Essie Burgundy Comparison: Bahama Mama, Gala-Vanting, Model Clicks, In the Lobby, Recessionista, Carry On, Sole Mate, Shearling Darling & Skirting the Issue

Monday, December 12, 2016 11 comments

Hey Essie Lovers!

This is a comparison I've wanted to do for the last year and I'm so happy to finally be getting to it! I absolutely love burgundy polish in the Fall and Winter and these polishes just play on repeat. I wanted to give you the low down on which Essie burgundy's have the best formula's and how they compare to one another. A question I ask myself every fall is "Do I really need to add another burgundy to my collection?!" (I seem to say yes to myself every time!) The good things is I've discovered my favourites over the years and even some new ones after doing this comparison, so let me share my findings with you.

Left to Right: Shearling Darling, Skirting the Issue, Gala-Vanting, Bahama Mama, Ressionista, In the Lobby, Carry On, Sole Mate & Model Clicks

I've got a whole range of burgundy's here from the super light and bright to the very dark and cascading between red, brown and purple tones. The ones closest are Bahama Mama, Recessionista and In the Lobby (although they do have some slight differences which I'll point out later) and Sole Mate, Model Clicks and Shearling Darling. The rest kind of stand alone and are different enough from the rest. 

Shearling Darling

I've had this polish for 3 years now and it was actually one of my very first post's on this blog. It's a  deep reddish brown burgundy that has a bit of dustiness to it. It has a creamy formula that's easy to apply and is opaque in 2 coats. (Click over to that post to see this polish in the sunlight. It shows off more of the red/brown tones).

Skirting the Issue

This polish was a random Winner's find for me (i.e.: cheap) and I picked it up about a year and a half ago simply to add more Essie's to my collection. I really knew nothing about it at the time. I've since discovered that it has a thin jelly formula that I don't much care for. It is also kind of a finicky polish to apply. You need to get the perfect amount of polish on the brush and then polish carefully, otherwise the polish will pool and you will have thin red spots and deeper burgundy areas of your nails. Even with careful polishing, I didn't feel like they were perfectly even on 2 coats, so I did a 3rd which deepened the colour. At two coats, its a dark berry toned red. The finished three-coat mani is definitely burgundy but it has quite a different look from the burgundy cremes. It's very squishy looking (like jello). While I don't love this polish for a manicure on it's own, it's pretty great for certain nail art. I've used it for the "blood drips" in Halloween nail art and I think it would also be great for a jelly sandwich mani. (FYI: I picked up a bottle of Essie Clutch Me If You Can at Dollarama awhile back and it's a straight up dupe for Skirting the Issue both in colour and formula.


I've been planning for the last month to do this burgundy comparison but I didn't feel it would be complete without this polish, so I had to order it! I've been super curious how it looks next to the other burgundy's and I almost didn't buy it because I already have SOOOO many but I bit the bullet because I love the Gel Couture formula and brush so much.  This polish has a really nice, smooth consistency and the brush makes it a breeze to apply. It's opaque in two coats. This burgundy looks nothing like any of the others. It has a similar lightness and brightness to Bahama Mama but leans to the red side of burgundy rather than purple. It's almost hard to tell if it's a deep berry red or a light burgundy. Either way I love it!

Bahama Mama

Bahama Mama is a cult favourite and an Essie classic! A couple years ago I already owned one or two burgundy's but because this one is so popular I HAD to add it to my collection. It has a creamy formula but it's a bit thin and uneven. For me this polish has always looked best with 3 coats.  The third coat doesn't deepen the colour, just evens everything out and makes it completely opaque. This polish also self-levels nicely. I've never loved the formula of this polish (it's not bad but it's not as good as it could be) but the colour is so pretty! It's a light purple burgundy that never looks super dark, it always retains it's purple/burgundy shade no matter the lighting. Whenever I think I don't love Bahama Mama because I have other burgundy's with better formula's, the colour of it always draws me back in.


This is my first time trying this polish. I ordered it a couple months ago, specifically for this comparison. I've always been curious how this polish compares to Bahama Mama, so I'm satisfying my own curiosity today! Its super super close in colour to Bahama Mama. I can hardly tell them apart on the swatch wheel. Recessionista is maybe a touch dustier and Bahama Mama is a hair brighter but it's so slight. I'm really stretching to find a difference. I liked the formula better than Bahama Mama though. It was more opaque and even, so I only needed two coats.

