And Now, Something You’ll Really Like…

I promise to get back to the Quest after Christmas, but here’s a change of pace….

Personal friend and the blogger of Evil Squirrel’s Nest here on Word Press recently had a Holiday Card Promo.  I would call it a contest but, since all I had to do to win was yell “gimme!”, the Rules and Conditions were rather loose.

ES, as he’s known here at WP, runs a great blog full of his cartoon art work featuring his universe of anthropomorphic animals of all types.  It’s blossomed and matured over the years into a full-fledged and rather detailed universe filled with the creatures that come from his disturbed brain into his mouse.  That’s right, he draws them on the computer with. a. MOUSE!  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  He also posts opinions on such subjects as big box store muzak, old commercials and whatever else strikes his off-kilter fancy.  And a weekly comic to boot!

So, if you’re still reading this, why aren’t you over there already checking it out?  He also has a fab Cafe Press store where you can get all the groovy swag you can handle.  I’m not just a person of exquisite taste and refinement, I’m also a customer…

When you’ve finished placing your holiday orders at the ESN, come back to read about the Holiday Card Promo!  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

You’re back?  Great!  Whaddya get?  Do yourself a favour and go back and grab a mousepad.  It’s a nice, thick quality mousepad personally endorsed by me…ha!

Okay, okay, promo contest.  ES sent out 20 cards each featuring a hand drawn character from the ES world.  Each card had a different character and he shuffled the cards and put them into the envelopes randomly (or so he says….). As people receive them in the post, they will make an entry on their blogs showing a picture of the card they receive, and maybe a few words about it.  Or maybe a few more than a few words, not that I would have any experience talking too much…

2014 Holiday Cards

Go to the link above to see all of the characters (but not the card picture) with a brief explanation of who is who along with a list of the 20 bloggers who will be receiving them.  As they come in, ES will be matching up the bloggers and characters with a link to all of their posts.  So not only can you see all the cards, but also have a chance to check out some blogs you might like!

And, to make a long story not quite as long, here’s mine!  While I didn’t get an ace or king, I did get what I think is probably one of the more coveted ones and definitely in the major arcana.

Check out the Queen of Hearts, MBRS!! (click on the pictures to get a bigger and sharper version that shows the details)

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MBRS is one of the oldest characters in the ES-verse and somewhat of the town pump.  It supposedly stands for Miss Beautiful Red Squirrel, but I’ve always thought of the R as standing for Rhonda because she reminds me of Rhonda Fleming.  Not that I’m old enough to know who that is….

I also promised him that I’d try to get the Supermodel of the World, my cat Fantine, to pose with the card.  If I could, because she doesn’t get out of bed for less than…. well, for nothing less than if she damn well pleases!

Fortunately, Fanny loved it!  I hereby present a triptych that tells a story all its own….

What the french is this nonsense and why are you disturbing me?  I didn’t call for you!

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Well, now that I look at it, it’s not too bad.  The line work is nice and crisp and the colour detail in the fire is superb…

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I think I’m in love!

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Yep. everybody wants to make out with MBRS.  I told you she was a roundheels…..

Thanks for the card, ES and Feliz Navidad!!!!1

A Few Words on … Antici

…pation!

So my nails had gotten to the point where they were just hanging on by a wing and a prayer.  Remember the just hang in there posters with the kitten on a clothesline?  That was  my nails.  Except more like this.

Two of my nails got caught on something and got torn off backwards right down to the quick within three days of each other.  One of them even involved bleeding, both involved swearing.  That’s when I decided they’d gone past the point of saving.  So I pulled a Snake Plissken and hit reset on everything.  That’s right, they all got cut off and filed down!  You know how whenever you see (accidentally, of course) a picture of a celebrity without makeup and your involuntary reaction is always ‘Yikes!’?  Well, here’s a look at the current state of my nails in all their naked, unvarnished glory:

WARNING:  The following material may disturb more sensitive viewers.  Viewer discretion is advised.

 

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Yikes!

 

Two days later, this appeared in my mailbox:

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Yes, that’s right.  The new Zoya Magical Pixie Dust Collection for Summer!  Want a closer look at these beauties?  Of course you do!

