If you've been following The Non-Blonde on Twitter and/or Facebook, you probably know that it's taken me months to finish this review of Serge Lutens Nail Lacquer in Dark Red (2). After all, how exactly do you evaluate what is supposed to be the Mother Of All Nail Polish (or the uncle of nail lacquers, since we're talking Serge Lutens)? Lutens small and carefully edited (perhaps the right word should be "curated") makeup line is exquisite. It's also jaw-to-floor pricy. The full range of products have a minimalistic look and feel, and offer few choices. In Uncle Serge's words:
"For exclusive people who cherish exquisite products rather than have lot of ugly things on their bedside. Rare is for rare people"
There are only two nail polish colors in the line: Faux-Semblant (1), a nude, and Sang Bleu, this perfect dark red. And it is the perfect shade of deep red with not even a hint of pink or wine or purple. I don't keep (and try to not even buy) duplicate colors, so my options for making comparison swatches are somewhat limited. At first, the closest approximation I found was Moulin Rouge from Rescue Beauty Lounge (currently sold out), which is darker than Lutens Sang Bleu and not a true red (RBL called it a black cherry color). Eventually, I found what's left of my Essie Wicked bottle (I'm at the last drops), and that is almost a match, as long as you apply 3 coats (to match two coats of Lutens). Wicked is redder and obviously not as opaque, but color-wise it's really really close.
Now, let's talk quality. We're paying $65 for a bottle of nail polish, so the expectations can't be higher. The thing is, it's a nail polish. The husband still complains about the smell and you still need to do the work right (or pay a professional). Serge Lutens is not going to appear there and give you a manicure. We already established that the formula is better than the $8 Essie. After testing and trying this nail lacquer with every last base and top coat I have (and also took advantage of a couple of testers at Ulta), I can tell you that there are no miracles. Serge Lutens nail polish was not meant to survive abuse, mild housework, opening packages or a long soak in water. It has the average survival skills of any cream formula, which can be shortened or extended, depending on the other products you use.
I've found that you'd better avoid all-in-one base coats (all the clear ones that can also be used on top). Products with a glossy finish don't give this nail poilsh anything onto which it can hold and grab, thus it will crack and peel easily. The most compatible base coat I've found is Debora Lippmann's Ridge Filler. Using it made a huge difference. When it comes to top coats, avoid the ones that promise to accelerate drying and/or anything that works similarly to Seche Vite by penetrating through nail lacquer to the base coat, forming a single solid coating over the nail plate, Seche Vite made this polish peel off completely after just a day. I was washing my hair and discovered entire coats of nail color peeling off and taking residence among my curls. When using Lippmann products both as base and top coat I got three days of perfect and beautiful nails with an undiminished shiny finish. The color is so gorgeous that people really notice it and comment. After three days there was some visible wear to the tips. I never made it to 5 days, so I'd say that this Serge Lutens polish is a special occasion kind of thing. Everyday life demand a little more durability and less fuss.
Bottom Line: I try stuff so you don't have to.
Serge Lutens Nail Lacquer ($65) is exclusive to Barneys in the US. Also available at the Palais Royal Salon in Paris.