After swatching these 5 polishes, my nails were stained pretty bad, although I can't be sure which polish(es) were the culprit. My nails were already stained from wearing After School Boy Blazer and they had a slight reddish cast to them, but once I was done with this last polish they were worse. The only polish I wore base coat with was Skirting the Issue, so I'm going to say, you're definitely going to want to wear a base coat no matter which burgundy you choose (except for the Gel Coutures. Those are meant to be worn without base).

In the Lobby

This came out in last year's Fall Collection and I've always really liked this burgundy because it has such a nice formula. It's easy to apply and opaque in 2 coats. It's kind of similar to Recessionista and Bahama Mama, but it doesn't have that dustiness that Recessionista has and it's a touch more red (less purple) than Bahama Mama. To be honest, in person it looked completely opaque after two coats but now that I'm studying this picture up close, you can see it's a little thinner looking around the cuticles.   Hmmm...never noticed that before.

Carry On

My friend Bree gave this to me last year and I've always loved this polish. It has such a good formula. Creamy, self-leveling and opaque in 2 coats. It's a very deep shade of burgundy that leans dusty brown/purple. It's the darkest out of all of these.

Sole Mate

I think this was the first burgundyEssie I owned and it started my whole burgundy craze. I wore this non-stop one Fall, over and over and over again. I would eye up pictures of Bahama Mama online and think "Is it really that different? Do I really need another burgundy polish?" The answer is yes! If you scroll up to the Bahama mama pic, the overall effect on the nails is really different than this one. Sole Mate has a crelly formula. It goes on kind of sheer, similar to Skirting the Issue, but it's also a bit creamy. It needs 3 coats to be opaque. Despite the 3 coats, I still like the way this looks on. It's kind of a cross between In the Lobby and Carry On.

Model Clicks

This polish has been my go to burgundy this year. I can't stop wearing it! Whenever I take it off, I just wind up putting it back on. I think because I love the brush and formula of Gel Couture SOOOO MUCH and this dark burgundy colour goes with everything in my wardrobe right now. It has a great formula and is opaque in 2 coats. It's super close to Sole Mate, although a hair lighter.  You can hardly tell though. I'd say those two are dupes, but Model Clicks has the superior formula.

Here they all are swatched side by side again:

Clearly Gala-Vanting is the lightest and Carry On is the darkest. Also if you were curious how the two burgundy Gel Coutures (Gala-Vanting and Model Clicks) compared, they are very different and you can justify owning both.

Bahama Mama, Recessionista and In the Lobby all looked really similar on the nail, but looking at these pictures and the swatch wheel, In the Lobby stands out as being different from the other two. It's not as creamy and opaque and is more of a red-toned burgundy than a purple-toned burgundy. I'm happily surprised by Recessionista though! Even though I was a bit bummed that I bought a polish basically identical to Bahama Mama, I'm stoked it has such a nice formula! I'm definitely going to reach for Recessionista over Bahama Mama now.

Sole Mate and Model Clicks look pretty identical on the nail and like I said before I'd say they are dupes. Painting these two side by side on my nails with Shearling Darling, Shearling Darling looks super similar as well. While Shearling Darling does lean a bit more reddish brown, on the nail in most lighting, you can't tell these three apart.

Left to Right: Shearling Darling, Skirting the Issue, Gala-Vanting, Bahama Mama, Ressionista, In the Lobby, Carry On, Sole Mate & Model Clicks

I'm so happy I did this comparison! I solidified my long-time favourites and discovered some new ones as well. Here are my top 3 favourites:

- Gala-Vanting: because I love the light/bright red burgundy tone. It hits different notes for me than a darker burgundy and I love the Gel Couture formula and brush. It's so easy to apply and lasts longer. 

- Model Clicks: because I love the dark burgundy colour and it literally goes with everything. It's like a neutral polish for me. And again...I love the Gel Couture brush and formula. I could get rid of all of my other dark burgundy polishes and just keep this one. 

- Recessionista: because I love the light dusty purple burgundy colour of Bahama Mama but much prefer this formula. It's different in colour and tone from both Gala-Vanting and Model Clicks. 

