Saturday, April 21, 2012

Adventures in Holos...(or, where's my cheat guide?)

I mentioned recently that I've become fascinated with the concept of holographic nail polishes (holos), thanks largely to discovering one that was listed for $95 on Ebay. I mentioned that I found some for $3 each, and that they are pretty and do just fine, thank you.

Well, shortly after I wrote about that, the mythical $95 polish was re-released by the manufacturer, Nfu Oh. So while it was still available, I decided to take the opportunity to see if there really is a difference between the $3 holo (Color Club's Worth The Risque) and the $12.50 holo (Nfu Oh 61).

First, the difference in price is a bit misleading. Worth the Risque is 0.5 oz, while 61 is 0.6 oz, so you get a little more. However, it's more complicated than that, as I'll explain. I decided to compare these two polishes by painting my ring finger with Worth The Risque, and the rest with 61 (the idea was that I was going to turn the ring finger into an accent nail, and wanted to try a full mani with the 61). So, I began to paint. WTR went on in two coats, even coverage, smooth as a baby's wittle tushie. 61 was another story entirely.

I have loved computer games since I was a teenager, when I played adventure games that had no graphics, and players just typed in things like 'turn right' and were given a written description of where you were. Even back then, I always got a copy of the cheat guide that told you what to do should you get stuck--I mean, I'd try to figure it out on my own, but after a day or two if I couldn't figure it out, I'd want a hint. I have real problems in real life that don't go away, I don't need that crap when I'm trying to do something fun, so my hobbies need to have an opt-out button. Strategy Guides FTW.

I never in a million years thought I'd need a strategy guide to get me through the application of a nail polish. Until I met Nfu Oh 61.

To say that Nfu Oh 61 is not easy to apply is a masterpiece of understatement. People complain about crackle polishes, because if you accidentally apply them too thickly or go over what you just painted, it will smudge. Crackle polishes are a walk on a sandy beach in a cool breeze compared to this. If you touch the same spot that you touched more than one second ago, it will pick the polish up off your nail and leave a bald spot. If you then paint over that spot again, it will not put the polish back down, but it WILL pick up the polish next to it, making your bald spot even bigger. With some polishes that go on streaky, the answer is just to apply a bit more, re-cover the nail, and let it all smooth and blend together. This does not work with 61. You will end up with glops and ridges that do not move (Next to bald spots. That get ever bigger and bigger). With other polishes that go on unevenly, a second or third coat will cover the yucky bits, and you'll end up with an acceptable result. 61 is no fool and is not that easily thwarted. While you will definitely need multiple coats, if you continue to put them on as you normally would, you just end up with really deep, big bald spots.

(The good news is that while I was struggling with this, I did start to see hints of a lovely holo starting to show up on the globs between my bald spots. This kept me going in the face of adversity.)

I finally found a technique that seems to work well. I put a medium amount of polish on the brush, a little less than I normally would, and quickly stroked from right to left, while trying to keep overlap to a minimum. Did I say quickly? Very, very quickly. I resigned myself to the fact that I would get polish on my cuticles--like they say, you simply can't make an omelet without breaking any eggs. Then, I did this for 4 coats, drying in between. I think I'd probably be able to get away with only 3 coats next time. 

So, when figuring out cost, you also have to account for the fact that you will be needing 1.5-2 times as many coats of the polish for your mani. I did the math, and for the finalized manicure equivalent of 0.5 oz of WTR, the cost comes out to $3 vs. $15.60, or $3 vs. $20.80, for 3 and 4 coats of 61, respectively. Basically the Nfu Oh 61 costs between 5-7 times as much as the WTR, depending on how deft you are at applying it. 

To be as fair as possible, Nfu Oh does suggest that you buy their holo base coat and use that with 61. The site I purchased from,, suggests that you put one layer of base coat, one layer of 61, another layer of base coat, and another layer of 61. But since the base coat costs the same as the 61 itself, in terms of cost, you're still paying the same differential.

But this may very well be worth it if there is a sufficient quality difference in the polishes. And there definitely is a difference. Before even trying to go outside, I noticed that 61 shows its holographic effect even in the duller inside light, which WTR does not. When I went outside, both polishes came to life, but 61 still was a cut above, IMO, even though it was overcast today and I could not judge the full effect. Here are two comparison pictures I took:

This picture is taken inside, with flash. The ring finger is WTR, and the other three are Nfu Oh 61. Even in this horrible picture you can see a difference. (and yes, I broke the nail on my middle finger. It's very sad and tragic, but I'm trying to put it behind me and move forward.) 

This is taken inside without flash, showing WTR on the left, and 61 on the right--basically the worst possible lighting conditions for a holo. Both are still pretty, but WTR doesn't show a holo effect at all, while 61 still shows a small effect. So, even in dull, dull light, 61 will still throw a little bling down for you.

Is the difference worth the cost? I'd say yes, if you want a truly stunning, chrome-like-finish with a strong holo effect that persists somewhat even in sub-optimal light. But if you want a more subtle holo (and frankly, I do much of the time), the WTR is going to work just fine for you, and save you money in the process. The decision that I've made is that I may make room in my collection for one or two of these stunning holos, and then satisfy my desire for variety with the more subtle, but still perfectly fine, lower-cost versions.

Another issue I wanted to test was the claim that normal top coats dull the holographic effect of holos, and should be avoided. But, if I don't use a top coat, my nails will chip within minutes, let alone days, and I didn't really want to have to buy an expensive top coat just for holos. So, I tried my normal top coat, Seche Vite, just to see what would happen. When I first applied it, it did make the nail look milky and gross...but as soon as it dried, I couldn't tell the difference between the one I'd painted and those I hadn't. I think either the top coat issue isn't a problem for the particular holos I have, or this is a myth. 
So, what did my mani end up looking like? Here is what I did with it: 

As a final experiment, I decided to try stamping over my holos, and thought that this design from Red Angel plate RA-106 would be perfect to go with the psychedelic effect of a holo. I repainted my accent nail with China Glaze GR8, and on the accent nail I stamped a fan design from Bundle Monster plate BM 204 in Sally Hansen Insta-dry Silver Sweep. For the design on the main nails, I stamped using Revlon Top Speed in Varnished. For a final touch I added a small gemstone to the ring finger, and did a top coat over it all in Seche Vite. I love the way the holo effect shows through between the stamped pattern, it creates a really cool effect, and seems to make the holo more pronounced in indoor light. I will definitely be doing more stamping with my holos in the future, especially as this would be a really great save if I have an off-day with the application and end up with spots and glops. :)

I hope this has been helpful to someone out in the world...Happy holoing! 

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