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St. Patrick’s Day Nail Tutorials


Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!  Since I currently have a manicure for a 3-4 week test of products (see Manicure Battles), I couldn’t paint my own nails for St. Patrick’s Day, so I used fake nails for this tutorial.  I show step-by-step how to paint shamrocks, and have created a few designs perfect for grasping that Guinness.  Hope these designs bring you the luck of the Irish!



Acrylic vs. Gel Nails

Do you have thin, weak nails that you want to prevent from breaking?  Short nails (perhaps from biting) that you want to lengthen?  The most common manicure solution for these issues is nail enhancements – otherwise known as artificial nails.  The two main types of artificial nails are acrylics and gels.  Both enhancements can be used to lengthen natural nails and have a natural look to them without polish.  Both can also be applied in a french manicure pink and white or over an artificial tip glued to the end of a natural nail.

Acrylic Nails

The traditional acrylic application process includes a rubber cement-like consistency primer being dipped into acrylic powder, quickly heated in light, and brushed over the nail.  The liquid monomer bonds with the powder polymer to create a sea-glass like texture over the nail. While acrylics dry, they feel as if they tighten on the natural nail, and end up rigid and strong.  The preparation for acrylics includes sanding the surface of the nail with an electric file to smooth its surface.  Eliminating any bumps or unevenness on the natural nail helps the acrylic to spread evenly and to adhere to the natural nail without lifting off.  To maintain acrylics when the natural nail grows out and leaves a gap at the base of the nail, filing also occurs to even the thickness of the original acrylic and new application “fill”.  This filing is harmful to natural nails and ironically can further weaken nails that wanted acrylic strengthening in the first place.  Other disadvantages are that acrylics have a strong odor when applied, and because they are thick, can look less natural.

Gel Nails

Gel nails have been increasing in popularity, and seem to be replacing acrylic nails.  Gel nails brush on similarly, but do not have an odor like their acrylic counterparts.  The application process is a bit simpler: the gel (a monomer and polymer mixture) comes in a pot, and is brushed on the nail before it is cured in a UV light.  Lightless gels are less common, but they cure with a liquid top coat or spray.  Gels are more flexible than acrylics, so they feel lighter and therefore more like a natural nail, although in appearance are a bit opaquer than acrylics.  Soak-off gels are the new trend in artificial nail enhancements because they can be soaked in acetone rather than sanded to remove, which is safer for natural nails.  The disadvantages of gel nails are they are debatably less durable and that polish doesn’t adhere to them as well as on acrylics.  In response to the latter, some companies have developed colored gels such as OPI Axxium and CND’s Brisa gel systems.

For the pictures above, my nail technician sanded in preparation for both the acrylics and gels, and because she was applying the different nail enhancements simultaneously, I did place my acrylic nails under UV light, although it was probably not needed to cure them.  My gel nails stung in the UV light, but if I removed my hand and replaced it after a couple of seconds, the stinging vanished.  Although with polish the gel nails were a little thicker than my natural nails, I think they looked more realistic than the acrylics.

Although I see the appeal of artificial nail enhancements, I still prefer my natural nails’ shape.  Of course the shaping of artificial nails can differ depending upon the technician and desire of client, but I found both the acrylic and gel ends were wider than my natural nail base, which made them look fake.

I hope this gives you the information you need to choose between natural or natural-looking artificial nail enhancements.  Check back for the removal process results – class dismissed!


Gelish vs. Shellac

So you’ve heard all about Shellac, but what’s Gelish?  Gelish is also a hybrid gel-polish by Hand and Nail Harmony.  Both Shellac and Gelish are applied like polish from polish bottles, but are cured in UV Lampsand have the lasting results of gel nails.  Neither necessitates filing of the nail’s surface before application, and both soak-off in acetone, which protects natural nails, making them less harmful than traditional gels.   Although each brand’s base and top coat will work with the other’s polish and UV wattage lamps, each works best as a complete system.   Nails result as super-shiny, durable and natural, which are making these hybrid-polish manicures all the rage in salons.  However, Gelish boasts of a 3 week wear, has larger-sized bottles, and is available in more colors than Shellac – 72 to be exact.

The original 48 Gelish colors:

Even more, newly released colors:

For Shellac’s 48 color swatches, go here.

Gelish is more difficult to find than Shellac due CND’s popularity, but overall the products are pretty indistinguishable.  The Nail Teacher tends to root for the underdog, so I personally prefer Gelish for its color variety and slightly cheaper price.  Maybe Shellac should be jealous of Gelish?  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.) Be sure to check out our extensive Gelish review and tutorial, I plan on posting one soon for Shellac as well.  Whichever you choose – enjoy this revolution of safe, long-lasting manicures!


