For Christmas I received a Julep manicure kit as a gift. One of the products in the kit was the Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat. As a seasoned at-home manicurist, I’ve used a lot of top coats that have purported to be miracle workers so I was interested–and skeptical–to see if this would work. Julep claims:
Also, an independent, blind, third-party, clinical study found the following:
- 100% of all subjects using Freedom Top Coat passed the smudge test at five minutes
- None of the subjects using the leading regular top coat passed the smudge test at five minutes
- 82% of all subjects using Freedom Top Coat showed only mild wear at five days after application
- 82% of all subjects reported they had better overall wear using Freedom Top Coat than the leading regular top coat
I’ve used this product four times, so I think I have an accurate barometer for its effectiveness. First, the smudge test claim is absolutely right on. After five minutes, the polish is dry. You can play with your hair, fold laundry, wash your hands. It’s pretty amazing. You do want to be careful to apply thinly, though. It comes out very thickly, so just make sure to dab the excess off before topping your manicure.
It also created a really shiny finish that stayed through the length of the manicure–no scratching and very little dulling. But I did not experience a decrease in chipping. For instance in the photo above, I’m wearing Deborah Lippmann Let’s Go Crazy. Love the color and glitter in this polish, but it’s a terrible chipper. I’ve never worn it without chipping within 12 hours–it’s just a weakness in the formula. Wearing the Julep top coat didn’t prevent chipping, unfortunately, but I’ve never met a top coat that could make up for the flaws of the main polish, so it’s not a big deal to me. There was shrinkage, too, when applied over not-yet-dry polish. Not this kind of shrinkage but this kind:
Cult Nails Vicious
See how there’s almost a gap in the polish at the edge of the nail bed? That is shrinkage. Fast drying top coats work to evaporate the wetness in your polish, causing it to pull away from the edges of the nail. I used acetone and a nail brush to refine the edge of the polish–removing the section that had shrinkage so that it looked neat and clean. After this happened, I popped over to Sephora and noted that some reviewers said if you waited for the other coats of nail polish to dry, the Julep top coat did not cause shrinkage. The next time I used the Julep top coat, I did just that. I wait a good 45 minutes for the color coats to dry, then topped with the Julep. Hardly any shrinkage at all (just in few small spots), which is great, though to some extent if you want a fast-drying top coat, you probably don’t want to wait for the color coats underneath it to dry before applying. Still, it will give you that perfect finish that you’re looking for if you can be patient enough.
Bottom Line: This is a great fast-drying top coat that gives you a lot of shine. You shouldn’t expect a reduction in chipping, and you’ll probably have to touch up the shrinkage if you’re short on time. It’s pricey at $18–probably best for those who frequently polish their nails at home, so the investment would be worth it (as it is for me).