeans that were my favorite as a kid!  Angelic Demon definitely has that squishy look to it when it's warmer.  When it's cooler and darker, it is still gorgeous but loses a fraction of the depth to its dark pigmentation. 

What do you think of this collection?  If you're a Buffy fan, what do you think of the colors for each character?  Let me know in the comments!

May 11, 2016

Essence: The Gel Nail Polish wear test

Gel-like nail polishes that wear as long and strong as real gel polish but don't require curing with a lamp have been getting pretty popular in the last year or so, and especially in the last few months.  Many mainstream brands have been coming out with gel-like lines: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, OPI Infinite Shine, Nails Inc London Gel Effect, Essie Gel Setter, and Sinful Colors SinfulShine, just to name a few.  Most of these systems involve a special base coat and top coat, while some are top coat only and some also require the use of their special gel-like nail polish colors.  The main reason I haven't dabbled into the gel-like manicure lines is that I simply don't wear polish for longer than three to five days, so I don't see the point in investing in long-lasting polish!

Another reason I've avoided them thus far is the price.  Most of the gel-like nail polish lines are more expensive than normal lacquer.  OPI's Infinite Shine colors generally retail for $10-$12 per bottle, which isn't too bad but it's noticeably more costly than their normal lacquer, which I usually see priced between $8-$9.  The same goes for Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel line: the price for each Miracle Gel polish isn't absurd, but it's more expensive than any of their other lines of nail polish, and so I haven't really seen the point in trying them out.

But I recently found a gel-like system that is much more reasonably priced!  It's so inexpensive that I couldn't resist snagging a few colors.  Even if I never use the system after this initial wear test, it'll be worth it for me.  I found Essence's The Gel line at ULTA for $1.99 each, while the necessary base and top coat are $3.99 each.  The bottle claims that this line of polish lasts 60% longer, but it doesn't say whether that's in comparison to Essence's normal lacquer line, other brands of polish, or other gel-like nail polish formulas.

The base coat looks a little bit gummy, and it did apply fairly thickly, but it still dried incredibly quickly.  By the time I'd painted my tenth nail, my first nail was so dry that it didn't pick up my thumb print!  Very impressive.  The base coat has a great shine to it, which I'm sure contributes to the gel-like shine.  I used two coats of base coat on my own nails, as per usual, and only one coat on my sister and my friend (no photos, but I discuss their experience with this line at the end of the post).
There isn't as much color variety in The Gel line as in any of the other gel-like lines that I've seen, but they do offer a nice assortment of basic cremes, as well as two glitters, a metallic, and one creme that dries to a matte finish.  (does that work with the top coat? I doubt it...)

I went with three of the colors: a blue, a purple, and the Soft Matt, a pink.  I only wore the blue for a brief swatch, then I did the wear test with some nail art using the pink as a base on one hand and the purple as a base on the other.

Let's Get Lost

Let's Get Lost is a great blue creme.  If I'd had it some months ago, I would have put it in my first Do I Need Them All? post, because it's a bright, sky blue.  Not a terribly original color, but a pretty great color to have in your polish arsenal.

The formula on it was really great.  It was almost a one-coat wonder!  It didn't go on too thick or too thin, and there was no danger of flooding my cuticles.  Ooh, and the brush shape!  It's wonderfully wide and flat, so it was very easy to follow the shape of my nail and cuticle as I painted.  Wide nail polish brushes, you da real MVP.

Amazed by You

Amazed By You is the thinnest polish of the three.  I definitely needed two full coats for opacity, even though I was planning on doing nail art on top of it.  And the formula borders on watery, so cuticle pooling is a concern.

As for the shade of purple, I like it!  It's a nice deepish purple, not too neon or too muted. 


Like Let's Get Lost, Va-va-voom is quite heavily pigmented, so it is almost completely opaque in just one coat!  I actually only have one coat on my nails in the photo below, because I didn't want the base for my nail art to be too thick.  (The nail art came out much sloppier than I'd have liked, so you will only see it in the wear test photos.)

The photo is with no top coat, to show off the Soft Matt finish.  It is very soft matte - it's somewhere between full matte and Zoya's Satin finish.  It's quite lovely, but it turns predictably glossy with the top coat.  Maybe Essence should release a Soft Matt The Gel top coat?

The top coat applies nice and thinly, just like my long-time favorite top coat Out The Door.  I used two coats of it on all of my nails.  And it dries really quickly, just like the base coat!

One interesting thing that I noticed immediately is that once these polishes are dry, there's almost no odor of polish!  My nails usually smell like nail polish for a few hours after painting them, but even sniffing very closely, I hardly notice that nail polish smell.  I'm not really sure what this means, but hopefully it means that it all dries very quickly and solidly, both of which help to achieve long-lasting wear!

Wear Test: Day 7

I'm quite impressed with the wear of this polish!  As you can see, I had some pretty serious edge shrinkage after seven days, but that actually happened on day 2.  I was silly and didn't wrap my tips, with the color or the top coat, and to the polish's credit, the edge shrinkage didn't get worse over the next 6 days.  There are also quite a bit of wrinkles in the polish, but those happened very shortly after I finished painting.  Let's just say I shouldn't have been drinking so much water while I was painting my nails. ;)

The glossiness of the top coat held up really well!  Usually after a week, my regular top coat gets scuffed and cracked in places, and it loses its sheen.  But not this one!  I can see some shallow scratches, but they don't affect the polish's shine.  It's still just as shiny as it was on day one!

