One of the most loved polish effects/finishes is the holographic effect. Many indie brands have built their reputations on producing stunning holos, there are popular Facebook groups with monthly customs, and collaboration boxes are dedicated to producing holographic polishes only. It’s a finish that’s been around for a while, but has become especially popular in recent years.
Holographic polish has an ultra strong rainbow shimmer from multicolor (holographic) particles in the base. The most well-known holographic shimmer is called Spectraflair, and you may see that name pop up in discussions of holo polish. Holographic polishes have varying concentrations of holographic intensity, and the holo particles themselves come in different sizes. There are two types of holographic effect: linear and scattered. A linear holographic polish has an almost prism effect, creating an actual rainbow (with lines of color) on the nail that shifts as the light does. Scattered holo is just that- scattered. The holographic particles flash with various colors across the nail, with no clear pattern or distribution. There’s no set dictionary definition of this, so hopefully my explanation makes sense.
As my indie polish habit has grown, I’ve added numerous holo toppers to my collection, which can be added on top of any polish to make it holographic. In the Julep October Collection, even Julep finally released a holo topper. I always do color comparisons for each month of Julep, which got me thinking: Julep has never done a holo topper before, so I wouldn’t have anything to which I could compare it. However, I have many holo toppers from other brands, and I’d love to see how they compare. So, I decided it was time for a holo topper showdown. Which provides the most holographic power, which is the most greying, which has the best flakes? I decided to compare different holo toppers and see which ones shine and which ones fall flat.
Below are the 16 shades included in my little holo party. I initially had 12, one of which wasn’t really a topper, but then C decanted (poured some from a big bottle into another bottle) five of hers and sent them my way. Actually, one of my original 12 was also a decant from C. My polish pals are way too nice to me! So, I took out the not topper and included the ones she sent, leaving me with 16 holo toppers.
I’ve included the maker’s description in italics, followed by my own notes. For the purpose of this post, I’m not going to discuss formula, but I do find all of the below to be good or better. When I talk about how much a topper “greys out” a color, I basically mean how much the underlying shade washes out or begins to look silvery, due to the holographic particles in the topper. I also got them out of alphabetical order in the swatch pictures. Ooops! The order below is alphabetical, and is the same order I used on my little swatch square.
- Bear Pawlish, Sacrifice– “An intense linear holo polish with gorgeous silver micro glitter to really make it sparkle”
Sacrifice is a very concentrated polish, and offers almost full coverage. I wouldn’t use more than one coat, or you risk losing the base color. It definitely greys out the base. That being said, it offers a huge amount of holographic sparkle and shine, more than most other holo toppers. If you really want rainbow power, this is the polish for you.
- Enchanted Polish, Instant Galaxy– “Scattered holographic and glitter topper”
Instant Galaxy is a pretty standard scattered holo, with small, circular glitter added. In the macro, you can really see the glitter, but on the nail it’s more subtle. I’d say this polish has light to medium holographic power, and doesn’t significantly grey out the base. While it’s not my favorite holo topper, it performs solidly and definitely adds sparkle.
- Enchanted Polish, Rainbow Dust– “Silver Holographic Micro Particles, Special Effect Top Coat”
Rainbow Dust is the top coat version of another EP, Rainbow Ashes. Its holographic power is from tiny flecks, rather than fine, rounded particles. This version is slightly thinner/less concentrated, allowing for a lovely holographic effect without covering the base polish. Rainbow Dust is only slightly greying, and has an even distribution upon application. The flecks really give it something extra compared to your standard holo topper.
- Enchanted Polish, Rainbow Juice with Pulp– “Holographic flakie & scattered holo top coat”
Rainbow Juice with Pulp also features silver holographic flakes, with evenly distributed scattered holo particles for two different types of holographic effect. It is similar to Rainbow Ashes but less concentrated, making it more topper compared to Rainbow Ashes as a main polish.
- Ever After, We’re All Mad Here– “Flakie topper…features scattered holo and aqua-to-magenta translucent duochrome flakes”
The flakes in We’re All Mad Here shift from green to blue to purple in the light, complemented by a subtle amount of very fine scattered holo particles. This cool leaning topper adds a lot of dimension to any look, with color shift and holographic sparkle.