 

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Ordering to delivery time?  Slightly less than a week.  And yet somehow within that time frame I managed to completely forget that I ordered them and hacked off all the nails.  I couldn’t wait two days so that I could at least just swatch them on my remaining good nails?  Apparently not.  I blame a fit of momentary madness.  Like when you reach that point where you just can’t take it anymore and your hair must be cut NOW!  So you hack it off with some scissors/a butcher knife/whatever’s on hand with the thought of ‘whatever, it’ll grow back’.

So whatever, they’ll grow back.  But I want to see what my new polish looks like NOW!  And on my actual nails, not on my swatch sticks.  NOW!

Remember that Bette Midler song “From a Distance”?  I remember reading (in a book about pianos) that Julie Gold wrote that song one night when her piano had just been delivered and all she could do was look at it.  I can’t remember whether it was a new piano or a new place and her piano had just arrived.  Either way, when a piano has been moved you have to wait until it settles and adjusts to the temperature and humidity of its new environment before you can play it.  So she spent the night just looking across the room at her piano and not being able to touch it.

So that’s me and my Magical Pixie Dusts right now.  Did I happen to mention that the new OPI Coca-Cola Collection is currently winging its way towards me as well?  Whatever, delayed gratification builds character.  Or, as that noted philosopher Kanye Clarkson Nietzsche once observed, that which doesn’t kill me can only serve to make me stronger.  Yeah!

So what does this all mean in the bigger picture?  It means that after I finish off the reviews I have in the queue that it’s going to be time to roll out all the nudes and neutrals while waiting for nature to take its course.  For even more entertainment, I suggest starting a drinking game that involves taking a shot every time I manage to come up with yet another way to describe beige…

 

 

OPI – Can’t Find My Czechbook

This was part of the Spring 2013 Euro Centrale Collection.  I think I “only” got four from that collection and three of them (not sure about the fourth) were added to the permanent line.  Does that mean that I have good taste or I’m just pedestrian and part of the crowd?  I’m going with the former…

Can’t Find My Czechbook (har, har) is perfect in every way!  It’s got the exceptional formula that most of the OPI cremes have and could probably be a one coater.  Plus it’s a deep turquoise blue that doesn’t have any green in it.  That might sound weird, but most really blue turquoise is kind of washed out and this has a beautiful pigmentation.

I want to call it robin’s egg blue, but I think it might be a bit deeper than that.  Or maybe sky blue? Or a darker Tiffany blue? I don’t know.  What I do know is that I’m not very fond of the color blue, outside of some very specific shades, and this is one of them.  It’s smooth and clear and just… well, just perfect!

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Nail Art – Easter Watercolor with OPI Sheer Tints

When I got the mini pack of the Sheer Tints, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with them.  Did that stop me from wanting them?  Ha!  I wasn’t really looking for anything at the time, but I was reading some reviews on them and saw some ideas at Phoenix Beauty Lounge.

I must say that I think I got more comments on this mani that I’ve ever had before.  Of course, I routinely get comments from women, especially at places like Sally or Ulta because people there are more likely to be into that kind of stuff.  But when the guy at Lowe’s notices them while cutting your PVC pipe, now that’s something!

I wasn’t completely happy with this one, but that was due to the crap job I did on the white polish (OPI Alpine Snow).  I loved how the Sheer Tint effects turned out, so I’m going to do it again some time, but use a different lacquer for my undies.  I’m thinking that one of my white jellies might be really nice and add even more delicacy to the look.  I pretty much just used the Alpine Snow so I could get it out of the way and check it off  of the review list.

It was really yucky, but I’m not laying all the blame on Alpine Snow’s doorstep.  Opaque creme whites are probably one of the toughest colors there is as far as getting a good formula.  If it’s not streaky, it’s globby, if it’s not runny, chalky.  This pretty  much had the consistency of Liquid Paper.  But I’m willing to cut it a little slack, because it’s a mini bottle that I’ve had a long time so that could have a great deal to do with it being gunky, as well as using the tiny brush.  And I’ll concede that it’s possible that there was some operator error involved as well.  I’ve used it before and, while I’ve never been really thrilled with it, I don’t recall it being this bad.

