Jamberry vs OPI: Putting pretty nail options to the test

Jamberry vs OPI Challenge

I’ve put a lot of hours into my nails over the last year or so, trying to find ways to have fun expressions of art with me all the time without resorting to more tattoos. (DH is highly amused by my nail art but gives me the side-eye every time I discuss getting another tattoo.) For those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you see these posts roughly once a week, as I debut whatever new concoction I’ve designed, from the simple…

Silver nail polish with multi-colored polkadots

(simple multi-colored polka dots on silver polish)

…to the more ornate…

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD-inspired nails

(inspired by Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD)

…to the event-specific…

Nails celebrating being a Star Pacesetter for the 2014 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk

(celebrating earning Star Pacesetter status for the 2014 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk)

…to the downright silly:

Flower nail art

(adding flowers to my nails to cheer me up while under all this awful snow)

A fairly strong devotee to specific products, I was curious about a “7-day challenge” posed by a friend who sells Jamberry nail wraps: try one “accent” Jamberry nail wrap for a week, with regular polish on the other nails, and see how they stack up. My friend sent me a set of samples, and away I went!

I pitted the Jamberry “Sheer Genius” accent against a lovely OPI color that I’ve used several times before (“You’re Such a Budapest”), resulting in the following:

Jamberry vs OPI's "You're Such a Budapest"

Spot the Jamberry!

My typical home manicure involves one coat of Seche Clear, two coats of OPI polish, and one coat of Seche Vite. If I’m doing nail art, I put on a second coat of Seche Vite afterwards. That typically keeps my nails in good shape for about 5-7 days, at a lower cost than if I went to a nail salon. Of course, there’s the downside of needing to have an entire drawerful of polishes in order to give me variety, and there will be the once-in-a-while “Oops, I accidentally dropped the hot pink nail polish on the carpet and THAT’S not coming out anytime soon” event, but all in all, it’s me time to chill out and do something creative.

I don’t typically need a lot of tools; I have a nail trimmer, a file, and a buffer. Jamberry, however, requires a whole suite of tools: tweezers, scissors, a cuticle pusher (potentially also a spoon pusher), alcohol wipes, and some form of heat applicator to set the adhesive. I’ve seen YouTube videos instructing on the use of a heated rice bag, and I myself used a heating pad set on HIGH, but the recommended method is either a hair dryer or one of the official Jamberry mini-heaters. In other words, there’s more investment required, but–with the exception of the alcohol wipes–these are tools that you can use for long stretches of time, if not forever.

So, how did it go?

After six days, I finally had a crack on the OPI polish–while the Jamberry still looked the same. In other words, Jamberry wins the 7-day challenge *by a nose*. Ultimately I’m the winner, since now I have a better understanding of how the two options stack up against each other.

Here’s the breakdown on other considerations, though, especially if you don’t mind changing your nail designs weekly:

Value Relative to Cost
Comparing the two options, the polish comes out ahead just on product alone:

Cost comparison of OPI + Seche products vs Jamberry nail wraps

In both cases, note that I’m just talking about the product used to apply the design to the nail, not the additional accessories (pushers, buffers, files, scissors, heaters, etc.). With far more required tools, Jamberry runs a higher overall cost–assuming the mani or pedi lasts roughly the same amount of time. Jamicures, as they prefer to call them, are supposed to last from 7-14 days (comparable to a gel or shellac, minus the chemicals and UV rays), but my Jamicure lasted for 7 days before it started to peel and come apart, so your mileage (as always) may vary.

OPI doesn’t come with ready-made designs in a bottle, so you are the artist. For those who don’t feel their hands are steady enough (or who don’t want the added expense of multiple nail art pens), Jamberry provides a more straightforward way to apply nail art of all complexity levels. There are, of course, other options–nail art stickers, glue-on gems, etc.–but I typically stick with 2-dimensional artwork, so I can’t comment on the pricing or degrees of difficulty. Jamberry nail wraps come in dozens of styles and the custom wraps option makes the variety nearly limitless. I say “nearly” because Jamberry won’t violate licensing agreements, so things “inspired by” licensed items (like superheros) may be okay, but using licensed imagery without an agreement in place is NOT.