- Fair Maiden, Glory of the Galaxy– “Holographic topper with color shifting shimmer that changes from turquoise to violet in different lighting”
Glory of the Galaxy has a light-medium amount of holographic particles, adding a rainbow shimmer effect without overpowering the underlying polish. The look is complemented and shifted by by the color shifting shimmer, which is primarily tealish green and medium, bright blue. It adds cool tones to the underneath color, without drastically changing it.
- Fair Maiden, Chasing Rainbows– “Holographic topper with blue-violet color shifting micro-flakes”
Chasing Rainbows is very similar to Glory of the Galaxy, but leans purple and blue rather than blue and green. It also has a medium distribution of holographic particles, and complements many colors. It adds a slight purple tone to the underlying color, for a lovely effect. I love how this one looks over grey and taupe shades.
- Fair Maiden, Fairy Godmother– “Like the wand of a fairy godmother, our holographic topcoat will turn your regular nail polish into a real show stopper – like magic! We use only the truest form of Spectraflair pigment. This gives your manicure an intense linear holographic look while letting the color of your nail polish shine through.”
Fairy Godmother was my first holo topcoat, and is tried and true. It’s not overly greying, adds a lot of holographic power, and dries to a smooth, shiny finish. Fairy Godmother is my go-to linear top coat.
- FUN Lacquer, Diamond– “A pre-mixed nail polish made from the extremely fine grade SpectraFlair 35. F.U.N Lacquer SpectraFlair top coat is particularly stunning when used it over other colors. It can be layered over any color to give it a stunning rainbow holographic effect. The small particle size of this pigment will produce a very smooth and linear holographic finish over your beautiful nails.”
Diamond has a high concentration of holographic particles. It provides a significant holo effect, but does grey out the base color more than other holo toppers. This is my favorite linear top coat. It really packs a lot of holographic punch, and looks gorgeous in the sun.
- ILNP, My Private Rainbow (Linear + Scattered)– “My Private Rainbow (Linear+Scattered) is the perfect holographic top coat for those looking for the perfect amount of both linear and scattered reflectance. This top coat has been made using both SpectraFlair 35 and 14 series holographic pigments. The combination of these two particle sizes will add the perfect pop to your manicure with ease!”
MPR L+S is exactly what it claims to be, a linear and scattered holo top coat. I find that the scattered effect is stronger than the linear effect here, but you are definitely getting both. There’s a medium amount of particles in this polish, so you can apply one or two coats without losing too much base color. It is somewhat greying, but not overpowering. If you can’t decide on linear or scattered, this is definitely the go-to.
- ILNP, My Private Rainbow X– “It’s finally here! My Private Rainbow (X) is the holographic top coat all of you serious holo connoisseurs have been waiting for! This top coat has just the right amount of super-vivid oversized holographic particles for an unbelievable scattered holographic finish. Thanks to the extra surface area of the larger sized holographic particles in My Private Rainbow (X), it’s much easier for them to catch the light and work their magic – all without washing out your base color! Definitely a must have if you can’t get enough sparkle in your life!”
MPR X offers bigger particles in a thinner distribution, so the sparkle is brighter, but less concentrated. With just one coat, I find the coverage to be not quite enough, so this one is a two coater if you really want a lot of sparkle. This topcoat has an almost glittery look, really adding a unique effect to any shade.
- Joy Lacquer, Sparks at the Space Needle– “Scattered holo top coat”
Sparks at the Space Needle is your essential scattered top coat. It has a medium concentration of scattered holo particles that distribute evenly on the nail. It has a definite holo effect, without overpowering the color underneath. It’s a perfect balance of holo and topper.
- Julep, Desiree– “High-gloss holographic top coat”
Desiree definitely delivers on the glossy finish, with a very low concentration of holographic particles. While the holographic effect is certainly present, it’s more subtle than most toppers. On the bright side, there’s little to no greying effect, leaving the underlying color the same, just with added holo shimmer.
