Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Julep May 2014 Review

Julep is pulling more shenanigans. Recently, they reduced the ability of new subscribers to skip boxes. Now, there are even more changes. For new subscribers, the price has been bumped up from $19.99 per month to $24.99 per month, but the options have increased: in a program called "My Maven", new subscribers are able to fully customize their boxes, picking any polishes from the collection that they want to be sent. They also unveiled a new subscription option: Maven Luxe, which retails for $39.99 per month. There will be no changes for those who are already subscribed.

It's pretty clear that Julep is trying to discourage people from skipping boxes. By reducing your ability to skip, they force subscribers to either cancel their subscription or suck it up and buy the box. By offering more customization, they presumably want people to actually want to purchase the box.

I don't think that this is necessarily unreasonable from a business standpoint. My guess is that Julep has a lot of members who skip frequently. I also am willing to bet that there are some months where a shitload of people skip, and some months where only a few (relatively speaking) forego their cyclic nail polish delivery. For Julep, that is almost certainly difficult to handle. They have to be prepared, from a manufacturing standpoint, to meet whatever the demand may be. If they predict that demand is going to be high and a bunch of people skip their boxes, they have a bunch of leftover shit. Anyone subscribed to Julep periodically gets those emails about the ludicrous sales where things a marked down a crapload; I think that's what was leftover from months where they miscalculated how many people would accept their box.

Other subscription services that allow skips, such as Beauty Army, do not manufacture their own product, so skipping probably does not cut into their bottom line as significantly. They can send those same samples out next month to different subscribers. Julep creates and sends out brand new products on a monthly basis. That would be very hard to do without some level of stability.

The price increase is probably a way to compensate for the months where they fuck up on the amount they manufacture.

Clearly, the price increase and reduced skipping options both make subscribing to Julep less desirable. I know that. You know that. Julep knows that. If it's not worth the extra dough, don't subscribe. I think that Julep executives believe that the additional level of stability for subscriptions will save them more money than they gain by enrolling people who are inconsistent.

It is what it is.

Here's what I got this month:

Disclosure: As usual, I upgraded my box to the fancy-pants level using points. I would not have chosen to upgrade if I was paying cash for this box.

Nail Polish

The nail polishes included:

Iona (It Girl): The most effeminate navy blue of all time. It's as if the coast guard met a bouquet of irises. Buster Bluth might wear a blazer of this color to a Motherboy event.

Kam (It Girl): Hospital wall green. Er, hospital wall spearmint.

Jeanne (Boho Glam): The color of the sky on a sunny day when it's still a little cold outside. A baby room might realistically be painted this color.

Jules (It Girl): A very pale peach.

Maddy (Classic With a Twist): The color of raspberry sherbet, if raspberry sherbet was filled with a subtle pink shimmer.

Paulette (Boho Glam): A lilac duochrome with a golden shift.

Ramona (Classic With a Twist): The lightest, palest lavender of all time.

Laree (Bombshell): I LOVE THIS POLISH. A neon coral with a gold duochrome. Be still, my heart.

Saaya (Bombshell): A shimmery sunset orange.

Here's how Laree and Maddy look together on my nails:

Plié Wand and Accessories

Julep announced the release of their Plié Wand a few months ago, so there has been plenty of time for people to digest the idea. At its most fundamental, it's an extra-long handle to give additional control when applying nail polish.

One of the complaints I saw among nail polish aficionados is that they don't hold their nail polish caps like a pen, so this would be useless for them. Perhaps this is the explanation for why my nail polish is so crappy… but I totally hold my polish caps like a pen and love the idea of having additional control here. The wand also bends, allowing people to get whatever weirdass angle they need without painting up their knuckles.

The packaging was really spiffy, and the whole thing looks pretty neat when put together.

Unfortunately, shoddy craftsmanship was evident upon closer look. My magnetic ring was completely detached from the product. It's a superglue away from being fixed, but I am not pleased. The only reason I was able to use the product at all was because they sent me extra caps.

The attached brush is also scratchy and terrible. This is dollar store quality, right here.

Luckily, this brush is only necessary if you want to use the wand on a non-Julep polish. You can pull it right out, take the top cap off your Julep polish, and pop your Julep polish in the holder. A bit complicated to explain, but very easy to figure out and do. This method is also fully compatible with all old Julep polishes, which was a big concern when the wand was originally announced.

I definitely felt that the wand gave me extra control, although it by no means will get you from something super sloppy to a professional-looking manicure on its own. Still, I will definitely be using it for many manicures to come. I'm not sure it's a revolution, but it's still handy. It's probably the equivalent of an apple cutter. It's oddly specific, it won't always do what you need, and you can do the same basic thing with a knife… but there will be days in the kitchen where you will think FUCK YEAH, I AM SO GLAD I OWN AN APPLE CUTTER.

