Monday, December 29, 2014

New Polish: Pre-NYE Lightning Bolt Nail Art

I recently scored digging through the clearance cosmetics at my local K-Mart. I swear by K-Mart as a treasure trove for marked down polish-I can't walk in without seeing what's on sale. This time, a ton of Nicole by OPI polishes had been marked down to $2.99. After careful deliberation and debate on which ones to get, I finally settled on Berry the Hatchet, a cheerful fuchsia creme, and Party Bus, a chunky holo glitter topper from the Carrie Underwood collection. While I'm deciding what to wear for New Year's Eve, here's some simple nail art featuring Berry the Hatchet.

I used a detail brush dipped in Glitter Gal Turbulence, a fine linear holo, for my lighting bolts, and they were super simple-just three lines! Lighting bolt decals are everywhere right now, but I haven't bought any yet, and they weren't hard to do at all. Both colors were a little hard to catch accurately on camera. You can see a bit of the holo shimmer of Turbulence above. The angle on the photo below is a little truer to color for Berry The Hatchet, but it's still a touch darker on the nail than it looks here.

While it's not necessarily the world's most original shade, Berry the Hatchet is bright without feeling too summery (not that I care that much about whether a shade is 'seasonal' anyway!). In other news, this is my first post using the light box I built using this tutorial from Chalkboard Nails (thanks to the Hobby Polish Bloggers FB group for helping me find it). I'm still getting the hang of it, but it's a huge improvement from waiting for adequate sunlight. What do you think? 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Nails: Pink and Grey Sweater Nails

I finally picked my Christmas nail design, and I'm really happy with how my mini-series of Christmas/holiday themed nail art wrapped up (haha, that's a pun!). This design was inspired by this look from Nailstorming. I've always liked pink and grey together, so I chose that color scheme for a soft, pretty winter design with just enough glitter that reminded me of a cozy winter sweater.

For this design, I used Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Hard-core Party as my baby pink base, then Julep Devon as my grey. The glitter is Zoya Lux (word on the street is that Zoya PixieDusts are going away in 2015, so if you like this one, you'll want to pick it up soon). Lux has pretty good opacity, but carefully dabbed over the baby pink of Hard-core Party gave it a lighter, more subtle sparkling pink snow effect. One warning about Hard-core Party: the color is lovely, but like many pale pastels, it's very streaky. Here I used a coat of matte topcoat in between layers to limit the number of coats of polish needed for decent coverage.

I've seen several different methods of doing the fair isle snowflake, so I sort of cobbled them together for mine. First, I carefully striped Devon once horizontally and once vertically over the pink base, meeting in the center of the nail. Then I made another set of diagonal stripes from top right to bottom left and vice versa. Next I pulled out my detail brush and made a triangular tip between the lines at the top of each wedge. Finally, I used a small brush to fill in outside the tips and dotted a daub of Lux in the center.

I loved this design, and as I get more practiced on my detail work, I'd love to recreate or do a similar design again. One holiday design I drooled over but didn't do myself this year was a full fair isle mani, so that may be on the docket for next season. If you're interested in a pictorial on the snowflake, let me know as well-it will be great practice. I hope you've had a great holiday season, whether you celebrate yourself or not. Now to start plotting my New Year's Eve mani!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Nails-Round 2

As I hoped, I have two more winter/holiday nail designs for you today. They didn't come out as well as I wanted, so now, one day before Christmas, I'm still in search of my elusive Christmas day nails. 

First I tried some ruffian stamping, with mixed results. Even though the photos on this design weren't fantastic, I really liked it on my nails. I used Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Pumping Iron as my base, then created a curved side ruffian with Julep Lacey. I stamped the cute little snowflakes with Pumping Iron as well. This mani gave me a few issues, but I think the overall result wasn't bad and I enjoyed wearing it. On the downside, I had tip wear at breakneck speed, which you can see here. This photo is only a day into wearing this mani. Silvers tend to give me that issue, so I was disappointed even if not surprised. I did try a new topcoat, Sally Hansen Super Shine. It was slightly slower drying than my standby topcoats, but otherwise a good substitute-easy to work with and quite shiny.

