Review: Essie Gel Couture Pinned Up & Top Coat

Finally, Essie comes out with their version of the “gel” nail polish. I normally dismiss gel polishes that do not require UV lamps. I’ve paid close attention to reviews on the recent slew of “gel” polish releases that tout: Amazing shine! Smooth finish! Long wearing!  Ultimately, they turn out to not to be any different than regular nail polishes. Except they’re more expensive – I call that a money grab! :/ I started to pay attention when Essie’s new Gel Couture collection was making the rounds online and, one after one, the reviews were coming in with raves about how long wearing it was. Essie is one of my favourite polish brands, so I just had to try it for myself!
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After much deliberation, I landed on #60 “Pinned Up” as my test subject.  I set out to wear this for 2 weeks.

Essie Gel Couture features:
• Up to 14 days of luxurious wear
• Instant gel-like shine. no UV lamp needed
• curve-hugging brush for perfect color coverage
• Available in 42 nail polish shades

The first thing about this polish is the twisted bottle design – it’s distinctive and I actually found it functional – the shape helps with holding the bottle and twisting off the cap. And the polishes do nest neatly into each other:
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Essie calls “Pinned Up” a “spicy tea rose”, which does capture the essence of the colour.
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It had muted rose undertone, but in some lights, it warms up with a peachy tan tint.
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Here’s what it looks like with one coat:
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Very smooth but slightly sheer – here’s the second coat:
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Application was a breeze because the formula is self-leveling, so no streaks or bald spots. I dinged my ring finger on the second coat while it was still wet and made a dent (completely my own fault) – I quickly smoothed over it with a thin layer of polish and the dent disappeared like it never happened! The finish is quite shiny on its own even without the top coat.

And here’s what it looks like with the top coat:
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I was quite concerned about the dry time of the top coat. I’m devoted to my quick drying top coats, especially Poshe, which allows me to use my hands just 10 minutes after my manicure. I was incredibly shocked to see that this Gel Couture top coat is very fast drying as well, approximately after 15 minutes, I was confident enough to go do some laundry. 😛
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The brush is also noteworthy, it is quite wide, which makes it faster to cover the whole nail bed. But, sometimes it’s annoying because I can’t be as precise and it just barely fits my pinkie nail:
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(sorry for how dark and out of focus this shot is, you have no idea the contortions required to get this shot)

The stem of the brush features a twist design, which is meant to control the flow of polish down to the brush:
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I really didn’t notice much of a difference, to be honest. And I noted that the twist stem design was only on the nail polish brush, not the top coat.
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I dutifully wore this polish for 2 full weeks to test out its claim of “up to 14 days” (oh we know your tricks, marketing people – “up to” could mean it could chip on day 2!)

This is day 3:
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I should note that I was extra careful in my application – I made sure I wrapped both the polish and the top coat around the tips of each nail to create a better seal at the ends.

Day 7:
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I did not reapply the top coat at all during the 2 weeks. I know some top coats advise to do that, but I call that cheating. 😛 To maintain the manicure, I recommend cleaning the regrowth gap that’s starting to show, and also use a cuticle remover to keep them neat. And, it’s important to keep the cuticles well moisturized with a good cuticle cream / oil, I love the portable one by Nicole by OPI called Oil to Go:
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And the moment of truth, Day 14:
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Tip wear and regrowth gap at the base, that’s it. No actual chip on the nails! 😮 The finish has dulled slightly, but the manicure still looks passable (I was worried that I’d have to walk around with horribly chipped polish when I start this trial, thank goodness I didn’t!) I’d imagine though, if you chose one of the darker shades like a red or a vampy creme, the tip wear and regrowth would be quite pronounced. And the above is a macro photo which is quite unforgiving, if you see the manicure in a regular shot or in real life, the regrowth and tip wear isn’t as apparent.
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I’m curious whether the Gel Couture top coat would extend the wear of regular polishes, or if it was the combination of the 2 that result in the long wear time. I must say though, the polish on its own was a superior formula – very easy to work with and provided a plush gel-like finish.  For this trial, I used my usual Orly Nailtrition and Orly Bonder as base – Essie Gel Couture system does not offer a corresponding base coat.  Removal isn’t any different than normal polishes, no need to soak them off or use tin foil required!  I know that for my next vacation, I’ll be using Essie Gel Couture rather than going to a salon for UV gel polish like I used to!  Which begs the question, why aren’t all polishes like this formula going forward?!
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In Canada, the Essie Gel Couture polishes and top coat retail for C$14.99 each. These twisty bottles hold 13.5ml of product which is the same as the regular Essies (those retail for C$11.99).