The bending feature did nothing for me, but it did not detract from the wand and it may be useful for others. For me, it could have been the Allongé Wand rather than the Plié Wand.

Here are the extra caps they sent me:

I also received the "creativity kit", a striping brush and dotting tool that are Plié Wand-compatible.

They do the deed. I have nothing significant to say about them. Perhaps I am just not advanced enough as a manicurist to tell what separates the good dotting tools from the bad.

As always, the code FREEBOX will get you your first box for free. Of course, you are always welcome to use my referral link by clicking here.


  1. Ok, if I didn't already love your blog enough, the Buster Bluth comment would have won me over. I LOVE Laree too! I actually own a really similar polish "Happi" from Zoya, but when I got it and realized I just basked in the glory of having two awesome pink/yellow shimmer polishes. Love reading your reviews, thanks for the interesting perspective as always.

  2. Given this is the description for Iona:

    What it is:
    Breakthrough Oxygen Technology powers this fast-drying, long-lasting nail polish to get nails healthy and more beautiful at the same time. Our proprietary 5-free formula also includes strengthening Hexanal and antioxidant green coffee extract. You'll never look at nail polish the same way again.
    What it does:
    Dries ultra fast & allows 30% more oxygen to permeate the nail bed than other nail polish
    Reveals stronger, harder & more conditioned nails in just two weeks (reported by 95% of women in an independent trial)
    Extends the life of your manicure or pedicure

    I'm very curious what you make of this and these claims, as well as Oxyyyyygennnnn Technologyyyyyyyy!!!

    Also I know you say you're sloppy with polish but that simple manicure you did up there is lovely.

    1. LOL, reported in an independent trial. "We got somebody who wasn't us to give this stuff to a ton of rabid Julep fans and then ask them if they thought it made their nails stronger!" Or maybe I'm just cynical.

    2. Yeah, I saw that they had just added all that crap to each polish. I'm assuming they are trying to justify their prices?

  3. Are those your real nails? dang... I'm impressed.

    It's good for them to give people more choice, esp because nail polish is toxic waste so giving people colours they don't want is not good, environmentally. But like you said, they're probably more concerned with their short term finances... Seems a bit short-sighted though, to try to lock customers in. I would rather spend the same money on a colour or two I like. I think I just don't get the appeal of the whole subscription box thing.

    1. Those are my real nails, yes.

  4. I don't understand Julep's business model. Who needs that many nail polishes? Assuming that you are not using nail polish remover daily for fear of cuticle damage, how often does the home-manicurist change their polish? I assume for most people 3 days is a minimum for the length they wear a polish (ok, that is my minimum. Also my maximum. Let's not talk about this anymore.) I simply don't see how you could use THAT MANY nail polishes each month, and the bottles are too small/weirdly shaped for a professional to mess with.
    That being said, +1 for the plie wand. For once, it does not look like a 4 year old boy with limited small motor control applied your nail polish ;)

    1. The business model seems to be a combo of BeachMint (JewelMint, etc) and a subscription service like Birchbox. It never really seemed sustainable to me when i first signed up, before it was super popular, but I'll keep the subscription because I still have skip privileges.

      Ultimately, I think the way the original business model was launched made sense to get word out about the company and probably bankroll production of polishes and other beauty items. Now they've reached a point where the business is sustainable and they can afford to mess around with the subscription options to make a profit.

    2. I do mine every other day, sometimes more often if I'm particularly disappointed with how a color combo worked out. I can't get polishes to last more then a day, maybe two if I'm lucky, without chipping though. I moisturize pretty heavily after removing the polish in order to avoid over drying of my cuticles. That said, getting this many polishes every month seems a bit much. Especially because I may not like all of the colors, AND I would probably still purchase colors from other companies. In other words, even though it seems like I would be the perfect Julep client, I'm probably not going to get a subscription.

    3. Melanie,

      I really hope you pop in again to read this--

      it took me a long time to figure out how to get to three days out of a manicure at home-- I tried different base coats (Essie, CND's Stickey, OPI, OPI Matte, OPI Ridge filler...) and different top coats (CND, ESSIE, Out The Door) but ultimately I do not have the patience for anything other than Seche Vite because of dry times-- I could paint my nails in the morning and wake up 20 hours later with ruined nails from sleeping! I could not find an application I was pleased with. Seche Vite looked beautiful after application and no sheet imprints from the bedcovers overnight, but I had shrinkage and chip problems, still. With Seche Vite I experienced shrinkage at the tips and near the cuticles-- also, on my thin nails, I would get chips with 18 hours--always. I elected to get gel overlays (this is a full set, artificial application and my fills cost $27 every two weeks) and for some reason this has eliminated my tip shrinkage (maybe because I have an easier time "Wrapping" the polish around my now-thicker nails). However, after I made this commitment, I found CND's Vinylux (7 day chip free polish system)

      I have tested Vinylux on friends and on my daughters nails (she is a 4/day a week competitive swimmer) and the dry time is comparable to Seche vite (this one is 8 minutes), no sheet-impressions in the morning and far less chipping. There is also no frightening smell like with Seche Vite, which I am not comfortable using on my daughter.

