When I did Part 4 of my matte topcoat series, I promised Part 5, and here it is. Today's lineup is OPI Matte Top Coat (the control in this experiment), elf Matte Finisher (purchased at KMart), L'Oreal The Matte Velvet (from the Nail Art Made Easy LE display out now), and L'Oreal She's So Matte (matte black polish from the Mix and Matte display, also out now).
I could have put the Sally Girl matte topper in the lineup as the control, as it's just as matte as the OPI, but at the time I did this swatching, I only had the one tiny bottle of it. I have subsequently fixed that situation:
As is my wont, I used Wet 'n' Wild Black Creme from the Wild Shine line as my base, except She's So Matte didn't need a base as it's already black (I wanted to include that so I could see if L'Oreal's matte topper was more or less matte than their matte polishes). I then applied the matte topcoats/polish in the same order as the bottle lineup up top. As my nails dried, I got quite a surprise, as you can see below.
Yep, the elf behaved like a crackle polish. No way did I expect that to happen. I would have thought I did something wrong, or there was some exceptional yet undetectable atmospheric condition at work, except the OPI and L'Oreal nails behaved just fine. The L'Oreal topcoat is quite nice and very matte without being chalky. The L'Oreal matte polish has pretty much the same finish as the topcoat. Here's another look at them:
But that elf, oh man, what's up with that? I thought maybe it just didn't get along with the Wet 'n' Wild formula, so I cleaned off my nails and put on a sampler of black cremes: Wet 'n' Wild Black Creme (second time's the charm?), Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Jet Black (from back before anyone thought of Big 3 Free), Essie Licorice, and OPI Black Onyx (at least I think that's what it is; the tiny code on the bottom was very hard to make out). That's them, left to right below, topped with the elf Matte Finisher.
As you can see, the elf cracked over every one of the black cremes. It cracked the least over the Essie, but get a load of that shrinkage. I left the same gap I always do but it widened into a canyon on the Essie and Sally Hansen nails by the time the elf topcoat was done drying.
Okay, so the elf didn't get along with any of the brands I tried. Maybe it would get along with an elf color. I pulled out Smoky Brown, from a set of minis I got at Target last year. I put on two coats of that, then waited varying amounts of time for it to dry before I put the elf Matte Finisher on three of my nails (I left my index finger un-matte finished, so you can see how the color is lightened somewhat by the matte topper). How wet the base color was didn't seem to make much difference in whether it cracked, though I did get some variation in the pattern. This might be just the thing if I decide to be a tree for Halloween and want bark-textured nails.
I didn't want to spend any more time trying to get the elf to work, but later I did some research to see if anyone else had the same trouble. The Nailasaurus did get some cracking when she reviewed it two years ago, but she also got it to behave just fine and mentioned being sure to shake it well and let it warm up. I shook the elf just as much as the OPI & L'Oreal, so perhaps the elf needs it rougher. There's a sticker on my bottle that says "New Improved Formula"; apparently it wasn't improved to the point that it's as easy to use as other brands out there. It was cheaper than the OPI and the L'Oreal, but in this case I think it makes sense to pay more to get a more reliable product.