I selected Essie Gel Couture in “Spiked With Style” (#360), an edgy deep blood red. The polish is bottled in a clear, twisted Essie branded glass bottle and the colour of the polish is visible through the glass, while the top coat is in an opaque white twisted bottle. There is no base coat with this gel couture system. It’s designed to be used as a two-step process; two coats of colour followed by one coat of ‘platinum grade finish’ top coat.
To start, I filed and shaped my nails, pushed back the cuticles, gave them a light buff and then cleansed them well with nail polish remover to remove any natural nail oils before applying the first coat of polish.
The wide, flat, round ended brush mirrors the cuticle area perfectly, making it really easy to get a perfect coat in just 4 swipes of the brush; one down the middle, one down each side, and then one across the tip to cap the free edge. By the time I’d painted my second hand, the thin layer of polish on the first hand was dry and ready for a second coat.
Something I did notice is that this polish has quite a cold feel on the nails with each layer, including the top coat. Any accidental messes on the skin are easily cleaned up with a bit of nail polish remover on a cotton bud or a nail polish clean up pen.
I did wait 10 minutes between applying the second coat and the top coat, as I wanted to be sure that the colour was dry. The top coat has a really nice thin consistency that applies really well. It’s better than any other traditional lacquer top coat that I’ve used the the past. It doesn’t smudge the colour coats below (like some top coats do), and has a very smooth looking and vibrant high-shine.
Silly me dinged one of my thumbs before the top coat was dry, and smudged the colour underneath, but it was easily fixed by rubbing a finger dipped in a tiny bit of nail polish remover lightly over the dented polish to smooth it out, and then simply reapplying a coat of top coat after the initial application had dried fully.
The twisted shape of these bottles makes it horribly uncomfortable to roll the bottles before use, and Essie should have considered this, especially since they recommend that polish bottles be rolled not shaken. (Shaking polish introduces air bubbles, which affect both the formula over time and the polish application.) These bottles also don’t fit perfectly into each other, the twists and bases don’t line up, so they take up a lot more room than Essie’s traditional square bottles, or round polish bottles do.
After 3 hours of typing the next day, the tips started to show signs of wear on the tips. By day 6, the wear was quite bad on my index fingernails, and on day 7 it began chipping on multiple nails. With Essie’s Gel Couture it’s said that you can get up to 14 days wear, but with other enamel polishes I usually end up with wear and chipping after 2-3 days, so 7 days wear before chipping for gel couture is really not bad.
After removing the polish on day 8, my nails had a definite pinkish tinge to them. So, yes, even though this polish is designed to be used without a base coat, the dark red colour of ‘Spiked With Style’ definitely did stain my nails slightly but it wasn’t as bad as other brands of dark polish.
I’d recommend trying Essie Gel Couture polish if you’re looking for a long-lasting nail lacquer. It’s available from Farmers stores and other Essie stockists, and there are 60 shades to choose from, although Farmers only has 21 of those colours to choose from.