Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekend Nails: Matte vs. Shiny

I thought this would be another "orphan" post, where the parent image was lost before I could give the inspiration photo credit, but I kid you not, I Love Manicures!!! reposted the image that inspired this, credited to, six minutes before I started this post. Serendipity!

This Weekend Nails mani was a mixed result. I started with a matte topcoat, then the next day I slid a coat of Wild Shine topcoat over it to de-mattefy it. It cleaned up poorly, so the photos aren't great, but here's what I came up with:

With Matte Topcoat (NYC Matte Me Crazy)
With Shiny Topcoat (Wet n Wild Wild Shine Clear Nail Protector)
For my base design, I used Julep Lacey, Revlon Copper Penny, and Nicole for OPI Lips are Dripping Honey. I love Copper Penny because it's a rich, almost foil type copper gold that covers other colors neatly. I tried a few other golds with this design, and none of them were pigmented enough to hold their own against Lacey, a deep midnight blue. Copper Penny looks the same over other colors as it does on its own, which made it perfect for this design.

Now normally, I love shine. The shiner the better. However, the satiny look of taking a deep, shimmery red, blue, or purple and covering it with a matte coat has been enticing me. Matte over large glitters and metallics is another look that has been popping up a lot lately that I like, so I decided to give it a try, since these colors already in my collection were great matches for the trends. I still think I like the shiny version better on this, mostly because there's so little of Lacey that mattefying it takes away from how interesting the design is. There is enough, however, to show that it mattes quite well.

Overall, both were nice-sophisticated, rich, and interesting. Cleanup was a bear, though, and I think that hurt the aesthetic. What do you think-matte or high shine? Or would you do like I did and go for the twofer by changing topcoat midway through the mani?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lacquer Legion: Lucky Star-Dust

I had so much trouble coming up with this month's Lacquer Legion design! The prompt was "Lucky," and while I feel quite fortunate in general, translating that to nails in a way that wasn't cliche kept evading me. My original design idea was "Lucky Star," but when my hand painted stars didn't excite me, I decided to take a more interpretive view of the prompt with a design I've dubbed "Lucky Star-Dust," using some amazing colors that I've lucked into.

The base color on this is A England Sleeping Palace, a stunning plum with a soft scattered holo sheen that is reeeaallly difficult to photograph, but I promise, it was worth the wait. If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you may know that finding this color has been somewhat of an odyssey for me. I fell in love with swatches of it, but being a US lover of the brand, I have limited access to A England polishes. There are two distributors that I know of that ship within the US, Beautometry and Llarowe, and both of them have been out of Sleeping Palace for weeks. Then, by sheer luck, I popped over to the Llarowe page, and it was in stock, just in time to arrive for this prompt! Now, I am not a woman of great means, but I had just unexpectedly come into a small amount of "fun money," meaning that not only was Sleeping Palace in stock, but I was in the unique position to be able to spend $10 on a bottle of nail polish guilt free. If that's not lucky, I don't know what is!

The polishes I used for my accent nail have lucky origins as well. I started out with a layer of Glitter Gal Turbulence, my linear holo staple. This is another hard-to-find-in-the-States polish that I was lucky enough to win in the Adventures in Polishland New Year's Eve Manicure Contest (oddly enough, the other polish I won was Dragon, the polish that hooked me on A England). This created a sheer layer of color underneath to make my glitter accent look more solid. Once it had dried, I slathered on two layers of Julep Joelle.

I've said before that Joelle is possibly my favorite polish, and it's the only polish in memory that I've been in real danger of running out of. Joelle is beautiful, and I almost didn't own it. Joelle was part of one of my first Julep Maven boxes. That month I ordered outside of my style profile because I wanted Misti, a stormy blue-grey, and Joelle was just a tagalong. I like Misti, it's nice, but Joelle became my new BFF the second I put it on. It's a holo glitter in a smoky transparent base- it's perfection in a bottle, and I never would have noticed it on my own. Sheer luck.

