Since fifth grade, when my teacher brought our class to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I have been an admirer of art. She instilled in me an appreciation for Mary Cassatt, Homer Winslow and Georgia O’Keefe. My office walls are decorated with VanGogh, Degas and Monet. I love the local paintings of Fitz Hugh Lane. When I travel, I seek out art museums and sculpture parks. I’ve been fortunate to view abstracts at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and visit El Prado, the Picasso Museum and the Museum of El Greco in Spain. I’m anticipating a trip to the Louvre next summer as part of my honeymoon, but meanwhile to cure my yearning for creative culture, I browse Art.com as an online gallery and research wedding photographers. And of course, experiment with nail art. So when I saw that London held a nail art exhibition called Nailphilia, I was ecstatic.
Hosted by DegreeArt.com, Nailphilia celebrates nail art as a fine art, coupled with fashion. This is the first exhibition of its kind, and I hope there are more to follow! I didn’t attend, but this video presents the essence of the show as well as features some of the outrageous designs. Enjoy – and be inspired!
Crackle nail polish isn’t exactly new, but it’s making a big comeback. Many bloggers I’ve been reading remember crackle polish in the 90′s, but admit they wore it as reluctantly as grunge fashion. Opposite from crackle furniture paint that produces a charming antique finish, crackle nail polish creates an edgy, rock-and-roll look. Depending on the brand and how you apply it, you can achieve alligator skin and tree bark textures, or an intentionally careless, chipped look. Katy Perry certainly resurged this trend with her O.P.I. Collection, and ever since nail fanatics are loving all the different brands and crackle colors!
I tested six brands to see if they were all they were cracked up to be. (PUN ALERT!)
I started by applying each on white, metallic silver, and hot pink bases. I used color wheels to better view contrasts between each brand. Here’s an overview of my findings:
Overall, there is very little difference between brands. All separate within seconds and with a top coat, the finishes become identically glossy. Still, the subtleties led me to favor the Cherimoya 2012. This brand also supplies the most color variety: 24 shades, including neons and metallics. Sally Hansen (which sells 8 colors) was a close second-favorite, but it didn’t produce as consistent results as did the 2012. The most similar polishes were the O.P.I. and China Glaze, so I lean toward the less expensive option–China Glaze–which recently released a line of 6 Metals in addition to the original 6 colors. O.P.I. offers the least colors (only 7), but because of their myriad of regular polishes, you can still achieve innumerable combinations. Although the O.P.I and LaRosa had the fastest separating time, the extra seconds don’t make much of a difference in the results. The LaRosa (available in 12 shades) and Mia Secret (available in 14 shades) effects are also unique, but the Mia Secret was my least favorite, due to its cheap consistency and minimal shattering.
Crackle Application Tips
Crackle polish is great for those of us who are unartistic but still want decorated nails because there is little skill involved in creating the desired effect. Regardless of the brand you choose, here are some application tips:
1.) Always apply over a completely dry nail polish base color.
2.) Choose a highly contrasting base color. If you prefer subtler nails, you can use more closely related shades.
3.) Only apply one coat of crackle polish – going over it will inhibit its separation.
4.) The thinner the application, the smaller ‘cracks’ you will have.
5.) Always apply a top coat. In a sense, crackle is already chipped, so it will lift and scrape off easily without a sealant.
Crackle Nail Art
Crackle polish has gained criticism for being a one-trick pony. However, many people have been creative with how they utilize it. If you feel that using neons or jewel-tones is too 80′s, try white crackle over a favorite base color. You can soften the effect with pastels or neutrals: I put gray crackle over a white polish base, and a friend said it resembled bare tree branches. Here are some ideas for unique crackle manicures:
In addition, Bundle Monster stamping image plate #208 also produces faux crackle effects:
Hope you try out this trend before it splits (ANOTHER PUN ALERT!) – Class dismissed!
Those who know me know that I love all things sparkly and metallic, so bedazzling my nails isn’t a far stretch. I never had much success with 3D nail art until I tried Sephora by OPI Nail Designs and Nail Gems. For $5, these are an inexpensive, easy option to enhance a manicure. The line includes flowers, butterflies, hearts, stars, rhinestones, and even Hello Kitty–enough choice for a variety of looks!
