Friday, May 16, 2014

Sinful Colors Binge-Conclusion

When we last left our heroine (me), I had picked up three Sinful Colors polishes and was delightedly testing all of them. First round was a bejeweled ruffian with Endless Blue. Next, I posted my simple  Rise & Shine nail look to Twitter, using another polish I picked up the same day, NYC Top of the Gold topcoat. My favorite, though, has definitely been the look I ended up with when I busted out Nice Stems.

I initially described Nice Stems as a soft mint green, which is what it looked like when I initially tried it on. I don't know if it's just the color combo I used or the lighting when I first tried it, but in this mani, it has more of a Tiffany blue color-very unusual for a polish I would have described as leaning toward jade a few days ago! As a companion, I used Julep Gayle and simply inverted the colors for my accent nail. Nice Stems stamps reasonably well, and both colors are muted enough that they compliment rather than clash.

The adorable bird "print" is probably familiar to you from my tattoo themed stamping mani. Today's design was inspired by an adorable Lylia Rose swallow scarf. Lylia Rose has the most adorable, interesting items both on the website and the Etsy shop, but she's UK based, which has made me less inclined to buy all 200 items that I want. I don't like to wait, plus I'm not sure what shipping will cost from the UK, so I want to wait until my budget allows a bigger order all at once. While I wait, I steal her product themes for nailspiration.

I'm still pretty pleased with my Sinful Colors choices, and can't wait to try more. Dream On...Gogo Girl...Mint Apple...Cream Soda...continuing the hunt for the elusive Rainstorm...I feel obsession coming on.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SSNB Tries Sinful Colors and Jewels

I've been eyeballing the Sinful Colors displays at various stores for a while, but had a hard time believing that a $1.99 nail polish could be "professional." Today, I renounce my nail polish snobbery. After a series of gorgeous swatches accompanied with glowing reviews from other bloggers, I decided I needed to give them a shot, and the colors I chose are fabulous. I now realize, however, that some shades aren't easy to find (where are you, Rainstorm???), so hoarding could become a problem.

The polishes I settled on were Endless Blue, Nice Stems (a pale mint green cream), and Rise and Shine (a teal green with subtle shimmer). I have a thing for creams- plus I think if a company can do creams well, they can probably handle other finishes. These turned out to be even better than I expected. One of the main reasons I had been lukewarm about Sinful Colors is I didn't think their colors were anything special. Once they were on, though, all three were noticeably different from other colors I have. Rise and Shine is deceptively plain in bottle, on the nail it has a very interesting shimmery quality that I'm excited about. Endless Blue is the color I settled on for today's mani, and I almost didn't buy it. Since cobalt seems to be the color of the season, through, and I don't already have one, I picked it up to mimic these fantastic bright blue manis I keep seeing. It's beeeyootiful! It's a bright, cheerful true blue. I rarely wear less than two coats, but I think I could wear this (and maybe Rise and Shine, too) as a one coater. The formula on all three is delightful, and I'm quite sure I'll be buying this brand again.

The other thing I picked up this weekend was a package of rhinestones. I got these at the craft store, and they look great on my nails. They also come in several sizes and colors. For my first attempt at gems, I chose a standard diamond in the second-to-smallest size. I love the way they look, but this has to be the most high maintenance mani I've ever worn. As I write this, I just had to re-adhere two stones. My nails are an area I'm willing to be a little fussy about, but typically I don't need a whole lot of effort through the day, and I've been reapplying these stones Literally since I woke up. On the up side, they are very easy to apply. I put Julep Freedom Topcoat over my design, then applied the jewels with tweezers immediately after topcoating each nail. For touch ups, a put a dab of topcoat in the crater left by the gem (very grateful for the Freedom mini bottle I recently got with an order) and dropped the gem back in. It's easy, just annoying. Until they catch on something, the hold is pretty sturdy, though. They don't fall off randomly, but if anything gets caught on them, even a little, game over.

The background design was equally simple. I started with a coat of Julep Harriet, a pink/orange depending on the light guava color, and layered one coat of Endless Blue directly over the top, leaving a sliver below to create a ruffian. Then I topcoated and placed the gem where the colors met at the lowest point of the nail shape. I love how this mani came out, but I think the gems are too much work for everyday wear. For special occasions, though, something like this would be gorgeous. If anyone has tips for getting 3D items to stay put, share in the comments, or tag me on Twitter @SecretNailBlog.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Weekend Nails: Water Decal Skittles

This weekend I played with a classic red, white, and black color scheme inspired by my simple, cute, and ridiculously cheap Marilyn Monroe t-shirt. While I haven't been brave enough to try the Marilyn themed tutorial-in-which-she-makes-it-look-easy from Robin Moses, I crave Marilyn nail art, and this is a step in the right direction. For this design, I used Sally Hansen XTreme Wear in White On and Black Out, Julep Catherine, Pure Ice Dazzle Me, and water decals from the Born Pretty Store (sheet BLE1770 at the link).

The polka dotted heart design on my middle finger is a direct ripoff from Kim_Ciil at The rest of the designs I kind of played by ear.

This is also my second attempt at painting the back of my nails, a la this Louboutin inspired nail look from The Manicure Addict, for a little extra glam. The first time was a quiet flop. This time I made a huge mess with epic levels of smearing- my hands looked like a crime scene- but it worked out much better. It occurs to me that "wing it" is not really a strategy for success with this particular look, especially on short nails, but trial and error is the best way to figure this stuff out. If I can get comfortable doing this, think of all the fun we can have with color combos! I started with a dotting tool for the first layer and used a short pointed brush to touch up. The hardest part is the feeling that there's something under my nails; I have to fight the urge to "clean" the polish out.