Here's my second look, the one I'm wearing now. It falls strictly into the realm of "ok I guess," to the point that I'm marking it as a fail. I'm just not in love with it. The color combination is great, though. This is NYC Crown Gold with Fashion Queen on the tips, then Sally Hansen Insta Dri Wined Up for my tree and ribbon and NYC Queen of the City and Fashion Queen for the bow.

*Sigh*. Not good. But I'm still dreaming up that mani that will make me squeal when I wake up to it on Christmas morning. Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Let the Christmas Nails Begin! Boughs of Holly Nail Art

I have a hard and fast rule that in my house we don't start discussing any holiday more than one month before that holiday actually falls. I am the resident Ruiner of Fun. Don't let that fool you, though-I am a fan of holiday nail art, and Christmas is one of my favorites. Since we are less than a week out from Christmas, last week I kicked off the season's nail art with this holly design inspired by Nails by Josse.

I skipped the matte for glittered tips, and added in bronzed curls underneath for a touch of class. I also went for a slightly more blendy, less sharp design than the original. This red is Sinful Colors GoGo Girl with NYC Ruby Queen on the tips, OPI for Sephora I Only Shop Vintage for the curls, and Revlon Jaded Night for my foliage. You may also notice I've gone a little shorter. Not by choice unfortunately, but hopefully my nails will grow out quickly. In the meantime, I softened up the shape and reduced my length to even it out across my entire hand.

I hope to fit in at least two more holiday themed designs before Christmas- not a lot of time, so wish me luck! What are your nails wearing this holiday season?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How To: Easy Polka Dot Gradient Nail Art

It's no secret that I looove gradients, but I haven't quite found my stride yet with technique. Today's nail look was possibly the easiest. Gradient. EVER. It's such a simple technique that I almost didn't blog it, but I absolutely love the outcome, so here it is, complete with instructions on how to turn any polish into a perfect polka dot gradient.

I started with my base polish. This time it was Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Peach of Cake. Pretty, huh? I think I needed something bright and cheerful. This and a Sally Hansen french tip white polish are the only polishes I used. FYI, the photo above is a much better representation of the actual color than the tutorial pics below (yay natural lighting!).

Once I had a nice clean base, I made my next color- still Peach of Cake, but one shade lighter by adding a drop of white. I mixed that and dotted on two lines of dots at the base of the nail.

Then I did it again.

 And one more time.

And I was done! I gave it a few minutes to dry, then topped liberally with Julep Oxygen Performance Topcoat (I used Oxygen Basecoat here, too). One more look at the finished result:

Oooh! Ahhh!

I kid you not, this is so gorgeous. This polish is one that I have a weird love/hate relationship with depending on the lighting and my mood, but I haven't had anything but mad adoration for this mani. You could easily use this technique to create progressively lighter dots with almost any polish, or with a darker color instead of white to create a reversed effect on a light polish. Don't use black to darken the shade-I learned the hard way that it just creates an ugly, muddy version of your polish. Instead, choose a darker version of the same color and mix it in one drop at a time (for example, if your base color was baby pink, add a magenta polish to it for your dots). I did two layers of dots in each shade, but you could adjust that to your nail length and the preferred size and distance between your dots. I used a small/medium dotting tool, but a toothpick or bobby pin would work fine as well.

I already have ideas on other colors that would go well with this easy nail art look, perfect for all skill levels. You gotta try this!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Black Dahlia Lacquer Review: Capital Rose Garden and Twilight Orchid

Quickie post today-I miss you all terribly, but I have been stupid busy, and by the time I get home at night it's already dark, so I've been taking photos when and where I can while meticulously planning to build my very own lightbox for blog photos so I can take my pictures when I feel like it. But you didn't come to hear me whine. (In my Oprah voice) I have swatches!

