I conclude today with my final post in the series that features Chanel's initial offerings of Le Vernis Longwear line for Spring 2016. We've covered the colors in three groups: pinks, reds, and the others. Now it's time to talk about Le Gel Coat, Le Wear Tests, and my overall impressions.
Le Gel Coat:
I have been a connoisseur of so-called gel top coats for years. I've tested releases from Deborah Lippmann, Butter London, Sally Hansen, Guerlain, Dior, and have Essie's new version waiting on me. I have a good base of reference when discussing the pros and cons of these formulas, and I have to admit something. As awesome as Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab and Butter London's Patent Gel sets are... Chanel's Le Gel Coat is now the best gel top coat on the market in my opinion.
Why? Let's take a step back and talk about some top coat basics first. After reading review after review of various polishes with one particular flaw by the reviewer, I feel that it's my duty to drop some actual knowledge on you.
Choosing the right top coat isn't personal preference; it's chemistry.
What? Yes, I typed that correctly. The 3-5-7-9-everything free revolution keeps taking various chemicals out of nail polish, so this shouldn't come as a surprise.
Nail polish is composed at its base with the following: pigments (Color), resin/plasticizer (makes it flexible), solvent (mixes ingredients and evaporates), and film forming agent. Each brand has their own patented formula, but your polish was created by chemists. You can start doing some research if you want, but I got my info from my personal chemist- my father. What makes each brand different from the others is their "formula." They create top and base coats to accompany the color lines specially created to work in harmony with their line. Those nasty bubbles? Incompatable formulas.
So no, there isn't a one-size-fits-all topcoat. Nothing infuriates me more to see a blogger trashing a gel release and using Seche Vite (I could go into the issues with that topcoat, but that's for another post).
Bottom line: spend the extra money and make sure you're using the right base and top coat for your polish for best performance. I used Chanel's Le Base Coat with Le Gel Coat in all of my wear tests. In fact, I switched to Butter London Nail Foundation for a couple of the swatches since I was running low and drying time went up. So, stick to Chanel's complete system. And no, I won't be testing Le Gel Coat with another brand.
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's talk about how I used Le Gel Coat and why it's top of the heap. Like any longwear topcoat, you should wait until the color is totally dry, and wrap your tips (to protect against shrinkage).
I believe it's the best (although it's a bit slow to dry) because of the overall improvement of wear vs no top coat and vs prior top coats put out by the brand.
- Chanel v Butter London: Both are amazing on me, but I actually use Butter London's regular base/top coats when there's not one available by the brand. So the improvement between Hardware and Patent Gel isn't as dramatic as it is with Chanel. Both get an A.
- Chanel v Deborah Lippmann: They perform about equally on me, but I have to give the edge again to Chanel because Deborah Lippmann's regular base/top coats are awesome and have been staples in my rotation.
- Chanel v Dior: I'm not a huge fan of Dior's Gel Coat, despite having used 3 bottles of it. It doesn't seem to extend wear time that much for me.
- Chanel v Guerlain: Not even close; Guerlain's bottle design lead to it drying out within a couple of months.
I'm not going to compare it to OPI Infinite Shine, Essie's new gel coat, or Sally Hansen since the price point is so different.
The Wear Tests:
For full disclosure, I tested the following shades: Rouge Essentiel, Chaine Or, Roubachka, Ballerina, and Garconne. The other shades were merely swatched and removed. In all cases, I used Chanel Le Base Coat, 2-4 coats of the polish, and Le Gel Coat. I carefully wrapped my nail tips with Le Gel Coat. Although wear time varied slightly per polish in my experience, I did note the following:
- Prolonged exposure to hot water and humidity even days after application were really hard on my nails. Most of the damage that I noted to my mani occurred just after a shower. I discussed this with one SA at a local counter and she had a similar experience with a long, hot bath. Just be aware with this formula and protect your nails accordingly.
- Since these polishes are much thicker than the original Le Vernis, dry time is longer between coats. You don't need to wait for the layers to be 100% dry between coats, but you must wait for them to be dry to put on Le Gel Coat. Likewise, I wouldn't call Le Gel Coat a quick dry formula.
- The new brush actually was far more maneuverable for me than the original. It's a matter of preference.
- Lighter shades tended to wear better than darker shades on me- and it wasn't just that I didn't see wear. Perhaps it has to do with the dense pigmentation?
- Ballerina had by far the best performance (5 perfect days before removal), and Chaine Or the worst (2 days). Even Chaine Or outperformed the original Le Vernis.
- Polishes varied immensely in terms of application. There's a reason why I posted some of the less-than-perfect manicures for Shantung, Mythique, Roubachka, and others. I set my phone timer for 15 minutes when I do cleanup with an ELF concealer brush and acetone. I don't think it's realistic to think that the average woman is going to spend more than that on cleanup. Even if it wasn't perfect, when my time was up, it was time to photograph.
Now, let's talk specifics. The first polish that I tested was Rouge Essentiel. Looking back, I should've taken my nightly shower before doing the mani to prolong wear time.
Things seemed good, until the evening of Day #3, just after a really long shower:
Patching it just seemed to make it far more vulnerable, sadly.
Here's what it looked like by Day 5 on most nails, when I had to remove it:
Tip wear throughout, large chunks on some nails. But for someone who normally gets wear like that within 36-48 hours tops, 5 days is excellent.
Let's be honest. Even with a good base coat, I was scared to see what having a red polish on my nails that long might do to my nails. Phew, not too bad. This was after a couple of swipes of acetone only. I consider this great news! (Note- I was scared to file that pinky to induce tip wear.
Given that most Chanel reds chip within 24 hours, I give this 2 thumbs up.
Wear Test #2: Roubachka
I had a working theory on these polishes, so Roubachka was the second perfect polish to test. (I'll explain later). Like Rouge Essentiel, it's pigment-packed and a darker color.
Note: I did a lot less typing than normal due to some medical issues.
Look at that. Hmmm....
Wear Test #3: Chaine Or
For this test, I decided to try it without Le Gel Coat. I suspect that a lot of this had to do with the metallic formula being softer, but it was an utter disaster. I didn't photograph it, but it was literally rolling off of my nails in under 24 hours. Total epic fail.
Wear Test #4: Ballerina
This one shocked me. I didn't photograph it until Day #4. Look very carefully on the middle finger. THATS IT.
This one has actually one additional coat relative to other shades. Yet, it's wearing like iron.
Check out my hands, in the sun (ok, the car), taken on Day #7. Only issue was that ding on my middle finger. Still.
I had to remove it on Day #8 to finish swatching- and it looked the same. I'm convinced that if I hadn't dinged it on Day #4, it would've looked perfect. Le Gel Coat remained shiny throughout.
What's up with the varying wear times? I suspect it has to do with the darker, richly pigmented shades. I've also had better results with say, Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab with lighter shades. This is such an amazing combo that it'll be in heavy rotation. It's not that it's harder to see the damage to the nails with lighter shades; the formula just works better. Think about drying time, perhaps.
That wraps up my posts on Chanel Le Vernis Longwear. I'd like to think that I've given them the time that they deserve.