Here’s the tremendously bad picture I took for posterity:

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Now to the good stuff!

I described the whole idea behind the Sheer Tints in my previous post, but I’ll put in the picture again just for a reference point on the colors.

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From left to right –  I’m Never Amberrassed,  Be Magentale With Me, Don’t Violet Me Down and I Can Teal You Like Me.  Yeah, I know.  They  must stay awake at night thinking up this stuff…..

This was really easy and looks so much more impressive that it actually should.  The most frequent comment was “Did you do that yourself?” Followed closely by “Are those your real nails?”.  To which both of my answers are the same.  “If I was paying someone to do this, I would have made them redo the white base and if I was paying for fake nails they’d at least all be the same length!”  Well, that was the answer in my head.  My out loud answer was a very witty “Yes.”

I started with the white undies, which is basically like primering your walls so you have an even color when you paint them a different color.  Then, one by one, I just painted on streaks and strokes of each color, overlapping them to create even more colors.  I should have taken a photo before the top coat because, while it looked okay, it was when I put on the Seche Vite that the magic occurred.  Besides making them shine like crazy, it also blended the colors without muddying them, which was how I got the Monet effect.  Please ignore the raggedy edges, I did manage to smooth them out a little the next day before I inflicted them on an unsuspecting public….

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The next picture is the bottle shot.  Yes, all of those different shades were created with just those four colors!

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My verdict on the Sheer Tints is resoundingly positive!  Once my nails grow back (more on that later), I want to really play around with some different techniques and some monochromatic stuff.  At some point I’ll probably add an additional review showing how all of the colors look by themselves rather than blended.  I should have done that before, but didn’t think of it  until now and, honestly, I wouldn’t really have had the time lately anyway.

A Few Words on … Abandonment (and something new!)

So for the last month and a half, life has been a bitch and three quarters.  Some things had to give and, unfortunately, blogging the Quest was one of them.  Even more unfortunately, my nails were also one of those things.  It’s a mixed bag, half of them still look decent, half of them are stumps and my cuticles look like they’ve been through the Boer War (and back).

One hand is still relatively camera ready, but I haven’t had the time to do more than slap on some polish and go.  Luckily, I still have some past manicure pictures in the can!  I wasn’t sure about doing some of them because I don’t think the pictures turned out very well but, if I don’t have some new ones before I run out of the backlog, I might post them anyway.

My next post will be nail art that I did for Easter.  It’s a watercolor effect using the new OPI Sheer Tint topcoats:

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I love these things!  They’re basically just a tiny bit of pigment added to the clear base.  But somehow they have an amazing depth of color for how sheer they are (even more so than jellies).  Even though they are meant to be topcoats to change the color of your existing polish, all I can think about are the endless nail art opportunities!  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any full sizes, except the amber one on Ulta’s website.  When the new Ulta opens down the street, I’ll have to check it out since they should have all new stock.  They haven’t been on Sally’s website or in the store, so I think they are just getting in the new collections.

But let’s be real, I’ll probably never completely use up the minis, since I’m not planning on using them as full manis.  Although the possibility of creating something similar to a jelly sandwich just occurred to me…

 

 

 

 

A Few Words on … Willpower

So in my last post I mentioned that I get suckered into trying to love butterLONDON every time Ulta has a B2G1 sale.  So what was I supposed to do when Ulta had its semi-annual 31 Days of Beauty promo and one of the daily Beauty Steals was two BL for $15?  That’s a BOGO deal!  Will I be twice the sucker on this one?  Let’s find out…

My BL collection stands at the same count as before the BS (ha!) of the day happened.  How did I manage this?  It was a multi-pronged approach that leaned heavily on the lazy-ass tine.

Ulta is abut a 20 mile round trip, which saves me enormous amounts of money.  But I had talked myself into going on BL day because I wanted to find a specific shade of OPI  and look at the new Zoyas.  I also wanted to check out the clearance rack because, you know, half price stuff!

As the day wore on and I kept putting it off and vacillating back and forth on the wisdom of succumbing to the siren call of the BOGO, I decided to check out the BL colors online to make my selections in advance.  Ordering online was an option, but is less preferred for a couple of reasons.  1. They don’t sell Zoya online 2. You can’t see the colors in person 3. Shipping.