I spotted a fantastic sale on the Black Dahlia Lacquer Facebook page and decided to give them a try. Black Dahlia is a newer indie polish brand run by a mother and daughter. For their sale, you get a LE free mystery polish in the same size as the polish you buy, so I chose the petite sized Capital Rose Garden from their newest collection. I absolutely love that they have two different size options, 8 ml and 14 ml. When you have as much polish as I do and want to continue until you've bought all the polish, the option to get a less expensive petite size is very attractive...but now I almost wish I hadn't, because I love this polish SO MUCH. It's exactly what I expected from the website photos, a pinkish mauve with mesmerizing holo sparkle, and it applies like a dream-two easy coats here with HK Girl topcoat.

For my mystery polish, I got a blue glitter topper called Twilight Orchid. It's a sparkly blue glitter in a blue tinted base. While it's not something I would probably have picked myself, it's a nice polish that I was pleased to add to my collection. I couldn't resist the urge to try it alone, but this is really more of a topper. This is three heavy coats. It did dry fairly well, even when applied thickly, and was surprisingly smooth. I am not a fan of over the top texture for the most part, so a smooth finish was a plus for me. Lots of sparkle, and the silvery blue gave it a Cinderella type feel. I followed that up with some nail art, a glitter gradient with a thin glitter tip over a plain french tip white polish. The blue base really pops over the white! This will be a great polish for nail art.

Oops, did I say a this would be a quickie? I guess you should know better by now! Have you tried Black Dahlia? Which polish should be my next?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Quickie Recreation: Side Ruffian

So Spektor's Nails did a side ruffian, and about 3.5 seconds after seeing it, I had started plotting on how to get it for myself. Here's what I came up with:

My photo is much rougher (thanks, Indiana!), but the color combination is actually quite close. My nails are pretty much the discount version of the original post. I used Sinful Colors Rise and Shine in place of OPI My Dogsled is a Hybrid and Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Pumping Iron in place of OPI Unfrost My Heart. She used Insta-Dri topcoat, I used HK Girl, I'd say they're equally shiny. She mentioned using french nail stickers to get the shape; I tried hole reenforcers, but that approach wasn't a good fit for this design with my nail shape, so I just freehanded with a striper. I also threw in a little glitter with a streak of Julep Joelle. It was fine without it, but I was in the mood for a little sparkle.

Usually when I try to recreate a mani I really like I end up frustrated, but this time I was very happy with the result. Honestly, I'm kind of annoyed that my pictures didn't come out very well, because this mani is so gorgeous. I love the color combination-isn't it great when you see a color combination or design that makes you want to polish right now? Definitely pop over to the original post to see photos that do it justice, and to enter the fantastic OPI polish giveaway running at Spektor's Nails through November 30th!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 2014 Julep Maven Review and Nail Art

My Julep Maven box was a home run this month! I ended up with three polishes, and I have to say that all three are likely to end up in regular rotation. November was a great month to be a Maven.

A closer look using the flash (blech!)
This month I ended up with three polishes. The first was Devon, this month's must-have when I was choosing my box. I looove greys. Devon is a "slate grey with fuchsia microshimmer" according to Julep, and I'd say that's pretty accurate. I expected the microshimmer to be a little more prominent, maybe giving a slight duochrome effect. That didn't happen, but it did add something extra that makes this polish different from the other greys in my collection and kept it from leaning metallic. The subtle shimmer reminded me of an indie polish-a very good thing. It's most definitely a baby elephant grey rather than a silver, and it makes a nice alternative to neutrals. It felt warm and fuzzy to me, so I accented it with a quilty pattern. While it doesn't bear much resemblance now, this design was inspired by this one at Amateur Manicure. To intensify the bling, I accented with A England Her Rose Adagio for the quilt lines and Sleeping Palace for my "buttons." The holo arc and dusty pink base of Her Rose Adagio was a perfect pair up with Devon's more subtle shimmer; I can't wait to pair them up in a gradient.

My next pick was harder. After much deliberation, I swapped out my other Classic With a Twist option for Kiki, an "oceanic silver shimmer." I'm not sure why they implied this color was silver, it is straight up blue. "Oceanic with silver shimmer" would have been quite appropriate, though. Look how pretty!