Pros:
• Long wearing
• Self-leveling formula
• No chips even after 14 day wear
• Shiny finish
• No UV lamp required
• Not stinky

Cons:
• More expensive

Stash worthiness: 10/10

The $3 premium to pay for the Gel Couture is worth it to me. I bought mine on sale for $11.99 each.  I’ll be getting more colours in the future for sure!

Essie Gel Setter
I should also address the Essie Gel-Setter Top Coat that was released last year (above) which I reviewed. I don’t know why Essie even bothered to release that if the Gel Couture was already in development. Skip that and get the Gel Couture Top Coat instead!

74 thoughts on “Review: Essie Gel Couture Pinned Up & Top Coat

  1. I’m planning on redoing my trial on it now I’m finally home – hopefully it lasts longer than the last stint!
    Funny I’d already started writing up my review and comments and noticed the same thing about the lack of twist on the brush stem on the topcoat!

    I do like that choice of shade, goes with everything and a very transitional shade for year round!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, give it another whirl. I was surprised it didn’t work for you! I will be testing the topcoat with a non-Gel Couture polish to see how it works.
      Wonder what the rationale was that Essie didn’t use the twist stem design on the top coat?

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        1. Ooh I shall be opening up the top coat bottles at the stores to check come early 2017 to see! 😆 (no I won’t do that, actually that’s such a pet peeve of mine – people who open nail polish bottles in stores ugh)

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Essie polishes, but I too was am not to crazy on trying gel nail polish. You’ve definitely change my mind and I’m going to grab some Essie gel polishes ASAP!! Also the color you picked out is super gorgeous!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was very skeptical! But this one really delivered. Definitely give it a go – I had such a challenge choosing a colour. Essie does some amazing neutrals. I’ll likely get the other neutrals eventually! I’m hoping the top coat will work on non-Gel Couture polishes too.

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  3. The shade you picked up is lovely and suits you down to a tea! Amazing that this stood the test of time and lasted the 14 days, but that’s good going! What other shades are you tempted by? I’ve never tried a gel manicure but I will keep my eyes open for these 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have trouble with nail polish- my hands are in water l day- so I can’t wear regular polish at all when I work. I’ve been eyeing this line since it came out but haven’t seen any reviews from people whose opinion I trust! I can’t believe it lasted so well!!! I’ll be trying this out very soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SOOOOO happy you did this post!! Ive been patiently waiting! I am thrilled that this product works and your nails were still looking pretty good on day 14 considering!! Sometimes not even salon gel works this well! I think Im going to have to purchase this after I get my last manicure this week 🙂

    Felicia XO
    http://MascaraintheCity.com
    @MascaraintheCTY

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I likely wouldn’t go 14 days normally but it’s good to know that I could wear this for a 2 week vacation and I’ll be ok! I know what you mean, I had a UV gel mani chip on me while on vacation – I’m like… I paid how much for this?!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yay, the review I’ve been waiting for!! Hehe.

    Really glad to hear you had a positive experience with this. The tip wear isn’t bad considering you had it on for 14 days, and I guess the regrowth gap can’t be helped since our nails grow during that time, and there’s nothing that the nail polish can do about that!

    Fat brushes are the best, I love that they can cover the whole nail in one go!

    How did you manage to get that shot of you holding the brush against your pinkie without using a helper? lol. I applaud you!

