A Bittersweet Love Affair with Essie Sleek Sticks [Review]

There’s a new kid on the nail art block and I’m having a bittersweet love affair with them. There, I said it. Essie Sleek Sticks are rolling out to beauty supply and drug stores across Canada and I couldn’t help but pick up two sets to try out. At about $15 per set, they’re more expensive than a bottle of polish or competitor nail strips from Sally Hansen, but less than a salon manicure. Billed as long-lasting UV-cured nail appliqués, these gorgeous nail stickers wrap nails in chic patterns. From animal prints to glitzy accents, there’s something for every nail art aficionado.

I picked up oh my gold! and over the moon. Simply said, they were both stunning. So, why the bittersweet love affair? Read on to find out.

Photo via www.essie.com 

Each package comes with a full set of nail appliqués, instructions, a mini cuticle pusher and mini nail file. The package was easy to open and the instructions easy to follow. So far so good.

Application is simple:

  1. File your nails and swipe with nail polish remover to rid the nail of all oils. If your normal manicure routine is to apply a cuticle oil or balm, skip it. Push back your cuticles.
  2. Select the right size appliqué for your nail. This is made simple and quick by the transparent plastic the appliqués are presented on. Simply curve the plastic over your nail to see if the wrap is a good fit.
  3. Peel the appliqué from the plastic and apply to your nail, starting at the base. Press down firmly and be sure to remove any bubbles.
  4. Fold the ends over the tips of your nails and remove excess by brushing against the tips in a downwards motion with the nail file.
  5. Repeat for all nails. Brush on a topcoat if you’d like. Be sure to wait one hour before getting your hands wet – the stickers need time to fully adhere to your nails.

This is where things get a bit tricky. Your manicure will look ridiculously fabulous when you’re done. There’s absolutely zero question about that. However, if you’re used to polish-based nail strips or regular salon manicures, these appliques can be a bit of an adjustment.

  • They kind of feel like scotch tape on your nails. While I couldn’t stop staring at my hands (and Instagramming), I also couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. They feel kind of strange and clunky on your nails, much like I’d imagine acrylic tips would feel for the first little while. Nothing to lose sleep over, but it is noticeable. For me, this was a huge change over the seamless application of real nail polish strips.
  • They’re not exactly long-wearing. This is the kind of manicure you want to last forever. Not only do your nails look awesome, but you’ve also just paid about $15 for an at-home manicure. Unfortunately, I started to see tipwear and peeling after 2 days. The longest I’ve kept them on is 3-4 days.
  • They peel off and leave guk behind. It’s not a clean break from Sleek Sticks. When you peel them off, they leave a filmy, guk-y layer behind (like when you played with Elmer’s glue as a kid). You will need to spend time cleaning your nails off. On a scale from 1 to glitter removal, this process is about a 3.5.

So, after all that…will I buy them again? Yes, probably…with some caveats. These were definitely too gorgeous not to buy again. However, I’m going to be a bit more judicious about when I buy them and what for! Essie Sleek Sticks are the perfect accessory for a special event or when you need an extra pick-me-up in the nail department. They’ll change the look of your nails with minimal effort, for maximum wow factor. As long as you don’t expect to get a Shellac or salon manicure level of commitment from them, Essie Sleek Sticks are a gorgeous way to spice up your polish routine.

PS. Unlike nail polish strips, these nail appliqués won’t dry out and extras can be saved for a rainy beauty day. Imagine oh my gold! as a luxe accent nail to pump up a classic red mani. Stunning! 

Disclosure: I purchased these on my own dime at Trade Secrets – these weren’t a PR sample.

  • TOBeautyReviews

    Oooh I see why you took them off now! I think that feeling of having tape on my nails would drive me crazy. And I agree, too expensive for a one time application that only lasts a couple days. They definitely are pretty though!