I spotted a mini-tutorial from (the caption where I found the video isn't in English and I had trouble figuring out who to attribute it to, but you can check it out on Facebook) and was inspired to use Kiki as the base for a sugar spun design. I loved the black/metallic look in the video, so I flipped it and put Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear Black Out on top rather than the bright contrasting colors I usually see with sugar spun nail art. Mine came out less messy than hers, but I think the same feel is there.

Finally, I just couldn't resist-I cashed in some Jules (basically reward points that you spend to add on to the monthly boxes, for those non-Mavens among us) for Joanne, a "smoky plum creme." I am SO glad I did! Joanne is beautiful. It was a good match to the swatches on the website, and has a ton of shine. It's a little thin, but not so much that I had trouble working with it. I kept it simple with this polish, starting with a thick coat of Devon (the swatches above were two thinner coats), then carefully adding a ruffian of Joanne over the top. Since Devon's slightly darker than Joanne, one coat worked well for a neat, clean ruffian, but I would use two if wearing it alone.

This month's polishes seem to have hit the mark for a set of distinctly fall colors that skew away from traditional autumn fare in favor of a fabulous cozy sweaters vibe. I wasn't very interested in the new mascara that debuted with this month's box (their makeup is hit and miss, and I'm currently in love with Rimmel Scandaleyes, so no rush to try out new mascara), so I traded it in for another bottle of Oxygen base coat. In other news, winter is coming in Indiana, and my photos are suffering for it big time. It might be time to construct a light box. Anyone built one for your nail art photos? Tips?

If you decide to try Julep Maven yourself, feel free to use my affiliate link here or in the cute little "Classic With A Twist" button on your right. I get a Julep credit, and you get your intro box for only the $3.99 shipping cost with code FREEBOX.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monster Blood Nails

Vamptober has been so much fun, but for the last look of the month, I decided to do a bright, fun play on the Halloween dripping blood nail art: monster blood! You'll have to excuse my poor photos; I haven't gotten home in the daytime all week, so I had to choose between decent lighting for my pics or posting my Halloween themed post after Halloween.

For this look, I started with 2 coats of Sinful Colors Happy Ending, a glowy bright green. It is so pretty, a lit from within green with a subtle gold shimmer that makes it extra special. Then I did a simple paint drip design with NYC Ruby Queen. The jelly texture was thick enough to cover, but still kept that bloody goo feel. The chunky glitter sparkles and matches the playfulness of the bright monster green.

As a side note, I wore Zoya Jesy with a cute black cat decal for most of the week, but as I was taking it off I realized I never photographed it- fail! For the record, Jesy is a gold tinged orange glitter jelly. I didn't think it was really me when I first got it, but it was great for a Halloween mani. The more I wore it the more I liked it, and I got tons of compliments. Halloween is the best time for nails! What will your nails be costumed in tonight?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Julep Maven Anniversary: Hits and Misses

I have officially been a Julep Maven for one year! Last October I took my first ever subscription box risk and joined the Maven program. Between my monthly Maven boxes and a ridiculous number of outside purchases, I've amassed over 50 Julep polishes and an armload of beauty products. In honor of my Maven anniversary, here are a few of my very favorites and least favorites from my first year of Maven boxes. My style profile is Classic With A Twist, for the record, but I think I may be a closet Bombshell. I focused in on products and polishes from the past year's Maven boxes, so the whole Julep catalogue isn't represented here, or this would be a verrrry long post!

Hits: Polishes

May "Fresh Twist" Collection
Laree has been out of stock almost since it was released, and I understand why-it's amazing. This is not just another pink. That's why I'm kicking myself for not getting its purple shimmer twin, Paulette before it went out of stock. If Laree ever becomes available again, I may have to say polish budget be darned and get a backup.

December "Glitterati" Collection
I actually did get a backup of Joelle, and now I need a backup for my backup. Joelle is endlessly variable, stunning, and equally sophisticated and playful. It's a must have for me.

July "Poolside" Collection
Lissa is nothing special on the surface, but it's turquoise done just right. It's a little smoky, a little bright, and all around fun. I went back and forth on which polish to choose in July, but I am SO glad I ultimately chose Lissa over the lovely but predictable Beverly.

