Hello Loves. I have a new product review to show you today. Before we get started, I want to say a few things about this review. This is the Mentality UV Gel Polish I received as a press sample to test and show you. I thought long and hard about whether to write this review or even test this product in light of recent events. In the end, I decided that you - my readers - deserve to hear my opinion on the product itself. If you are unaware of the current events surrounding this company, please read through to the very end where I will touch on some of that. But first, I want to review the product like I would any other gel polish I receive for review - I will share my honest thoughts and unbiased observations. Ready? Let's do this.
Mentality is an Indie Polish Company that has been well known for several years for their highly pigmented polishes that often double as stamping polishes. They are one of the first Indie companies to branch out into the Gel Polish world. As you can imagine, I was intrigued. As you know, gel polish is a completely different animal than lacquer. It comes with different mixing requirements and ratios, as well as requiring opaque bottles to protect the product inside from UV exposure. Before the product arrived for me to review, I reached out to the owners of Mentality with a few questions regarding the product and production.
Indie polishes are often mixed in small batches using a pre-made base. The Mentality UV Gels are made the same way. According to Mentality co-owner Danny Dannels, the gel base they are using is manufactured by ICE Guangzho Cosmetics Ltd. This is a company based in China and the base was imported for use by Mentality. Danny sent me the MSDS sheet and import records for the base gel polish, which I assume are direct from the ICE Guangzho Cosmetics. He stated that he will have updated MSDS sheets for his final product available soon. Danny also told me that they then mix in the pigments and glitters by hand in small, 6 oz batches to produce gel polishes that match their unique lacquer creations. This translates to about 12 bottles per batch. Danny said that they started testing various base samples 6 months ago and decided on the ICE Guangzho Cosmetics base 3 months ago. The past three months were spent creating the colors to match their polish line. He also said that co-owner Hillary has been wearing the UV Gel Polishes exclusively for the past month.
There are three things about this that stand out to me and may be of interest to you.
- The base is imported from China. This may not matter to some gel polish users, but I am aware that some prefer to avoid gel polishes manufactured in China for various reasons.
- According to Danny, Mentality mixes the pigments and/or additives into the base and bottles the final product. This is certainly in keeping with the Indie Polish movement, but may be of concern for gel polish users. Why? Several reasons. For example, we know even some pigments that are rated for cosmetic use are not stable in gel polish. Fading and changing colors are some of the visual issues we might see, but there may also be chemical changes that we can't see. So the length of time spent testing each color may be a factor. Another concern is the pigment or additive to gel ratio. As many of us have discovered while playing around with pigments, the ratio can impact the product's ability to properly cure.
- They have spent 3 months creating the product, including one month of exclusive wear by one of the co-owners. This concerns me because gel polish is known for being a lot trickier than regular lacquer. Uncured or improperly cured gel polish may cause adverse reactions. I personally do not feel that three months is enough time to really wear test the product before launching it to the public. I also feel that multiple, unrelated people should wear test before the product launch.
With that said, let's move on. The name "UV Gel" is an unfortunate choice of names in my opinion. UV Gel normally indicates that a product is not LED compatible or is a hard gel product. In this case, the name does not match the product at all. Mentality UV Gel is an LED/UV formula soak off gel polish. They have a base coat, color coats, and top coats available for purchase. It is your typical three step gel polish system. They do not, however, provide a lamp that is specific to their gel polish line.
Let's take a look at the bottles. I confess, the bottles caused a raised brow from this blogger. Rather than bottle the gel polishes in the opaque bottles we are used to seeing, Mentality opted to use their standard, clear bottles and wrap them in brown packing paper to block UV from entering the bottle. The paper does appear to be securely wrapped around the body of the bottle, but there are gaps around the neck. I also can't imagine that the paper will stand up well to repeated use. Gel polish can drip, which will make that paper look quite bad if it doesn't deteriorate the paper itself. So aside from looking rather unprofessional, I have concerns about the ability of the bottle/paper combo to truly protect the product inside.
I received the Mentality UV Gel in the mail this week and after much consideration, I started a wear test. They sent me the base, top coat, and one color. The gels (base, color and top) do have a strong odor that is common with gel polishes manufactured in China in my experience. It isn't the strongest I have encountered, but it is definitely noticeable. The color is called Scandal (no, the irony isn't lost on me but it is named after the original matching lacquer) and is described as a neon pink with a holographic finish. Application actually surprised me. The base coat is quite thin and easy enough to apply without pooling. The color is very opaque but applied smoothly and almost offered one coat coverage. I applied two coats, curing each for the recommended 30 seconds in my Harmony 18G LED lamp. The top coat also applied nicely with no skips or shrinking. This is my dominant hand - aka test hand - that is rarely seen. I know my nails are crazy - shape is all over the place, different lengths, cuticles ragged, and I started smoking again so I have nicotine stains - don't judge. I opted not to edit these photos at all. Not even my usual cuticle retouching.
