There are so many crackles out on the market right now; it’s hard to know which one to choose ! It doesn’t matter if you call it crackle, shatter, smash-up, nail effects, or whatever, these are all polishes that dry unevenly to show a base coat through. I don’t know if it’s just a fad or if they are here to stay, but a lot of brands seem to be on the band wagon.
There are a few golden rules when applying these, to get it right :
- Use a coloured base coat
- For your base coat, pick a contrasting colour for maximum effect
- Follow the instructions ! If the bottle says apply over dry varnish, make sure it’s really dry. If the bottle says apply over tacky varnish, do that !
- Put at least one layer of topcoat on. Crackle polish usually dries matte, and even if you like the matte effect, it is likely to flake off if you don’t put a topcoat on. If you want to keep it matte, why not try a matte topcoat?
- Work quickly. Crackles dry very fast, and you only get one coat, so get it right
I haven’t got any from China Glaze yet (my second favourite brand) as I get my CGs from a discount online store that doesn’t carry them (yet?) but I have a few Barry M‘s, including a couple of what I call my ‘Croc Crackles‘. Apart from that, I will be swatching offerings from Bourjois, Model’s Own, Stargazer and O.P.I. :
First and foremost, here’s my ranking. This is all personal opinion, and none of these bottles were sent to me free, I bought every single one, and of course, I might have just been unlucky with the batches :
The sad #7 : Bourjois – Python Top Coat (Red)
#6 : Stargazer – Hot Pink Crackle (604)
#5 : O.P.I. – Turquoise Shatter (NL E64)
#4 : Barry M - Gold Glitter Instant Nail Effects (321)
#3 : Models Own (Wah Nails) – Smash-Up (Silver)
#2 : Barry M – Black Instant Nail Effects (311)
#1 : Barry M – Red Croc Instant Nail Effects (343)
So that is the order in which I shall take you through them ! It is worth noting that these photos have all been taken before topcoat.
Bourjois - Python Top Coat (Red)
I was very intrigued to see what a ‘python’ top coat would be like, and imagined it might be a bit like the Barry M Croc Effects.
I tried this twice over very dry varnish, and the thicker coat didn’t crackle at all ! The thinner coat did, but had a rather unfortunate effect :
It’s a pretty red, as it goes.
As you can see, the crackle hasn’t dried matte as they usually do. The crackle is very fine, and peeling right off the base coat. Honestly, it just brushes off, you could never even get a topcoat on it to stick it down. Gross !
This retails at about 10€ a bottle out here, and IMHO, it would be a waste to pick it up, even if it were free…
Stargazer – Hot Pink Crackle (604)
Stargazer is a cheaper brand but in my experience does some really respectable nail polishes, especially the Chrome and glitter collections.
I got this one in hot pink, as, well, a tonne of crackles all of the same colour aren’t going to be very much use to me, right?!
This is over Stargazer’s Chrome in Light Blue.
The finish looks matte, and it isn’t flaky at all, but the colour isn’t very opaque (which is a shame, considering it is made to go over other coloured varnishes) and it has cracked really nicely vertically, but there are no horizontal cracks… Each to their own, but this one is not for me !
O.P.I. – Turquoise Shatter (NL E64)
I fell in love with this one for the iridescent blue shade of it.
It’s a good, reliable crackle, but I wouldn’t rate it higher for the simple fact that it dries out horribly. I have thinned it several times, but it’s gloopy every time I open it. So that doesn’t make it very nice to apply, and it can only be applied in a thick layer, which doesn’t feel very nice on your nails!
It retails at about 15€, and I feel that’s a bit of a waste for a polish that dries out in just a couple of weeks.
Having said that, the colour really packs a punch, and is just as pretty as it looks in the bottle :
This is over the Stargazer Chrome gold shade, but it also looks stunning over dark blues for a beetle-like finish.
Barry M – Gold Glitter Instant Nail Effects (321)
This one cracks very nicely, doesn’t flake and is quite pretty. The only reason I haven’t ranked it higher is that it isn’t very opaque. So that’s probably normal considering that the colour is quite pale, but I feel that it makes it less ‘punchy’.
The glitter in it makes it feel a little ‘grainy’ and personally, I would have preferred a smoother formula. But the layer of crackle polish isn’t too thick, which is nice.
Still, it is quite pretty over the relatively pale blue Chrome varnish.
Models Own (Wah Nails) – Smash-Up (Silver)
This is another pale colour that covers a bit better. I really like how it looks over the darker Model’s Own Pinky Brown Beetlejuice!
This leaves some nice, wide, evenly distributed cracks that I feel show off the colour underneath beautifully. It’s not too thick, either. Model’s Own isn’t a brand that’s available everywhere, but I do recommend this shade. It dried out a little in the bottle, but remains use-able about a year after I bought it.
Barry M – Black Instant Nail Effects (311)
This is a great crackle, in a classic black.
I layered it over a pink/red ombre, which was several months old, it couldn’t have been dryer and you can see it pulled on it a little, so do be careful to only put this on thoroughly dry varnish.
It is a little thick, that’s due to the application.
I’ve used this one several times and in a thin layer the crackle is very fine, this is a thicker layer as I personally prefer that look, but I think it’s nice to be able to modify the thickness to get a different finish.
This is one of the cheaper crackles, and I have had it for as long as the Model’s Own, but it hasn’t dried out at all !
Barry M – Red Croc Instant Nail Effects (343)
This is my very favourite !
It comes in two shades, black and deep red, and like the above Barry M “classic” crackle, you can adjust the crackle by adjusting the thickness that you apply it at. The larger scales are where I applied it more thickly and the fine ones are where it was applied more thinly.
This is over Models Own Golden Green Beetlejuice for contrast, it looks especially gorgeous over golds, bright reds and blacks.
This is one that you need to apply to tacky (not wet, not dry) varnish, or it won’t crackle at all. But I love the rounded corners, it looks more subtle than the others.
It’s a bit odd to apply as it has an inky consistency, but you mustn’t put it on too thickly or it won’t crackle at all. A thin-to-medium coat is about right and anywhere that there are streaks will leave you with a well-defined vertical crackle.
I found it a bit harder than the others to handle, and it takes longer to dry (more like a ‘normal’ varnish), but personally I think that it’s well worth it ! It is amongst the cheapest I have tested at about 5€, but it is certainly the most original.