Misses: Polishes

February "Dramatic" Collection 
Keeping it real, I don't like Greta and I don't know why. It's just not "me." The finish is weird and foily, and the color isn't exciting to me at all. I've only used it once, in nail art, right after I got it, and I just don't feel inspired to pick it up again.

December "Glitterati" Collection
I almost didn't get Jillian. I swapped out my December Classic box for Boho Glam to get Misty (surprise! the must have for that box was Joelle), but I couldn't stop thinking about Jillian, so I ended up picking it up as a free polish (more on that later). While it's...fine, I guess, it just didn't have the depth I expected for an "eggplant bronze molten." It's red. A pretty red, but red. I was equally perturbed when I got Sinful Colors Rich in Heart and discovered they were pretty much the same polish. I haven't done a side by side, but they look identical to me, and Rich in Heart has a more agreeable formula. NOT happy to find out I wasted my freebie on a polish that has a $1.99 dupe when Julep has so many more unique shades.

April "Vivid" Collection
I think Mariska's a love it or hate it polish. I loved the "juicy tangerine" description, but I just couldn't love the polish in practice. It's ugly. My daughter, however, loves it. She's dying to know when I'm going to finally destash and give her my "traffic cone orange." There's also quite a bit of love for it in the reviews on the website. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Near Misses

October "Black Magic" Collection
I got Shailene as an add on, and it has been plagued with issues. My bottle, like many others apparently, was so thick and gloppy that it was barely wearable. I put it on my toes for a few days, but didn't care for it. When I saw that others has the same issue, I asked for a replacement. Julep shipped one out immediately, but the new one was just as bad, so I declared defeat and attacked Bottle #1 with polish thinner. It's still pretty thick, but why it went in the near misses column instead of the fails is that this color is absolutely beeyootiful. Once it got on my fingers, I saw it was a shimmery browned purple that's different depending on the light- it's rich and complex and interesting, and I think I love it. It's  If a color is going to be this much work, it better be special, and I don't have anything at all like Shailene. However, I also don't have any other Julep polishes with such major application issues, and I would never recommend it without a disclaimer, so Shailene gets filed as a near miss.

February-Free Gift
Love was free, and I like free. A lot. However, when I got it, I was kind of underwhelmed. It wasn't quite a glitter, not quite opaque, and the magenta glitter scattered throughout didn't really go with the rest of the glitter. I didn't think I'd ever use it. However, Love's saving grace is that it's incredibly versatile. It looks washed out on its own, but gives great coverage over other colors and really stands out as an interesting accent. On its own, Love is a miss, but with a little creativity, it's unique and a great addition to my collection.

Products: Hits
Glow Pore Minimizing Blush in Peach Bellini- April
I'm weird about blush, but this stuff looks and feels amazing. I was nervous about buying it, but as soon as I put it on, I was wowed. It's pricey (I wouldn't have initially spent even the Maven price for it if it didn't come in my box), but I use it almost daily and have barely made a dent.

Oxygen Smoothing Base Coat-June
Oxygen Base Coat has quickly become a favorite for me. I always use a base coat and a top coat, and Julep's are my favorite. I have other good topcoat options, but Oxygen is my go-to base. My nails are getting stronger without getting so hard that they break, growing faster, and splitting less since I started using Oxygen Base Coat. I ordered my third bottle with this month's box!

Products: Misses
Sweep Eyeshadow Palette-December
This is another item that fell in the "nothing special" category. It was a set of uninspired neutral shadows that don't apply, last, or look any better than the shadows I already use. I didn't hate them, but if I would have chosen something else if given my druthers.

Eye Sheen Liquid Eyeshadow- February
The Eye Sheen shadows were a sneak fail. They were a product I was really looking forward to. When I got it, the pot was tiny and it applied poorly on me. I also do my day to day eyeshadow with a finger- no tools for me- so the fact that I can't get to the shadow without getting it under my nails was not fun. I wanted to like it so much, but I just couldn't make it work, and eventually it hardened into an unusable ooblecky plasma. Now they aren't even available on the Julep site anymore, so maybe they're going back to the drawing board? The little glass pot is pretty cute, though; maybe I'll scoop out the shadow and make a custom lipstain or something fun like that!

