Essie Master Plan swatches, review, photos | Grey nails for grey days

Essie Master Plan review swatches

The product: Essie Nail Polish in 779 Master Plan 

You guys, I am so bad with Essie polishes. This is my — fourth? fifth? and I keep going back to the brand, because they have the most divine colour range, and everyone speaks so highly of them, and I just–

Good lord, I cannot apply them to save my life.

Essie Master Plan swatches review - grey creme polish

Essie Master Plan swatches — two (thick) coats, no topcoat

The formula and application: Maybe I’m just lacking in skill, but I can never make an Essie polish go flat on my nails. Their smelly but 3-free formula is always too thick, too lumpy, and ends up sort of mottled and streaked.

The only two brands I’ve ever had this problem with are Essie and Clinique, both of which are loved by so many others whose opinions I trust, and I just don’t get it. I think it may actually be a brush problem, not a formula one (I much prefer thin, wide brushes), but either way — I’d prefer almost any ‘ol brand, even a drugstore brand, for a flawless, even nail.

(Sorry, Essie lovers. Want to share your tips & tricks with me?)

Essie Master Plan swatches review

The colour: Described by the brand as a mischievous soft greythere isn’t really anything, uh, mischievous about Master Plan. That said, it is certainly a soft grey (darker and less of a yellow-beige than stock photos would have you believe), and it’s rather understated. It features a cream finish, and there’s something a little bit utilitarian about it — it’s more cement-grey than putty grey, and has just the right balance of blue and green.

Master Plan reminds me of those art erasers that all of the art students had back in high school — the mouldable ones. It grabbed me far less than I had expected it to, but for those who can really pull off greys, this is a wonderfully basic one. It’s hard to create a shade that’s just-so, but Essie do it beautifully with Master Planit’s grey; no more, no less. 

Essie review Master Plan

Essie Master Plan swatched on awkward, dry, stubby fingers

The verdict?

Master Plan was a dud for me, as you can (maybe?) see in these swatches, but I think it could be really great if you know how to work an Essie polish. It’s as basic a grey as you can get — not too warm, not too cool, and not marred by any shimmer.

For those who pull off industrial-chic really well, this one is definitely worth a look. And do me a favour, if that’s you, my dear Essie fan, please hit me up in the comments thread with your tips & tricks for getting their polishes to apply smoothly!

Availability: The Essie range is available at drugstores, beauty supply stores, and online. In Canada, I know for sure that you can find them at Shopper’s Drug Mart, though I believe the selection is often seasonal.

This bottle was submitted for review by Beauty Stop Online, who have been incredibly understanding about how long it’s taken me to get this post up. Master Plan is available on their site here for $5.99.

Essie grey nail polish swatches - Master Plan

Essie Master Plan swatched with low light + flash

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  • lyn

    I've been looking for a good grey polish and have to say, this looks really nice on you. I sometimes have issues with Essie polishes too as they can be a bit thick. But they do even out with the 2nd coat.
    My recent post Totally Poisoned by Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Venom

    • If you can wrangle an Essie, this one is a really beautiful grey :) No hints of putty or mauve at all.

  • I'm not sure what you're on about, your application of this polish looks flawless! I love greys but I always have difficulty picking a shade that suits my skin tone. It's a shame that you find Essie polishes don't seem to be easy to apply- and wow they are cheap where you are! Each polish is sold for $20 each here in Australia which is absurd!
    My recent post Review: Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow

    • Ha! Thank you, Karen — if you take a close look at the shadows and reflections, though, you can really tell that the surface is kind of wavy!

      $20 is WAY too much to pay for an Essie polish imo, even if you're in Australia. I think they're usually about $10 in stores here, but even that price makes me waver — I get a much smoother finish out of even L'Oreal polishes, though I can't think of another grey that's this perfectly neutral. (That said, I haven't looked that hard!)

  • llewsoba

    I like the color, but I've only had one essie polish (also a grey) and I can't remember if it was thick and hard to apply. : /
    My recent post Lush Cosmetics: Bubble Gum Lip Scrub Review

    • Hmmm. I've had one Essie (a Ralph Lauren collaboration) that was a little bit better than the others, but the rest have kind of tanked for me. Maybe if you don't remember, it's because you two got along OK?

  • Cherie Tian

    Out of curiosity, when you apply, are you using the tip of the brush or does it lie flat tip to top?

    • A little bit of both? It definitely doesn't lie flat all the way from the top to the base of the brush, but it's not just the tip, either.

      Which way would you recommend, Cherie?