Something else worth noting is that most of my nails are peeling.  It's the worst on my right pointer and middle fingers, shown above.  The peeling usually causes significant cracking halfway down my nails within a day or two, but I didn't see any of that after seven days of wearing this system!  That's definitely a huge plus.  Having to redo my nails all the time to avoid constant nail peeling is a pain.

Unfortunately, neither the top coat nor the polish stood up to my crocheting.  When I crochet, the hook often grazes against my thumb nail before I push it in to the fabric.  It's such a small graze that I don't even notice it, so I had to crochet in slow motion to figure out exactly when the hook hits my nail.  What's interesting is that I've never worn a hole into any other nail polish brand before, even during extended wear periods.  This hole began forming by day 3, and I tend to wear the same manicure for 3-4 days lately.

So, what's my verdict?  I think this gel-like system is a hit!  It's priced low enough that it would even be worth wearing for only a day or two as regular nail polish.  The only obvious flaw in the polish is that my crochet hook wore a hole into it; my edge shrinkage isn't much of a concern because I didn't wrap my tips and most of my nails got wrinkles within 20 minutes of finishing my nails.  That sort of thing happens with pretty much every nail polish I've ever used.

When I was in Michigan last month, I painted my sister's and my friend's nails for them using the Essence base and top coat but with different brands of polish.  Stephanie is a mom of two boys under three - so let's just say that nail polish isn't much of a familiar friend to her.  Last summer, I painted her nails, and entire nails started chipping off the very next day!  But this manicure lasted her almost a week, diaper changes, house cleaning, toddler baths, toddler playtime, and all.  As for my friend, Merritt works as a stockist at a pet supply store, which is pretty rough on her nails - as is the cleaning (animal tanks are messy places).  Using this base and top coat allowed her manicure to last a whole week with reports of only tiny cracks and chips!  I'm very impressed.

If you have problems with the staying power of nail polish, I highly recommend this gel-like system!  It's super inexpensive yet still very, very effective.

Have you ever tried this gel-like system?  How about any of the other systems I mentioned, or perhaps some that I didn't?  How did you like it?  Let me know in the comments!

May 4, 2016

Zoya Petals: Leia and Aster

I wasn't actually planning on getting any of this year's spring collection by Zoya, because I have so much nail polish that I'm running low on storage space.  But, inevitably, Zoya had an excellent sale that I couldn't resist - buy one Spring Fling Trio and get two free (sadly, that sale has ended).  I decided to keep one for myself and uh - do something else with the other two.  But every single set has at least one polish that I already own, so I ended up keeping one polish out of three different trios while setting the other two sets aside for, um, later use. ;)

The three polishes that I ended up keeping are Happi - a rather old one that I've been eyeing for ages - and Leia and Aster, which are both from Petals, the new spring collection.

Zoya Leia

Leia is a gorgeous pearly white.  Alone, she doesn't get opaque very easily.  I have one to four coats shown on my pinky to pointer fingers, respectively.  As you can see, even at four coats there is still plenty of visible nail line.  However, my pointer finger currently has some weird darkness under it that looks like a few small splinters (except it's not that, because they don't hurt and I never jammed my finger).  Those were plenty covered up at 3 coats, and barely visible at 2.  If your nails aren't as long as mine, two or three coats might suffice.


Leia has a purple and green microglitter flash in her (you can see it best in the bottom left corner of the bottle in the above photo).  On top of bare nails, you can still see plenty of white.  I decided to try it out over one coat of black on my thumb, and WOW!  The purple becomes less of a flash and more of a main color!  It pretty much only looks white at one very specific angle.

This color is really really pretty and I'd love to play with it over other colors some time - and it'd look great over a French Manicure!  It's definitely sheer enough that I'd almost call it a topper.  But, since it has such a distinct purple and green shimmer, I wouldn't just throw it on top of any random color without being confident that they'd match.

Macro at three coats

Macro over black

Leia's purple and green flashes come from very very fine microglitters - which you can see pretty clearly in the above brush shot!  I love it. 

Zoya Aster


Aster is a lovely shade of periwinkle-lilac.  There's a flash of blue and of pinkish-white in the form of superfine microglitters.  It's a very delicate color - have I been saying that a lot lately? I feel like I have - and perfect for spring.  I wish I had some lilacs to hold for a photo!

The flash of other colors isn't quite as pronounced in Aster as it is in Leia; Aster looks a bit more like your average metallic texture from a distance (and, sadly, to my camera).  But look very very closely and it's anything but average!

Aster is fairy sheer on the first coat, but the second coat makes it totally opaque (even on my talons).


Well, while I wasn't really in love with these colors online, I'm quite glad I got them!  I do have plenty of pastels, but Leia and Aster are very lovely and unique.

Do you have any polishes from this collection?  Which are your favorites?  Let me know in the comments!