“What’s in the box?!” Square Hue, September 2014

whats-in-the-boxSquare Hue is a nail-polish subscription service that releases a limited-edition collection themed around a specific destination each month. Unlike Julep, which offers some level of choice among several polishes each month, Square Hue sends the same colors to all subscribers, and the only hints as to contents are whatever sharp-eyed observers can glean from the single sketch released to tease each collection. Each box includes three 0.5 fl. oz. bottles in a distinctive cube shape, plus a card listing each color and its finish. All polishes are “5-free,” meaning they do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, or formaldehyde resin, if you care about that sort of thing (I personally love all the chemicals, but that’s just me). Square Hue also donates a portion of its proceeds to various humanitarian campaigns, most notably the fight against human trafficking.

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The September collection was devoted to Sydney, about which I know nothing other than it was the home of fish-out-of-water transfer student Sandy Olsen in Grease. That being the case, I can’t say whether these colors particularly evoke the city — all I know is that to me, they evoke a Thanksgiving tablescape. Let me tell you about it, stud.

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This month’s collection included two microshimmers and a high-gloss crème. An important note about microshimmers: I am usually not a fan. Unless the formula is perfect — not too thin and not too goopy — it’s difficult at best to apply them without leaving lots of visible brush strokes in the finish. Sad to say, the two microshimmers in this month’s collection did not have perfect formulas — I found them both to be bad about dragging, which made the application very uneven. I ended up using three coats of each to get them to level out at all, plus top coat, and they still didn’t look great. Why-yi-yi-yiiiiiiii?

Oxford Street

Oxford Street

Crown Drive

Crown Drive


“Oxford Street” is a yellow-gold microshimmer, while “Crown Drive” (or “Crown Street,” if the accompanying card is to be believed — hello, Square Hue, I know an editor who could help you with these discrepancies) is an orange microshimmer. Am I the only person who sees vivid microshimmers like these and immediately thinks of ribbon candy? (And how many times can I work the word “microshimmer” into a single post? It’s like the nail-polish version of “Malkovich Malkovich? Malkovich.”)

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King Street

“King Street” is a crème finish, and it applied much more smoothly than the first two polishes, only requiring two coats for full coverage. On the down side, it also dried much darker than it appears in the bottle — what looked like a bricky-red there ended up looking like chocolate syrup in certain lights and brown-leaning oxblood in others on my nails. (As my fingers show, it’s also a stainer.) I love a vampy, dark wine shade, but this one just doesn’t do it for me. I’m no stranger to heartbreak (nor do I have psoriasis).

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But hope springs eternal — next month: Milan!

The Lowdown
Cost: $19.99/month (with shipping)
Contents: 3 limited-edition polishes available only through Square Hue during that month (if you want a previous month’s collection, check out people’s swap boards or Storenvy)
Link to sign up: www.squarehue.com (according to the site, new subscribers will also get a surprise bonus collection when they sign up — this will be a random collection from a previous month)

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To Buy or Not to Buy? Jamberry Nail Wraps

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Image courtesy of Jack C. Gregory Illustration

In a nail-polish Facebook group I belong to (yes, that’s a thing — there are tons of them out there), someone recently mentioned being a Jamberry representative and offered to send samples to people. Thinking it was something food-related, à la Tastefully Simple, I didn’t pay much attention. But then I received an invitation to an unrelated friend’s online Jamberry party and figured since I didn’t have to leave the house to attend (why can’t more social gatherings take place virtually?), I’d check it out. And I’m glad I did!

For a few years now, so-called nail strips have been available (Sally Hansen designs are all over the place, but other polish brands, including Essie and OPI, have also put out a few options). They’re billed as being made from actual nail polish yet offering a no-mess way to achieve more elaborate looks than the average gal may be able to accomplish with assorted lacquers. Jamberry wraps offer the same function, but with a few key differences:

  1. They are made from vinyl rather than nail polish. Therefore, they don’t chip with wear. The website and catalog claim that manicures with these wraps last 2 weeks and that pedicures last up to 6 weeks.
  2. Because they are essentially fancy stickers, chemicals aren’t required for their application or removal. People who are sensitive to smells or ingredients associated with polish and removers may appreciate this difference; it also makes them pretty kid-friendly (and, in fact, the company offers several cute designs made specifically for a child’s smaller nails).

In the days leading up to my friend’s online party, the rep leading the event sent samples to everyone on the guest list so that we could ask questions and/or offer feedback after trying them firsthand (so to speak). I followed the simple application directions and sported this look for a little more than a week:

Because I like ALL the colors...

I call the accent-nail-only look “Jammin’ on the One.”

Ultimately, as the rep had promised, the nail polish I also wore chipped within a few days, but the Jamberry wraps never budged or became worn. And I didn’t baby my hands during the test period, doing all the usual stuff I would around the house (laundry, dishes) in addition to working a shift in a strawberry shortcake booth at a local festival (so lotsa hand-washing there). Removal was equally easy — I just peeled them off and swiped my nails with polish remover to ensure that no adhesive remained. Impressed with the performance and because, hey, #treatyoself, I placed an order at my friend’s party.

Jamberry offers more than 300 designs, ranging from solid colors and French tips to much more elaborate graphics. Because I am une dork suprême, I pounced on this design as soon as I saw it — my high school reunion was fast approaching, and this way of sporting the school colors was a lot easier than other options I had considered:

 

Dear old Cathedral, here's to you...