Jamberry "Porcelain" jamicure

My first “jamicure” – Jamberry “Porcelain” nail wraps

Ease of Application
Nail polish, in general, is pretty darn easy to apply. Jamberry is not too terribly difficult to apply, but the requirement for heat is a bit annoying. Unless you’re totally unplugged, using a pre-heated rice bag (which you had to heat in a microwave in the first place!), you’ll need electricity nearby. For me, doing my nails after the kids go to bed, the heating pad was the only noise-free heating option I had readily available. Jamberry, once applied, can be a real pain to adjust; place them properly the first time, since any moves tend to cause you more heartache than they’re worth. Of course, who hasn’t accidentally touched something with a wet nail and messed it up? Jamberry nail wraps are ready to go as soon as they’ve cooled, so there’s no real “drying time”; however, the sheer volume of stuff needed to apply them really lowers the whole “ease” rating, in my mind. In this category, I’d give a slight edge to OPI.

“That chemical smell”
There are no two ways around it: polish smells awful. My long-suffering DH puts up with it, but we both agree that the smell of polish can be pretty awful at times. Jamberry nail wraps have no smell associated with them, so they’re definitely great for keeping your house from smelling like a nail salon.


Summary: Each option has pluses and minuses, and it’s up to the individual to decide which works better for them for a given occasion. I will continue to use both (though probably not with each other), and I’ll tend not to use the Jamberry nail wraps in successive weeks. Using nail polish week after week strengthens my nails, so I’d lose out on that if I use Jamberry wraps week in, week out. Jamberry has the benefit of offering art patterns that I simply can’t do on my own, so I consider them my utility player for fancier nails. Choose what works for you, but know that there are different options–of varying degrees of cost and difficulty–that can be less expensive than the salon and have just as attractive results.

Ice, Ice Baby (or “Please make it stop”)

Penguin sleds in too much snow

Is this New England or Antarctica?

This has been a rough few weeks. I’ve been pretty quiet online, mostly because my days have been spent either doing snow removal or plugging away HARD at work that is neglected while performing said snow removal. We’ve had more than 70 inches of snow over the last few weeks, and I can tell you that I didn’t sign up for THIS when I moved to New England.

Being from DC, where snow is feared and reviled, I always wished we could somehow legislate away the snow…but no such luck.

Like so many of our friends, co-workers, and neighbors, our lives have been turned upside down by this frozen mess. On the days when we’re not fighting an in-progress snowstorm, DH can’t get to work because the trains he takes keep getting canceled–or the entire rail system shuts down for the day. (The MBTA is an old system that’s been chronically underfunded, systematically mis-managed, and generally neglected, so do the math on whether or not big diesels that are 20+ years old can pull 6+ cars in sub-freezing temperatures and FEET of snow.)

I used to rely on the train to get me to work on the days when I felt driving wasn’t the safest option, and even that’s taken away, so I’ve had quite a few WFH (“work from home”) days. It also doesn’t help that the kids have had school closed enough days that if they have more than 1 additional “snow day” called this winter, they’ll end up having to eat into their April school vacation week or start to go on Saturdays.

In other words: this is just nuts.

Pile on top of that the fact that the weather cleared just long enough for me to go to my mammogram this morning (which I hope won’t result in a diagnostic ultrasound, as has happened the last couple of times), and I’m a ball of stress.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that we now have water coming into the house in ds’ bedroom and our basement?

Yeah, I’m a hot mess. Actually, I’m a cold mess. It was about 8ºF when I walked the kids to school this morning.

So wah wah wah for me, but that’s where my head is at, for the moment. The glimmer of sunshine is that I have a hair appointment this afternoon, so at least my hair will look pretty. And, thanks to our wonderful insurance company (LOVE YOU, Amica!), we’re not dealing with the costs of repairs and such all on our own; they’re even paying for the nice crew of guys who are going to steam off our ice dams so that we can try to stop more water from getting in. So there’s that.

But I’m still a wreck. I’m just internalizing it a lot and letting the stress eat away at me bit by bit. And I’m hoping, praying, wishing that this winter from hell will finally come to an end. I want my life back, and this frozen caricature of domesticity is making me crazy.

Queen Elsa, go home: you’re drunk.

Finding my (th)inner self

I'm getting healthier all the timeYesterday was one of those funny clothing days, where I walked around knowing that I looked–and felt–good. Sure, I could be a size 6 (if I starved myself for a few months), but that’s not the kind of “good” I had in mind.

There I was, walking around in my size 14 jeans (a nice change from the size 16 I was sporting a year ago), my brand-new 38D Natori “Feathers” bra from Nordstrom (because, shockingly, the 42B t-shirt bra they’d been fitting me for at Lane Bryant was WRONG WRONG WRONGITTY WRONG), and my awesome hot boots from the Clarks Outlet. I felt comfortable in my own skin.

I haven’t given up on losing more weight. On the contrary, I’m still working on it wholeheartedly–just in a manner that actually works for me. I have my “go-to” items that help to keep me on track, and they’ve become reliable staples of my diet. Let me be specific about “diet” and what that means for me:

I don’t adhere to a “diet” in the sense of a system, a theme, or some other titled designation. I’m talking “diet” in terms of HOW I EAT. No title needed. 