Maven Experience: Hits and Misses
Whether Julep Maven is a good program or not is a hot topic in the beauty blogs. Honestly, I can only speak to my own experiences, and there are plenty of people whose experience was very different, but I am quite content with the service I received this year. I've always gotten quick responses to my e-mails (I hate the phone, so never tried to call), any issues, like the goopy bottle of Shailene, were resolved to my satisfaction, and I've never received a broken or incorrect item. Looking at the comments on their Facebook page, you would think Maven is a total nightmare, but I have had a wholly pleasant experience. They did used to give a free polish code on your third consecutive box (how I got Jillian), and I was disappointed when they unceremoniously discontinued that. They also changed the skip policy and raised the cost of the lowest subscription tier unless you prepay. Even though I got to stay under the old terms (I did decide to upgrade to My Maven, I'm in love with customizing my box!), I didn't think it was a positive change across the board. Part of the reason I joined was because the option to skip anytime made it risk free. Fortunately,  I have only skipped once all year, and now with the option to customize, I don't expect to need to skip very often at all. [Update: Julep recently announced the "I'm out this month" feature, which is essentially just bringing back the option to skip anytime. They can call it new if they want, I'm just glad it's back!] I will say this: Maven is not a budget program. They're expensive products, and while you get a good deal for their sticker price, you're not exactly getting a steal for $20-25 a month. I love that I get free shipping on my copious amount of Julep purchases, and this is more about treating myself to a fun splurge and maybe trying something new every month than saving on products I probably would have bought anyway. I haven't saved much money, but I am getting what I wanted out of joining and don't have any major complaints.

Ok, so it was still a very long post, but I hope it was fun to read. If you're not a Maven and want to try it out, hook me up and use my referral link to get started, and be sure to use code FREEBOX to get your introductory box for only the $3.99 shipping cost.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Grandma Cleo's Leopard Print

My great grandmother, Cleo, passed away last week. Grandma Cleo was one of those women you would call a 'character.' I didn't meet her until I was an older teenager, and she was a personality that could fill the room. Even as she crept toward her 90's (and eventually crashed through them), she maintained a life on her own terms. For her funeral today, I have decided to honor her in a way she would surely appreciate: a nail art tribute to my favorite memory of her.

One of the first times I ever heard anyone talk about Grandma Cleo was the scandalous gossip that she wore head to toe leopard print to the funeral of my other much loved great grandmother, Minnie. At the time, this was an outrage, but as I got to know Grandma Cleo over the subsequent years, it became clear that no disrespect was intended, that was just kind of how she rolled. Eventually, it became a symbol in my mind of her big personality and 'do what feels right' attitude. I combined my existing mani with a leopard accent in the same colors: Revlon Copper Penny as the base, Colors By Llarowe Human Nature for the inside of the spots, and outlined the spots, appropriately, with Julep Cleopatra. I let the latex finish on Cleopatra stay this time by topcoating before outlining the spots. The combination of the classy plastic wrap mani and the playful leopard print is a perfect representation of the woman it symbolizes.

Thanks for letting me share my tribute to Grandma Cleo with you. I know she would absolutely love it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vamptober: Saran Wrap Black and Gold

For today's Vamptober look, I tried out a plastic wrap mani in the style of this tutorial from Polish Me Please, where you essentially use a balled up piece of plastic wrap as a sponge. I started with a base of Julep Cleopatra. Cleopatra is a "black latex" polish (no latex in the actual formula), which means it has an edgy matte black finish. It's a good formula that looks much cleaner if you apply two or three thin coats as opposed to one thick coat. Currently it's sold out on the Julep website, but it's a pretty simple finish that could be replicated with a good quality black creme polish and matte topcoat. For this look, though, I ruined the latex finish anyway by covering it with super shiny Oxygen Performance Topcoat. I just can't resist shining up my matte polishes! Before I did that, though, I "sponged" on Revlon Copper Penny (an opaque copper gold metallic shimmer) and Colors By Llarowe Human Nature (a holo infused dark mushroom taupe).

