It all started with some bloggers reviewing the Essence Peel Off Base Coat, which was part of a travel themed collection called "Ready For Boarding". The idea behind the Peel Off Base Coat is that you paint your nail polish over it, and simply peel it off to remove! No messy acetone or nail polish remover required. The bloggers noted that it looked, felt, and even smelled and behaved like your average craft glue. (No kidding! You can read them here and here.)
Then one astute blogger looked at the ingredients list of the Essence Peel Off Base Coat was the same as PVA glue! (Essentially it was Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) emulsion, water, and preservatives.) Looks like Essence has been repackaging PVA glue and selling it as Peel Off Base Coat!
So I thought, why don't I just use PVA glue, instead of trying to get the Essence version? Cheaper, easier to get, and not LE or sold out. And if you're in Asia, like I am, you don't have to wait months for it to be launched in your locality, only to be ripped off by the fact that it's PVA glue. Score! Turns out, I wasn't the only one with the idea. Other bloggers had tried this out too (in addition to Labmuffin, the original astute blogger, you can see others here, and a DIY version here.) So, in the knowledge that I wasn't the only crazy one with this idea, I tried it out.
I got a small bottle of Elmer's glue, and then, all excited, without further ado, I started work. I was too lazy to decant the Elmer's glue into a nail polish bottle, so I dumped a big blob of the glue out on a sheet of paper, and just dipped a clean nail polish brush in the blob, and painted my nails that way.
When I first painted my nails with my Essence Peel Off Base Coat dupe, they looked like this. That is to say, they looked like I had glue on them (which, by the way, is how the real Essence Peel Off Base Coat looks when you first put it on too, according to the blogs I've read). But when I first saw my nails, I had this "OMG WHAT DID I JUST DO? I PUT GLUE ON MY NAILS!" moment. It felt a little crazy, I won't lie.
But after a few minutes, the glue quickly dries down and becomes clear, and much thinner than I'd expect. I guess all the solvent (which really is just water) has evaporated. It gets dry pretty fast (in 2-3 minutes) but if you want to be cautious, perhaps waiting for 10mins wouldn't hurt. There, all dried out, it doesn't look so crazy now. (OMG, yes, you are seeing my nekkid nails!)
The good thing about using PVA glue is that if you make any mistakes with the base coat, you can clean it up with water, or just wash it off entirely with water. So in a way, it's even easier to handle than your normal base coat.
Anyway, seeing how this was a peel-able base coat, I decided I would absolutely HAVE to use it with a glitter polish. So I picked out Nubar Night Sparkle, part of the Sparkle collection sometime back. I've had this for years but haven't worn it yet...
I know, gorgeous, right? The best part? The easiest glitter removal ever - just peel off the entire polish right off your nail! I was really psyched at being able to just peel off the polish - it's even more convenient than the foil method!
Generally, I got pretty good removal - if you can peel off all the PVA glue base, then you're peeling off all the polish. Unless you polish outside of the PVA base (as I did near the cuticle area), then you'll have to use a little bit of remover to take off whatever is left behind. Still, this is great for me - a clean, convenient method of glitter removal! Just look at that! (Yet another nekkid nails shot.)
One of the questions I had about using PVA glue was the water resistance of the glue. After PVA glue is water soluble (so is the Essence Peel Off Base Coat), so I was worried that even after the glue had dried, the manicure would still come loose when I showered or washed my hands. Other bloggers had mixed results - some reported 4 days without incident (here and here), while others had only one day before chipping (here).
Another thing to note of course, is safety. Based on the ingredients list in the Essence Peel Off Base Coat, a mixture of PVA emulsion and water (found in the Essence version) probably won't harm your nails if you use it topically. So I imagine most PVA glues would work. Just don't use superglue! And if you are unsure, check the ingredients before buying or trying on your nails. The good thing? It's washable with water, so if you try it and don't like it, just rinse it off.
So, would I ever try out something as crazy as using Elmer's glue as a base coat? Well, to be honest, I actually think I would! I can see how a peel-off base coat would be useful for glitter manicures, elaborate nail art that would be a pain to remove, and also for swatching, especially swatching of multiple glitters in a row. Basically, if it's going to be a pain to remove, and I don't intend on wearing it for all that long (say maybe 2-3 days), I'd use the glue method. But for plain ol' creme manicures, I'd probably just use a normal basecoat.