Each package lists how many decals are included, which surprisingly, not all brands do. This takes the guesswork out of planning a design and potentially under- or over-buying. I bought “Crystal Bindi” (pictured below) for a princess look over an opaque french manicure. The package contained four matching patterns for three designs, and one larger focal design, which I felt was plenty to decorate both hands. The Butterfly Holograms and Metallic Gold Flowers packages include the most decals.
Unlike other decals I’ve tried in the past, these are particularly sticky. Some reviews complain that the designs are difficult to peel from the sheet without breaking apart. I suggest bending the sheet as you would with regular stickers, and using a cuticle pusher as a spatula to lift off the decal. You can apply them to tacky or dry nails, but should overlay with a top coat to seal them to your nail. The adhesiveness of these particular decals aid application since they don’t shift while applying the top coat. Avoid using nail glue because it will dull the gems and leave a film on your nail polish.
Any 3D nail art is susceptible to catching and popping off, so you do need to exercise caution. Mine held up through a shower and other daily routines, but I recommend using gloves if washing dishes or cleaning.
Be creative – you can turn the stickers various directions, place several together, and alter where and on which nail you place them. Now you’ve made original, dazzling nail art in seconds!
Everybody is telling everybody about soak-off gels. This new innovation is safer on natural nails than acrylics or traditional gels because it applies and removes like regular polish; no harsh filing is needed to prep or remove it. This essentially means you can grow longer, stronger nails. Perhaps even better, these manicures last an average of two weeks, resist chipping or breaking, and keep their glossy shine. There are several brands, the front-runners including CND’s Shellac and Hand and Nail Harmony’s Gelish. While brands such as CalGel and OPI Axxium retain the professional appearance of pots and separate brushes, Shellac and Gelish, along with NSI’s Illusion and IBD’s Gelac, come in polish bottles, a more user-friendly option which most likely sparked the do-it-yourself at home trend.
As I’ve received many questions regarding at-home application of soak off gels, I wanted to provide an in-depth tutorial using the Gelish system. If you’re paying about $30-$35 for a Gelish manicure (not to mention the added expense of pedicure and tip), by buying the products yourself, you can recoup the costs after only 4 trips to the salon! This makes doing-it-yourself an enticing choice. I scoured the internet to find the best deals, and have linked to the products that I recommend. I suggest purchasing materials at one time to save on shipping and handling costs. Here are the products you should procure as well as some troubleshooting tips to achieve professional salon results at home!
What You’ll Need:
1.) Lint-Free Nail Wipes
Sure you have paper towels, tissues, cotton balls or even terry cloths around the house, but once you start swiping these across your nails, you risk fuzzy, threaded residue that can stick to and smudge wet polish. Lint-free wipes are a great investment in order to eliminate the frustrating discovery of a little white fiber swimming in the middle of your freshly painted digits.
For prepping nails, the Gelish pH Bond can be substituted with isopropyl alcohol (its main ingredient), as its purpose is to dehydrate the nail bed. By drying the nail’s natural oils, the polish will better bond. You can find a decent-sized bottle of 70%-99% isopropyl alcohol in any pharmacy for a few dollars.
3.) Gelish Foundation Base Gel
Using a base coat is a necessary step in any manicure. Not only do base coats protect against polish colors staining your natural nails, they contain nourishing proteins for the nail bed, and create a smooth, tacky layer to which the polish will adhere. You can interchange the Shellac base coat with the Gelish, but I recommend using the brand of products that work together as a system. Emerging TEAM Shellac and TEAM Gelish proponents argue over the ‘best’ product, but as a DIYer, I personally prefer the lower cost and double volume (0.5 oz. bottles) of the Gelish line. It’s worth investing in the full-sized bottle.
4.) Gelish Soak-off Polish in the color of your choice.