      So, go buy Vinylux. Technically it is professional sale only (I am licensed and can buy professional hair colors and nail products) but CND does authorize nail salons to purchase it to sell to clients (they just don't sell in places like Ulta yet). Likely you can purchase on Amazon or eBay as well because products constantly get diverted, it can't be stopped/.

      It is two coats of polish (no base coat!) and one coat of top coat "floated" on like Seche vite, just a bit thinner. It will not stain nails but I did get a little pink from the removal of their bright red, which no, did not stain my nails without a base coat. I have also heard rumors of licensed manicurists replacing Seche Vite with the CND Vinylux top coat and experiencing the 8 minute dry and less chipping.

      I just have so much OPI polish at home I can't bear to switch over to Vinylux completely, even though I have started transitioning (again, even with my hard gels I still get Seche Vite shrinkage at the cuticle line, which I then stare at and worry about excessively, especially with bright shades like my new yellow which draw so much attention)

      But, yeah, still not into Julep...

    4. I only do the basic two-polishes-per boxes, and I go through them at a pretty steady rate for a number of reasons.

      -The bottles contain less polish than other brands.
      -I also change out my finger and toenail polish every 3-5 days (and I do get fantastic wear time out of Julep polishes so long as I do multiple, very thin coats that are each given 10 minutes to dry). Usually a Julep mani will last as long as it takes me to succumb to temptation and peel them off like rubber eggshells.
      -I also tend to use multiple colors at once for accent nails or ombre looks.
      -I am the nail polish supplier for my family and friends; we even take my polishes when we get manicures, since we like the Julep colors and formula better than China Glaze or OPI.
      -I have fat nails I guess.

    5. Most people do not upgrade, so they would not get nearly as many polishes.

  5. I've been a Julep subscriber since the old model was in place, and I haven't taken a box in at least 6 months, and I've got enough points for a free box, but I am just not that impressed with what I've seen lately.

    Also, to clarify the new customization option - I believe that's available to all subscribers, not just new ones?

    1. Existing subscribers can either stay at 20 bucks non-customizable or switch to 25 customizable, but once you switch, you can't go back. My impression is you can make the switch at any point in the future, though.

    2. My understanding is the same as Emma's. You can switch, but you will get the price bump.

  6. Thanks for making me choke on my granola bar at the Arrested Development comment, lol.

    1. I am glad you survived reading my blog.

  7. I rarely have the patience to do nail art that is more complicated than "add glitter topcoat," but I will say that I would be leery of a plastic dotting tool. I feel that I've dipped my dotting tool in so much acetone for cleaning that a non-metal one might not hold up too well.

    The wand seems like it'd either be a godsend or make things more awkward than normal, depending on how one is used to holding their polish brushes. I think it'd just get in my way.

    1. I have never tried a non-metal dotting tool, so I don't know how it will hold up.

  8. Was the brush still stiff after cleaning it with nail polish remover? I remember from the video that it had like a coating or something on it. I can't tell yet because I was one of the subscribers that got a "sorry, we promise we'll send it out next week" emails. I can't wait! I actually do change my nail polish with my mood, and since I'm grandfathered into the skip-as-you-please plan, I think I'll stick around for another year or so.

    1. Oh, I didn't try it. I just plunked the wand on one of my Julep polishes. I would have to fix the broken part for it to even be usable.

  9. I totally agree with your assessment!

    I discovered Julep a month or two ago and decided to order some polishes before subscribing. Now with these changes, I don't think I will. Part of my delay in subscribing was "do I really want to spend $200+ annually on nail polish?" Now it would be over $250...

  10. If you love Laree (as I do as well) you will probably also love Pacific Coral from Ninja Polish (dot com). It is like Laree but the gold shift is a GOLD TO GREEN shift. Possibly my favorite nail polish ever.

    1. Interesting! I will look into it...

  11. Do you have any problems with the quality of the Julep polishes? I joined for a month and I felt like the polishes were really hard to apply well and that they didn't last well. I cancelled the same month, so I am not totally sure if I just got unlucky with the combination of polishes I got, but I decided I would rather get one or two high quality polishes a month rather than a few lower quality ones that I couldn't pick the color of (I guess the new pick your own colors fixes that particular problem).

  12. I hope you chose the option to "Swap" with your June box. I was horrified when I saw how they limited the options. I would like to know your opinion.


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