    • @TOBeautyReviews They are so so so beautiful, though. I was chatting with another beauty lady the other day and she mentioned the ‘plasticky’ feeling varies depending on the shade. Guess that’s why over the moon didn’t bug me as much.

  • AmandaColeman

    I put on the “Over the Moon”. I saw them as i was running to pick up a gift bag in Walgreens (darn those little end caps!) and i thought it would really bring out the stones in my engagement and wedding rings, as i have little diamonds set in the sides. I came on today searching for reviews, because i feel…. weird. I use the Sally Henson ones if i know i am going to have little or no time for weekly OCD nail art manicures, and those feel just fine on my nails. These… feel thick. kind of like scotch tape, but as i described them to my husband, they feel a lot like i glued grocery bags to my fingernails. That being said, i am absolutely ‘Over the Moon’ with the way it looks, minus the few wrinkles i couldn’t manage to get out. I’m just glad someone else feels the way i do!

    • @AmandaColeman Glad I’m not crazy 😉 They definitely do feel weird but the payoff is worth it. I just wish I could get them to stay on for 10 days without peeling + tipwear!

  • christinetisano

    I have tried Oh My Gold!, Croc n’ Chic, Embrace the Lace, and Sneek-E.  Oh My Gold! and Sneek-E had better adhesive and laid much flatter on my nail, but the gold and silver designs wore off super fast (with Oh My Gold! I just had a peel a tangerine, and with Sneek-E, I went to yoga) leaving just the clear behind.  Croc n’ Chic and Embrace the Lace had weaker adhesive, but their patterns stayed strong and looked good, even when they lost their stickiness.
    I still prefer nail appliques made of real polish, though.

    • @christinetisano Oh wow, you really gave them the good ol’ college try, huh! I was really expecting more from these – especially since they’re more expensive than nail polish strips.

      • christinetisano

        @stephaniefusco  @christinetisano Me too.  They are super beautiful, but are best for special occasions, like you suggested yourself.  I was so sad about Sneek-E — the silver was gone less than four hours after I’d put on the appliques!  Sneek-E was also the stickiest, so I had some really high hopes.

  • speedyerica

    I have tried 3 sleek sticks now, and I’ve had a few problems. First off I tried Stickers and Stones, and I made the mistake of finishing with a topcoat. BIG NO NO. The appliques shriveled as the topcoat dried and they looked TERRIBLE. Next try was the sneek-e, and they did fine with a topcoat and lasted me over a week! I have just put on over the moon, and though I love them I tested a spare bit I had filed off with 3 types of topcoat and they all made the applique shrivel again! I’m hoping these will stay put and shiny with no topcoat, but we’ll see!

    • @speedyerica Keep me posted on how they turn out – I can’t bring myself to spend the money on these again when I could get a bottle of nice nail polish instead. I had such high hopes for these, but will probably only ever buy my old standby (Sally Hansen Salon Effects) again.

  • mmmegan

    if you have little nails, cut the strips in half before peeling them off of the backing. i got at least three manis out of a pack, plus extras for future accent nails. 
    also check the clearance aisle for these bad boys! i picked up 2 packs (so haute! and embrace the lace) at shoppers for $3 apiece (!!!!) which made the peeling/tipwear woes a little more bearable.

    • mmmegan Thats a great tip! I do love the look of them and would feel much better about wearing them at $3 a pop 😉

  • Debbeezz

    I tried them on for the first time last week. I’m wearing “embrace the lace” and have been wearing them for nine days so far. They look as good as they did the day I put them on. I’m just wondering how the removal will go.

  • CameraMeyer

    Ever tried jamberry nails?

  • nkrieger

    Debbeezz I first tried using nail polish remover as this is what is used for removing the Sally Hanson sticker apliques, but if you gently pull at the sticker right above the cuticle they slide off with a small amount of resistance.

  • moiety

    FWIW, I’ve been getting these (mostly sneek-e but they have others as well) at Dollar Tree in Texas for, well, the obvious price. They’re fun accent nails but wearing from the tip a lot. Then again, for a dollar? I could care less.