After giving it a bit of  rationalization deep thought, I came up with advantages to ordering online.  1. They had the OPI shade I wanted, while the store might not 2. The same might be true of any BLs that I selected 3. The gas spent on the trip would be about the same as shipping and 4. I didn’t have to get dressed.

Yay! I’m all set to go, BL here I come!  Wait, I’m supposed to be mowing through the lacquers I have, not adding to it.  And I already broke up with BL.  The next review in line was the one for Wallis, so I started writing it in my head.  Starting with all of the reasons why I don’t like BL.

Bottom line:  I ordered NOTHING.  Nil. Bupkis. Sweet FA.  I am a rock.  Encased in steel.  Surrounded by an electric force field that nothing can penetrate.  I am TI-TAY-NEE-UMMMM!!

The next day I went to Sally because I needed shampoo.

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That’s just the nail lacquer portion of my purchase.  The China Glaze was BOGO (and it’s less than half the price of BL to start with), the Gwen Stefani (far left) was on clearance (half price!  And that was the last bottle of Hey Baby they had!) and the other two OPI I had already planned on purchasing at some point.  So, there’s that.

I forgot to get the shampoo….

 

butterLONDON – Wallis

The lengths to which I have gone to love butterLONDON (hereinafter to be referred to as BL because….come on, ReAlLy??) are even more ridiculous than my China Glaze efforts.  At least my reasons for wanting to love China Glaze are sound: availability, affordability and selection. BL is pretty much the anti-a/a/s.

Availability? You can get it online or you can get it at Ulta.  I think you can sometimes find it in schmancy places like Nordstrom’s but that might only be in the Big Cities and I’m not going to the mall to find out!

Affordability?  $15 for 11 ml/.4 oz.  You heard that right, fifteen scoots for 4ml/.1 oz LESS than other brands.  Except for Julep and they’re just crazy ass.

Selection?  If you go online to their site I think they have a reasonable selection, but whenever I’ve gone to Ulta and wanted something specific, they don’t have it.  Racks and racks of other lacquers, maybe a couple dozen (if that) of BL.

And pretentious?  With all their fancy British references on their lacquer names and the actual name of their company you know where they’re based, right?  Yep, Seattle….

I mean, really, is a cool rectangular bottle that stacks together so nicely worth all that?  Apparently, because they’re still in business and I still keep swinging away whenever I see a B2G1 at Ulta (until last week!  But that’s another story for another time).

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at Wallis.  Yes, the bottle is upside down on purpose.  It’s got a huge, tall cap (that I think is an illusion to make it look like more than it is, because it’s hollow and you have to pull it off to get to the brush) and holding it the other way my fingers cover up the color.

 

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This came out a couple of years ago (might have been for the Queen’s Jubilee (because, again, Seattle….) and I got this and Bluey at the same time.  Now, I ADORE Bluey and, to be fair, a couple of BLs are among my favorites.  But $15 a pop is too much to be doing too many crapshoots.

Where were we?  Oh yeah, Wallis.  To be completely fair to Wallis, I don’t know why I got it.  I don’t even like the color normally.   I think I wanted West End Wonderland and ended up ordering this one.   I now must confess that when I went to their site to get links for those shades I caught  myself looking at some colors and going “oooh!”.  Then I slapped myself and closed it out but quick.  Curse you and your ways, BL!!!

Or I think I might have imagined it would be something like OPI Just Spotted the Lizard aka Chanel Peridot aka Jessica Irisdescent Eye aka China Glaze Rare and Radiant aka Color Club Editorial aka The Most Duped Lacquer on the Planet, a gold/green duochrome that I love so much I have a mini and 2 backups.

What I got was a metallic described as gold/olive green that looks more like cheap brass with a dirty patina.  To be honest, maybe it’s just my skin tone or some of the pictures I saw online while I was deciding on it weren’t based in reality.  I’ve worn this several times, trying to make myself love it and sometimes I get a little flash when the light hits it just right and I glance that way at the right time and I think I might like it.  Then I come back to reality.  It’s a little bit runny and I have to watch out for cuticle flooding and it’s a bit patchy after one and sometimes two coats.  But I won’t castigate it much for that, because that’s been my experience with a lot of metallics.