- Mrs. P’s Potions, What the Flair?!– “This is a holographic topcoat in that one coat will turn any ordinary nail colour holographic! This topcoat is made with grade 35 spectraflair pigment. Spectraflair pigments are light diffractive colorants that generate the appearance of multiple, bright rainbow producing prisms. This topcoat can be used on its own in several coats to create a holographic silver color or can be painted in a thin coat over any other color of nail polish to turn any nail polish into a holographic look.”
What’s really interesting about this topcoat is that you can add a scent to it; on the website there are 20 different options beyond unscented. The one C sent me is scented with Black Raspberry and Vanilla. It’s subtle but present. I’m not sure how I feel about scented polish, so I’d have to use this one more to make a judgement on that. In terms of look, this shade offers a pretty standard holographic look, with a medium to high amount of linear holographic coverage. There is definitely some greying, without covering or overpowering the base shade.
- Philly Loves Lacquer, You’re a Regulation Hottie– “A clear based flakie topper with green/gold/pink and blue/violet UCC flakies”
I know this one’s a bit of a stretch because of the flakies, but I love a good flakie, and this one has all the flakes and holo power you need rolled into one. It has bigger flakes then any of the other polishes, so it’s a very different look, but there’s a lot of rainbow power and even distribution of the flakes, creating a lovely look. I found that this polish is not very greying, and will preserve the color of your undie.
- Vapid, Cryogenic Refrigerant– “Pure, not messed with, no screwing around FULL COVERAGE Linear Holo. Yes, Full Coverage. This polish fully opaque in just 2-3 coats, No Undies Required. It’s that badass. But, can you use it as a top coat too?? Yes, in one coat you can. It is going to be insanely intense and overpowering to whatever color you lay it over, but man that color is going to sparkle!!!”
The description pretty much says it all for Cryogenic Refrigerant. The holographic particles are incredibly concentrated, so you really only want one very thin coat to use this as a topper. It’s going to really grey out the color of the base, although it will not fully cover it. Talk about holographic power.
In the comparison photos, the squares are in the same order as the numbered list, left to right, 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, and 13-16 in each row. I know the angles are a little odd, but I wanted to capture as many different aspects of the holo as I could. If you’re wondering what the F is, it’s because I used the cover of a Five-Star Notebook as my swatch surface.
Because no one color in here is the primary comparison, I’ll just share some of my overall thoughts, and then let you draw your own conclusions.
- In terms of sheer holo power, Bear Pawlish Sacrifice and Vapid Cryogenic Refrigerant are the clear winners, although they will both cause pretty significant greying. Unfortunately, Julep Desiree has the least holo, and really fades out against the rest of the competition.
- Best All-Around Linear- FUN Lacquer Diamond, with Mrs. P’s Potions What the Flair?! as a very close second
- Best All-Around Scattered- Joy Lacquer Sparks at the Space Needle
- EP Rainbow Juice with Pulp, EA We’re All Mad Here, and Philly Loves Lacquer You’re a Regulation Hottie are the most unique, really offering a different look beyond just holo power. Their flakies add something extra, if you want more than just plain holo power.
- FM Glory of the Galaxy and FM Chasing Rainbows are also very interesting, because they offer both color shift and holo. They can add extra flair and dimension, while still preserving your base color.
- Vapid Cryogenic Refrigerant is probably just a bit too thick to be used as a topper, unless you’re applying a very thin coat, or only want to see a hint of the underneath color.
This comparison included every holo topper I have, but if I’m missing any must haves, please let me know. You can never have enough holo in your life, right? I’m curious to know what everyone thinks of these comparisons, so also comment and share your thoughts on these swatches. I took a video of my swatch square in the sun, but unfortunately, I can’t upload videos to my blog. I’ll upload it to the blog facebook page shortly. Stop by and check it out, and don’t forget to like the page! As always, thanks for reading!
p.s. A big thanks to my husband for helping me carry all of this stuff into the sunlight down the street so I could get pictures before the sun set. I’m sure the neighbors didn’t think I was crazy or anything.