Thursday, April 13, 2017

Broadway Nails Matte Strong Review

Just when I thought I was done with Broadway Nails...

So I know I have an erratic posting schedule, to put it mildly (one of the benefits of being Super Secret is I post when I want), but I did notice that my Broadway Nails posts still get quite a bit of interest, so I knew y'all would appreciate my gleeful surprise when polishes from their new Matte Strong line appeared in a Facebook group I follow. I picked up two shades to share today.

First up is Amore, a denim blue. The Matte Strong line boasts that it's quick drying, and has a really nice range of metallic and shimmery mattes. I'm not normally a big fan of matte finishes, but since I'd seen and liked swatches, I gave them a shot. Amore made me instantly glad I did. The application on this polish was amazing, and as promised, it dried hard within about 30 minutes, and dried to the matte finish much faster than that. No sheet marks! I didn't feel my normal instant need to topcoat it, because the soft, shimmery grey-blue was so pretty and understated. This is one medium coat. One coat! And I didn't need to do any cleanup, which is one of my holy grail qualities in a polish.

The second polish I picked up was Passionate Love, a warm, shimmery red. Even though I'm not a matte fan overall, I have been known to covet the plush sophistication of a good red matte mani. Passionate Love has lots of shimmer with berry undertones. 

I can't say I'm as in in love with the color of this one as I was with Amore, but the formula is similar. This is two easy coats, and it was a little harder to control than Amore, so some cleanup was required to get a clean edge. Even though I preferred the other shade, I would still recommend this polish if you're a fan of the in-bottle color. I wasn't sure what it would look like matte from the bottle, but the shimmer and color translated well to the nail, even though the bottle shade is very shiny. Dry time was similar to Amore, and if these polishes are representative of the formula of the other Matte Strong polishes, these $2 winners are an absolute steal.

I will definitely be picking up more of these Matte Strong polishes-the unusual shimmer choices and buttery formulas are melting my shiny, creme heart. Do you like matte finishes, and will you be trying these?

Broadway Beauty Brow Pencil

I spent a little too long standing in front of the revamped Broadway Nails display at my local Dollar General checking out new Gel Shine finishes (more on that soon!), and got sucked into an unexpected purchase: a brow pencil. A little context: I never do anything with my brows. I've had them waxed a few times, but in general, they just kinda do what they do. It's their journey. I don't interfere. But circumstances have forced my hand, so it's time for me to learn about brows. The story is a little embarrassing, but I can tell you, right?

So the other day, I decided to try Nad's Eyebrow Shaper Pen. Good news: it works great. Highly recommend. Bad news: my inexperience with doing my own eyebrows paired with heavy sprinklings of rushjob and user error left me with some very noticeable gapage:

Not good, especially for a gal with thick, dark brows who doesn't do anything with them, and therefore does not have ANY eyebrow products just hanging out in my makeup stash, I immediately rushed out to purchase something that would make my eyebrows look completely ordinary while I wait for them to grow back. I spent too much on a fancy new brow product from a big name drugstore brand that will remain nameless, and I may as well have just thrown that money in the garbage. There was no way I was going back to wading through the sea of brow products out there again, so I resigned myself to filling them in with my liquid eyeliner, which had great lasting power and did the job well enough, but still felt like I looked a little off.

Then I happened on Broadway's new brow pencil, and the first thing that caught my eye was the color: brown black. Brown...BLACK? Oh yes, I'd read it right! A major issue with the previous shopping trip is that apparently companies that make eyebrow products think that "deep brunette," which falls somewhere between Crayola brown and sable, is the darkest that eyebrows are supposed to be. My hair and the corresponding eyebrows are so dark that they're functionally black. However, the ultra-black liquid eyeliner I use was a little too intense for a natural eyebrow look, which was why I was looking for a product in the first place. No one had it. Then Broadway Beauty saved the day, and gave me an eyebrow pencil in "functionally black," and it even had the little spoolie blender thing on the end. And also, can we talk about this?:

It has a sharpener IN THE CAP! How weird and fantastic is that?

