Testing: China Glaze Crackle Lacquer

By: Tanya Pai

Some of you might be familiar with crackle nail polishes from back when Cover Girl debuted its series in the late ’90s. And because every trend gets recycled at some point or another, it probably comes as no surprise that this graffiti-inspired look is making a comeback this season. So is the fad all it’s cracked up to be? To find out, I tested two colors from China Glaze’s crackle collection: the slate-colored Cracked Concrete, and pure white Lightning Bolt.

I jumped at the gray polish first, deciding to brush it over a pool-blue shimmer. I thought the matte finish would provide an awesome contrast to the vibrant hue underneath, but oddly the two shades seemed to blend together — it mostly looked like my nails were sprouting some sort of mold. Wondering where I went wrong, I took to the internet and discovered a couple of useful tips. Lesson one: A lighter base shade generally helps the darker crackle finishes stand out more. Lesson two: The thinner the coat of crackle lacquer, the more splintery the effect, and the more the color underneath will show through.

Convinced I’d now mastered the stuff, I attempted a second manicure, this time with a lime green base and white crackle — in a thicker coat — on top. The results proved even more unpredictable: One nail ended up with a weblike look, and on another the polish refused to splinter at all and instead settled into vertical stripes. I also discovered that the white top coat picks up the tint of whatever’s underneath rather than retaining its pristine hue. At first I found the shades together even less appealing than the first pairing; but after a while I began to enjoy the strange, snakeskin-like texture. Full disclosure: I garnered several compliments on the key-lime color, but when I called attention to the crackle effect the reactions were lukewarm at best.

The overall effect is mostly messy, definitely offbeat — but with the right color combo (if I ever figure out what it is) and enough application practice I could see it being a fun way to wring a few extra days out of a dying monochromatic manicure.

$8, chinaglaze.com.