Gel Polish That Blows, Nail Stickers That Don't

Complaining is the natural landscape of wild hyperbole: in which I complain about one product and praise another.

Mar 23, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

I know negative reviews are supposed to be both more fun to write and to read, but I really don't like them. I always picture the person on the other end of the review, the person who put genuine effort into whatever their product is, and then imagine their face slowly falling as they realize: someone thinks their product is crap.

Negative review writing just invites you to come up with flights of fantastical language that wouldn't fly in a positive review. Complaining is the natural landscape of wild hyperbole.

And that's fun! But then there's that person with the crying and the tissues and maybe my empathy just gets in the way of things a little too much sometimes, you know?

And, sometimes, my dislike isn't tied to any one specific tragic flaw. It's more the culmination of a series of small irritations. It's more that a product is just more trouble than it's worth; a product creates more problems for me than it solves.

Here's the short of it: I kind of irrationally hate the Nutra Nail Gel Perfect UV-Free Gel-Color Kit.

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The kindest thing I can say is that it's like putting superglue on your nails.

Let me explain.

This kit comes with an activator, a "polish," brush cleaner, and a lot of expectations. Gel color is supposed to be more intense in color, last longer, and protect your nails. It's meant to be easy to apply, and it dries to complete hardness in two minutes.

Not "Oh, you can do things but be careful so you don't smudge anything" dry but actually factually "Time to go pull wet laundry out of the machine" dry.

As far as I can tell, this gel polish does live up to that claim. For people plagued by drying times, it seems like it's a nail polish miracle.

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But first you have to get the stuff on your nails and that's where it all starts to break down for me. First you apply activator, and then you apply color. Every five nails, you switch brushes out, putting the one you were using in the brush cleaner to prevent weird gunky build up.

I've been painting my own nails for a long time. I can -- though it's dangerous and I would absolutely never suggest anyone ever do it -- paint my nails while driving a car. That's not a shining achievement, I'm just saying. I have a steady hand with this stuff because I've had a lot of practice.

But the brushes that comes with both the activator and the polish in this kit are stiff and awful. The activator is clear and very fluid -- it's all too easy to apply too much and get it not only on your cuticles but all over your fingertips. This stuff flows like a river.

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The instructions say to paint five fingernails with the activator and then come back with your color. The activator is shiny so you can, at least, see what a mess you've made.

Then you apply the color. But the color flows into the activator (like two rivers coming together), which means that if you got activator everywhere, you're going to get color everywhere.

And then you've actually superglued your nails to the skin underneath them.

It's one of the most unpleasant nail polish things I have experienced.

I'd have cleaned up more thoroughly than I did -- but the directions also make a big deal about how you can't spend a lot of time doing this. Wait too long to apply your color while you get persnickety with the activator cleanup, and the whole magical gel process won't work.

Since the magical gel process is supposedly what makes this process worth anything...

The color, I have to admit, really is intense. It's glossy and saturated and I love this shade of blue. But is it really a color I can't get with three coats of a regular nail polish formula?

The stuff does dry fast -- and it dries hard. Which is great, except for how it then cracks. Fixing chips is supposed to be easy, with another coat of activator and color, but I'm kind of not sure I want to be fixing chips in the first place.

Removing this stuff is flat out balls. The special nail polish remover packets are expensive. You can use regular acetone but then it takes for-freaking-ever.

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It took me two weeks to find the time and energy for it. In the meantime, my nails looked like a they've been through a wood chipper.

And that's another thing -- this stuff is supposed to protect your nails but mine broke like uber delicate china plates everytime I did something strenuous. It's all brute strength and no flex.

Ultimately, there's no one huge flaw that makes me hate this stuff. It's all the little irritants. It's just similar enough to nail polish that I want it to BE like nail polish. And at $14 a pop -- not including special nail polish remover -- it ain't even cheap.

After dealing with the gel polish, I really wanted something that just WORKED. But I also wanted something that looked fancy, because I'd spent two weeks with a plain color on my nails (or, at least, the last little dregs of it). Enter: Kiss jeweled nail strips.

The reviews I've read of these things by actual nail polish bloggers all seem pretty underwhelmed. And that's fine - but I love the shit out of these fancy-ass nail stickers.

These things are a pain in the butt to apply. I will never lie to you about that. But look at my glam rock nails, okay?

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The nail stickers you get by Sally Hanson are totally different from these. The Kiss Nail Dress stickers are thick and textured. They are NOT for people looking to get the look of nail polish without having to polish their nails.

They CAN be tricky to align. You have to smooth them down very diligently. And I use a nail clipper to trim them off to size rather than the file alone. Stick them on, trim them as close as you can, and then use the file to touch up the edges. You have to accept that the edges are going to be a little rough, too.

Supposedly you can wear these for 10 days -- I wouldn't know. I can't believe I left that gel shit on my nails for so long. I usually go four or five days with these stickers, though -- and they hold up fine in the shower. Avoid soaking them in really hot water though.

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Here's the thing about the jeweled part. It's not actual rhinestones. And when you trim, you can get a rough edge at the free tip of your nail. On the plus side, though, the jeweled nail strips disguise a multitude of nail sins, like staining from gel polish. And uneven lengths. And general malaise.

If you can accept the things that make jeweled nail strips not like nail polish, and I totally, these might make your nail art life. As they have made mine.

Thank you, jeweled nail strips, for saving me from that gel polish. I just keep admiring them as I type. And you know that's the mark of a good manicure, right? And that's not hyperbole.

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