      • Cherie Tian

        With Essie's brush, I found I have less problems laying the brush flat from tip to top. It will take a little trial and error to find how much polish should be loaded on the brush but once you figure that out and lay the brush flat before doing your strokes, it will be less streaky at the tips and thus more even because you won't have to keep reapplying more layers.
        My recent post Eastern Promises: The Mystery Behind Asian Skin

        • Thank you! I've never had to do that for a polish before (sounds rather cumbersome), but I will absolutely give it a go. Not sure if it'll help (I have no issues with the polish being thin at the tips; it's more of a… lumpiness throughout?) but if I could unlock the secret to these round brushes, it would make my life a LOT easier!

  • I think it looks great just the way you applied the nail polish. o_o
    Anyway, this shade is gorgeous! I think I might pick this one up. :)
    My recent post INTRODUCING & HAUL: Feggy Min

    • Thanks, Chloe ;) I think the camera's been far too easy on my technique, but the colour is a great one! Hope you love it x

  • I have trouble with the white based Essie pastels, they can be a little hit or miss. The first coat is usually patchy, but the second (or third) evens it out. I have a love hate with "Fiji". The more you can avoid going over the same spot twice, the better. I don't have any trouble with their darker colors. Funny you mention Clinique though, they always come out lumpy for me and it drives me crazy!
    My recent post dermalogica cover tint in medium

    • Aha! It's so good to know that I'm not alone in that, Christina :D I have a slew of Clinique polishes waiting to be reviewed, but I've been really on the fence about it — up until now I thought I was the only one having problems with the brush/formula, and I didn't want to give a product a bad review simply because I can be kind of crap at applying nail polish >.<

      Now, with a second opinion, perhaps I'll get on that review :)

  • Lily @ChloeAsh

    I have a brush problem too. I wish all of them had Dior's wide flat tapered brush. That would make life easier! I see nothing wrong with your application though. And I love the colour!

    My recent post Sunday Stash Shopping #19: Something Green

    • Yes!! If everything was wide and flat, I would be SUCH a happy camper. Tapered brushes are my second-to-top choice, but I find thin, flat ones (like the OPI Pro Wide brush — my absolute favourite) work even better. None of this round-and-fat nonsense :p

  • Amy

    Your nails are perfect!
    I've tonight just stumbled across your blog and I'm so glad that I have. It is late here now but I will have a good browse tomorrow :)
    Amy x | A Little Boat Sailing

    • Thank you, Amy :) I'm so glad that you're enjoying theNotice — feel free to leave comments/questions on any of the old posts as you go through the archive; I still get notifications for everything, and would be happy to respond to anything you might have to ask or add to the conversation! x

  • Ooooh such a classy elegant color, I love it.
    My recent post My current make-up &amp; beauty wish list

  • Helena

    I only have a couple of Essies (Pink-A-Boo and Playa del Platinum, to be precise), which I can't recall having any issues with, but if I were you I'd add a few drops of thinner to them!

    • Thanks for the tip, Helena! I'm afraid it's probably not due to the thickness of the formula, though — all of my polishes were bought new, and some (Ballet Slippers and Bordeaux in particular) are already pretty thin!

      • Helena

        That's unfortunate… And come to think of it I remember other people having issues with Essies (that should be a band name) being lumpy and streaky, particularly pastels. White pigment, why do you have to be such a PITA?

        • Gah. What really bugs me is that the darker Essies I've tried have been just as bad — which they should have no excuse for because all they do is nails. But, I mean, I guess they work for a lot of people! :/

          (Also, hah! Next up The Essies, with opening band A Wild Streak Appeared!)

  • glambunctious

    You are not crazy – I have Essie issues ("essues"?), too! I feel like they almost always need 3 coats to look even, but then they start getting gloopsville during coat #2? The only one I've had no problems with is Geranium, a gloriously bold and gorgeous red that actually covered in 1 COAT. It was love. Like, Bananarama "Venus" dancing in denim jackets and spandex shorts 80's LOVE.
    My recent post Kat Von D Esperanza Eyeshadow Palette – Review, Photos, Swatches

    • LOL! You always crack me up, Kristen :D Geranium sounds GORGEOUS the way you describe it — I'll keep my eyes peeled for it!

  • Kate & Zena

    Essie can be an oddball with formula. I think you have to be careful with application. I tend to have the opposite problem; mine will be a bit thin and streaky on the first coat and even out perfectly on the second. You might want to try warming up your bottle by rubbing it between your palms before applying.