Dear old Cathedral, here’s to you…

A sheet of wraps retails for $15, but the company suggests that the average wearer can get at least two full manicures and pedicures from that single sheet. Because I (1) hate waste, (2) have small hands, and (3) don’t have long talons, I managed to stretch my sheet even further:

Plenty of future manicures left!

Plenty of future manicures left!

Given that I would typically not wear such a busy pattern on all fingers at once, these should last me a long time, and, unlike nail polish that can get gloppy over time if it’s not used, these won’t go bad or take up a ton of space in my Melmer.

Application was simple, although I need a little more practice to ensure that I don’t have any small creases or bubbles (which you can kind of see on my index finger in the picture). It was also very easy to trim them to size with some cuticle scissors so that I could maximize each strip’s usage. If you look closely, you can glimpse the Dowager Sophie just beyond my hand — that’s ’cause I was lying on the couch and watching Investigation Discovery while applying the wraps. Achieving a cute look while only being semi-upright AND brushing up on my murder shows? Sign me up!

So, to buy or not to buy? Well…

  • Pros: Lots of designs, colors, logos (even for colleges and sports teams, if you’re into that — which I am NOT); no smells, chemicals, or spillage risks; simple customization for your nail size (unless you have giant mutant nails or something); protection against splitting or breaking for thin nails; no special equipment required other than a heat source (such as a hair dryer) and a cuticle stick
  • Cons: A little practice to really get the hang of applying them perfectly; some tedium in filing the wrap sufficiently to avoid “feeling” the edge of it; availability only through sellers (in other words, you can’t decide on a whim to run to Target and pick up a sheet)

The verdict: BUY

Interested? I’m hosting my OWN Facebook party on July 1 so you can check ’em out for yourself! I have a ton of samples ready to drop in the mail, so watch for your invitation to come soon! AAAAAAND attendees will be the first to find out about a new Jamberry surprise, which is super-cool (I already know what it is, so nyah-nyah).

(For the record, even if I weren’t having a party, I would label these as a “buy.” I don’t pull my punches, as you’ll see in my upcoming entry on Be a Bombshell mascara….)

“What’s in the box?!” Julep Maven Box, May 2014

whats-in-the-boxOne thing about developing an interest in various subscription services (and occasional purchases from people’s swap boards) is that the daily mail delivery has gotten much more exciting. On May 1, I received my first shipment from Dollar Shave Club (more on that in the next post) and my monthly Maven box from Julep.

Julep is a subscription service that primarily pimps nail polish, although other makeup- and skincare-related products are available. To become a “Maven,” you fill out a little quiz that categorizes your color preferences as belonging to one of four profiles: Classic with a Twist (that’s me), Bombshell, Boho Glam, or It Girl. Around the 20th of the month, you find out what the next month’s theme is and get previews of what your profile-determined Maven box will have in it, although you can always switch to one of the other boxes if you prefer the color selections it includes. You can also upgrade and get a box with all the colors for that month, or you can skip a month if nothing really grabs you (I think — apparently the skips have to be “earned,” maybe one every six months or so, but I’ve heard that customer service will make exceptions for people if need be). If you accept shipment of a box, about a week later you’ll also get access to a 24-hour “secret store” on the website that offers special deals on various products, usually including at least one polish color that isn’t available in the sets (for instance, a new polish correlated with that month’s birthstone). And throughout the month, you’ll get emails with different deals, etc. (There’s also a “Jules” rewards program for keeping your subscription going, but I don’t know much about that yet, either. I’m not a paid spokesmodel.)

This month, in the spirit of OTYS, I opted for the Polish Lover’s Upgrade — I earned double Jules or something for doing so, which means that my monthly box should be free next month, I think. I dunno, I just liked the pretty colors, okay? Don’t judge me, you don’t know my life. (Note: Had I stuck with the standard CWAT box, I would have received two polishes — Maddy and Ramona — and some crazy wand thingie that the company just released.)

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Goodies lie within!

As shown in the photo above (click to expand), the box always includes a card showing all the choices for that month, a discount code to use on the site for later purchases, and an inspirational thought. I like to keep mine taped to the wall next to my face so I can glance over and feel reinvigorated when I need a mental pick-me-up. (Snerk — I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.)

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My precioussssssssssss…

The name of each color is always a woman’s name (I’ve labeled them in the photo). Sometimes it has some nebulous connection to the color — for instance, the May birthstone polish (a sparkly green emerald) is named “Priscilla” after Priscilla Presley, born May 24, 1945. I looked on the site once to see what “Heather” looks like, and it’s kind of a weird grayish color, which I don’t get — shouldn’t it be some shade of purple instead?

Because of some unfortunate recent nail breakage, I haven’t gotten to try any of them yet, although I swatched each on a nail stick while watching Investigation Discovery the other night, so that was fun. And Sam had a good time poring over them the next day, because he gets very excited about pretty colors, especially if they sparkle. (No sparkles this month, although several have shimmer finishes that are pretty.) I also haven’t tried the Luxe Repair Skin Serum, because I really loathe the word “serum” and therefore don’t want to gunk up my face with it. But hell, maybe for kicks I’ll try it one night and report back on the effectiveness of its “Power Cell Complex (TM).” That should be good for a laugh, right?