Shellac New Colors

The day is almost here: March 1, 2011 – the day Shellac releases 12 new colors!
CND (Creative Nail Design) has excited the nail industry with its 14-day wear Shellac system.  Although there are other gel- polish hybrids such as Nail Harmony’s Gelish, Shellac is getting the most attention, most likely due to clever marketing.  Some complaints began that the CND nail lamps were not readily available, the polish bottles were too small, and there weren’t enough colors.  So CND addressed these issues by offering rebates for their lamps with the purchase of the Shellac system, larger top and base coat sizes (15 ml/0.5 oz. compared with 7.3 ml/0.25 oz. polish bottles), and of course, additional colors.
The original Shellac swatches:
The new Shellac swatches:
The new set introduces dark color options, which are trendy for the spring.  Many nail technicians will mix their own colors for more variety, so color choices will expand, although mixtures with regular polish can affect the curation process and limit durability, which is therefore not recommended.  Hopefully in the future CND will release brights like yellow, orange and green, and continue to revolutionize the market with glitters, metallics and matte options.
To purchase the Shellac system, get more information, or to find salons in your area, go to: http://www.cnd.com

Polish’s Dark Side

It’s news: 2011 polish colors have gone to the dark side.  These nighttime shades look great on short fingernails and for pedicures, so the season doesn’t matter!  Many celebrities seem to have recently traded in length for luscious color, so almost-black polishes are a sure trend.  There are subtle hints of color that make each unique, and you can choose a glossy or a matte finish depending upon your desired look.  Many brands have a collection of dark polishes like Revlon’s Dark Pleasures and Zoya’s Dare. There are so many popular brands and colors (many of which become discontinued after the release of newer lines), but I’ve outlined my favorites below to get you started on your midnight-like manicures.


Best Purple: OPI "Siberian Nights"

Best Brown: OPI "Espresso Your Style"

Best Green: Orly "Enchanted Forest"

Best Blue: Orly "Star Of Bombay"

Best Red: OPI "William Tell Me About"

Best Gray: Color Club "After Hours"

Best Black: Chanel "Black Satin"

Best Matte: OPI "Lincoln Park After Dark"

Best Glitter: China Glaze "Mummy May I"


Keep in mind that dark colors can stain natural nails, so it is important to apply a base coat. Also, chips show more prominently with dark colors, so make sure to properly prep nails so your manicure will last.  Wear your spring colors with these stormy shades and prep for the April showers that bring May flowers!



Valentine’s Day Nail Tutorials

Valentine nail art: how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways!  Many shades of red, pink, and purple polish will make pretty Valentine’s Day manicures, but why not step it up a notch for that someone special? (That’s YOU!)

Hearts are easy to paint, especially with a nail dotter – just dot and pull upwards to each side to form a “V”.  Layering hearts of different colors is a great way to make your nail art three dimensional.  Many pharmacy and craft stores also sell heart decals and rhinestones you can apply with clear polish.

I’ve gathered some of Valentine’s Day nail tutorials from YouTube with which I fell in love.  These tutorials surely will solidify your romance with nails – share the love!  Happy Valentine’s Day!


Nail Shaping Basics

Shaping your nails is an important piece of a manicure.  Filing your nails primarily is a step in the grooming process, but the friction of the file also preps your nail for polish, much like sanding helps paint adhere to a wall.  The way your nails are shaped can also give added character to your nail design.

First, choose a file.  There is some debate over which type of file to use, but each has its benefits and disadvantages.

emery boards

Emery boards are the least inexpensive and the most popular, but have the shortest life.  Always file upwards with an emery board; downward motion can tear your nails.  The coarser side of an emery board is for shaping, and the other side should be used to smooth.  Once the surface begins to wear or peel off, change to a new board.

foam core emery boards

Metal files will last longer, and can be cleaned better than an emery board, preventing bacteria.  The more expensive ones coated with fine dust are less harsh than their cheaper counterparts, but still can cause rough, torn edges.

metal file

Glass or crystal files are the most expensive, but they are the best for hygiene and the environment, since they are the most durable.  Rather than leaving an “open” tip, glass files seal, preventing chipping, cracking, peeling and overall thinning of your nails.

glass files

Once you choose your filing tool, shape your nails.  Your natural nail bed determines what shaped nail will best compliment your fingers.  Look to the lunula, the half-moon shape at the base of your nail, and copy its shape for the tip of your nail.  Remember the more you file, the shorter your nails will get, so focus on the shape.  After you file, scrape underneath your nails so the residue falls off, and wash your hands in warm water.  Don’t soak your nails prior to filing or file your nails after a shower since your nails will be soft and weakened in this state.  Always file dry nails.  Remember that filing should never be painful and can weaken nails if overdone.  If you are shortening your nail length, trim them with small embroidery scissors before filing down.

Although your nails have a natural shape, you can file them differently.  The benefit of square ends (and why they are so popular with salons and as fake nails) is that painting French manicures is easier – just paint a straight stripe across rather than an arc.  The Squoval shape is close second option if you have a more pronounced arc on your nail bed, and the square tips make your fingers look wide.  In both the Square and Squoval shapes, the nails are stronger at the sides of the fingertip.

In the Oval shape, the sides round up, which can weaken the side area and cause breakage.  Yet, rounded nails appear more natural.  The Round nail shape can grow out and be filed into either the Oval or Squoval.

The Pointed nail shape is the least common, but is effective for certain nail art, or for costuming.

