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!