Poor Wallis, the homely outsider in my polish collection that I just can’t bring myself to dump.  Aptly named, yes?

 

 

 

 

Zoya – Ivanka

This was my manicure for Saint Patrick’s day.  Even though green is not the color of St. Patrick (it’s a shade known as St. Patrick’s blue), I am merely an American of Irish descent, so when in Rome….

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Ivanka was part of  of Zoya’s Sparkle Collection for the summer of 2010 and is now in the permanent line.  I have another one from that collection (also permanent) called Charla.  But that’s a special one that I save for when I need to feel extra good about myself, so let’s hope I don’t get to that one for a while yet!

Ivanka is a beautiful emerald green.  Not that shade of emeralds that you and I own, but the shade of emeralds that most people couldn’t afford in two lifetimes. My birthstone is emerald, so I have one emerald ring just for form but it’s somewhat small and more of a leaf green.

Zoya classifies this as a metallic, but it’s got so much more going for it!  It’s packed with so much micro glitter that it’s practically a foil, but so smooth that it’s more like a glass fleck.   It’s just like beautiful foiled wrapping paper that has just the slightest touch of a lighter green-gold as you wave your fingers back and forth in an admiring manner.

For so much micro glitter it’s a tremendously easy formula to apply.  The first thin coat gives a nice, sheer look and is even light enough that you could wear it over a lighter color if you went really thin.  A reasonably thick second coat would have given it full opacity, but I went with three thinner ones instead, just because I like to use the third one as a finesse coat rather than a coverage one.

 

A Few Words on … Seche Vite

Well, probably more than a few words… I could talk all day about my darling!

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Ah….where to start?  Well, in French, seche means dry and vite means fast.  And they’re not kidding around!  While some top coats seem to define fast as ‘proceeding genteelly at a leisurely to moderate pace’, Seche Vite is already finished, washed up and lying back smoking a cigarette.  Seriously, by the time you finish with the tenth nail, the first ones are dry.  Well, maybe not completely dry if you just slop it on like a madwoman in a total of about 5 seconds like I do, but if you go at a sane rate of speed, yes.

SV, as it’s affectionately called, is not Big 3 free.  Which is probably why it works so well.  Healthy, schmealthy, I want my nails to shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!  The only drawback (for me, personally) is that once you open a bottle of SV, the toluene (one of the Big 3) will start to evaporate and eventually your sweet SV will become thick sludge.  It depends on how fast you use it and how tight you keep it closed, but this will usually start to happen around the halfway point.  For me it’s usually around the 3/4 to almost empty point, but I change my nail colour a lot so I use more than average.

But, never fear!  Seche has a solution for you!  I present to you, Seche Restore:

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Which is basically water, rubbing alcohol and toluene.  It comes with an eye dropper (a pipette if you’re French or fancy) and you just add it to your old, tired SV until it’s back to life.  Seche cautions you to not use regular thinner, but I’ve heard (and by heard I mean read on the internet) that it will work fine.  I’ve never tried it but since thinner costs like 1.89 for a 20 gallon drum and Seche Restore is 9 or 10 bucks for half an ounce, I’m going to try it some time.  Maybe on a bottle I have that only has a tiny bit of SV left in it, that way I don’t waste half a bottle of SV in my experiment.

For me, that’s really the only downside.  It’s dry to the touch in under a minute, you can eat salty peanuts in 30 minutes and I’ve actually taken a full-fledged, hot as hell shower (including shampoo) a couple hours after doing my nails with not as much as a nick or a smudge.  Not only does it dry fast, but it dries to a beautiful, glassy finish that wears like iron.  After a minute, give your nails the “click test”.  Tap the nails of one hand on the nails of the other.  Rather than a normal tapping sound, you’ll get clicking that sounds like stiletto heels on a marble floor.  Fabulous!

