Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My First Leadlight Nail Art

Always late to the party, I saw some leadlight nail art pop up in my Bloglovin' feed and I lost my mind. For those of you who are like me and have to be hit in the face before you notice a trend, leadlighting is when you stamp a design over a white or light background, then use jelly or sheer colors to give a watercolored or stained glass type look to your nail art, like the recent floral (yay florals!) post from ProcrastiNails. I tend to strongly prefer opaques over sheers, leaving the sheer polishes that find a way into my collection to languish. This is a great way to put them to work, and greatly increased my appreciation for sheer polishes.

For this design, I used Sally Hansen XTreme Wear White On underneath and Black Out for my stamping. I used sponging instead of a dotting tool with my sheer polishes for a less defined, hazy gradient. NYC Color Precious Peacock (I was SO disappointed when that one was sheer!), Sinful Colors Purple Diamond, and Wet N' Wild Megalast Retro Mint filled in the design, with Sinful Colors Mint Apple as my main mani color (yes, I bought more Sinful Colors polishes, shut up).

What do you think? I'm still doing some trial and error, and I'm interested in trying the more defined technique like the one in the Messy Mansion leadlight tutorial, but I've been happily sporting this mani for several days- that never happens! I think now I need more stamping plates.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why You Should Give Better Samples

I'd like to take a break from nails to talk about something I've been thinking about lately: free samples. We all love getting things for free, but I'm fascinated by the business behind them. Companies don't just give away product because it makes people happy. There's a business purpose behind them. I'm not in marketing, but I know what I like, so I figured I'd put my thoughts out into the universe on why full or large size free samples are a good idea on both sides, not just for the person on the receiving end.

Since I'm more on the "just for fun" branch of the nail blogger community (therefore I rarely receive nail-related samples), most of the free items I receive start from websites like Freeflys.com. This has allowed me to see quite a few types of samples. Overall there are three types, and each has different qualities that impact whether it will achieve the end goal of the company that sent it: my purchasing the product. I love trying new beauty products, but I'm hesitant to spend the often hefty price tags that come with them on an untried. Samples are a huge way to win my trust and show me that other products just won't do.

Tiny Foil Packets
Foil packet type sample, with Nintendo DS for reference

This is the sample type least likely to result in a purchase. This is not out of spite or stupidity, just that I usually don't feel like I really need a product after one use. In the example above, I got three foil packets- shampoo, conditioner, and leave in treatment. Only the leave in treatment made an impression, because the others were too small. Each had about a half dollar size amount. For my thick, coarse curls (think Corrine Bailey Rae), that was enough leave in treatment, but wasn't close to enough shampoo or conditioner. I had to supplement with my regular products. This means I have no idea if the sampled product is any better than what I normally use. I might buy the leave in (it smells fantastic!), but probably won't go out of my way or pay more for the shampoo or conditioner.

Consumer fact #1: I love trying new beauty products, but if your sample is too small for me to know it's it's a must have, I won't be switching-especially if it costs more that what I'm already using.

Medium/Large Samples
A 4 ounce sample bottle of Bio True
This seems to be the trend with samples, and I'm pretty pleased about that. Medium/large samples aren't full sized, but they give you enough to figure out why this product is better than others. With the example here, Bio True contact lens solution, I literally didn't know I needed it. I've been using store brand solution for years because it costs way less than other brands like Bio True. I didn't think there was much of a difference between brands. Contact solution is contact solution, right? Apparently not. I've been using this sample for a few days now, and I much prefer it to my old brand. This sample has at least 2 weeks worth in it, and I fully expect to switch brands when I run out. I'll still use the store brand stuff to remove eye makeup (beauty hint: a cotton ball dipped in contact solution removes eye makeup gently and thoroughly, and feels great on tired eyes), but Bio True just makes my contacts feel better.

Consumer fact #2: To get me to buy your product, I need to know it's better. Give me enough in my sample to let me get an honest appraisal, and I may even throw the old stuff away. It's very common for me to request samples of products when I'm thinking about switching or not sold on the one I'm using.

The Full Size Sample
Full size Nubian Heritage sample
*Cue hallelujah chorus* This is the holy grail of samples. You usually have to do something to get them (surveys, join a mailing list, etc.), but I don't mind jumping through a few hoops for a full size sample. They're also most likely to win me over to a product I wouldn't have used otherwise. This is because if I get a full size product and use the whole thing, I'll most likely see it as a need by the time I'm done. The Nubian Heritage lotion I raved about is a perfect example of both how effective this is and why full size samples have a bonus over medium/large samples. In addition to writing a blog post and tweeting how much I love this stuff, I took a healthy sized sample of this lotion to my mom, since I had a whole bottle. This lotion has become a must have, so I fully plan to buy again, and if she likes it, I may buy her a bottle, too. I went from having zero interest in buying this product to planning to buy two more bottles. This stuff is expensive-but now that I've started using it, I'm willing to pay it. Full size samples have a higher up front cost, but for smaller companies, it may actually cost the same or even less than creating a run of oddly sized product packages for decent samples, and the slow burn loyalty can really help build a brand.

