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!
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:
Essie calls “Pinned Up” a “spicy tea rose”, which does capture the essence of the colour.
It had muted rose undertone, but in some lights, it warms up with a peachy tan tint.
Here’s what it looks like with one coat:
Very smooth but slightly sheer – here’s the second coat:
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:
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. 😛
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:
(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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
And the moment of truth, Day 14:
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.
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?!
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).
• Long wearing
• Self-leveling formula
• No chips even after 14 day wear
• Shiny finish
• No UV lamp required
• Not stinky
• 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!
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!