What’s made Gelish a competitor with renowned CND Shellac is its color variety. Gelish offers 72 colors, beyond the muted neutrals, reds and pinks of Shellac. Gelish also boasts glitter polishes for a sparkly finish. To view all of the Gelish color swatches, click here. A note of caution, however: the swatches are not very accurate to the actual color results. Try to find images of someone wearing the polish or read reviews to gauge the true hue. Mini bottles (0.3 oz) allow you can sample more colors at less cost ($9 in comparison to $13-$16 for full-size 0.5 oz bottles). Need some color guidance? My favorites are Starburst, Tiger Blossom and Passion.
Like a regular top coat, Top It Off adds protection and shine. This coat seals in the color, and can be re-applied after a few days for added protection, although too much extra application could make the nails look unnaturally thick. Like the Foundation Base Coat, you will use more, so I suggest buying the full-sized bottle.
As a sanitizer, the cleanser can be used during nail preparation, but it’s really the crucial, final step in the Gelish application process to smooth the tacky surface layer, enhancing shine. Although like the pH bond isopropyl alcohol is the main ingredient, the Gelish Cleanser contains moisturizers in addition to the solvents which break down unwanted residue on the nails. For this reason, I recommend this product over its household counterpart; the cleanser has a silkier feel. Its formula is especially designed to work with Gelish Top It Off, but it also works in conjunction with various other soak-off gel products, making it an overall versatile product. I suggest the 120 ml, but if you are a professional nail technician looking to stock up, the larger 16 oz. refillis a better value.
LED lamps, like UV lamps, can only be used with gel products with the correct photo-initiators for the type of light. Although these seem to be the wave of the future, LED lamps are not yet universally popular. They are much more expensive ($200-$400), but will cure nails in half the time–approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute. They use substantially less electricity than UV lamps (I’ve read approximately 60%) and the bulbs last longer. In addition, they do not contain mercury or emit UV rays.
UV curing lamps are the more popular budgetary option. Their price ranges between $30-$80. Hand and Nail Harmony advertises a 36-watt UV lamp for Gelish, but I have used a 9-watt successfully, although it necessitates more curing time–up to 10 minutes. From reviews and personal experience, I recommend the 45-watt Thermal Spa 49135 Professional U/V Gel Light Nail Dryer. It is large enough to place both hands (or feet), which is a huge time-saver. It also has automatic timers, and removable tray for easy cleaning.
Many concerns have recently emerged regarding this exposure to UV light, but most sources indicate the process is safe. UV light is characterized into three categories–UVA, UVB and UVC–according to strength. UVC light is the most damaging, with the shortest wavelength. Earth’s atmosphere luckily is impenetrable to UVC light. Both UVB and UVA rays cause damaging effects to the skin, ranging from melanoma cancer to aging. Nail curing lamps produce UVA light, with far less intensity than the sun or tanning beds. With the long-lasting results of UV cured gels, you won’t be needing to expose your hands daily or even weekly. If you still have worries, you can apply a “broad-spectrum” sunblock (meaning it deflects both UVB and UVA rays) beforehand. You will still need to clean the nail bed well to eliminate the oils in the sunblock, but your surrounding skin will be safer.
Instead of purchasing the Gelish Soak Off Artificial Gel Remover, pure acetone substitutes just fine. The Gelish brand remover may take slightly less time (10 minutes rather than 15), but you can buy larger bottles of acetone for cheaper than any specialty gel-remover product.
1.) Prep your nails by shaping, pushing back cuticles and buffing. The Hand and Nail Harmony website instructs removing the shine from the nail with a 100/180-grit buffer for proper adhesion of Gelish.
2.) Using a lint-free cloth or wipe, apply Gelish Gel Cleanser.
3.) Dehydrate the nail by applying rubbing alcohol. Note that dehydrating the nail bed can simultaneously dry surrounding skin – so use a small brush to apply the rubbing alcohol only to your nails.
4.) Apply one coat of Foundation Base Gel. Paint the edges of nail tips for longer-lasting results. Before curing, use a damp cloth over an orange stick or other bluntly pointed object to wipe off any excess polish while it is wet. Wiping all excess off of your fingers and cuticles is crucial because once it cures, not only will it be difficult to remove, but it may lead to lifting or peeling of the polish. Since the excess is most likely an overflow from your nail onto your finger, peeling off excess from the base or sides of your nail can lift the polish on the nail as well.