Copper Penny is very opaque for a shimmer, which makes it great for this type of look. At first glance it swallows up Human Nature, but the addition of the second polish gives it a subtle depth and scattered sparkle that kicks up the vamp factor without allowing Copper Penny to chunk apart the black base. To put the look over the top, I layered Copper Penny over the backs of my nails for a black and gold Louboutin mani. I finished off with matte silver studs on my accent nails.

This look is vampy because of the rich contrast between the black base, the texture created by the two colors, and the lush details of the silver studs and Louboutined tips. This is a look that would look equally appropriate at a formal gala or a costume party. The copper tips don't have great staying power, so that's more of a one-night-only feature, but the rest of the mani can be worn anywhere. It's a perfect Vamptober look!

Remember to show me how you're celebrating #Vamptober on Facebook and Twitter! Be sure to tag me so I can see your looks.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekend Nails: Dia De Los Muertos

For this weekend's adventure, I took a break from Vamptober for a nail art look inspired by Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Like much of the world right now, I'm enthralled by the Mexican sugar skull theme, representing the celebration and remembrance of loved ones who have passed away.

For this design I was inspired by the sugar skull themed makeup designs often punctuated by spiderwebs and roses. Instead of the brighter colors or black base used for Dia de los Muertos nails, I chose a more ethereal color scheme, using Julep Sera and Harlow as my base colors. For the skull accent, I also used Julep Colette (shimmer purple) and Greta (shimmery pink-red). For my rose accents, I used Julep Nellie and Greta and outlined with a black striper, which I also used for my spiderwebs, to give more of a tattoo vibe. My detail work isn't quite good enough yet for the more realistic look I was shooting for, but I think they came out a lot of fun and have the spirit of the look I envisioned.

These nails are a cute reminder that there's more than one fun holiday in October! What do you think?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Vamptober: Chocolate and Gold Tentacles

This week, I started out thinking this mani wasn't one of my best, but I've become very fond of it. Behold-my first attempt at tentacles!

Right thumb

You'll have to forgive me, between the gloomy weather, heavy topcoating, and the nature of the beast, this mani turned out to be very difficult to photograph. I took pictures from a few different angles to (hopefully) let you get a feel for it and see why I like it so much. You'll recognize this color combo from my NYC Fashion Queen nail art- it's Royal Chic, a rich chocolatey brown, and Fashion Queen, a glam gold glitter. Fashion Queen is so bold and complex that it actually makes this mani a little hard to figure out when you're looking at're blinded by the sparkle.

Fashion Queen is also easily buildable, making it more pliable for the complex swirls of my tentacles. Once they were in place, I carefully added dots of Royal Chic with a toothpick to create tentacles rather than just randomly placed glitter swirls. The key with this look seems to be not to overdo it. With too many tentacles, the design is cluttered and you can't tell what it is. One or two per nail is perfect for a subtly dramatic look (is 'subtly dramatic' a thing?). I also love the technique of injecting a swirl on the edge or a partial design across the top for the appearance of a design that stretches beyond the nail.

These are vamp nails because of the combination of creepy subject matter and elegant color combo. Tentacles are one of those designs that can be ghoulish, playful, or glamorous depending on how you play it, and the finished product here was vamp glam. Royal Chic is a warm color, but the addition of Fashion Queen brings out another side of it. The end result is unique, intense, and, dare I say, vampy.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Vamptober: Matte and Flames

Vamptober continues! I've started to get fond of flame nail art, and as a result, I've been trying all manner of experimentation with them. This round, I used Julep Lacey, a shimmery, rich midnight blue, ad my base. Lacey's pretty on its own, but nothing special. But you throw a matte topcoat on it...