    • Thanks, Kate! The warming up is something I definitely never considered — but, with how cold Edmonton is for ten months of the year, perhaps it'll help :p

      Hope you and Z have been doing okay <3

      • Kate & Zena

        Oh, gosh, don't I know what you mean with cold. <-currently-28 degrees Fahrenheit with windchill (-12 without.) I'M FREEZING MY TUCHUS OFF! Even Zena is not amused.

        Nail polish can thicken up in the cold, which is why I always rolls it in between my palms before application. In summer, I do the same thing just because some formulas will just settle or get plain weird and need the motion to get back to normal. Never, ever shake (unless you see it from me on a color to shake a bottle like pinata) because that creates air bubbles (and those are unsightly. Ich.) Just roll the bottles vertically for a good few seconds until you feel the bottle warm up. It's harder to do that with a butterLONDON bottle, but it's doable (I've rolled many a bL bottle. I still have five untried bL shades…and I'm working on a jigsaw puzzle so I refuse to paint me nails.)

        I'm wanting to hibernate. I dunno about you, but this crap polar vortex weather is doing nothing for my Lupus. I've felt like a little old lady these past few days. The pain in my shoulders and back is HORRIBLE. The Plaquenil is starting to take effect, but it's soooooooo slow.

        • Sending you lots and LOTS of hugs! I didn't know you were on Plaquenil, too — hope it starts working for you soon :) May I ask if you're on the name brand or generic? I really believe in taking generics whenever possible, but the generic hydroxychloroquine in Canada is SO bitter — really curious if it is the same elsewhere.

          I'm a chronic polish shaker (eep!), but I've never actually noticed any bubbles at all during application! I know I should roll them instead, but I'm so impatient with my nails >.< I will try it for any and all future Essies, though — and maybe those Clinique polishes, too.

          ***warm thoughts***

          • Kate & Zena

            I take the generic version of Plaquenil; I just started it last week. I don't tend to take a lot of generics as they mess with my system. I have five generics (Plaquenil, Naproxen, Trazadone, Trileptal and Vicodin are all generic.) The rest are brand name. My Cymbalta just came out in generic and that's what I got instead of brand name and I'm rather afraid of it. I'm very smooth with my emotions on the brand name and my system is so sensitive so I don't want to change!

            I don't know about the taste of Plaquenil here. I normally pop them to the back of my mouth–soda at the ready–and quickly take a large gulp of soda (grape juice, chocolate milk…..something full of flavor for me) so I don't taste it. You learn to do this when you tend to take steroids for bad headaches. Steroids are the nastiest tasting medication on the entire earth. I mean, if you taste that, you gulp down a soda and a half getting rid of that taste. It's awful.

            Vicodin tastes pretty bad too, but not as bad as steroids. Steroids trump all I think.

          • Uggggh. No one can make things sound as gross as you can, Katie :p I've never had to take steroids orally (just injections into the joint pocket), but now I am extra super hoping that I will never have to!

            I hope everything goes well with your Cymbalta! I've never had any troubles switching from brand name to generic, but my body is kind of a brute — hit it hard and fast with as many drugs as you can find and it'll probably be fine. Ri's body sensitive like yours, though, and she's quite wary of generic vs brand name. I've never lived it, but I hope I can kind of understand how scary it can be to switch.

            Sending you lots and lots of hugs, as always :)

          • Kate & Zena

            HA HA HA, I am always descriptive. You missed me and tasting pomegranate juice. HA HA HA!!!

            Zena sends loads of kisses. Of course, she is currently hiding from me. I put on her booties to go outside and she retaliated by turning away from the door and thwacking/waddling her way up the stairs. I never laughed so hard in all of my life.

  • I actually really like this colour–I have a soft spot for simple, elegant shades in creme formula.

    Honestly, I love the colours in Essie's range, but I find the brand generally difficult to apply and not beginner-friendly, *especially* if it's a milky sort of shade like this one. My only advice is to try applying with very light pressure in terms of the brush coming in contact with the nail, and finishing nail coverage in the fewest number of strokes possible (about 3). I hope that helps but if not, just know you're not the only one that finds Essie a bit tricky!
    My recent post LUSH Valentine's Day 2014

    • Oh, thank goodness. Coming from someone who always has fantaaaastic nails, that makes me feel so much better! :D I will definitely be trying all of these tricks the next time I pull out an Essie.

  • Amber

    maybe try adding a drop of nail polish remover and shaking it up might help to thin it a tiny bit.

  • Jordi

    I used to really dislike Essie polishes because i always had problems with them being thin and streaky, no matter how many coats i applied. As soon as i started using Essie base coats (as well as Essie gel top coat), the problem was completely solved. Now i'm a total Essie fan. Thanks for the great post :)