    Oooh, I’m going to go pick one up today at lunch, but I know I’m going to have issues picking a shade for the engagement photos. Definitely a pink or nude…was thinking either Spool Me Over, Stitch by Stitch, or Sew Me, but after looking at your pics, Pinned Up looks really pretty too! Oh, the decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All of your colour options were on mine too! I used Beauty Geek’s comprehensive swatches to narrow it down! 😛 I might get a deeper shade to test how they wear too.
      Yes, there’s nothing I can do about the regrowth, but the tip wear was really minimal all things considered! I was so impressed – oh that reminds me, I actually did take a picture of my right hand to show the difference but typically the wear between my hands are the same.
      So to get that shot, I had to set up my little bendy mini tripod and set it on a timer. Then I tried to position myself in front of the lights. I took 5 shots and gave up. This is the best of those! 😛
      Have fun at your engagement photoshoot. teehee!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been obsessively looking at Beauty Geek’s swatches in the last week and I still can’t decide! Maybe I’ll play Eenie Meenie Miney Mo when I get there! 😛
        The shot turned out well, all things considered! You didn’t feel like asking your SO to take a shot of your model hands for you? lol!
        Thank you, friend! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review as always Stashy! Been wanting to try this too as it’s popping up everywhere but not willing to $$ and i might not even like it! Now im curious..you know im loyal to one nail polish brand but since it’s discontinued, guess it’s time to venture out! I really like the others too!! Gorgeousness overload! 👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes you owe it to yourself to try this! I was bowled over by how it applied so easily and how long it lasted. I’m on a makeup no buy for the next 2 months so I can’t get more until after that but I will most definitely try more!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Will def. check them out soon.. Have hauled quiet a bit of nail polishes for past few months and haven’t used even one.. But will def. keep this in mind!👍🏻😍

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  8. Ugh I just bought another bottle of Essie’s
    Gel Top Coat – should have waited!

    So excited to see that this actually lives up the hype though! And I LOVE the shade you chose – looks amazing with your skin tone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! Yeah the Gel Setter is still good, but not as good compared to the Gel Couture. I’ll be testing it on non-Gel Couture polishes to see it works on those. I love these types of dusty rose colours. I have so many, I bet I’ve got dupes hah!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh i was just waiting for this review. How exciting that it actually lives up to its claims: the wear looks amazing for two whole weeks. Can’t wait to try these myself now, but they haven’t launched here yet -_- will be stalking essie to see when we get them.
    xo Anne – Doves & Roses

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really rare that something actually delivers, and as consumers we should hold companies accountable! I was so happy this one did actually live up to its claims! I hope you get your paws on them soon! 🙂 They have some lovely colours in the collection.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am happy Essie have delivered on this one. You are so right: nothing worse than products that don’t live up to their claims. Still, with blogging taking off I think brands can’t get away with it so easily anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m willing to bet you that this will stay on your nails for more than 2 days! My friend also tried this and nothing stays on her nails and she wore it full 8 days! She was so impressed she ran out and bought 4 more colours. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If it’s working on me too, I will buy all the colors !!!🙊 I always have clear polish (like Sephora X The FIX) on my hand nails and super bright colors on my feet !😜

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  10. Two weeks is pretty impressive! I’m curious to see if the gel top coat will work on regular Essie polishes. Thanks for posting a few pictures of the other shades in the comments above! I’m going to look into the rest of the collection, but Touch Up and Make The Cut are at the top of my list! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be testing the top coat out with regular Essie polish next week! I hope it will work on them as well as other brands too! I hope you’ll like the formula too. 🙂

      Like

    1. I too, love the shape of the bottle! I know some people moaned about the shape taking up more space. Hah, I’m not that good at applying polish on other people – I’ve tried. I can only do it on myself. It’s the same with makeup, it’s so weird.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t own it, but I think it’s closest to Essie Eternal Optimist which Essie describes as “spiced tea rose”, which is nearly the same description they provided for Pinned Up! Here’s what Eternal Optimist looks like:

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        1. It just goes to show how we gravitate toward the same kind of colours over and over again! I’m sure I have dupes in my stash of Pinned Up too! I hope you get your hands on it!

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