While the color is quite pretty, I didn't notice a holographic effect at all. Instead, it looks to me like a silver shimmer. Here's a close up of my thumb to give you a better idea of the finish.
Those of you who read my reviews on a regular basis may have noticed that this one doesn't follow my regular format. There are no left hand shots. No bottle pose. None of the usual poses when I review a polish. *sigh* There is a good reason for that. This wear test lasted less than 3 hours. I didn't notice it indoors, but when I went out to check the mail (and see if I could catch a rainbow from the "holographic" effect) I noticed dents in the finish. I could dent the cured product with my thumb nail. Uh oh. This indicates an improperly cured or under-cured product. I applied the coats as thin as possible, so I know it wasn't an application error. As you know if you read my reviews regularly, I tend to err on the side of thin coats, often needing three when others can get away with two. I immediately started soaking if off. During that time, I broke out a clear swatch stick and tried curing for a full minute for each coat. The result was the same - I could dent the polish with my nail. I later tried again with my 36 watt CFL UV lamp. Same story. I circled the dents in the photo below (I had a hard time getting my camera to capture them).
Soak off further confirmed my concerns that the product didn't cure properly. It didn't soak off and break away like traditional three step gel polishes should when fully cured. The top coat and color layer did flake away, but it left a film on the nail instead of soaking off clean. I took a series of pictures to show the various stages of removal.
This photo was taken immediately after removing the foil wraps after soaking for 20 minutes. You can see pieces of the gel polish flaking away, but other areas seem to be going chalky instead of flaky.
This is after I pushed the polish off of the nails with the thumb nail on my other hand. I have not continued to soak at this point. You can see there is a film of color stuck to my nails that didn't push off clean.
I then rewrapped them and soaked for another 20 minutes. At that point, after a total soak time of 40 minutes, I was able to scrape off most of the color but still had a film from the base coat left on my nails. Note that I said "scrape" and not "push".
And finally, here's a shot that shows all of the product removed from my nails. I ended up having to buff off the remaining residue.
So, what's going on here? I emailed Danny at Mentality and told him I had some curing issues. He agreed that what I described sounds like it didn't fully cure and said he would contact the makers of the base gel polish he used to confirm that it is compatible with my lamp. Again, I used my Harmony 18G LED lamp, which is one of the best professional lamps on the market in my opinion. I have not heard back from him regarding their response yet, but I will update when I do. At the time that I emailed him, I had not performed my tests in my CFL lamp. Since that test indicated the same issue, my best educated guess is that the pigment to gel polish base ratio is off. Again, that is just my guess. I am not a chemist, so I can't say for certain what has caused the issue. But I have played with pigments and gel polish in the past and experienced similar issues when I mixed too much pigment into the gel polish. Also, since I only received this one color to try, I can't say if the issue is limited to this color or impacts all of the colors produced by the brand. It could be isolated to Scandal.
My final thoughts on the Mentality UV Gel product? I'm going to have to pass for now. This line needs more development before I can recommend it to my readers. The packaging and curing issues give me more than enough reason for concern. Again, I will update this post when I hear back from Mentality regarding lamp compatibility with the product, but since my test with my CFL UV lamp produced the same results, I do not think my lamp is the issue.
Now that the product review is finished, I want to take a minute to answer a few questions that I suspect will be headed my way shortly due to current events surrounding Mentality as a company.
- Why did I test and review this product? Am I crazy? No, I am not crazy. I am aware of the issues that have come to light regarding Mentality's lacquer line. For those of you reading who are not aware of the situation, I will touch on that in a moment. I decided to review this product because there is one thing I know for certain. You (my readers) are a very passionate group. I would love to say that I discover the new gel polishes on the market and bring them to your attention, but the truth is that you discover them and bring them to MY attention. Yes, I get emails, Facebook messages, and Instagram tags from my readers alerting me to new products. I actually discovered Mentality's UV Gel via a tag on Instagram from one of you. Without doubt, many of you would have found this product on your own and purchased it without knowing about the current Mentality situation. My vow to you is to provide you with as much information about a product and the company that produces it as I can so you can make informed purchase decisions. This is why I decided to review this product.
