Julep Maven February 2016 Review

Although I usually skip my Julep Maven box, I did receive it this month. This was 30% because I was intrigued by the Freedom Top Coat and 70% because I forgot to skip my box until the window was already closed. Since I have no particular interest in non-nail polish Julep products, I got the “It Girl” box, which has three polishes instead of two, as always.

It is still January, but this is a February box. Living in Washington state occasionally has its benefits. (Julep ships out of Seattle.)

The theme for this month was “Get On the A List”, so their polishes were all named for famous actresses. I am not normally one for themes, but I thought that this was actually pretty cute. My box honored Rebel Wilson, Marion Cotillard and Joan Crawford.

Say what you will about Julep, their packaging is pretty adorable.

My box contained the following:

Julep Eyelash Curler, approximate retail value $1.00 (?)

Julep Eyelash Curler

Apparently when Julep thinks of Hollywood Glamor, they think of eyelashes? My eyelashes are insanely curly already, so these lady contraptions only serve to confuse and horrify me.


Two Milk Chocolate Hearts, approximate retail value $0.40 (based on Dove prices)


These were totally adequate and were eaten approximately ten seconds after being photographed.

Nail polishes:

Next come the nail polishes.

Julep Nail Polish in Rebel
Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth, ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

Julep Rebel in natural lighting

I appreciate the little “swatch me” stickers that now appear on Julep nail polish bottles. They are particularly applicable to me as a blogger since my nails are too busy being adorable right now to try out these new polishes.

This polish is a holographic polish. However, it is a very subtle holo. This is not a flaw in the polish, of course, although I personally prefer my holo polish to be OH MY GOD SUDDENLY MY LIFE IS IN TECHNICOLOR WHOA.

Julep Rebel in artificial lighting

As is pretty typical with the holographic nail polishes that I have tried, there is very little effect in sunlight, but a much larger effect in artificial light.

Julep Nail Polish in Marion
Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth, ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

Julep Marion

This is a lovely smokey blue with a bit of silver shimmer.

Julep Nail Polish in Joan
Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth, ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

Julep Joan

This is my favorite of the polishes that I received. It’s sort of a dark berry color with gold glitter.

Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat
Most generous value interpretation: $18.00 (full price)
Medium generous value interpretation: $14.40 (Maven price)
Least generous value interpretation: $5.89 (assuming it is worth, ounce per ounce, the same as Seche Vite)

This month, every Julep Maven received an extra product: Julep’s new Freedom Top Coat.

Julep Freedom Top Coat

The Julep website proclaims, “Activated by natural light, this innovative formula creates a unique
polymer force field that prevents chipping for days longer than regular
top coat, leaving your nails with a gel-like shine.”

I’m going to forgive Julep for using the term “force field” even though they are not an episode of Star Trek. However, I am slightly less forgiving of their advertizing their product as a “Polymer Top Coat”.

First, what is a polymer? A polymer, which literally translates to “many parts” is a chemical compound that is comprised of repeated units. Many daily products, from styrofoam to latex, contain polymers. There are also natural polymers in products such as wood, silk, or wool. All nail polishes contain polymers. They are necessary in order for the product to adhere to your nail. The also help end product to be flexible without breaking. So, technically it’s not inaccurate for Julep to call their product a “Polymer Top Coat”. However, given that polymers are a necessary component of all nail polishes, I still suspect that Julep is attempting to blind consumers by using science-y words.

Nail polish normally dries when the solvent in the nail polish evaporates. Because the Julep Freedom Top Coat packaging goes on about how it is “activated by natural light” and because it is stored in a funky black bottle a la hydrogen peroxide, obviously Julep is suggesting that the product interacts with light. I looked at the ingredients to see what might cause this reaction.

Freedom Top Coat

The ingredient list is mercifully short: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, hydroxypropylcellulose, and isopropyl alcohol. Ethyl acetate and butyl acetate are common nail polish solvents and isopropyl alcohol is also commonly used in nail polsh. However, I was unfamiliar with the use of both methyl ethyl ketone and hydroxypropylcellulose. Methyl ethyl ketone, also known as butanone, turns out to also be a common solvent. It can be broken down by sunlight, but the course of that reaction will take days, not minutes. Hydroxypropylcellulose is a polymer that is used as a gelling agent.

To me, this ingredient list suggests that the black bottle is necessary in order to prevent the top coat from breaking down in the long term, BUT that the top coat dries the same way that nail polish typically dries: via solvent evaporation.

I conducted a very limited test of this hypothesis by wrapping a layer of the Freedom Top Coat in plastic wrap. I used another Julep nail polish (Marion) as a control, to ensure that the polish didn’t dry simply due to air exposure. Feeling generous, I waited ten minutes with the nail polish in the sun. My hypothesis was partially confirmed. Neither nail polish had dried. However, the Freedom top coat was slightly more gel-like than when I had left it. Again, it seems that solvent evaporation is the primary mechanism of drying. Still, there is likely something going on that my non-chemist self doesn’t understand, since there was a texture change in the top coat.

Here is a picture of my shitty experiment.

Overall, I feel the Freedom Top Coat claims are ever-so-slightly misleading… BUT they definitely do NOT qualify as Beauty Bullshit.

I can’t speak to the efficacy of the Freedom top coat since it will take a long time to test. However, I fully intend on doing a comparison with my current favorite top coat, Seche Vite, some months in the future when I have had sufficient time for trials. Expect graphs.

Total Box Value:
Most generous value interpretation: $61.40
Medium generous value interpretation: $49.40
Least generous value interpretation: $20.25

If you are interested in becoming a Julep Maven and kindly want to give me credit for referring you, you can click here. The code JULEPVIP should get you your first box for a penny.


  1. I liked your last graph. It was the maximum of my own graphing abilities. 😉


  2.  Noted that I really want that Marion color.

    I ditched my Birchbox subscription for a Julep one, since I was a little underwhelmed by BB, and I am a self-proclaimed polish junkie. I am excited to see it when it arrives, though my boyfriend isn’t. He just doesn’t have to see the box!

    I am glad to know I’m not the only one who is terrified by eye lash curlers. Maybe more so since that looks like a guillotine cigar cutter. Though maybe Julep wants to inspire you to think of Robespierre or Marie Antoinette while you’re curling your lashes.

  3. Just looked up a review of this top coat and found you. I’m doubtful given their website says to reapply every few days. Hardly what I’d expect from a top coat promising a gel like finish. I’ve never bought any julep as they seem overpriced for what you get. I’d rather buy a chanel or Deborah Lippman. Doubt I’ll bother looking into this when fast dry top coats are good enough.


  4. I love your blog! You have a dry humor that I love. I hope to see graphs soon! BTW the top coat is comparable to seche vite. But it does grab some of the bottom color on the brush. 🙁


  5. Nice colours! I wonder how good that top coat is… http://initialed.blogspot.com


  6.  Thanks for your review! I took the plunge & signed up tonight. I hope you actually get your credit because that code you shared & your review are the only reasons why I signed up. Your review is also why I didn’t buy the top coat. LOL Thanks for that too.