  • PalmBchPrincess

    I buy a TON of these at the Dollar Tree. I check every few days for new designs. I can hardly believe these were $15 just a year ago. Why are they so cheap now??

  • You have got to try Jamberry Nail wraps! They are a similar product but, the adhesive is heat and pressure activated. They last for weeks!! No chips either. $15 gets you 2 manicures AND 2-4 pedicures! Check them out here: jamijjams.jamberrynails.net

  • JamiLynJensen

    Jamberry can be applied using any non-ion hair dryer. I personally love Jamberry & the price is only $15.00 for 2-4 manicures AND 2-4 pedicures. So, your comment seems to shout “I’ve never actually looked into Jamberry but, I’m going spread lies anyway!”. Anything Sephora is ridiculously priced.

  • crisaquarius24

    The problem with getting them at discounted outlets is the stickiness can wear off. I have bought sally hanson and forget about em, a year later they only last a day or two. And as for Jamberry,I don’t like the idea of having to warm it up. it did not work well for me.I was told you have to have a multi heat setting dryer. then it can get wrinkly if its not right. I had a lot of trimming too… If its the same amount of work might as well polish. And a bit pricier than some other wraps. NCLA is a bit more, but lasts forever and feels high quality. Incoco works well and is made of real lacquer around 8-10. Some of these types of wraps you needs to use remover to take off anyways. You can use top coat but some don’t react well. X brand from sephora has worked well.

  • JamiLynJensen

    Jamberry can be applied using any non-ion hair dryer. I personally love Jamberry & the price is only $15.00 for 2-4 manicures AND 2-4 pedicures. And they don’t expire or stink like other nail wrap products.

  • JamiLynJensen

    Whoever told you about Jamberry was wrong. I would love to discuss the product with you more.

  • crisaquarius24

    JamiLynJensen There’s no need for this attitude. I get its something you are a fan of or a rep for but some people just don’t like some products. I was pressured into buying these from an FB friend (seriously 5-10 posts a day) and caved. I have tried others and it didn’t work well for me. I was told by customer service I had been sent an older stocked item,so it may have deteriorated. They offered a replacement of a newer style which was nice of them.
    I had a hard time finding sizing (maybe size down, idk) More info and tips would have been helpful or a try on party.

    I was also simply stating that a particular brand of top coat works well, Formula X top coat has helped with keeping the wraps on and less prone to wrinkling. And its only $10 which isn’t “ridulously” overpriced. Its higher than some but lower than others. And go to a makeup counter in Nordtrom, if you feel Sephora is high in price. Saw a $200 bottle of perfume and $50 bottle of polish… theres much much worse.

  • crisaquarius24

    TOBeautyReviews Incoco ones are a bit thinner, but never really crazy about their designs…

  • RachelEndertonPupillo

    I got mine for $1

  • Haileylynn24

    I recently found these at the Dollar Tree and think they are a fantastic deal for the current price. I bought some more :))))

  • SandyPiccardBillingsley

    If you hit them with some heat (say from a space heater or hair driver) after you apply them, they will last longer.

  • SandyPiccardBillingsley

    JamiLynJensen I love Jamberry, but when I can get these for $1 and they last a whole week, it’s hard to pay that much more.  I apply these, shoot some heat on them with a space heater (after application), and they adhere just like Jamberry, and the sizes are smaller to fit my smaller hands.

  • AlisonBird

    These things are a Buck at the dollar stores here

  • elissa kirchner

    Someone had mentioned these in comparison to a new polish strip and it brought me back to my experience with these about the same time you had them. I LOVED the look. My first was Embrace the Lace and they were a perfect nude with white lace. Butttt 3 ish days later they would wear or POP right off. It was maddening. Apparently, Americans are getting these off ebay now.

    Also, I agree, Leopard IS a neutral color. Instant besties.