Essie gel couture nail polish review

Essie Gel Couture in 'Rock the Runway'

I’ll be honest: I’d probably have bought Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish just for the bottle.

Well, it is a pretty cool bottle, isn’t it? Like, the kind of cool that even your husband will comment on when he sees it on your dressing table: and which you will buy purely because you know it’ll look good sitting on your dressing table. And also because you’re totally the kind of person who buys cosmetics just for their dressing table appeal, let’s face it.

That’s actually not why I bought Essie Gel Couture, though.

I mean, it is partly why I bought it. But the main selling point for me was the claim that this little polish will last for a full two weeks: without chipping, and without actually being a gel polish, despite the name. No, this is just a gel-like polish: which means it’s super-shiny and super-long lasting, but you don’t have to use an LED lamp to cure it, and you don’t have to soak your fingernails in acetone to get it back off again, either.

That was the biggest draw for me, actually. Don’t get me wrong: I love the LED lamp I got a couple of years ago, and I use it all the time on my toes. I use it some of the time on my fingernails, too, but whereas I can get a solid month out of my toenail polish with it (Yeah, I know, sounds gross, but my toenails just don’t seem to grow as fast as my fingernails do, for some reason), when I use it on my fingers, the regrowth will start to really bug me after a couple of weeks, and then I’ll have to go through the rigmarole of removing it, which I always find a complete pain. So when I read about this gel-like polish which would apparently last for two weeks, but which could be easily removed, just like any regular polish, I was sold. Or it was, rather: sold to the gullible fool whose nail polish never seems to last more than a day without chipping, and who’s pretty freaking sick of it, to be completely honest.

Ahem.

This is a two-step process: you apply the colour first, then the long-lasting topcoat – which is where the magic happens, apparently. Interestingly, although some of the available colours are very bright, Essie claim this is a non-stain formula, which doesn’t require a base-coat, making it even quicker and easier to apply. “We’ll see about that!” I thought.

I chose the shade ‘Rock the Runway’, which is basically the perfect shade of bright red, as far as I’m concerned:

Essie Gel Couture in 'Rock the Runway'

(I am never more aware of my failings as a blogger than when I try to take photos of my sloppy nail-polish application. Let’s just say I’m Not a Nail Person, and leave it that, hmm?)

I had to use two coats (not including the topcoat) to get this effect, and while it applied easily enough, it seemed to take forever to dry, which was a bit of a bummer for someone as lacking in patience as I am. When I first wrote about my LED lamp, quite a few people commented to say they couldn’t be bothered with the “hassle” of it, but, for me, the lamp is SO much quicker than using regular polish. The one I have cures each coat in 30 seconds, so you can have your nails painted, and be out the door in just a few minutes. With this, I had to sit around waving my hands in the air, and asking Terry to bring me cups of coffee (So, OK, it did have SOME advantages, I guess) for absolutely ages. With that said, although the LED lamp makes it really quick to apply polish, that polish then takes forever to remove (Yes, I’ve bought all of the various little products that claim to make it easier, but it still takes what feels like a long time to my impatient self…), so my conclusion here is that if you want your polish to last a long time, you’re probably going to have to invest some time in either applying/removing it. The struggle is real, people.

Anyway, once I’d applied two coats of ‘Rock the Runway’ and one of the topcoat, I went about my business as usual, and waited to see how long it would last without chipping. I should say here that I’m one of those people who just cannot keep nail polish on her fingers, no matter what. I’m anticipating a bunch of comments here from people going, “Oh, you should use X! That lasts forever!”, but honestly? I probably HAVE tried ‘X’, (Which is not a real product, by the way. You got that, right?) and my nail polish will still have chipped within 24 hours, no exaggeration. I don’t know what it is about me and my nails, but nothing other than actual gel polish works for me: which is why I was pretty damn sceptical about this. Not sceptical enough to have refused to spend £20 on it, obviously, but still.

