Thursday, January 30, 2014

February Maven Polish Review

So my last post highlighted a pair of Julep polishes, and a few posts ago, I promised that I would say more about the Maven program, so here it is. At the risk of sounding gushy (and for the record, I have been in no way compensated by Julep for this post), I really like Julep's products, and I've had a great experience with the Maven program so far. I joined in October, and I'm really glad I did. For the curious: my style profile is Classic With a Twist.

For background: I am cheap. Crazy cheap. Not "Extreme Couponers" cheap, but I admire their commitment. I generally shy away from subscriptions of all sorts because I don't like the idea at all of adding another bill to my collection, and this definitely qualifies as a luxury item. However, the Maven program spoke to me, and so far, I'm pretty happy. I look forward to receiving my Maven package every month, and while it's not the kind of service that everyone would enjoy like I do, if you love trying new nail polish and/or beauty products, you should definitely take a look at this subscription. For more info, you can check out Maven FAQs. If you decide it's a fit for you and want to join, do me a solid and use my referral link.

But I digress-you came for the polish. All that being said, I was kind of underwhelmed by this month's selection. First up was Greta, a "loganberry multidimensional microglitter." It's pink and sparkly-nice, but nothing to write home about. I also got Octavia, a "smoky indigo creme" that photographs poorly, but is most definitely a purple-y indigo color. Julep polishes tend to skew darker than the swatches on their website, but this one was pretty close to what you see there. Finally, as a free gift (yay free!), this month every Maven box contained Love. It's not up on the website at this point, but it's a very unique glitter with gold flecks, which create a shimmery gold base over another color or with several coats, and fuchsia glitter. If you ignore my messy paintjob, you can get a feel for them below:
Left to right: Love, Octavia, and Greta
None of the colors became an instant favorite when I tried them on, but never one to waste a bottle of polish, I always give my new colors a fair shake. When my Maven box arrived I wasn't quite ready to take off my glitter gradient mani from earlier this week, so I field tested them on my 9 year old daughter. I was disappointed with Love on it's own (she liked it-I ended up putting it on all of her nails when I was done playing), but I noticed that it had a whole different quality when I put it on the tip of her Octavia nail. That gave me some inspiration. I decided to try out a variation on the Cutepolish dripping paint design, with splatter accent nails using all three colors. Turns out that while I'm not madly in love with any of these colors on their own, I think they look so nice together! Take a look and tell me what you think.

See how much more exciting they are together? As a side note, does anyone have any nail photography tips and tricks? I know it can be done well, but I haven't mastered it yet, and these photos don't do this manicure justice. If I may say so myself, I am a genius. ;)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How To: Perfect Glitter Gradient

Gradients are one of my favorite nail looks because they are so easy and so versatile. To make it even easier, try a glitter gradient, which is nearly impossible to mess up. For today's manicure, I used some gorgeous colors and simple tools for a near perfect glitter gradient.

First off, the colors. I chose Karen by Julep for my base color. Karen is billed as a "peach bellini frost." I have to admit, I wasn't sold on it at first. I picked it up on sale for $2.99, and I thought it was a little too orangey for my tastes at first swatch. However, it looked so pretty in my swatch book that I decided to give it another shot, and I'll own that I was wrong. Karen's really quite lovely. I like opacity, so I used two coats, but it also looks nice as a sheer one coater, and it has a unique shimmery quality that made it a great choice for this mani. I started by applying Karen to all of my nails and letting it dry 5-10 minutes (moving on too soon will trash your effect). It does seem to pool in the cuticles a little bit, so be sure to use thin coats for a cleaner finish.

The color I used as my glitter was another Julep selection, Joelle. I am in loooove with this color *cue 8 year old boys making kissy sounds while pointing and laughing maniacally.* Listed as a "full coverage smoky holographic glitter," this is easily one of my favorite polishes. I got it in my November Maven box and I've already used over half the bottle (I actually ordered another today!). It looks beautiful paired with just about anything, and also looks stunning on its own after just two or three coats, depending on how blingy you want to be.

To get my perfect gradient, I used a fan brush. A makeup sponge could be used as well, but for glitter gradients I really like the way the fan brush distributes the polish. I haven't tried it with a regular gradient, so I'll keep you posted on that experiment. Generally I use a sponge when I want more of a graduated french tip effect; the fan brush gives the glitter a more gradual melt. If that's the effect you want but you don't have a fan brush, try using a corner of your sponge or tearing a little piece off and using the jagged side to dab on the glitter polish. Sponges do tend to have a heavier effect than the brush, so be gentle.

Fan brush

Next, put a drop or so of the glitter polish on your professional grade nail polish palette- or if you’re me, on a postcard stuffed in a plastic sandwich bag. Don’t put too much of the glitter polish down at once-they tend to dry up pretty quickly on the palette/baggie. Gently dab your fan brush on the glitter polish. You can dab it on your surface to get rid of clumps if needed. Start gently dabbing the brush from about the middle of the nail to the tip. I like to put polish on just a small portion of the brush at a time, then go over the nail two or three times, each time starting a little closer to the tip to build the gradient. I wanted a subtle look, so I only used two passes, but based on your preference you could even put a light stripe at the top for an opaque tip. If your glitter polish starts to clump on your brush, just clean it up in some acetone and wipe with a paper towel, then start again.

A little dab'l do ya.

A gentle dabbing or swiping motion allows you to control how much glitter ends up on your nail with minimal smearage.
And voila! Two coats of Mega Shine top coat and my gradient is exactly what I want- subtle, sparkly, and shiny in 30 minutes or less. Experiment with chunky vs. fine glitters, colored glitters, the direction of the gradient, opacity, whatever you want. Glitter gradients might just be the perfect DIY manicure technique.