These three would be my absolute top Essie Burgundy Favourites!

Which of these burgundy's are your favourite? 


  • Unknown said...

    Yay, a new blog post!

    I always love your shade comparison posts and this one was great!

    This year, I fell in love with In the Lobby. I have a mini of it from a UK set and I feel like mine is darker than yours...weird. Or maybe it's just the lighting!

    I have Bahama Mama and I love it. The last time I wore it was for Valentine's Day this year and I don't remember having any issues with the formula.

    I used to own Shearling Darling back in the day but I felt too inexperienced at that point to be good at darker colors and so I gave it away. I have been feeling like I want to repurchase it though, but maybe I'll just get Model Clicks!

    I also want to get Gala-vanting and am curious about Spiked with Style!

    But yes, I own In the Lobby and Bahama Mama, so I think I'll just nab the gel couture shades and leave the rest! But maybe if I want a darker burgundy I should get Carry On or Shearling Darling? What do you think?

    -Jenn (jenntendo64/nailpolish_amateurhour)

  • Nicole S. said...

    So.....I am obsessed with the burgundy's too!I loved this post! Thank you!

    I have all of them except carry on, recessionista and skirting the issue. In the lobby is probably my absolute favorite.

    I have 2 questions for you - you said you don't wear base coat with the gel couture line - do you find the polishes stain more? I always wear a base, but I am wondering if it affects the longevity?

    Second, I can't seem to get Model Clicks opaque in two coats and I have worn it 3 or 4 times. Maybe a bad bottle or bad application? Thanks for any input. :)

  • Nicole S. said...

    I apologize if I end up posting twice, but I thought I hit publish and then my comment disappeared.

    So......I love burgundy's too! They are my favorite. Thanks for this post, it was great!

    I have all of those polishes except carry on, recessionista and skirting the issue. In the lobby is my absolute favorite. I love the color on shearling darling but my bottle is gloppy.

    I have two questions for you - you said you don't wear base coat with the gel couture line and I was wondering about your experience with staining? I always wear a base coat and I was wondering if its hurting the longevity of the formula.

    Second, I am having a really hard time getting Model Clicks opaque in 2 coats. I am wondering if I got a bad bottle or if its an application problem. :) Any input you have would be appreciated. Thanks again!

  • Mrs W said...

    Yay, a new post!! Thank you for doing this comparison, Bahama Mama has been on my wish list forever and I thought I had finally gotten it when I ordered from Ebay along with Mint Candy Apple and Bikini So Teeny but unfortunately the seller made a mistake and sent me what I think is Bordeaux instead. It didn't have a label with the name just them number on the cap so I looked it up and it appears like it's Bordeaux. Do you have it? Do you think it compares to any of these? I know Bahama is a little more purple than Bordeaux, at least from pictures but I did end up liking Bordeaux ok. I might have to do my own comparison of dark burgundy/red nail polish and see what other similar colors I have. Thanks for doing this!

  • Unknown said...

    Revisited this post since Essie made "Sole Mate" their color of the month! I actually bought it from a Boots in London because I can't resist getting a color with the wide brush they have in the UK for regular Essies. I only used 2 coats of color and I think it came out all right! Though I was tempted to do 3.

    I also ended up getting Shearling Darling in a mini-set.

    The latter half of last year really made me appreciate dark reds and burgundies so much more! They make me feel really sexy and sophisticated! :p

  • Kindra said...

    Nicole S. - so sorry I missed this comment! The Gel Couture line is meant to be worn without any base coat. I think they said the base is built into the colour. I also remember @laurenslist on Instagram saying that she tried base coat with Gel Couture and it gave her weird bubbles. I think it reacts weird so its very possible it could be affecting the longevity. I would say that I don't think I've experienced staining with them? But I can't be sure. I don't think so though.

    It's very strange that your Model Clicks isn't opaque in 2 coats. I've found with a few Gel Couture formulas that they need 3 to be opaque as well, but never Model Clicks. Sorry you're experiencing a crappy bottle!

  • Kindra said...

    Jennifer - I totally agree with you about feeling sexy and sophisticated in a dark red/burgundy! I'm so jealous you can get the wide brush in all the regular Essie polishes! I want ALLLLL my Essies to be like that.

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