The result? It lasted for five days. Here’s what it looked like on day 4:

Essie Gel Couture - 4 days after application

As you can see, there’s some wear around the tips (which may or may not be partly due to the aforementioned sloppy application…), and a couple of small chips, also at the very edges. I did try to patch these up a bit, to see if I could get some more wear out of it, but by day 5, it looked much like this again, at which point it was starting to annoy me, so I decided to remove it. As for the removal process, there’s good news and bad news:

The good news:

It was every bit as easy to remove as promised: it just wiped off with some regular nail polish remover and a cotton pad.

The bad news:

It totally DID stain my nails. Not very badly, and I’m sure the paler shades would be fine, but I was left with pink-tinted nails, so if you’re wearing one of the darker shades, and/or your nails are prone to staining, I would recommend using a base coat with it, even although Essie say it’s not necessary.

After leaving my nails bare for a couple of days, I reapplied this on Friday night (this time with a base coat): I’m writing this on Monday evening, and it’s actually worn better this time than it did the first time, so the base coat definitely doesn’t have an adverse effect on it, and who knows, I might even get a couple of days extra wear out of it. Even if I don’t, though, I’m still calling it a success: no, it doesn’t last the 14 days it claims, but five days with minimal chipping is a new record for me, and it’s one I’m pretty happy with.

Buy some additional colours? Well, I don’t mind if I do

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11 Comments
  1. My nail salon and I’ve had them use it on me a few times. I’m also prone to chipping quickly. First time lasted close to 2 weeks. Second time a bit over a week. I tried it on my toes and don’t recommend it unless you’re not going to be in closed toed shoes for awhile. Mine smudged even though I didn’t put shoes on for about 4 hours.

  2. I never can be bother to do anything with my nails so I might give this a go. The bottle does look pretty funky – god can’t believe I just wrote that. I will try out the purple colours one. xx

  3. Sounds a bit like Vinylux by the folks that make Shellac. Darker colours stain though and doesn’t stay on for two weeks although dries so quickly.

    I’ve been using Rimmel 6o Seconds with a Sally Handed topcoat called something like Diamond Shine and the result is amazing. Hardly any chipping or wearing off. The top coat makes it dry fast.

  4. Hi Amber, I use always use Essie nail varnish. They have some beautiful bright reds and I love their colours! They also have some lovely autumn colours out too.

    I’ve been eyeing up this bottle for a while so I may have to try it.

    I’ve used their Essie clear top coat before but I found it took a long time to dry but stops chipping.

    I am thinking of buying my own led lamp and doing my nails at home as I love getting my nails done by a professional and then forgetting about them for a few weeks plus they seem to grow with a gel over them and in the long run it will be cheaper!

    Could I ask where you got your led kit and nail varnishes to use with the led?

    Thank you xxx

  5. I find Essie polishes to be the absolute worst in terms of chipping. I look at it sideways and…chip! Perhaps the gel will be different, but I just can’t bear to spend the money only to be underwhelmed again. I was completely blown away by the staying power of Rimmel polishes even without a topcoat. And you can’t beat the price. I just wish the colour selection was wider.

  6. I think I might end up picking up a bottle or two. That pink looks pretty good. I am exactly like you – I can ruin any nailpolish within seconds so this would definitely be an improvement if not perfect.

  7. I’ve still not purchased the top coat (but I do have a £10 debenhams voucher in my wallet waiting for that very day) but I’ve got Sew Me and Touch Up (maybe, I think that is the name), two very pale shades for the office. Seems to last a week or more with minimal chipping which I’m really pleased with, I could happily ditch all my other polishes and just wear these and add a few more colours from the range!

  8. I’ve used numerous nail polish brands and Essie gel nail polish is one of the best I’ve tried. I want nail polish that is long lasting and this one last for 2 weeks. I want good coverage and with this, in 2-3 coat I’m satisfied.

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