Consumer fact #3: Giving me enough free product to get me hooked: good. Giving me enough to share with people I know will get hooked with me: great.

I love trying new products and brands, but I just don't have the budget to try everything. If I find something I like well enough at a reasonable price, I tend to stick with it. The thing is, health and beauty products is an area I'm willing to splurge on if I really like something, but I won't pay full price for an expensive product that I don't know is better than the one I've already got. If I've got a great coupon, it's on sale cheap, or I've tried and loved a sample, it's game on.

For those of you who want to get in on free samples, I highly recommend Freeflys. While there aren't usually a ton offered, every one that I've requested has been exactly as described on the site, Freeflys tells you up front whether something is required (gifts with purchase, in store vouchers, survey, etc) and I have never been asked for a credit card or referred to a site that wasn't legit. Do you have a favorite site to sample new products?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mini-Me Nail Art- Watercolors and Wraps

Today I have a couple of techniques and products to show you with the help of my lovely hand model, Baby Love (AKA Mini-Me). Every now and then we have mommy-daughter time by doing nails. She usually asks for variations on designs I've already done, and it's always interesting to see my already teensy nail art designs further miniaturized. Today I have my first foray into nail wraps and a watercolor design.

For her birthday, Baby Love wanted to sample some of the Sally Hansen nail wraps I recently got as a gift, and we selected this adorable skully print called Heart Breaker. For her accent nail, we did Sally Hansen X-Treme Wear in Twisted Pink with an overlay of Julep Joelle, and a little heart on top, also with Twisted Pink. I haven't tried nail wraps before, so it took me a little time to get used to them, but once I got a few nails in, they were very easy! The hardest part was cutting them down to the right shape to conform to her tiny, childhood-damaged cuticles, but since they give you a range of sizes, we were able to find a match for each nail. She has short nails, so instead of using a different strip for each nail, I just flipped the strips and used each one for two nails. What surprised me most was the lasting power. Even with as active as Baby Love is, we had no chipping almost a week later when she was ready to take them off. I did seal them in with a brush of Mega Shine, but I don't think it was completely necessary. They seemed to be solidly sealed even without it.

For the other design, I used a technique from the Nailasaurus "nimbus" tutorial. Baby Love asked for "watercolors." Since she's ten, I'm not sure exactly what she meant, but she seemed happy with the result!

As usual, no cleanup on Mini-Me (don't like to use acetone on her)
Isn't she precious? Have you tried either of these techniques? Tips and tricks welcome!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Summer Floral

Sorry for the long time between posts-I've been equal parts uninspired and gloomy lately, which has not made for creative nail art. Lots of glitter gradients and back-to-the-well stuff. However, some sunshine has started to lift my mood, and thanks to a gift of a bunch of untried Sally Hansen polishes (thanks Mom!) my nails are slowly looking like me again. To celebrate the start of summer, I used a new color scheme on a favorite pattern.

Florals and stripes are so much fun together, and super versatile. With this classic rosettes and wallpaper type design, I usually use a mint or pale jade green as the base with pink rosettes and copper and green stripes. This time I went with a glowy pink and chrome green as my base colors for a brighter, more summery take on the same technique. For my pink, I used Julep Laree, a "golden pink taffeta shimmer" from my May Maven box. The fine gold shimmer in this color gives it a coral glow, and coral is my "I need all of them" color this spring. Laree is out of stock right now, but it's one that's worth waiting for- so pretty! I used my other Maven color, Saaya, as the peachy stripe in the wallpaper nail. I've decided, at least for now, that I don't care much for Saaya on its own, but it accents beautifully.

I used Laree and Saaya, with a touch of Sinful Colors Tokyo Pearl, for my rosette accent nail details. Rosettes are done to death, but I just love them. For my leaves, I used Sinful Colors Rise & Shine. As the base of the rosette accent nail, I used a color that was the surprise standout of my recent haul, Sally Hansen X-Treme Wear in Ivy League. This bright green chrome looks fantastic with my medium-dark skin tone, and is a great pair up with these gold shimmers I'm loving this summer. It takes a few coats, but applies surprisingly well for such a chromy polish. Since Julep polishes tend to run a little darker than the swatches online, I also strongly suspect that it's a pretty close dupe for Julep Tatum, a color I've been on the fence about getting. Speaking of Julep dupes...

During my uninspired swatching, I do believe I found one! One of my very favorite colors is Julep's bright raspberry creme, Nellie. In trying on a few colors, I happened to notice that one of my new-to-me colors, Sally Hansen Nail Growth Miracle in Sugar Plum, was almost an exact match. They're so close that I'm wearing Sugar Plum on my big toe and Nellie on the others, and you can't tell the difference. But don't take my word for it...

Sugar Plum on the right, Nellie on the left, no topcoat
See? Twins! Nellie applies a little thicker, which means one coat vs. two of Sugar Plum for best coverage, and Nellie is ever so slightly deeper, but at a glance, they're virtually identical. I'm not sure if Sugar Plum is easy to find anymore, but Nellie is out of stock right now, so it makes me happy to basically have a spare!

What do you think? Does a new color scheme make florals fresh, or do you prefer a different floral pattern for summer versus your cold weather look?