Sensationail - game changer or another nail fail?

Over the past 7 years, I've lost count of the number of times I've blogged about my nails. I'm regularly told "you are obsessed with your nails!" They are the bane of my life.

Until a year or two ago I was a compulsive biter. I had tried the bad tasting polish, painting them daily, filing them constantly. I just couldn't stop. I was embarrassed to show people my hands all the time, always trying to hide my bitten-down nails.

I finally broke the habit two years ago when I tried acrylic nails. After I had them removed two months later, I couldn't bear to bite the long nails I had finally grown.

But then there was a new problem. No matter what I did, no matter what I tried, I could not get nail polish to stay on my nails without chipping after 24 hours. I tried every base coat, every top coat, every brand of polish. Layering, sandwiching, dehydrating - everything. Nothing seemed to work.

It doesn't help that I cannot stand to have even the smallest chip in my polish. As soon as it chips, I have to pick it all over. Not great for my nail strength!

I got close in January. I bought the cult favourite, CND Stickey and tried the "stickey sandwich" - a layer of CND Stickey, then polish, then another layer of Stickey, polish then topcoat. With this somewhat time-consuming method I could get 3 days.

Then in February, my friend Laura messaged me to tell me about Sensationail. It was a gel system - including a lamp - that could be used with your existing nail polishes. It promised 2 weeks of nail polish wear. Now I knew right away 2 weeks wasn't going to be possible for me, but I loved that you could use it with your existing polishes, because a) I already had lots of polishes and most gel kits require you purchase gel-specific kits and b) I like to change my nail polish colour a lot. At the time the kit was £30. I'd ordered it within the hour.

There are two ways to apply Sensationail. 

The first way is to mix several drops of your nail polish with an equal number of drops of the transformer. Then you use a primer (included), and do two coats of the mixture with a cure of the lamp after each layer. Then you add a final layer of transformer and finish with the cleanser and lint-free wipes (also included). It sounds complicated, but the whole process only takes about half an hour. 

The other option is to apply your nail polish as normal, leave it until it is completely dry (so a good 20-30 minutes), before using the transformer as a topcoat and curing it for 30 seconds. Then you finish off with the cleanser.

I was always pro-mixing method and used this for a good six months, but I've recently started to prefer the topcoat method. The topcoat method takes slightly longer as you need to wait for your nails to dry (they dry super faster with the mixing method) but I like that it's less of a faff. I previously rejected the top coat method as it wasn't very clear in the instructions that your nails had to be completely dry, and I smudged nail polish all over a brand new pair of jeans and cried so...

So what do I think?

Here's everything you get in the box
  • While I can't get a full 2 weeks - which I could have told you anyway! - I can get 4-5 good days before my polish starts to peel off. That's the best success I've ever had with any nail product!
  • The fact it works with any polish is a huge plus for me. I've been put off gel kits before because they've required buying lots of new polishes, which makes all my current polishes redundant. I also like to have a large number of colours so replacing them all gets expensive!
  • You can buy refills. I do my nails around once a week, and I bought a new bottle of the transformer after about 3 months of using the mixing method and upgraded to a bigger size. While it's not cheap (a small bottle is £10 and a larger £15), it's better than having to replace the whole kit after a few months! It's been 5 months now and I'm almost ready to replace some of the other items.
  • It dries quickly. I wouldn't say instantly - and I've made the mistake of thinking that before! - but I would say you're good to go about 10-15 minutes after finishing your nails using the mixing method.
  • It's great value for money if you usually pay to have your nails done. Obviously if not, it's an upfront payment, but for me, it's completely worth it to have nice days for a few days and not have to keep doing them all the time!
  • Definitely seems to work with any polish. I've only used Essie and Barry M so far and not had any problems.
  • The topcoat method is really easy and doesn't take any longer than doing your nails normally.
  • The topcoat method uses very little product, making it even better value for money.
  • It's only going to look as good as you can do it yourself. Once it's dried, you're stuck with it. I'm really, really not very good at doing my nails, and it means that sometimes I can be stuck with a smudge or a wrinkle for 5 days (or let's face it, it drives me so crazy I have to pick it all off). Unlike a professional gel manicure, this is all on you. (edit: I actually find it goes much more wrinkly with the mixing method which is one of the reasons I've switched to the topcoat method. Because it becomes so thick using the mixing method it's hard to get it to look neat).
  • It's tricky to "top up". I find if I have a chip or a smudge it's easier to take the colour off the whole nail and start again. I learned the hard way!
  • It's hard to remove. As I said above - I tend to pick mine off (which I know is terrible!) but I have real trouble with the acetone-soak method. Also bear in mind you need acetone to remove it if you have any issues with that.
  • It stained my nails really badly. I had really badly stained nails after using this system to do my nails every week for about 4 moths. It took several weeks of no polish to fade. 
  • It peels off if it touches skin If you're messy at applying it, like I am, you can end up getting it on your fingers. This can cause your polish to peel off, and also burn a little bit...
  • It's not great with light or pale polishes that need 3 coats
  • Can go weird and bubbly and smudge. As above, it's not perfect and you can be stuck with imperfections. (Again, this is mostly the case with the mixing method).
  • I can't get 2 full weeks. I know I never expected that, but it's worth knowing if you really need to get 2 weeks. However, this is just my experience with my terrible nails.
  • The topcoat method requires you to let your nails dry completely, which we know can take 20-30 minutes. 
  • I don't find the topcoat method feels as "done" and doesn't feel as dry, so I worried about smudging overnight.
  • The mixing method is a bit of a pain though and uses a lot more product.
  • You can't really transport it. It was a pain going on holiday for 6 days because I knew I couldn't redo it out there without bringing my entire kit! 
  • I can't be sure how damaging it might be to your nails. I know acetone isn't great, but I have weak, rubbish nails anyway. I haven't noticed them getting any worse, but if you're concerned, it might be work doing some research on the products.
While that seems like a lot of cons (I wanted to give you an honest review! I've been making notes for 6 months!), for me, the pros really outweigh them. I've been using this system every week for about 6 months now and I'm so happy that I'm not painting my nails every single night! It takes some getting used to, and I still can't get my nails to look quite how I like them, but it's a huge improvement on anything else I've tried!

I'm probably even more obsessed with my nails now!
Charlotte x

Edited to add: I was having a few issues with my lamp a few weeks ago so I tweeted Sensationail to moan. Within an hour I had an email to contact to get a replacement lamp sent over, and after sending an email I got a reply the next day saying they would send a new one straight out, free of charge. Now that's good customer service!


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