But I digress. You're probably wondering how it works. My answer: pretty well. The color match is very good, and it was very easy to apply for a novice like me. I just drew my eyebrows back in and tried not to wipe them away when I was doing the rest of my makeup (I still haven't figured out whether the pencil goes under or on top of foundation. I'm open to suggestions here, eyebrow magicians!). The staying power isn't as good as the eyeliner, but a quick touchup midday kept me from looking like, well, I have a hole in my eyebrow. I think the end result is pretty natural looking:

Excuse my dark circles- I LOST a piece of EYEBROW!
Broadway proves again that a product doesn't have to cost a fortune to do the job-I only paid a few bucks for this, and it will probably be my go-to product until my eyebrows look normal again. According to the packaging, this is a Dollar General exclusive item, but if you have one nearby, this is a great pickup. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Easy Halloween Nail Art: Orange and Black Drips

After moving, getting a dog, losing my camera, finding my camera, going on a billion business trips, and surviving a nail art slump, I have new nail art for you for the very best nail art holiday: Halloween! I kept it simple and semi-local, with Gryffindor from Paint Box Polish, based out of my hometown, Richmond Indiana.

Gryffindor is a sparkly burnt orange with gold glittery shimmer and a great formula. This is two easy coats. For the accent, I used Sally Hansen Hard as Nails XTreme Wear in Black Out, my go-to shiny basic black.

When I was running my topcoat over this mani, I noticed an unexpected but super awesome quirk of using these two colors together: Gryffindor surrenders a tiny amount of it's orange and gold sparkle into the black, leaving a lit from within subtle shimmer. It's hard to describe, but it's pretty cool.

This dripping blood look is probably familiar to you if you've been reading for a while. I admit it, it's a total throwback to my Monster Blood nails from 2014. Drip nails are just so incredibly easy and versatile. Black and orange makes it distinctly Halloween-y, and Gryffindor combined with the patent black shine keeps it classy. It also looks good on shorties. About a day into this mani (yeah, by the way, this mani was 3 days old when I took the photos!), my thumb rebelled. I refused to go gentle into that good night, so I filed it down and repainted it with the same design. Still works!

So how does one create this super easy drip design? All you need is a dotting tool (or toothpick, or bobby pin, or anything else with a small, roundish tip). Make three largish dots, then drag the polish upward to the top of the nail, Connect with a stripe of polish on top, arching it a little bit. I like to add a teardrop shaped dab a little further down the nail, too. It's seriously one of the easiest nail art looks I know. It doesn't have to be perfect-in fact, it's a little better if it's not.

What are you wearing on your nails for Halloween? Do you agree that it's the best nail art holiday, or do you have a different favorite?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review: Luster's Pink Hot Oil Treatment

I know it's been a while since I posted new nails (or new anything...), but can we talk about hair for a minute? I'm biracial, and I have thick, curly hair naturally. After years of wearing it straight as my everyday look, the gorgeous curly girls online gave me the courage to go natural for a while. For the past year or so, I've worn my natural texture. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't, but there's a lot to be said for wash-and-go hair that's pretty much immune to the weather.

The trouble is, between years of heat damage, lack of regular trims (my bad), and the tendency for my hair type to skew dry, the moist, well defined curls I really crave still elude me. So I decided to try something new-a hot oil treatment. I went with the super affordable, one dose tube of Luster's self heating hot oil. This isn't my pic, but it looks kind of like this:

This "10-n-1" oil contains all kinds of moisture staples like coconut, jojoba, and shea oils. The ingredients were actually a little unexceptional, but Luster's Pink products have never done me wrong, and I had $2 and some time, so I decided to give it a shot.

I don't always look this mean-blame RBF.
My first impression was that it felt sticky, like slightly runny honey. However, once I rubbed it in my hands, it loosened up and warmed to a comfortable temperature. I didn't have any trouble getting it through my towel dried hair, in sections because my hair is pretty thick. I felt like I didn't need the whole tube, but I used it all anyway, then waited 15-20 minutes and washed out. Then I put a satin-feel cap over my hair and went to bed.

In the morning, my hair was still a little damp (normal for me), but my curls were noticeably more defined than usual. It finished drying, and felt bouncy. My hair never feels bouncy! It also feels softer than usual. Here's what I looked like after 20 minutes of walking and a handful of meetings.

My curls were still in good shape even after a heavy dose of wind. This is definitely something I can see as a regular part of my routine as I continue my pursuit of well-controlled coils. 

