Shelf Cosmetics: App Review

If you know me (or even if you’re looking at my Instagram for 0.03 of a second) you’ll know I absolutely LOVE to paint my nails. Some people feel naked if they leave the house without makeup, but personally, I feel like only half a person if I don’t have some kind of colour on my nails.

When I was looking through a nail polish tag I stumbled upon Shelf Cosmetics. Their Instagram account looks like a pretty standard nail polish aesthetic account but I was so intrigued that I downloaded the app instantly.

The premise behind the app is that users can keep track of and share their various nail polish looks through pictures as well as descriptions and a rating system. It also provides health ratings and other information for 30-ish brands of nail lacquer.

I like being able to have this as a way to keep track of the nail polish I use, both how it looks on the nail and as well as which colours I have. I’m guilty of buying a polish that’s almost identical to one I already own because I can’t quite remember the name or am doubting that I actually bought that other one. This way, in theory, once I get more polishes on my ‘shelf’ in the app, I have an interactive list with me, on my phone, of all the colours I own and how they look. Plus I don’t have to spam my IG feed with ‘NOTD’ pictures ALL the time. Win/ win.

Since this is a relatively new app that seems to have flown under the radar, I thought I’d share my thoughts and spread the word!

Before getting into the review itself, I thought I’d show a little walkthrough of the app. Get ready for some A+ phone screenshots.

The main menu is your home screen where it will show shelfies from everyone you follow. I only follow one person (she’s the CEO of Shelf and follows everyone, I think), but if you don’t follow anyone it will be a generic locked screen showing profile names.

The search feature allows you to search for polish colours and other users. I haven’t used it too much but it’s a good feature to have!

The next screen is the one that shows all the trending images. There isn’t a whole lot a variety here and I feel like if there were more users of the app, or perhaps an incentive to like/ interact more with other users it would probably be more accurate.

Next is the profile screen. You have the ability to put a profile picture, a header image, and a bio. It will also show your saved and loved images.

The big orange button is what you press when uploading your own shelfie. I’ll take you through the steps with my latest nail look!

First, you get the option to take the picture in the app. I don’t live that wildly so I generally take my pictures beforehand and upload them via the camera roll.

Once you pick the picture from your phone photos, it will give you the option to crop your image. I’ll talk a bit about this later in the post.

Next, you identify which brand of nail polish yours falls under. I personally love this page… the aesthetic of all the brand names in white with their signature logos is just too pretty for words. The polish I’m wearing in the picture is from Essie.

Then, the important stuff happens. You have to track down the shade name that you’re wearing. They are listed in alphabetical order and with a small swatch of the approximate colour. Mine is green (as you can see) and called “On The Roadie”.

Unfortunately, Shelf didn’t have my polish listed. I found this strange since it was from a pretty recent collection and while it was irksome but understandable to not find some of the really old/ discontinued polishes I’d used in the past, a relatively new one was even more odd. When the app doesn’t have my polish listed I end up going to the nail polish brand’s website and trying to find the closest colour to what I am looking for.

After deciding on which colour is closest, I plug that one into the app and continue. The next screen is basically your scorecard of the polish. You give it a rating using a 1-5 star system, indicate how many coats you used, put in your location (which I personally don’t do and am honestly unsure of the purpose of that feature). Lastly, you can write a mini review or whatever notes you wish to include, and save!

Even though I can’t speak to Mojito Madness, I loved On The Roadie! I gave it four stars to demonstrate something I’ll talk about later.

And there you have it! The shelfie posting process is quite straight forward, aesthetically pleasing, and relatively quick. After it’s complete, each Shelfie becomes kind of like a baseball card displayed on your “shelf” with a front and back side, one featuring the swatch of the colour (and “colour profile” which gives more information including the brand’s description of that shade and the health rating), brand, your rating (but… did I give it five stars? More on that later), a timestamp, and your number of coats. The other side features your picture and both sides show your little write-up.

And just like that, another shelfie for the… shelf.

So there you have it! The Shelf Cosmetics posting process!

