If you're here and reading my blog, I'm going to go ahead and assume you're aware that there is such a thing as indie nail polish, if only because I refuse to shut up about them. I'm obviously hugely in favour of supporting the indie nail polish community - I love helping people make their own businesses a success, I love the creativity and geekery in a lot of indie polishes, and I love the sense of community that comes from getting into a hobby so many other people hold so dear. It's kind of staggering to realise the industry is only about two years old - Lynderella was the first indie brand to go public in July 2011, and Hare Polish followed soon after. But since then the number of creators has expanded exponentially - what used to be a microscopic little corner of the cosmetics market is getting more and more crowded, and a broader customer base can bring with it exponentially more drama. I've been seeing a lot of customers flying off the handle on various Facebook pages and forums over the most nonsensical of complaints, and it drives me nuts.
I think that there are a few things that newcomers to the "scene" need to know, and a few tips and tricks I find myself repeating over and over, that will help you get the most out of the world of indie polish.
Do your Research
Like any new hobby or interest, I think it's important to do at least a little bit of research before diving into the world of indie polish. This is partially to protect yourself from getting ripped off - as with any other industry, there are assholes out there who are happy to take your money and give you shit in return. This is a small, TINY minority, but unfortunately a bad enough experience right out of the gate can understandably put people off the entire industry. So have a look around before you get your wallet out.
Gumleaf Mafia feed as a good place to start (and not just because I'm on it) The Gumleaf bloggers tend to swatch a lot of indie polishes, and some of the Australian indie creators have their blogs there too. Join some communities - Facebook is full of polish fanatics, and there are approximately one billion different groups. I can personally recommend Polishaholics Anonymous as a good place to start.
In order to help you guys out with this research phase, I've laid out the beginnings a Shopping Guide (the tab is right up the top next to all the stuff about me), where I'll be listing all the awesome sellers I know, how to get their stuff, and what they sell.
Indie Polish Is Not Like Other Polish
The thing about indie nail polish is that it's by and large HAND MADE. Pretty Serious and Picture Polish both have theirs manufactured professionally, but all the other brands? Femme Fatale and Shades of Phoenix and Loki's Lacquer , Alanna Rennee, and all the others? They're just one person bent over a tiny glass bottle mixing up beautiful potions to make your nails look amazing.
|Teneil from Shades of Phoenix working on a new batch of magic|
There are also some indie polishes that are inherently "Advanced" polishes. Polishes like the lovely holographic ones from Lilypad Lacquer have much the same consistency as mainstream polishes, so there's no real trick to them - they're what I call "Beginner" polishes. Anyone can pick them up, have a bash, and probably come away with an acceptable manicure.
|Lilypad Lacquer True Blood looks good on just about anyone.|
|Femme Fatale Coldwraith is tricky, but totally worth it.|
Another quirk of polish comprised of gooey, see-through liquid filled with glitter is that it often looks best with a plain colour layered underneath. Not all indie polishes need this - but it often helps a lot of them really pop. This is a side effect, if you will, of any super sparkly polish. In order for it to BE sparkly, it needs to be glitter suspended in a relatively transparent base. If the base isn't transparent enough, the glitter can't sparkle. If the base is transparent, you will often need to wear a plain colour underneath for full coverage. It's just how it works - refraction is what makes so many indie polishes look so "deep", and if the base is totally opaque refraction through the layers isn't possible. The right colour layered underneath can also bring out colours in the polish that might otherwise fade away - Lab Muffin has an excellent post on the effect of putting different colours under shiny polishes, that explains the whole thing in a much more knowledgeable way than I can.
|Lasers are also awesome.|
Handmade = Quirky
The handmade nature of indie polish also means that sometimes your bottle of polish might be ever so slightly different to another bottle of polish from the same recipe. Some makers are not particularly careful with their consistency, but 99.9 per cent of indie makers take enormous care to measure out all their ingredients in as precise a way possible. Sometimes though, they stuff up - they are, after all, only human.
There are also some indie makers with a habit of tweaking their recipes without actually announcing each reformulation - sometimes, if you go back to buy a second bottle of something you loved, it might not be exactly how you expected. Take these two examples - both are alleged duplicates of what should have been the same polish.
Personally, I think this is a somewhat dodgy practice, and I can't say I fully support it. Some people don't mind - some polish addicts enjoy the surprise, watching the evolution of a recipe. But if it's something that would bother you a lot, this one of the areas where your research comes in handy - if a creator tinkers with their recipes regularly, there WILL be chatter about it, giving you a heads up. For example, the first indie polish I went completely mental for was Across The Universe by Enchanted Polish.
|Clearly an old photo - my nails haven't been this short in forever.|
As with the issue of layering, if this kind of research is too much hassle for you, I do understand. Nail polish just isn't that big a deal to a lot of people. But if you're not interested in dealing with the occasional inconsistency, if you need to know every bottle of polish you buy will be absolutely and exactly how you expected, then indie polish is possibly not for you.
There is of course, a chance that your bottle might be not just a bit different or not what you expected, but actually substandard. Maybe the formula has gone funky because it got too hot and/or cold in transit. Maybe the glitter sunk and solidified due to a chemical reaction. Maybe the creator didn't test their recipe for long enough, and the glitter has reacted with the base and gone all "taco" (curvy). Maybe it's separated in a weird way and won't reintegrate. Chemistry can be unpredictable, and it does happen that every now and then there is a "bad" bottle or a "bad" batch of indie polish. A tiny percentage of indie polish makers are simply not very good at what they do, like in any industry. But even for the best of the best, there are no measures that anyone can take to absolutely 100 per cent guarantee that there will never ever be a bad bottle.
So what to do when you've gotten all excited about something, got your hands on it, and it's just shit? Stay tuned to my next post!