Once the base coat is applied properly, cure for 2 minutes.* To test if the curing is finished, you should be able to lightly tap your nail without imprinting the polish. IT IS NORMAL THAT NAILS WILL STILL FEEL TACKY TO THE TOUCH. Why?
Well, as I am a teacher after all, let me take a moment for some scientific explanation. Oxygen hinders the polish’s molecules from bonding into a hard polymer. Since the top layer of polish is exposed to more air than the bottom, the surface of the polish will remain tacky.
*Curing time is based on the previously recommended Thermal Spa UV lamp. Proper curing times do differ depending on the lamp’s wattage, bulb intensity, and gel consistency. A great article from Professional Beauty which gives some tips is:7 Secrets to Curing.
5.) Apply one coat of color, again painting the tips of the nails and making sure to wipe off any excess, and then cure for 2-3 minutes. UV light needs to penetrate through the polish, so as the top layer absorbs the majority of the rays, it can impede the light from reaching the base layers. The more colorful, opaque polishes may require more curing time for this reason. Painting the polish too thickly can also result in wrinkling during the curing process. Therefore, you should apply the polish in thin layers with ample exposure time.
Once the first coat of color has cured, apply a second and cure.
6.) Apply one coat of Top It Off, following the same application guidelines as above. Cure for 2 minutes.
7.) Using another lint-free wipe or cloth, wipe each nail with the Gel Cleanser, which will break down the sticky surface layer. Make sure to wait until after the top coat is cured to apply the Gel Cleanser, or you will just be wasting it – subsequent applications of polish will re-establish the tacky layer. After the cleanser, your nails should be free from the former tackiness, super-smooth and glossy.
For you visual learners, here’s my video tutorial of the process:
After Care and Removal:
It’s always a good idea to replenish moisture after a manicure, so apply cuticle oil or a good hand cream to nails after you’ve finished.
Gelish should last 12-14 days. By then, you’ll notice nail growth and probably be ready for another application or color change.
Unlike acrylics, soak-off gels cannot be “filled” – they must be fully removed and reapplied. For my soak-off gel removal tutorial, click here.
I hope this inspires you to do-it-yourself, saves you money and produces gorgeous, long-wear nails! Class dismissed!
When you want instant length, or to fix that one broken nail that doesn’t match the rest, it is totally okay to fake it. Recently I’ve been experimenting with nail tips to achieve that I-go-to-the-salon-weekly look. (I rarely ever go the salon, by the way.)
I started by purchasing a 500-piece tip set from Eamee through Amazon.com, which cost approximately $15. There are different color options; I choose the “natural” which is a translucent white. The tips arrived bagged by sizes 0-9: zero is the most narrow followed by nine, and then the lower numbers become progressively wider until one, the widest. Having all the sizes is convenient to do others’ nails, but I really only need sizes 2, 5 and 8. First I applied the tips by rounding the straight bottom edges with a file to match my natural nail beds and gluing them over my full natural nails. I liked the convenience of painting the nails beforehand so that I could accomplish nail art with my non-writing hand (see my zebra tips below), but they fell off easily and damaged my natural nails with glue.
To avoid covering my full nails with glue, I used the tips as just tips. Here’s how:
Tips don’t break off as easily because the polish coats over and seals the tip to your nail. For the polished nails, I used a white base coat then two coats of China Glaze “Innocence”. Once that dried, I brushed LA Colors Color Craze silver glitter halfway up my nail. This is a great trick to cover the ridge line of the tip if you don’t file it down enough! Here’s to nobody ever having to know – Class dismissed!
On one of my trips to Sally Beauty, I rummaged through the clearance bin and found a bottle of China Glaze peppermint cuticle oil. I wasn’t exactly sure what cuticle oil was or how to use it, but I can’t pass up a sale or a chance to try a nail product.