Another feature they have is buying polish through the app. As a Canadian I don’t believe this feature is accessible to me but it is a really cool idea.

I absolutely ADORE the concept of this app. I had acrylic nails for three years and used Instagram to document every single time I got them done so that I would be able to look back and see a) when I last got my nails filled and b) make sure I never did the same thing twice. It was a process I grew accustomed to and even after I removed my fake nails, I had grown so used to the experience of sharing my NOTD that it became a regular feature on my Instagram. I love nail polish more than any other category of beauty products and sharing my nail looks has become an integral part of my social media experience. I do understand that it can be overwhelming on my profile and seeing as I’m not particularly good at nail art or the like, I can’t justify having an Instagram account solely for posting “nailfies”. The Shelf App provides that.

As a relatively new app, there is a uniqueness that isn’t experienced through platforms like Instagram. First, I was able to get the username @adrianna. That has never happened on any social media ever. And I’ve been logging on since early Neopets days. Unfortunately, the newness also means the community is limited so many aspects like the discover and trending don’t have as much value as they could.

Further, there have been a few issues that have impacted my user experience. While the interface itself is nice and the aesthetic is great,  at times it feels quite clunky. I found that it is very laggy and has crashed on occasion. It requires a certain degree of patience that I don’t necessarily need with other apps.

Other issues include:

  • Regardless of the rating you give it, it will show as 5 stars. I do love polish but not every colour that much.
  • No way to edit once you’ve posted. Deleting Shelfies isn’t as simple as it should be and has to be done through the settings. I’ve had to delete and repost several times which, really is on me, but it would be nice to have an editing option or at least a grace period where you can edit what you wrote… because typos happen (and for some reason on this app, autocorrect doesn’t?).
  • When uploading pictures, if you crop them (as it gives you the option to do) it will turn out WAY OFF after they’re posted. Aaand refer back to the last point.
  • Every time you open the app it says ‘to create your first shelfie, click the circular button’. This was great the first time I logged in for the tutorial round but we’re a dozen shelfies in and it’s a bit annoying and redundant. This only really appears when the app is first loading up but still detracts from the experience.

Some things I would love to see addressed in future updates of the app:

  • A way to include multiple colours on one nail look. While this would be especially beneficial for those who like to showcase their skills with nail art, even just having an accent nail means having to upload the same picture multiple times or just choosing one colour to tag.
  • A flagging (or something less mean) method for nail looks that are tagged a certain colour but clearly are not.
  • The little clock says what day it was uploaded and there is no way to edit this since, really, it’s irrelevant (unless you’re posting fresh out of the salon and want to keep track like how I did with my acrylics). I always post my nails on the second or third day because that’s when they generally look the best. It would be cool to have some kind of feature where you put in the day you painted your nails/ got them done and how many days it lasted.
  • As I mentioned before, I’ve been finding more and more polish colour names are not included on the list. This really detracts from the experience for me since the majority of my polishes aren’t necessarily “cult classics”. While I do have Essie’s Bikini So Teeny and OPI’s Mod About You, I would like to also include the name of less well-known polishes that I’ve posted. I’d say a third of my Shelf posts are listed with the incorrect colour because the proper one wasn’t available. As I mentioned, this is really strange for relatively new collections (Essie’s On The Roadie from the Spring 2017 collection) but understandable for long-retired oldie goldies (OPI’s Abalone Shell from 2001). Either way, there should be an option to add in a colour if it’s not in the list or simply an “OTHER COLOUR” box to tick where the colour name can be typed in.

So overall I do enjoy this app. They have said they want to expand to include all cosmetic products but I can’t see myself using that feature, especially since Sephora has just launched a similar program with their Beauty Insider Community. I hope they choose to focus on expanding and optimizing the nail polish side of things as I feel that is what makes the app unique. That said, I totally understand it from a business perspective and regardless would continue to use it as my nail polish shelf!

I recommend checking out Shelf Cosmetics and playing around with it. Also this post was in no way sponsored… I just had a lot of thoughts.

Thanks so much for reading!


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