Once Joelle had (mostly) dried, I went to work on my gradient. I did a makeup sponge gradient with Sleeping Palace and Turbulence. Turbulence is almost like a superfine version of Joelle, and it's so sheer that it made the perfect near-invisible median between my glittery tips and my sparkly plum gradient. Sleeping Palace applies beautifully, but is an unusual formula in that it paints on completely opaque, almost in one coat (I'm wearing two coats in these photos), but in a gradient, it's very sheer and buildable. This let Joelle shine out from underneath and created the exact look I was craving: a purple mist swirling up on a glowing field of glittery stardust. My Lucky backup design became a look I can't stop staring at.

Want to get in on the Lacquer Legion fun? Post your Lucky manicure to social media using the hashtag #LLLucky today, and be sure to check out all of the other inspired looks!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weekend Nails: Stripes and Rainbows

It's been a while since I've done a black nail, mostly because of the sorry state of my cuticles (dry, busted cuticles sop black polish up). Now that my cuticles are starting to look semi-presentable, I couldn't wait to get back on the black polish horse. It's a nice change up from the pastels and brights that are on everyone's minds right now.

First of all, this design is stolen. The rainbow/polka dot/sparkly bow tips are from a photo that I mindlessly saved to the 'nail ideas' folder on my phone before I started blogging and can't find now, so if you know who it "belongs" to originally, give them a shout out in the comments.

Beyond the accent nail, it was all trial and error. I wasn't in love with my usual rainbow color combination after completing my thumb, but the green and purple alone was quite lovely on my black creme base, so I stopped there. Then I added a thin stripe of glitter to tie it together with the rainbow design's accent bow.

The colors I used were Sally Hansen XTreme Wear in Black Out, Sally Hansen Insta Dri in Jade Jump and Lively Lilac (two of my very favorite colors), Julep Octavia, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Tough Love, Sally Hansen XTreme Wear in Mellow Yellow, Pure Ice in Drive Me Crazy, and Julep Joelle, topped with MegaShine.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Love You, Florals!

I love floral nails. I love daisies and sunflowers and violets and roses and nonspecific blobs with petals. Cartoony and realistic, vintage and modern, I love them all. I want to try every floral nail design there is. I know that's hyper girly. I don't care. I like what I like. If my nails remind you of an old woman's wallpaper, I'm probably in love with them.

Tonight I chose Julep Nellie as my base with no idea what to do with it, just that I wanted a color I love to stare at for a few days while I'm deciding what to paint for this month's Lacquer Legion prompt (which is "Lucky," by the way, in case you're thinking about participating). What to wear when I don't know what to wear? Floral, of course!

While I was deciding on a design, two coats of Nellie dried. Then I used my White Out Salon Perfect striper to create my chevrons.

Then I mixed a drop of Nellie and a drop of a white polish together with a toothpick and used that color to make splotches all over the white areas.

After that, I took the toothpick and used Nellie to finish my rosettes. There are plenty of rosette tutorials online from people who are much better at this than me, so I'll spare you my "process"- let's just say I wing it. From there, I dab tiny dots of Sally Hansen Jade Jump, followed up with Revlon Jaded Night right next to it as leaves. I topped my accent nails with Wet n Wild Clear Nail Protector and two coats of MegaShine. I love them. They're perfect.

Not particularly original, I know. But they're classic and lovely, and some variation of vintage roses will probably always be on my list of go-to looks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Repurposed Nail Art

I hate to wear the same nail art design for more than a day or two. It's just not my style, plus my nails tend to chip easily. This means my manis don't last very long, but the constant un-polishing and re-polishing is not kind to my nails and cuticles. Repurposing nail art is a good way to buy a break for my cuticles without looking at boring, chipped three day old nail art. This week I repurposed two looks.

Over the weekend I laid down my St. Patrick's Day mani, released as a Facebook Exclusive look on Monday. This simple, fun mani had Sally Hansen Jade Jump as the base, with a layer of Glitter Gal Turbulence to make it all holo-y, then basic shamrock details, a little one on the top right of each thumb and a larger one slightly off center on each ring finger. For those I used A England Dragon, which is holo-y in itself.
After the holiday had passed, I repurposed it by striping Dragon to create a jade triangle. I did go ahead and remove the polish on the accent nails, but the others I just added the design over the existing polish.