Basically cuticle oil is an intense moisturizer for your nails and of course, your cuticles. Pushing back cuticles is part of a full manicure process, and should be done with an orange stick or cuticle pusher. This reveals the true shape of the nail bed without that excess white tissue covering the bottom of the nail. Trimming cuticles should be left to professionals; it can cause infection and lead to thicker re-growth. Applying cuticle oil softens the cuticle and facilitates clearing it away.
I brushed a thin layer of the China Glaze cuticle oil around the base of my nail, and first of all, the peppermint was soothing and smelled great. I used a metal cuticle pusher and lightly scraped around the sides and base of my nail. I felt that the oil dissolved my cuticles and left my nails soft (in a moisturized, not weak sense). My nail surfaces were larger and overall appeared well-groomed.
If you plan to continue with polish, remember to strip away that moisture with acetone so the polish will adhere. I recommend leaving the oil to absorb for five to ten minutes before continuing to the next step; in the interim, I filed my nails. Cuticle oil is an easy way to achieve a more salon-like manicure and to moisturize for healthier nails. You can also purchase cuticle oil pens for more precise application. Enjoy this addition to your nail supplies – class dismissed!
I desired perfectly-executed, intricate nail designs without any needing artistic ability: who doesn’t? I was wary of nail decals–aka stickers–but the ArtClub Glam designs were too cool to pass by. Also, thinking about how I’m always in a rush, the fact that these would be “Full-Fashion NAILS IN AN INSTANT”, as advertised on the package, was a definite selling point.
I chose the Black, White and Bling, which is a leopard design. I wasn’t sure how many decals came in a package (turns out there are 14), but I was anticipating messing up, so I was hoping there were some extras. The decals varied in wideness to fit on different sized nails. The background was an opaque white, so I didn’t need to polish my nails first. However, I always apply a base coat before sticking anything on my natural nail’s surface.
So not to belabor the review: I hated these stickers. First, see how they work, and then read on for the problems I encountered. Here’s the video of my application process (which follows the instructions on the back of the package):
If I had to try again, I would trim the decals before trying to apply them, which would have to be done before peeling off the decal. Filing the excess just misshaped my previously filed nails and tore the edges of the decal, which led to it lifting off. The stickers are not very sticky at all; I could easily peel them off even after the top coat dried. Some tutorials I’ve seen for these use an orange stick to press on the decal, but I don’t feel this would significantly increase its adhesiveness or prevent wrinkling.
On my right hand, I tried a different technique to avoid filing: I placed the decal on the tip of my nail and trimmed the bottom. Yet, instead of the top tearing, the base tore instead. The stickers should be much more durable and thinner; it felt as if I stuck a sticker on my nail rather than accomplished nail art. I wore these less than ten minutes–I peeled them off and painted my nail art the natural way, even with my limited talent.
Whether you have a chipped or outgrown Shellac or Gelish manicure, you don’t have to go to the salon to have it removed. One of the benefits of these soak-off gel manicures is that the polish can be soaked off, rather than filed from your nail. This is safer for your natural nails, and means that you don’t have to go make an appointment at the salon or buy the brand’s special remover products which can be costly.
To mimic the Shellac remover wraps, all you need is pure acetone (sold at Sally Beauty), cotton balls, and aluminum foil. This process is safer than dipping your fingers in a bowl of acetone since you are targeting the nail rather than your finger’s skin.
Here’s a step-by-step video of how to remove soak-off gels at home using this process:
It’s just warm enough now . . . my white, unpolished toes are taking their first peep out of their sock-blanketed hibernation and into spring air. I never purchased those trendy flat riding boots, so my feet have been burdened with heels (although may I say fashion-blessedly beautiful ones) most of the winter. Most of us find feet revolting enough without additional images of callouses and dry, flaky skin, so I offer you a 5-step home pedicure routine that will surely spruce up those tootsies and give you the confidence to be barefoot once again.