What are your favorite moisturizing hair products? Have you tried hot oil?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Black Dahlia Cuticle Remover and Quick Dry Drops Review

I don't usually ever win anything, so to say I was excited to win a Facebook giveaway from Black Dahlia Lacquer, probably my very favorite indie polish company, is a serious understatement. As the prize, they sent me full sized bottles of their brand new Quick Dry Drops and Cuticle Eliminator, plus a surprise bonus bottle of polish that I couldn't even find on the site, Lotus Leaves. Let me tell you about them!

Let's start with the mani. How gorgeous is this color? Lotus Leaves is a soft tauped dove grey with the softest hint of holo. The holo flash shows more in the bottle than on the nail, but it creates a very subtle, almost ethereal, glow of Black Dahlia's characteristic shimmer. This is a great SFW neutral grey. It goes on a little sheer, but builds to opaque in two coats with no visible nail line at three. I used two coats of Black Dahlia's No More Ridges Basecoat underneath (such a steal, buy the big bottle), which gave a smooth, slightly whitened matte base. I also wanted to test the quick dry drops over several layers, so we had that added benefit as well as a perfect canvas for this soft polish. It's topped with Sinful Shine topcoat.
Ooh, shimmer!

I'm not typically a fan of quick dry drops in general. I've tried a few different types, and I'm never particularly impressed. These, unfortunately, didn't shake out to be a huge improvement over others I've tried. However, I did not say these were a fail-there were a few points of note that may make these worth a try if you generally like quick dry drops.

I tried the drops after topcoating on my left hand and allowed the right hand to dry on its own as I usually do. As far as dry time, the left hand actually dried a little slower, which is what I've also consistently encountered with other brands of drops. Both hands were mostly dry within 15 minutes, though I did end up with some wrinkling on the quick dry hand the next morning (I polished about an hour before bed). I did notice, though, that my cuticles were better moisturized on the hand I used the drops on. I cleaned up with acetone before applying the drops, and my left hand didn't require any cuticle oil before the photos here were taken. They felt really nice. The drops are unscented, which is a little different, and I don't know what gives them the blue color, but I didn't see any signs of them staining anything. All in all, I think if you generally use quick dry drops and want something that doesn't have a heavy "essential oils" smell without sacrificing moisturizing qualities, try these.

Edit: A week or so after originally posting this, I was doing some nail art that required a dry base (didn't work, don't ask). These drops did an awesome job of drying my base polish enough that I could attempt nail art minutes after laying it down. Even though my nail art fell flat, my base layer held up. So while these don't dry hard fast like quick dry topcoats, they're a pretty awesome tool for impatient nail art lovers like me, who just can't wait to start sponging and taping.

Cuticle remover was one of those things I had no clue I even wanted until I started using it. I never cut my cuticles, and balms didn't really do anything interesting. I've been using Julep's Vanish cuticle softener about every two weeks, though, and have been having good results with that, so I was thrilled to have a chance to try this one. One of the things I don't love about Vanish is that it's a liquid and gets everywhere. Black Dahlia's Cuticle Eliminator is a clear, scentless gel. I really liked this! I still like Vanish, but I think I like this better. The gel wasn't super thick, but it stuck well, making it very neat. I was able to easily and gently sweep away all the cuticle yuck. My nail plate was clean, without any drying aftereffects. Out of all of the cuticle softening products I've used so far, I like this one the best.

Black Dahlia's Quick Dry Drops and Cuticle Eliminator are now available for sale along with the basecoat and other nail treatments on their website, give them a try-and be sure you don't forget to try one of their ahmazing polishes. Have you won any good giveaways lately?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Julep Essential Cuticle Oil Review

I'm running low on my favorite TamTam's Cuticle Oil, so I decided to tack on Julep's Essential Cuticle Oil to my February Maven box. I was apprehensive about trying something new when I already have a favorite, but the convenience of adding it on to my Maven box wooed me. I haven't been using it long enough to make any long term claims about what it does, but I do have some first impressions to share about how it stacks up to my usual brand.

No touch up on my cuticles in this photo

Essential Cuticle Oil comes in a .28 oz rollerball bottle, perfect for everyday carry. It's similar in size to a Julep polish bottle. The main ingredient is jojoba oil, and it also has rosewood, vitamin E, sweet almond oil, and ylang ylang. On the Manna's Manis review of TamTam's oil someone mentioned a lavender allergy, so unfortunately this one isn't an alternative in that respect. However, it's a good quality oil. Nothing weird on the ingredient list, does what it says it does, and isn't that bottle pretty?