Some people do experience what’s called “shrinkage”.  I haven’t personally, but I don’t know if it’s body chemistry, base coat (I generally use OPI or Seche Clear), operator error or a combination of factors.  Shrinkage is when the polish pulls back from the edge of your nail, leaving a bare little strip.  General wisdom is that it dries so fast that the evaporation can make the polish draw up.  One way to combat that is to ‘wrap your tips’ or ‘wrap your edges’.  This is just a fancy way of saying to swipe a little polish along the edge of your fingernail tip.  Even though I don’t have a problem with it, I try to remember to wrap just because it helps prevent tip wear and it makes the nail look finished.  I succeed in remembering approximately 25-30% of the time….

So what’s the catch, you might say, I bet it costs a fortune.  Au contraire!  Sometimes you do not get what you pay for.  I have an $18 bottle of butterLONDON PDQ Hardwear that’s crap and takes forever to dry (and by forever I mean like 30 minutes).  SV is like 8 or 9 bucks, basically the cost of a drugstore brand.  I’m not sure of the exact cost because I usually get it when Sally has a deal like buy Seche Clear (base coat) get Seche Vite free or when it’s packaged with a nail polish for a promo.  Other than that, I get the Bahama Mama refill size because I’m just crazy like that.

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Yep, you read that right, four full ounces.  Here’s a comparison shot with a regular sized bottle for scale:

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Even without the evaporation factor, SV isn’t as thin as a lot of top coats out there.  For the best results, don’t paint it on your nails as you would normally, get a little dollop on your brush, drop it on your nail and then spread it out like you would spread honey on toast.  Sweet and smooth!

Side note:  For reference, the polish that I’m wearing in the bottle shots is OPI Can’t Find My Czechbook.  I’ve already got the pictures in the can and I’ll be doing a review post on that in the near future.  I think that manicure was almost a week old when I took the Seche pictures, so you can see how well both OPI and Seche Vite wear!

China Glaze – Turned Up Turquoise

Turned Up Turquoise was introduced as part of China Glaze’s Ink Collection from the summer of 2008, but is now part of the permanent line.  The collection was somehow related to tattoos, although any connection to either the colors or the names is beyond me.

I really want to love China Glaze, I’ve tried to convince myself to love it, I’ve kept buying it to try and force myself to love it.  It has a cool name, scads of colors, is priced on the lower end of the salon brands and is readily available at Sally Beauty Supply, which is my favorite beauty store and just down the street from me.

I don’t love China Glaze.  I like it, but I don’t love it.  There are a couple of them that I love, For Audrey and Make a Spectacle, for example.  But the rest of it is kind of take it or leave it.  Now that OPI has finally agreed to let Sally carry their line, my consumption of China Glaze will tail off dramatically.

The only reason I got this one was because it was in an ombre set of four colors called Wait Teal You See that was at a great price.  I think this was some time last summer and, while I wouldn’t have gotten it separately, I like it enough that I’ve worn it maybe two or three times since then.

This is kind of a strange one.  It’s marketed as a neon and, while it’s certainly bright, it doesn’t have that vibrant, knock you out punch that I associate with neons.  However, like most neons, it does dry matte.  It looks so different that I took pictures before and after top coating.

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This photo was taken after three coats of polish.  Mattes tend to dry super fast and this one is no exception.  But then give it a little Seche Vite magic and…

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Voila, it’s now a sleek and glossy sight to behold!  By the way, for those who have been wondering what in the world is this Seche Vite I keep carrying on about and what’s the big deal anyway, I’ll be devoting an entire post to this miracle in a bottle in a few days.

While the color in the pictures is lovely, it’s not accurate at all.  TUT is actually a green turquoise and skews heavily to the green side of green-blue.  This is apparently a common problem with this polish as I’ve looked at other pictures of it on the internet and far better photographers than I get the same blue and comment on it.

There used to be a toothpaste that was a green gel with a bluish tinge, but I can’t remember the name. Gleem, maybe?  The next best comparison I can think of is to take regular Scope and toss in a dash of the Blue Mint Scope and there you are!

The first coat, and maybe even the second were pretty streaky, which is common with neons, but they dried so fast it waa no real hardship.  I remember the third coat being thick and giving me a few globs, but I don’t see them on that first picture, so they might have been on my left hand.  It all got sorted with the top coat, but if you like rocking the matte look, be careful to make sure that last coat isn’t too lumpy.