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I'm a huge lover of nail varnish, but my student budget and the general economic pinch have made me try to downgrade my buying habits. MUA, stocked by Superdrug, produce the cheapest polishes available by a fair margin, even compared to other budget brands. I'd enjoyed their lipsticks and eyeshadows before. How wrong can you go for £1? (Or even less - I picked up some "limited edition" twin-packs for 49p each recently. 49p! Forty-nine! Madness!)
Well, you can go a bit wrong. I have to briefly digress here to mention that my first ever bottle came with a mutant brush. There was a split in the plastic stalk, and half the brush was sticking out sideways. I was disappointed because I loved the colour and had bought it online, since it's never stocked in my store. Eventually the head of the brush just fell out but, luckily, Rimmel's small caps are a perfect replacement fit, with better brushes to boot. Part of me thought, "Oh well, I get what I pay for!" but I tried not to let a random manufacturing defect put me off.
PACKAGING: The bottles are smaller than most other brands I've seen, containing only 6.2ml of polish - but this isn't a bother if you're like me and can never quite finish a bottle anyway. They're cuboid, serviceable but nothing to phone home about, with the labels stuck on at entertainingly haphazard angles. I'd have preferred rounded bottles, or at least rounded caps, since it's a niggle when you screw the cap back on and it sits like a misaligned Rubik's cube. I tend to replace my caps very tightly, and this has caused a very fine crack in one of them, so do take care not to manhandle them. Overall, they look plain and cheap, but I don't think anyone buys MUA to experience the cutting edge of packaging design.
COLOURS: MUA have produced a simple but diverse range of colours so far. I do wish they'd name them instead of only numbering them, but they're different enough to tell apart by sight. I own the dark blue with glitter (1), black (2), deep red (8), blue (9), rose gold (11), baby pink (12), rust (14) and coral pink (15). They're all quite standard, apart from 11 which is my favourite - it's a lovely subtle metallic halfway between silver and gold, with a nude touch, and I don't have anything else like it. Overall, the range boasts plenty of choice with over twenty colours and counting, though to browse the complete selection you're better off looking online than in-store.
APPLICATION: Two coats is usually more than enough, though a quick third doesn't hurt if it's a lighter colour or a shimmer. I was expecting the solution to be cheap and thin, but the colours are mostly well pigmented: the red and coral pack a punch, the darks are dense and not sheer like some more expensive brands I've used, and the baby pink is more watery but good after three coats. The brushes are a bit shapeless and bristly, which makes it harder to apply an even stroke, but they're adequate for the job and the results don't suffer for it. The polishes are touch-dry within a few minutes.
WEAR: You won't get a week's wear out of them, but they last three or four days on me before the tip wear starts to get obvious. I always use a top-coat over mine, though, so I'd recommend it to get some extra mileage from these polishes. Without any protective coat, they can start to look battered after only a couple of days, particularly the deeper colours.
This is an appealing budget range, dirt-cheap and with surprisingly good formulas, no worse than other brands that would cost a pound or two more. The packaging and brushes are on the substandard side, but the polishes themselves are something I'll definitely be coming back to in future. I don't think any number of aberrant brushes could put me off them.