On Tuesday I had a bad day, so I wanted bright, cheerful nails to help lift my spirits. I chose some of my recent Julep Maven polishes, Harriet and Octavia. I've seen a lot of coral and navy lately, and I think they look gorgeous together. Guava and indigo are a nice play on that idea. I did a dotted nail paired with a super thin french tip. For day 2, I thickened the french tip and reversed the dot design.

 For this one I didn't remove any polish, and the dotted accent nail is untouched. At first attempt I ended up with smudging on my bright, cheerful polish, so I tried it again with a coat of Wet n' Wild topcoat (which is an great topcoat at a scary low price) before topping with my usual MegaShine. This reduced the smudging tremendously. I decided not to redo the accent nails- we'll call the smudging on those an unintentional gradient...

I repurpose with a quick swipe of glitter polish on the tips or a sponge gradient all the time when I'm in a hurry, but this more intentional repurposing is so much more fun.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Facebook Exclusive!

I don't always feel a full post is necessary for designs and colors that aren't particularly new and exciting, even if I love how my nails look that day. My St. Patty's nails fall in that category. I used my very favorite green, Sally Hansen Insta-Dri in Jade Jump, with a thin layer of Glitter Gal Turbulence to add some rainbow action. Then I made some cute and simple shamrock accents using A England Dragon. Dragon also has some holo qualities, and the combination of the two made my shamrocks glow! I topped it all off with two coats of MegaShine.

Wanna see it? It's a Facebook Exclusive! SSNB Facebook Page to check it out and Like the page.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekend Nails: ComiCon Special

Today I went to ComiCon in Lexington, KY. I met George Takei, picked up an awesome pair of earrings and a fistful of superhero magnets, and showed of my special ComiCon nail art!

This look is an homage to the original girl power icon of the comic world, Wonder Woman. There are some more complicated versions out there, but I simplified the art to the lowest common denominator to create a clean, simple, but eye catching design.

For the blue accent nail, I used Julep Lacey, which I picked up when they did one of their $1.99 sales, and Nicole by OPI Lips are Dripping Honey for some golden sparkle. For the rest of my nails, I chose Julep Catherine, my brightest red polish. I also used Catherine in my cheerful Vera Bradley Adoration Nail design. Catherine is what I would describe as a crelly, full coverage with a shiny, liquidy finish. I did use three coats here to get even coverage. I really like the color, but it does have some patchiness issues and I had chippage today. I chip pretty easily, but was disappointed not to get a full day out of it without a touchup.

The Wonder Woman design was hand painted using the Jordana striper, Jordana Black Mark striping polish, and Maybelline Color Show in Bold Gold. I striped Bold Gold horozontally down the center of the nail until it was about half the thickness I wanted the design. Then I made a gold block on each side on the top and two short vertical lines in the center on bottom, lined up with the end of the blocks. The result looked weird and messy, which is where the black lines come in.

I carefully made three black stripes, one on the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom, of each gold block. Then I outlined the dip of the W on top and two little V shapes around the short lines. My weird blobby gold areas turned into a simplified version of the Wonder Woman logo that is fun to wear, fun to look at, and was pretty easy to do.

Nerd inspired nail art is one of my favorite themes. Have you tried superhero/comic inspired nail art?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Opal Nail Pictorial

As I mentioned on the Story of This Blog, my mom has gorgeous nails that she always tries to keep beautifully polished. While I choose natural over acrylic (she started out natural and switched to acrylic over time to maintain consistent length, where I wear mine shorter) and do my own nail art rather than having it done by a professional, I still consider her my nail muse. She's always loved opals, and when I saw the opal nails tutorial on xoVain, I knew I'd have to try it in her honor, especially after I picked up a bottle of the now unavailable Avon Opal Top Coat at a flea market. My technique was slightly different than xoVain's, as I wanted a more milky, white opal look. I'm pretty happy with the finished result:

The colors I used for this design were Sally Hansen XTreme Wear in White On (base), Pure Ice in Strip Tease, Wet n' Wild Mega Last in Retro Mint, Glitter Gal in Turbulence, and Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Black and Blue (marble), Avon Opal Top Coat, and Julep in Dakota (gold edge). I chose polishes that have different types of shimmer (superfine glitter, holo, and duochrome topped with a flakie) to make my look shine from every possible angle.