- What is going on with Mentality? I'm going to stick to the facts as I know them in this answer. I'll link to articles and blog posts with more details (including speculations) below. In short, there have been reports from Mentality customers that their lacquer line has caused reactions ranging from mild tingling sensations to severe onycholysis (when the nail lifts from the nail bed). Not all users of Mentality polish have experienced a reaction, but enough have to cause concern. Mentality posted on their social media pages in July that they believe a bad batch of base could be causing the issue and offered refunds and exchanges. The refund/exchange offer has now been retracted by the company. Mentality posted on their facebook page over the past few days (yes, at the end of August) that they have just now sent off the base for lab testing to determine for certain if it is causing the issue. At this point, we do not know what has caused the reactions. Therefore, if you own any Mentality polish, I strongly recommend discontinuing use until more is known. Mentality has also now issued a full recall on all Mentality polishes purchased between April 2014 and June 2015. There are a lot more details to what has become the buzz of the polish community and the media has started picking up the story. Since this post is already miles long, check out the links at the end of this post for more details.
- Was I worried that my nails would fall off from testing this product? Honestly, no. I wasn't worried. Why? Because I'm invincible. Just kidding. When I test a new product, I am always concerned about reactions. Improperly applied and/or improperly cured gel polish may cause contact dermatitis in some users. Contact dermatitis can occur with one use or over time. There are many of us who can wear some brands but not others and many people who cannot wear gel polish at all. I test a lot of different brands and I know that it could happen to me. All it takes is the wrong combination of ingredients for my body to end up with a reaction. I pray that day doesn't come, but I know it could. With that said, the Mentality UV Gel did not cause greater concerns for me than any other gel polish I test. When I test any gel polish, I am hyper-vigilant. I pay close attention to my nails to be sure I don't miss or dismiss any tingling, itching, or redness after applying a new product. If I do feel anything different at all, I will remove the product immediately.
- Assuming that any press is good press, do I feel that this post will encourage people to purchase from Mentality? I'm not going to lie. I was worried about this before I started the wear test. I fully expected this product to be spot on since it launched in the middle of the lacquer fiasco. If I were the owner of a company with an issue, I would make damn sure that any new product was flawless. So I fully expected to write a positive review despite the issues with Mentality's customer service that have come to light (see links below for details). I was actually shocked that I had curing issues. On one hand, I wanted this product to be perfect as one of the first Indie gel polish launches, but on the other hand... it is what it is. Seeing as my experience was not positive, I do not feel that posting this review will encourage others to purchase from Mentality at this time.
- I was in communication with Mentality's co-owner Danny over the past few weeks. What was my experience like? To be completely honest, it was NOTHING like the exchanges that have occurred with others and on Mentality's social media accounts. Danny was polite, friendly, and very forthcoming with information for my review. I noticed a stark difference between the person I was speaking to via email and the person who was posting on their pages. I am still baffled that it is the same person. Even his response to my email regarding the curing issue was polite and professional.
Now for the links.
- The first link I want to share is to Mentality's facebook page. Please note that the page only shows a portion of the story. A few days ago, posts and comments began disappearing from the page but you can see some of the company's responses here: https://www.facebook.com/MentalityPolish
- To see the events as they played out, check out Kirby's post on The Mercurial Magpie. She is one of the original bloggers who became determined to spread the word to Mentality users and has continued to update her post with updates. http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/2015/08/mentality-polish-mistakes-happen-but-this-response-is-unacceptable.html
- Ashley from Ashley is Polish Addicted has also been following the events and posting updates as they occur and has a pretty good timeline posted. You can read it here: http://www.ashleyispolishaddicted.com/2015/08/mentality-nail-polish-theres-more-to.html
- Anne from Betty's Beauty Bombs is also sharing updates. Anne is a bit different than the others because she started out in this as a supporter of Mentality and then felt she had no choice but to withdraw her support due to the actions of the company as the full story unfolded. Her post also includes ingredient lists for all of the Mentality products. http://www.bettysbeautybombs.com/2015/08/20/whats-going-on-with-mentality/
- Several news sources have also picked up the story. The first that comes to mind is Jezebel. While I admit I'm not usually a fan of the site, they did reach out to Danny at Mentality and included quotes from their communications with him as well. http://jezebel.com/customers-complain-that-mentality-polish-is-seriously-f-172
- One of the best media reports I have read so far is from Consumerist.com. They dug a little deeper into the issue and really nailed it without being biased. http://consumerist.com/2015/08/27/if-you-sell-nail-polish-try-not-to-destroy-your-customers-nails/
- If these links aren't enough for you, google Mentality Nail Polish and you will find many, many more posts from bloggers and news sources.
* The Mentality UV Gel Polishes featured in this post were provided by Mentality Nail Polish for my honest review. All links within this post are courtesy links and do not benefit ManicTalons.com.