U.S. News & World Report recently released a ranking of 35 diets (ranging from for-profit plans to more general lifestyles, like vegetarianism), and the key foci that were used for ratings were things like ease of adherence, nutritional completeness, ability to produce weight loss (short-term and long-term), safety, and ability to prevent chronic conditions, like heart disease and diabetes. When I think about how I try to eat, I’m focusing most heavily on adherence, safety, ability to produce long-term weight loss, and preventing chronic conditions (since I have a family member with Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease).

If I were to pick a “diet”, I’d be looking hard at the list from U.S. News because their approach was logical and their methodology appears sound. To me, that’s far better than the nonsense I typically see peddled on Facebook, like people making “Paleo” cookies, the endless array of “cleanses”, shakes, and other gimmicky items that are either chemical-laden or just not right for someone looking for a balanced approach to their life. I’m a hypoglycemic (mild enough that I manage it in how and when I eat, versus with medication), and the concept of deprivation or extreme limitations just doesn’t even work. It doesn’t even make sense!

So, how have I been able to lose weight? Here are three items that are reliable, faithful helpers in my quest to continue to fit into my skin:

1. Lipton Iced Tea: drinking a glass of tea with any meal keeps me hydrated and fills me up, without being the “boring” drink that water can sometimes be without some kind of additive. During the warmer months, I buy the gigantic box of Decaf Lipton Iced Tea bags and brew sun tea out on the back porch in large plastic pitchers. Last winter, when the temperature dipped, I switched to an Arizona sweetened decaf iced tea–and I gained weight by drinking it. This winter, thankfully, I discovered that Lipton makes an iced tea bag specifically for brewing in cold water. It’s great! Now, the grain of salt is that this isn’t as good tea as, say, the Earl Grey that I brew a cup at a time with perfectly heated water in my kettle–but that’s not what this is about. This is about my being able to reach into the fridge and pour myself a glass of unsweetened decaf iced tea whenever I want, and with the ability to cold brew a pitcher in as little as 4 minutes without being beholden to the summer sun. (n.b. – I actually let it brew for at least an hour, because I like my tea strong.)

2. York Minis: these are the perfect dessert when I want something sweet but I don’t want something heavy. A handful of 10 of these makes a serving–and that’s actually a really good amount. I have a sweet tooth, and we have quite the selection of candy in the house. Somehow, though, one way or the other, there’s always some amount of York products in the house so that I have the variety I need in order to give myself a lighter (and still totally satisfying) option. It can be a challenge not to eat the entire bag in one sitting, but I find that if I count out the 10 (or sometimes 15) into my hand as I go–and then SHUT THE BAG–I can keep from going overboard.

3. Starbucks Decaf Coffee: After I gave up the sweetened syrups at Dunkin Donuts because they contain High Fructose Corn Syrup, I also started to evaluate how much I was drinking sweetened lattes and mochas. Especially during the warmer months, my co-workers and I often go for afternoon coffee walks–walking meetings to discuss work that include a stroll over to our local Starbucks store. Trouble was, having one of these fattier, sweetened drinks every day (or nearly that) wasn’t helping my waistline and was totally counteracting the value of the walk itself. Switching to regular decaf coffee, whether having it sweetened by the barista with the “classic” sweetener or by adding sugar on my own, works; and, making the latte and mocha the exception–rather than the rule–has also contributed to my weight loss.

Looking at this list, it’s pretty easy to see that none of these items fall into the category of “highly unhealthy” foods, and they’re all easily sustainable. In general, they’re also fairly affordable (and substitutes exist–especially for my caffeinated friends). Even better, I’m not sacrificing flavor; my taste buds are still quite satisfied. I have milk and sugar in my coffee, and I’m not counting how long I pour. If I have 15 York Minis instead of 10, I’m not going out for a power-walk to make up for the extra handful of calories. And if I chug my tea too fast, another pitcher is no more than a few minutes to an hour away.

Of course, this is what works for me. Different people have different solutions, but mine is based on my desire to find something that I can do for the rest of my life without feeling like I’m owned by any one company, like I have to justify myself to my doctor, or like I’m sacrificing anything. That’s big. And when you’re trying to get smaller, big can be a really fantastic thing.



Note: product links are provided for illustrative purposes. If you decide you want to purchase from Nordstrom or Amazon – go for it! Otherwise, feel free to buy these items wherever you’d like. Also, none of the companies noted above paid for me to mention their products.