We tried a myriad of polishes from 7 different nail polish companies I found through Etsy and various nail blogs. These indie polishes come in an array of head-turning shades and glitter combinations that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in a chain store. Also, these companies tend to be more conscious about hazardous chemicals and animal testing: three out of the seven companies we sampled listed their polishes as being 3-Free (meaning the polishes don’t contain Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde or Toluene). The ladies (and one dude) of BuzzFeed took a little break from work to help test out the colors and offer some feedback on application, color, and durability.
Overheard: “This might even be better than a free pizza party.”
Also, from a resident nail polish fiend: “Best day at work ever.”
Here’s a look at the polishes before they were devoured by the BuzzFeed staff. I sincerely hope you are not deterred from purchasing these polishes due to our inept abilities to apply nail polish perfectly.
Someone got so excited at the nail polish testing party she ended up with one shade on each nail, but you would get that hot and bothered too if you were amidst so many precious bottles.
Here are looks we sampled from all 7 companies:
4. Cult Nails
Cult Nails is a 4-Free (which means that in addition to being 3-Free, the polishes also exclude camphor) and cruelty-free nail polish line by nail blogger Maria Morrison. The colors range from chunky glitter polishes to subtle shimmery shades. The whole line is available from the Cult Nails website, and the polishes are $10 apiece.
Cheryl, BuzzFeed’s sales director, tried this orange-red shimmery shade called “Captivated,” which she described as “the most beautiful duck sauce ever.” It’s been five days, and it’s chipped a bit around the cuticles and tips, but then again, none of us were applying top coats. She says the color has gotten more neon, but it still has good lustre.
I tried “Living Water,” a very murky yet sparkly bluish-green jelly polish. It went on beautifully and very pigmented in just one coat. You definitely don’t need a colored base coat for this.
8. Rainbow Honey
Rainbow Honey is an adorably hand-crafted and hand-packaged nail polish line by Dee, who derives inspiration from “1990’s video games, Japanese festivals, and kids’ TV shows.” BuzzFeeders Katie Natoupolos and Chris Ritter saw the ladies of Rainbow Honey at this year’s Bronycon (their stall was one of the more popular ones). The polishes cost $10 for a 15mL bottle and $5 for a 7mL bottle and are 3-free (formulated without Formaldehyde, Toluene, and Dibutyl Phthalate) and cruelty-free.
We oohed and aahed over the awesome packaging.
Graphic designer Chris Ritter tried this rainbow glitter shade called “20% Cooler.” She loved the name and the polish, which she described as a “birthday party for your fingers.” As you can see on her ring finger, it makes a big difference if you layer this over a colored base coat.
I applied this dark blue-purple glittery-shimmery shade from the My Little Pony collection entitled “Mare of the Moon.” It definitely needed two coats, but I couldn’t stop staring at my nails for days after applying this. The indescribable shade was sometimes blue, sometimes purple, like a magical sky or a wizard’s sleeve. It was, oddly, more matte than shiny.
Jessica Daven, BuzzFeed’s digital sales planner, tried this hard-to-describe glitter polish in “A Little Kindness,” and really loved its application. She thinks it “would make an awesome topcoat” since it has a clear base.
13. The Hungry Asian
Kae Russ sells her hand-mixed and creatively-named nail polish solely on Etsy. The polishes range from $4.50 for a small heart-shaped bottle to $9.25 for a larger bottle.
Can I make one suggestion though? I would die for a nail polish bottle with a custom label that says “THE HUNGRY ASIAN”! Especially since 50% of the time, I happen to be a HUNGRY ASIAN. With a name like that, you owe it to yourself to put it on the bottles!
BuzzFeed account executive Melissa Coleman sampled a lavender and purple glittery nail polish called “Vote for Purple.” It would look especially lovely layered over an opaque purple nail polish. You definitely need a couple of coats, but the tiny glitter is quite concentrated.
I found an example of this layering effect on a nail blog called Nail Notes.
I tried this opaque gray shade with a very subtle green sheen to it called “Zera.” It’s been 4 days and it’s still going strong. It’s quite a lovely shade of gray, and makes me think of Babar every time I glance at it.
Melissa C. put a Hungry Asian polish on every finger.
18. Dollish Polish
Dollish is a nail line created by Dolly, who became known in 2009 for uploading more than 250 nail tutorials to YouTube (she even has a Lisa Frank inspired nail series). Her polishes are hand-mixed and inspired by the ’80s and her love of sci-fi and horror movies. The polishes range from $4.50 for a mini size to $8.75 for a full size.
BuzzFeed Shift intern Jessica Testa tested “Toxic Avenger,” which was a gorgeous holographic nail polish she describes as “rainbow fish.” She received tons of compliments on it, but the polish didn’t last long (although I’m starting to see a pattern in holographic nail polishes chipping much faster than normal).
I’ll note here that if you’ve been lemming the insanely rare holographic Chanel nail polish, indie polish lines such as Dollish and Enkelini offer much cheaper versions in a very wide variety of colors.
Here’s a photo from a nail blog of Toxic Avenger layered over 2 coats of Deborah Lippmann’s Stormy Weather. You can really get an idea of how prismatic the sparkles are.