I started with a white creme, with one coat of color, then a layer of matte topcoat and another coat of white.

I waited for that to dry, then sponged on Turbulence, which looked slightly grey and shimmery on the white, and Retro Mint.

I used my oh-so-professional baggie/postcard palette to soften the accent polishes, dipping a cotton swab in acetone and swirling it with a drop of polish, then applying the polish with a sponge or occasionally directly with the cotton swab. I really like Pure Ice polishes for sponging- they're very inexpensive and sparkle subtly, and I love their glitters.

Once I had all of the colors sponged on, I added a bottom frame of Julep Dakota.

After the frame, I added the Avon opal polish to finish the look and make my nails look as close as possible to an actual opal. I finished it all off with two coats of Julep Freedom Polymer topcoat.

And that's it. Gemstone manis have been very popular over the last few years, and I think they're gorgeous. What gemstone inspires you?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekend Nails: Chevron and Shamrock Decals

Disclosure: Some items used in this post were provided to me for my honest review.

So I spent most of last week in Wisconsin, and it was COLD! This did no favors for my already parched nail beds, but when I came home to nail mail, I couldn't resist one more mani before I gave my nails a few days of much needed TLC.

In the packages were one item I ordered (a bottle of Julep Dakota) and one that was provided to me by Nailed It Decals to review some of their adorable St. Patrick's Day themed decals. While I have been wary of diving in to affiliate reviews, after taking a look at Nailed It's products, they seemed right up my alley. My litmus test, which Nailed It passed with flying colors, was "is this a product I would consider using anyway?" Here's what I came up with for my very first affiliate post:

There are two schools of decal that I've tried in the past: water decals and sticker style decals. While I've been fairly successful with both, I prefer sticker type decals because they are so incredibly easy. Lift, place, topcoat, done. These vinyl decals were very easy to apply and excellent quality-all around a good product. Chevrons have been a design I've been a little nervous about trying freehand, so these may have saved me from a potential polish disaster.

I started with the new Wet n' Wild basecoat (so far I like it!), then applied the polish- I used Dakota, a rose gold metallic, and A England Dragon, a stunning mossy green holo. Once it was dry-ish (which hurt my results a little, the instructions specifically say to wait until it's dry), I pulled off the decals I wanted, and used a pair of tweezers to place them. For the longer pieces, I found that nail clippers worked best for trimming them to size. The straight pieces were long enough to split in half and use one for both little fingers, and one chevron piece made up both of the stripes on my accent nail. I used the Julep cleanup tool to push down the edges of the decals, but an orangewood stick would have worked, too. After applying the decals, I put two coats of Mega Shine over the whole deal.

One thing that I didn't notice right away and loved was that each of the small images came in three different sizes. I have small nails, so having size options means I can do more looks with the same package. I'm really looking forward to playing with the rest of these decals!

You can pick these decals up for yourself here through the Nailed It Etsy shop. Be sure to use discount code SSNB20 for 20% off of your purchase (discount code can't be combined with any other offers).

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunset Gradient, and Julep Maven Core Classics March Review

Have I mentioned how much I love gradients? I know I've said I think that glitter gradients are just about the perfect DIY manicure, and I've explored various methods to create a gradient, but have I truly emphasized how much I adore them? To round out my weekend, I did a sunset gradient with a simple accent using my new Salon Perfect nail art striping polish in White Out- it's a little thinner than my Jordana striping brushes, and was a good value at about $2. The other polishes I used were Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear in Mellow Yellow, Pure Ice in Drive Me Crazy, and Julep Karen.

I started with a yellow base and used a sponge with Mellow Yellow and Drive Me Crazy for the gradient using the Nailasaurus gradient technique (I did forget the "swirl them with a toothpick" step this time). Then I dabbed a piece of sponge dipped in Karen along the median between the two colors. This fuzzed up the boundary a little and added a subtle touch of sparkle. Dabbing a third color down the middle is a good way to create more depth, and softens things up when you're still practicing your gradients like I am.