I think next time a more deliberate approach is in order, possibly with some kind of tape contraption to make the cleanup easier. While far from perfect, I had fun playing with some new techniques. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Messin' with the Plie Wand

As a Julep Maven, this month I came into possession of their newest and much hyped product, the Plie Wand. I'm going to say up front that it was through the kindness of an abundance of crowdfunders that I have this product, because I didn't pre-order it. Even after watching the video, reading the blog post, and viewing the Facebook posts about it ranging from rabid enthusiasm to 'yawn,' I was unenthused about what it can do for me. I'm used to painting my nails, and now that my cleanup skills have improved, I don't worry as much about precision polishing. While I can't say I'm overwhelmingly converted to the camp that this is a must have product, I've played with it a little, and it's pretty cool I guess.

First I tried it for painting my toenails, which is the only reason I was particularly interested in the Plie Wand at all. It passed that test. Painting my toes was much more comfortable with the Plie Wand and looked much less like a 3 year old did it. Then I tried it on my fingernails. Julep compared it to spending your whole life writing with a pen the size of the cap, then being handed a whole pen. Mmm, not exactly. It felt more like trying to color with a crayon stretched to the shape of a pencil. Just not quite right. I can see how the bendy stem would be great for people with limited control due to arthritis, Parkinson's, or other conditions that impact hand control, though. Since I have pretty steady hands, it was more a hindrance than a help to me. But then I started striping.

I officially LOVE the Plie Wand for striping, precisely because it is like holding a pen. For painting it was in the way, but for striping it was perfect. Julep markets the Plie Wand as something to use with Julep polishes, includes a regular size precision brush (it has slightly shorter bristles than a regular Julep brush) that can be used with any polish. They sell a striper/dotter add on kit, but I already had a frayed Julep polish brush that I'd cut down into a thin striper. I pulled the overcap off and popped the brush into the Plie cap. It's a nail art dream.

I started to get a little mad when I couldn't get my carefully cultivated striper out of the wand, though. Ack! How did I forget the negative review on the website that the wand eats brushes and you can't get them out?! It didn't give me any trouble before, and now my striper's stuck? So annoying! I yanked with my tweezers. I tugged. I wiggled. I pulled. The inner cap wouldn't budge. Then it hit me that Julep had built in a simple feature to the Plie Wand for exactly this situation.

Instead of a solid cap, the removable magnetic cap that snaps on to the Plie Wand has a hole in the top. I'd noticed it, but didn't give a second thought to why they'd done it. Now I know. I pushed an orangewood stick through the hole, and my cap popped right out. The Plie Wand was restored to favored status for my precision nail art needs.

The colors used for this stamped French tip look were Sally Hansen XTreme Wear White On, Julep Caitlin for the hearts, and Essie A Cut Above for the stripe (I'm learning that there is no imperfection that glitter can't improve).

Oh, I almost forgot- I wouldn't be a very good Maven if I didn't show you my polishes. This month, I went Bombshell. Laree and Saaya were colors I had to have. Laree is a gold shimmer infused pink, while Saaya is a subdued yellowish apricot-more yellow than I expected, which was a minus for me, but I still think I like it. I instantly thought they'd make a beautiful gradient, and I was right! I also stamped these, using Julep Nellie. The downside: my tips chipped almost immediately, and the polish popped off in sheets the next day. I haven't played with them enough to see if this is going to be an issue or if I just laid down a bum base coat that day or something. I put Laree on my daughter sans basecoat, and her manicure actually lasted longer than usual, so the jury is still out. Laree has also replaced my go-to Nan on my toes with no issues. Hopefully it was a fluke, because Laree is a lovely summer pink, and I don't have anything else like Saaya. Mavens, what did you think of this month's collection? Is the Plie Wand a must have or a skip? Any polish problems?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I Love: Nubian Heritage Lotion

I don't normally review beauty products, but I was just dying to talk about this one! I may have just lucked into one of my new favorite products: Nubian Heritage Honey and Black Seed Lotion.

First, a kind-of disclosure. This product was provided to me free of cost, but not for review on the blog. I completed a survey at the Nubian Heritage website a few weeks ago after clicking a link that said I could get a free product. I like free, and the survey wasn't complicated, so I filled it out. Honestly, I forgot all about it and would have had no idea what it was if they hadn't included a little card thanking me for my participation. I was surprised and thrilled when such a big bottle randomly showed up (it's 8 ounces). So Nubian Heritage did not solicit this review, but now they got it.

The first thing I thought when I opened the box (besides "I didn't order anything, did I?") was that this box smelled nice. I had pretty much come to expect that many products targeted at women of color smell of shea butter, which I don't care for, and I guess the Nubian Heritage name made me think this one would, too. This lotion has a very unusual smell, but in a good way, and while it contains shea butter, it doesn't have the generic shea butter smell.  It's light and long lasting, and wouldn't overpower a body spray or perfume.

Once I opened it up, I found that it was very thick. When I read on the label that it's "anti-blemish" and "smooths uneven complexions," I was a little confused, because it's really thick for a face cream. I'm brave though, and I have a pretty resilient skin, so I tried it. And it feels awesome. The lotion isn't heavy or greasy at all, and a little bit goes a long way. It's to be seen whether it clears my complexion, but it feels and smells wonderful. It also smoothed my cuticles and soothed my sad looking feet.

Nubian Heritage Honey and Black Seed lotion is available online at The Vitamin Shoppe in 13 oz. bottles. $11 is a little pricey for lotion, but I have a feeling this could be a splurge for me-plus I think this 8 oz bottle will probably last a while. As an organic, fair trade, not tested on animals product, it's a winner all around. I'm in love.