After you’ve finished shaping your nails, you should buff them, especially if you’re not planning to add polish.  Buffing adds smoothness and shine to natural nails, and further preps the nails if you are planning to polish.

buffing block

Now hopefully you will have beautifully groomed nails, regardless of which shape you prefer.  Although filing can be a tedious process, taking your time (rather than vigorously sawing) can save the health of your nails.   Fix those jagged broken edges for homework – class dismissed!


Shellac Attack

If you follow nail trends, you must have heard of Shellac – a new system from Creative Nail Design (CND).  The Shellac manicure is becoming tremendously popular due to its long-lasting shine and chip-free results.  The system boasts of 14-day wear, but can last longer.  Also, compared to acrylics or gels, Shellac can be removed without filing – which means it’s healthier for your natural nails.

The term “shellac” automatically connotes the high-gloss varnish for wood furniture, floors and ceilings.  Its nail polish counterpart functions similarly.  The system offered to professionals includes a base coat, top coat and 12 polish colors that cure in a UV lamp.  A Nails Magazine article explains how UV curing works: “manufacturers use chemicals called photoinitiators in their gels. The photoinitiators react when exposed to various wavelengths of UV light . . . When the photoinitiator is exposed to the proper UV light wavelength and intensity, it gives off a particle called a free radical. The free radical will initiate a polymerization reaction with the resins in the gel system.”  In less scientific language, the polish hardens into a polymer – i.e. shellac (a natural plastic) – which is much more durable than regular polish.

Although I rarely have manicures, I went to try out the Shellac to see if it would be worth purchasing and applying myself.  A Shellac manicure costs between $25-$40, depending on the salon.  As I conversed with my manicurist, she told me that she reluctantly needed to raise her prices due to the cost of the product.  She has to replace the bulbs for the UV lamps about every 3 months, and each polish bottle lasts only for approximately 9 clients. When I first researched Shellac, Amazon.com sold each bottle of polish for $40.  Now they retail between $18-$28 on the site.  Although purchasing the correct (9 watt) UV lamp can run anywhere between $30-$90, the long-run savings would be worth skipping a bi-weekly manicure.  Certified professionals can purchase the whole kit for a few hundred dollars through nail tech catalogues, so if you know someone licensed, you could use their account to purchase.  Yet, let me for a moment expound on the joys of being pampered at a salon, which cannot be duplicated at home.  The warm soaks, hand massages and delicious-smelling lotions will undoubtedly keep manicurists in business.

Some salons are layering colors to create new ones since there are only 12 available, but more are being released in March.  Note that Shellac does work as a system; using just the top coat over regular nail polish will not produce the same results.  Also, other UV gels may require different lamp wattage, so making sure to use the correct lamp for the curing process is crucial.  To remove Shellac, an acetone soak (10-15 minutes) will work, but frequent soaks can dry out and weaken natural nails.  Instead, CND recommends the Shellac Remover Wraps, but these are not always highly reviewed by independent sites.

So far, my Shellac has remained brilliantly shiny and chip-free, even with a sharp pants hanger clip mishap that scratched one nail.  After a week, my growing nail is starting to show near the cuticle, so even if the polish remains in tact, I will have to re-paint my nails or add some nail art to hide the gap.  Overall, Shellac is an exciting development, and other products are following and improving upon its science.  I’d love to hear your experiences and feedback with Shellac, especially if you’ve tried the application at home.  Raise your polish bottles: here’s to virtually indestructible, shiny nails!

For FAQs about Shellac, go to: http://cnd.com/Products/PDF/4965_Shellac_Q&A_Consumer.pdf


New Year’s Martini Nails

Happy 2011!  I hope to be more consistent with posts this upcoming year – thanks to all of you who check in and enjoy the site!

Here are my New Year’s martini nails:

To create, apply a base coat and then paint desired background color (black or dark blue).  Then, with a thin brush, draw a line up the center of the nail with either white or silver polish.  Add the sides of the martini glass by painting lines from each corner of the nail tip to the center line.  For the base of the glass, make a triangle at the bottom of the nail.  If you need to thin or straighten the lines, you can use the background color to outline.

Fill in the nail tip (inside the glass) with gold glitter (I used a gold Art Deco nail art pen).  Once the polish dries, dot a small green olive in each glass.  With a smaller dotter, toothpick head or sharp nail art pen (I used Sally Hansen’s) make another tiny red dot slightly overlapping the green dot for the pimento of the olive.

You can also write the year on either side of the glass over the background color in a metallic polish.

Here’s an animated step-by-step look at the design:

These nails surely will be the hit of any New Year’s gathering.  Celebrate safely, and I’ll see you next year!  Class dismissed!


Harry Potter Nail Designs

In honor of Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows opening, I posted some amazing HP nail art.  Sport any of these designs for when you see the movie, or take ideas from each and create your own!  I think J.K. Rowling would be proud – TheNailTeacher instructs you to keep reading while your nails dry!





Nailswatches.com‘s Daph hosted a contest last month, and here are some of my favorites:

Dollface22772 has a tutorial series for each Hogwarts house on YouTube.com: