In January, my friend and I went on a quick jaunt to Marrakech, a bustling, vibrant city unlike any place I’ve ever been. When my mom saw my pictures from the trip, she described the city as “a riot of colour and pattern”, which is perfectly accurate.
My favourite place we visited in Marrakech was the iconic Jardin Majorelle, a secluded oasis in the heart of chaotic Marrakech. It was designed by Jacques Majorelle, who wanted to create the garden and onsite Berber Museum to display the rich culture and history of Morocco.
Throughout the gardens, there is an abundance of a vivid, electric blue, known as bleu Majorelle:
In the mid-20th century, the garden fell into disrepair. It was then purchased by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Saint-Laurent became so taken by bleu Majorelle that it became one of the most iconic YSL nail polish colours.
Although luxury beauty lines were created to be more accessible and affordable to the average human than, say, a YSL dress, upwards of $30 for a single bottle of nail polish is still rather steep.
Luckily for those of us who, like Saint-Laurent, have fallen in love with the unrivaled dynamism of bleu Majorelle, there are two drugstore options for this amazing colour. Good old Sally Hansen and Barry M always have our backs!
My first flirtation with this glorious colour was this summer, when I picked up a bottle of Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish in Pacific Blue. Like Yves Saint-Laurent before me, I had never seen quite a colour before. (Yes, I did just compare myself to Yves Saint-Laurent. I know.) In the months that ensued, I probably wore Pacific Blue at least a third of the time – which is definitely not an even distribution when you consider how many nail polish colours I have!
However, tragedy of tragedies, Pacific Blue got reformulated – and this resulted in a drastic change in colour. It is now darker, sheerer, and slightly shimmery. It’s simply not the same dreamy, striking blue I fell in love with. I love a good cobalt as much as the next person, but what if I want a bleu Majorelle dupe?
Enter Barry M, a UK drugstore brand known mainly for their amazing, long-wearing, beautifully pigmented nail polishes. When I first arrived in Glasgow and went to Superdrug, I immediately noticed that Barry M had what appeared to be a dupe for Pacific Blue. However, it wasn’t until about a week ago that I broke down and finally bought the Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint in Damson. (Incidentally, the colour does not resemble that of damsons at all.) Normally I would never knowingly buy a nail polish shade that’s a dupe for one in my collection, but my bottle of Pacific Blue isn’t getting any more full, and at this point it’s irreplaceable.
Are these exact dupes? To my extremely discerning eye, no. Damson is bluer and a tad deeper, whereas Pacific Blue has the slightest hint of purple and a lighter, creamy quality that makes it so magical. Damson is a beautiful colour, but when I look at them side by side, on my nails rather than in a photograph (where they look almost exactly the same), Pacific Blue still has some sort of special quality that I’m drawn to. Damson is a gorgeous colour, and very similar, but it seems to me to be a colour that’s more dupeable.
I know that this is just me being picky. To the untrained eye that has not had months to fall in love with Pacific Blue, the colours are indistinguishable; and, indeed, photographed they’re essentially the same. I’m not saying I don’t love Damson, because I do, and I think it may just be the closest dupe I’ll get with a formula that I enjoy. (Essie’s Butler Please is supposedly a Pacific Blue dupe, but I am not fond of the Essie formula. Blasphemous, I know!)
In terms of application, they’re very similar. They both go on beautifully, without any hint of streakiness or globs in the formula. Pacific Blue looks slightly more even and opaque after one coat, but I usually give it two just to be on the safe side.
They both dry relatively quickly, though Damson ends up being a bit shinier than Pacific Blue without a topcoat. (With a topcoat, the slight edge it may have in this imaginary competition vanishes.)
I’ve never had a problem with the Xtreme Wear brush, but I will say that I do prefer the Barry M brush. It’s just that much slimmer, making it easier to navigate around the edges of nails. However, the wider, flatter Xtreme Wear brush is still very compact and easy to use, and definitely one of my favourite nail polish brushes!
The two polishes wear very similarly: without a topcoat they’ll chip in about three days on my nails; with a topcoat they’re still pristine a week on. That’s firmly within the range of “acceptable wear” for me, and it doesn’t tip either one ahead of the other since they both perform admirably.
The major downside to Damson is, of course, its lack of availability outside of the UK. Nail polish can’t be shipped internationally, either, so once I use up both Pacific Blue and Damson I’ll need to move onto something else – or fly myself over to the UK to grab another bottle of Damson, which seems unlikely. (That would be one expensive bottle of nail polish!) However, if you’re in the UK and lusting after a colour like Pacific Blue, give Damson a shot. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close – and it’s beautiful.
I suppose Pacific Blue is singular. It’s a colour that I’ll need to let go of, however, and Damson will do a fine job at filling that electric blue void in my heart.
(And in case anyone was wondering, my bleu Majorelle-esque eyeliner is Annabelle’s Lapis.)
Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish retails for $3.49 for 0.4 fl oz, or $8.73 per fl oz.
Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint retails for £2.99 ($5.59 CAD) for 0.35 fl oz, or £8.54/$15.97 per fl oz.
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