Step 1: Smooth. When feet are dry, use a PedEgg to remove hard, dry skin on heels, toes, and balls of feet. If you don’t have one of these marvelous mini cheese graters for your feet, get one now – they are cheap! Can you tell I love mine? It is painless and works bounds better than any pumice stone I’ve tried. There is even a grotesque satisfaction in viewing all of the collected dead skin shards while dumping it out. If you like pumice stones, you should soak your feet first (see Step 3). Don’t be temped to use a knife or scissors to lop off hard skin – you want smooth feet, not cuts. Rubbing ensures that you flake off dead skin without damaging new layers underneath.
Step 2: Shape toenails. Always file when nails are dry to avoid weakening and breakage. If you need to trim, use a rounded pair of grooming scissors to facilitate shaping. Make sure to place your trimmers or scissors fully underneath the nail to avoid nipping your skin.
Step 3: Soak. Using a plastic tub or the bath, mix foot salts or crystals in shallow lukewarm water and soak your feet for 10-15 minutes. If you don’t have foot salt, you can make your own soak by combining the juice of half a large lemon, 4 tbsp. of olive oil, 1/2 cup of whole milk or buttermilk, and 1/4 cup of sea salt into the water (recipe from ehow.com). You can also opt to purchase pre-made foot soaks; I suggest one with tea tree oil, which has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. For added luxury, add flower petals.
Step 4: Scrub. Rub your favorite exfoliant over feet, massage with circular motion, and then rinse with cool water. You may want to use a foot brush or exfoliating gloves to scrub. Again, you can create your own scrub with household ingredients such as oatmeal, cornmeal, brown sugar and/or baking soda. Pat dry.
Step 5: Moisturize. When feet are almost completely dry, moisturize with your favorite cream. I like peppermint creams because they soothe tired feet. Rub moisturizer into heels, balls of feet and any other previously rough areas with a circular motion. Allow moisturizer to dry before putting on any sandals that are not rubber.
Your feet should feel smooth, relaxed and pampered. You can continue prettifying your feet by buffing your toenails and painting them. Now your toes should be ready to expose themselves to sunlight, bury in the sand, or slip into your favorite sandals. Class dismissed!
I thank my mother for strong fingernails. She has long, durable nails, and berated me to stop biting mine when I was younger. Although there is a genetic component for the quality of your nails, there are also strategies to strengthen and lengthen them. Whether you have nails that bend, peel or break, these tips may work for you:
1.) Take a daily multivitamin. Having nails that split is actually a medical condition called onychoschizia. Weak nails can be caused by malnutrition or several illnesses including anemia, thyroid disease, and skin disorders. By checking your vitamin intake and maintaining a healthy diet, you can nourish your nails from the inside-out.
2.) Avoid overexposure to water, especially of hot temperature. Water softens nails, and frequent hand drying can wipe off nails’ natural oils, causing dry, brittle nails. Wear gloves when washing dishes or laundry, and try patting hands dry rather than rubbing or using hand-dryers.
3.) Avoid chemicals, including household cleaners, hand sanitizer, and nail polish remover. Again, you can wear gloves while cleaning the kitchen or bathrooms. Buy an acetone-free polish remover or one with aloe to replenish some of the moisture that can be stripped by the chemical.
4.) Don’t bite! There are bitter, nourishing liquidsto apply to your nails to discourage biting. Also, try to decipher the cause of your nail biting, i.e. nervousness, boredom, or oral fixation to work on overcoming the habit.
5.) Be careful how you file your nails. Using a glass or crystal file can prevent tearing, and always file upwards in one direction instead of in a sawing motion.
6.) Avoid fake nails. As much as they are a good temporary solution, the removal process of fake nails can further damage your already short or weak nails. Choosing soak-off gel nails is a better solution compared to acrylic or regular, file-off gels. Tell your manicurist to put that power sander away!
7.) Keep polish on your nails! If you don’t like color or the hassle of upkeep, apply a base coat. Many base coats are specific to strengthening or lengthening. My favorite is Sally Hansen’s Complete Care 4-in-1 treatment.
Hopefully these tips will help you grow beautiful, strong fingernails to flaunt. A final suggestion: get a manicure. Paying for the service may help you take extra caution with your nails. Class dismissed!