Chris R. tried an interesting glitter polish called “It’s Me, Mario” — which is even made with little glitter stars! With chunky glitter nail polish, it’s often hard to get the glitter as rich as you’d like without applying multiple coats. She loved the idea behind the color though, and as you can see, it looks much better layered over a dark base coat (on the pointer finger).
BuzzFeed editor Katie Notopoulos tried this glittery shade called “Sweet Dreams Are Made of Glitter” which I’ll affectionately refer to as “Robin’s Egg.” I’ll add that I was incredibly impressed by Katie’s nail polish application skills.
Katie’s take on the polish: “It’s not the kind of thing I would usually pick, but I was really happy with how it looked. I’m usually afraid with glitter that it’ll look like something a 14-year-old would wear, but the pastel mint green made it little less girly and more mature. I’ve had it on for about 5 days now, with minimal chipping. Gotten a few compliments on it.”
23. Candeo Colors
If you’re a fan of glitter nail polishes, Candeo Colors has some really creative options. All of the shades are hand-mixed using a lacquer base and a myriad of loose pigments and glitters. The polishes cost $9.
Melissa C. sampled the color Dive Bomb, which contained very mermaid-esque hues. She was overall happy with the amount of glitter in the lacquer. She said the sparkle content is “definitely more dense than I’m used to with glitter polishes.”
Here is Dive Bomb, pictured with the Hungry Asian’s Vote for Purple.
She also tried a purple-pink glitter polish called “Orchid” in a sheer purple base. This would work great as a top coat, but it’s not as sparkly as Dive Bomb.
27. Pretty and Polished
Pretty and Polished is a rather mysterious indie nail polish company with a somewhat complicated ordering process. The best way to see the polishes ($9.50 for a full size and $5.25 for minis) is perhaps through their Facebook page.
I was most intrigued by this shade, aptly named “Jawbreaker.” I applied two coats, it’s been 5 days, and the polish is still holding on strong. It’s a really fun polish with candy-colored glitter, while the white base manages to go on pretty thick (maybe even a bit goopy) and pigmented. You’ll definitely need at least two coats.
Ryan was into it too (men seem to carry a gene that renders them incapable of applying nail polish correctly).
30. Obsessive-Compulsive Cosmetics
I was super curious about this brand, which prides itself on being 100 percent vegan and cruelty-free, after walking past their cute little store on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side. Everyone at BuzzFeed went pretty crazy for these polishes (all $8), which come in a bunch of really amazing opaque colors, as well as some shimmery shades.
You may be thinking, “Are commercial nail polishes NOT vegan?” The short answer is: “Pearl or guanine is literally made from small fish scales and skin, suitably cleaned, and mixed with solvents such as castor oil and butyl acetate. The guanine can also be mixed with gold, silver, and bronze tones.” In other words, some pearlescent and shimmery metallic shades use fish scales as an ingredient.
Amy Powell, BuzzFeed’s project manager, applied a neon-pink shade called “Anime.” “It’s super thick and goes on quite smoothly. It coated evenly, it wasn’t streaky, and it dried very fast.”
FWD intern Allison McCann tried the demi-matte neon orange shade entitled “Beta.” A lot of neon polishes go on too sheer, but she didn’t have that problem with this one. “It does get goopy if you leave it open too long,” she cautions.
BuzzFeed sales planner Ashton Abella tried all of the pink and purple polishes.
I tried this teal color called “Echo.” It didn’t seem to need two coats, really, but with two coats it lasted for a good 5 days, even without a topcoat.
Jessica D. loved this shade called “Copperhead,” which had a very intense glitter concentration.
And the metallics were gorgeous as well, although Chris reported some smudging even after waiting a long time to dry. The shades pictured are Spanglemaker and Chimera.
Did I mention already that guys don’t know how to put on nail polish?
38. Holographic Polishes by Enkelini
Pat Ashton hand-mixes all the polishes from her line, Enkelini. She makes glitter polishes, but the ones that really caught my eye are the holographic shades. The polishes range from $5-12.
You gotta love any company that’s willing to name a polish “Clown’s Dandruff.”
BuzzFeed Shift’s Amy Odell applied this holographic pink color in “Pimp My Pink.” She adored the shade, extremely smooth application, and how quickly it dried but it peeled off in large chunks after a couple of days, so you’ll definitely want to apply a top coat (which she did not).
BuzzFeed’s editorial assistant Bianca went to a salon and got a manicure with the turquoise holographic shade, “Let’s Dance.”
Bianca’s reports: “I’m also always in search of newer colors that haven’t been that played out and this one kind of fit the bill. It did take three coats — as opposed to the usual two — for the color to be more noticeable on my hand, which I was totally okay with. Even with three coats, it wasn’t clumpy or too thick. I’m not sure if this is just me, but some of the tips chipped off after two days. Then again, I’m not very dainty with my hands so my manis always tend to chip pretty easily. I also liked the name of it, which I took as a Bowie reference and made me like it even before I tried it.”
BuzzFeed Shift’s Hillary Reinsberg tried this shimmery black shade called “Midnight’s Rainbow.” She claimed that it chipped with with coats and a topcoat, but she did love the color. I also put this color on my boyfriend, who had never worn nail polish before but turned out to be a devoted research assistant, and said that he was obsessed with how it made his nails “catch the light.”