I wasn't sure what I would think about the rollerball, and I like it more than I thought I would. I think my preference is still for the brush, but it dispenses enough product without having to fight with it. One thing I could take or leave on this product is the smell. It has a sort of woodsy overtone, which I didn't mind, but didn't love. If you prefer a sweeter smell, this may not appeal to you as much, but if you like a more earthy smell, this will be right up your alley.

After about a week of normal-for-me use, which is a few times a day, my cuticles aren't perfect, but are definitely improved from the state they would be in, especially considering the wonky weather we've been having here in the Midwestern US. The oil is very light, and absorbs into the cuticles quickly, leaving them smoother and soft.

All in all, I think I prefer my old cuticle oil (you can find it at TamTam's Etsy shop). I love the smell of her oils, and they feel a little thicker and richer. This one is lighter, but I feel like I reapply it a little more often, and didn't get the instant impact that I did when I first started using TamTam's. They're also half the retail price of the Julep oil for a bigger bottle (.5 oz vs .28 oz). However, many of the reasons I'm going to be repurchasing my old brand rather than switching to this one are based in preference. This is definitely a good quality cuticle oil that's well reviewed on the site. If you prefer a rollerball to a brush, like a light formula, and enjoy a more earthy smell over the more "girlie" scents, this may be a good cuticle oil for you. I have no problem recommending it, but when I look at the relative value of buying a good cuticle oil I like for $18 versus a great cuticle oil I love for $9, I'm going to be switching back myself.

Have you ever tried a high end version of a favorite product? What did you think?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Drugstore Find: Revlon Untamed Review

Swatch surfing, I've recently seen several gorgeous deep browns that I'd love to try. Trouble is, whenever I try a brown, I feel kind of underwhelmed. Cool browns look dull on my skin tone, and I hadn't run across any warm browns that spoke to me, so my collection has been kind of brown deficient. Imagine my surprise the other night when I found two to choose from! I may end up going back for Sally Hansen Insta Dri in Cocoa A Go Go (because wow), but I settled on Revlon Untamed, and boy am I glad I picked this one up!

Untamed is a rich, sparkly brown with gold and pinkish flakies-kind of hard to explain this finish, but it's pretty. My big worry about it was that the flakies are very visible in the bottle, so I wondered if it would be opaque without undies. Turns out it is. This is two coats, no VNL, no streaks. It's not a true one coater unless you go pretty thick, but two thinner coats is perfect.

I really, really like this color. The flakies make the shimmer really unique, almost like a base color and a topper in one. Every now and then one of the big gold flakes shows through, giving it a really interesting mottled look (you can see a little of that on my ring finger). The little pink flakies show a lot in the bottle, but on the nail, they don't skew the tone pink. They're more for texture and warmth, though they do pop in the light. The effect is a gorgeous duochrome-ish shimmer.

One caveat-this color needs topcoat. Untopped it dulls, and all of the things that made this polish really special are muted. I used a coat of Sinful Shine topcoat here, and it dried with a nice shine and plenty of sparkle. (Unrelated: I got two bottles of Sinful Shine topcoat for $.74 on sale at K-Mart the other day! I left a few for the rest of you, but couldn't resist grabbing some spares. Now I have a purse bottle. #obsessed)

I'd give the formula on this one a B+. Cleanup isn't super precise because those flakies cling, but it's still ok. I opened the bottle in the store to get a feel for coverage, and I immediately noticed that, like many Revlon polishes, it has a strong smell. It didn't bother me while I was polishing, but if you're sensitive to smells, you may want to open this one to see if it will be an issue before you purchase. Revlon's website does say that this line is 5-free. I don't have any complaints about application, it went on smoothly and had good coverage. It dried quickly and was well on its way to dry before I added my regular topcoat. I also noticed that it gets a little fussy at the tips, so wrapping the tip is a must.

I have a few Revlon polishes, and they're ok, but they really have to do something special to catch my eye. This polish was eye catching. I love the richness, the unusual finish, and the ease of application. I'll definitely wear again; it's got the sophisticated finish of an indie topper in one step. All in all, I think this one's a winner!

Is Untamed in your collection? I think I'm going to be on the lookout for other Revlon shades with this type of finish. What other Revlon polishes are worth a try?