With NYC Matte Topcoat

And Lacey becomes a vamp. The shimmer in this polish mattifies to a satiny finish with tons of depth. I added on silver flames with Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Pumping Iron with a little Glitter Gal Turbulence for sparkle. I thought about warming up the bottom with a little bit of blue gradient, but I decided that the monotone flames were more sophisticated. Interestingly, this is my dominant hand. I almost always photograph my left hand, but this time, my right hand came out much better.

Since I mentioned flames, here's a look at another flame look I did recently. This one was all about sparkle, using colors from the NYC Fashion Queen collection. The base was Rule The City with Ruby Queen, and my flame accents were Ruby Queen with a little Julep Love, a gold with fuchsia glitter. Since Love and Rule The City both have red toned glitters, they gave a great crackling fire effect.

Thanks to my Julep Maven box, which showed up today loaded with Vamptober essentials, and a great suggestion from the comments (thanks Tiffany!), I'm feeling inspired. Yay October!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's Vamptober!

October is an absolutely amazing month to be a polish addict. It's fall, so all of the gorgeous, rich cremes are coming out in the new collections, and if you're lucky enough to be in a country that observes it, October means Halloween! I love all of the outrageous nail art that Halloween brings out. For Halloween, anything goes.

This October, I've decided to try on a nail trend that hasn't always been my cup of tea: "vamp." Vampy to me is luxe, dark, richly colored polishes and elegant finishes with a slightly edgy feel.While vampy colors are often quite beautiful, they're rarely first on my list when it comes time to pick a color. Since I love all the polishes, though, this month I'm going to be spotlighting my vampy polishes and giving them some wear time before I rediscover metallics and ice blue for winter. I don't plan to blog every mani, so be sure to follow on Facebook and Twitter for my Vamptober NOTD selections.

To kick things off, I pulled out one of my first Julep polishes. Padma is a vamp because of the patent leather shine and deep, rich color. It's listed as a "royal plum creme," but the first time I put it on, I was surprised at how dark it was-almost black. In the light, the purple comes out more and it has an inky indigo purple sheen. It's the color I imagine Ursula the Sea Witch wears for a night on the town. It applies beautifully, and one careful coat will do. I topped off my accent nails with Julep Kirby from my September Maven box. Kirby is a silver glitter topper in a clear base with several sizes of small hex glitters and bigger jagged pieces. There's no fishing for glitter on this one! If anything, I had to be careful not to overapply because I didn't want to completely bury my base color. I topped it with HK Girl, even though Padma is shiny enough to go without a topcoat if you want to.

What does "vampy" mean to you? What are your other favorite October-ready nail trends?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Butterfly Nail Stamping and Lakeside Gradient

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I've been feeling quite uninspired. Lots of very simple manis and nail fails searching for the look I want that day. I've continued to post NOTD pics on Facebook and Twitter, but nothing has seemed...blogworthy.

However, the show must go on! The look I have for you today is what I call a "lakeside gradient" because the colors I chose reminded me of the blue green of autumn lake water and cool, wet sand. It's not a bright, summery gradient, but it still reminds me of the beach. Over the top I stamped a simple butterfly image from a Kiss Nails stamping kit. The stamper itself and scraper fell to the bottom of my nail box quickly in favor of my usual Born Pretty Store double sided stamper and an old gift card, but the plates are full of cute designs and work pretty well. The butterflies don't really fit my lakeside theme, but I thought they were pretty, and I do what I want. :)

Aren't these colors something? The blue is Nicole by OPI in Goodbye Shoes from the Carrie Underwood collection, a mellow greyish blue creme. For my sandy gradient accent, I used a base color of Julep Cynthia and gently sponged Goodbye Shoes along the tips. As rich as it is, Goodbye Shoes is a two coater that's thin enough to create a decent gradient, even on a much lighter color. It's all topped with Glisten and Glow HK Girl topcoat.

The stamped butterflies are A England Sleeping Palace, possibly my very favorite polish ever. Oooh! Ahhh!

Hopefully my blogger's block will clear up soon. I've been itching to do something really epic, I just haven't been hit by the right inspiration yet. Ideas welcome! Comment, or send them to me on Twitter at @SecretNailBlog.