Now to the Julep Maven subscription box reviews.

This month I strayed from my default profile, Classic With A Twist, and picked up the Core Classics box, which included the Freedom Polymer Topcoat, Oxygen Nail Treatment, and a good quality Teflon cleanup tool, as well as Harriet (a guava creme polish) as an add on. I love new polish, but I made the right call this month. As a newer Maven (since November), I'm wary of the higher priced products I haven't tried before. Even at Maven prices (20% off plus free shipping on all orders), I basically got the cleanup tool free and saved almost $10 on the products by choosing this box, and paid the same as I do for drugstore polishes for Harriet. You can see Harriet swatches in last night's post.

Oxygen Nail Treatment: To tell the truth, this product surprised me. I stripped my nails bare after a weekend of abuse, put two coats of the nail treatment on them, doused my cuticles in Luxe Repair Skin Serum (another surprise favorite Maven box pickup), and went to bed. At that point, I wasn't wowed. It has a nice, soft color and sheen, but nothing special and it dried kind of slowly compared to what I'm used to.

When I woke up, my cuticles looked much better, and I washed a few loads of dishes. This is where the nail treatment impressed me. Normally after washing dishes my nails are soft and almost transparent, even when I have polish or a basecoat on. With this treatment, my nails were only slightly softened, looked great, and hardened again fairly quickly. I was so happy with the next day difference that this one, which I didn't plan to buy on its own, goes in the "will buy again" pile.

Freedom Polymer Topcoat: This product was the selling point on the Core Classics box, but the jury is out on whether I'll buy it again. Not because of the product itself, though. So far, it appears to do everything it says it does. It's very shiny and dries hard in five minutes with no special lamps or lighting. However, it doesn't have the "gel shine" appearance any more than my regular topcoat, Sally Hansen Mega Shine, and doesn't dry much faster (though it does dry harder in five minutes- Mega Shine dries smudge free in five as well, but isn't fully hard for about 15). It's an excellent topcoat. It's just not enough better than my Mega Shine to pay almost twice as much. Where it has a chance to pull ahead is wear time. I have chronic chipping issues, which usually isn't a big deal because I usually don't wear a mani more than a few days at a time. However, when I get super busy, extended wear time would be really useful, and if this topcoat is as shiny and quick drying as my current favorite AND wears chip free for more than three days at a time, I'll keep a bottle on hand at all times.

Don't you love it when all the contestants are winners?

Mega Shine...
vs. Freedom Polymer

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Weekend Nails: Ruffian

This weekend I tested out some new colors with a ruffian design. I've been on the fence about the ruffian, so it seemed like a fine weekend nail look. I have two different ruffian looks to offer up this weekend, plus a plethora of polish reviews.

The first of the colors I tried this weekend was Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Black and Blue. It's different than I thought it would be, and it is a quite complex color. Here's what it looks like in three coats:

I initially thought this would be a blue, but at first glance it's more green. However, it catches the light with a dusky blue-grey, which you catch a glimpse of in the side view photos. This is my first polish from the Complete Salon Manicure line. At first I wasn't thrilled about how thin the coats are, but it dried fairly quickly even with multiple coats, and the longer I wore it, the more dimension I saw in this color. I'm a sucker for peacock coloring and duochrome, so I do believe I'll wear this again.

To create my ruffian design, I chose (what else?) holo glitter, with Glitter Gal Turbulence layered over Sephora for OPI Frankly I Don't Give A-Dam to make it pop.

At the same time as I picked up Black and Blue, I also grabbed Sally Hansen Triple Shine in Statemint. It's a yellow based green that typically wouldn't be my speed (not a huge fan of neons), but I just knew it would look great with Julep Harriet, which I'd added on to my March Maven box. Here's what they look like with two coats:
See? Soulmates!
My ruffian was a little neater, but the creme finishes were much less forgiving than the shimmery polishes. I think I'll either use tape or stick to shimmers in the future. Both colors are nice, and together they have a sweet citrus look. I was afraid Harriet would be too similar to Nan (I love Nan, but I already have one), but it's more of a pinkish orange.

I liked the ruffian look and definitely think with practice and/or a little masking tape, this could be a look I wear often.