Friday, August 29, 2014

NYC Fashion Queen Collection

Normally I'm mostly a pick-up-a-polish-or-three-here-and-there kind of girl, but when I saw the NYC Fashion Queen collection, I got a little crazy...and bought the entire collection. Nine polishes. At about $2 a bottle, this brand is very affordable, and the lure of a brand new collection suckered me in. I have a few NYC polishes, and, with the exception of their matte topcoat, I have been supremely underwhelmed. The gorgeous colors call you, but the formula has been blah, and they're almost always too sheer. I don't know what came over me, but I'm glad it did, because this time, NYC delivered big time! Get ready, there are about to be swatches everywhere.

The NYC Fashion Queen collection is a set of six 'Crystal Couture' glitters in tinted jelly bases and three cremes (for a closer look at them in bottle, check out this post from The Polished Mommy). The cremes were brilliant, but the glitters were a leap of faith, since I don't buy a ton of glitter toppers. First, let's look at the glitters.

Queen's Jewels
All of the glitters in this collection are in a jelly base that builds easily packed with small glitters (the photos for the glitters here all show one, two, and three coats left to right). Most of them could easily be built to opaque  on their own or layered. Queen's Jewels is a grasshopper green with green glitter that will make a great transition between seasons.

Blue Majesty
Blue Majesty is the most sheer, least glitter packed, and least cooperative of the bunch, but still quite pretty. It's a blueberry with blue glitter.
Ruby Queen
Ruby Queen is the most complex of the glitter toppers. It's a deep pink base with pink and red glitters. When worn as a topper, it skews red, but on its own, it's a brighter tone. This is the "summeriest" of the bunch.

NY Princess
NY Princess is also a little more poorly behaved, and the one of the set that I'm least likely to wear in its own. It's a purple base with purple and blue glitters. I would potentially wear this as a one coat sheer or in a jelly sandwich with a topcoat with bigger glitters.
Rule the City
Rule the City is the glitter in this collection that's most "me," and it's also the most unusual polish in this collection. It's a smoky base with red and grey glitters. One coat is too streaky to wear alone, but two or three becomes an opaque gunmetal with red sparkles. I really like this polish.

Fashion Queen
Finally, Fashion Queen, the namesake of the collection and possibly my favorite of all of them. Fashion Queen is a dense gold glitter in a gold tinted base. One coat is subtly shimmery and three coats is almost blingy.

Now the colors that drew me to this collection in the first place: the cremes.

Crown Gold
Crown Gold with Fashion Queen 
Crown Gold is a buttery yellowish gold. It's not overly brassy, and I didn't have much streakiness at all. This is two coats. I have to be in the mood for metallics, but I can definitely see myself wearing this one.

Queen of the City

Queen of the City with NY Princess (left) and Ruby Queen (right)
Queen of the City is a gorgeous, rich burgundy with subtle shimmer. I love how the glitter toppers change the vibe of this one; NY Princess brings out the purple, while Ruby Queen highlights the red. Two coats here.
Royal Chic

Royal Chic with Fashion Queen accents
Royal Chic is a warm walnut brown that screams fall. It's kind of hard to photograph, but I assure you, it's noticeably brown. It plays super well with Fashion Queen, I love these two together. The accents in these photos were both done with no tools-the NYC brush is flexible, but firm enough for simple nail art. This one is a touch thin; here I used three coats.

I'm so glad I got these. They restored my faith in NYC Color and are all polishes I'm sure to wear over and over. The finishes are beautiful (no topcoat on any of these!), and the colors are so versatile. For what it's worth, I think Fashion Queen is a must have, Queen of the City is an instant classic, and Crown Gold is a metallic for people who don't care for metallics. They're all so great that now I can't decide which one to actually wear! What do you think? Will you be picking up any colors from this collection?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wildflowers on Watercolors

Not sure what came over me, but I woke up the other day knowing I wanted wildflowers. After Googling using multiple search terms, I found inspiration on Pinterest. While I don't pin myself, I always find interesting things when Google takes me to a nail art lover's pinboard. This time the design was a pastel watercolor floral from Celine Does Nails. (You can view the original pinned photo here.)

I'm not partial to pastels, so when I want to emulate a pastel based design, it usually comes out a little brighter than the original. This was no exception. My design ended up more summer than spring, but I think it came out well. I tried a few different types of flowers; some were good, some not so much, but for someone who loves florals as much as I do, practice is good. For this look, I polished each nail a different shade, then sponged the others on top. I topcoated to blend before painting on my floral pattern with toothpicks, a small brush, and dotting tools. Finally, I laid down two more layers of topcoat to seal in the design.

Now's also a good time to mention that I have a new topcoat, Glisten and Glow HK Girl Fast Drying+Super Shiny Topcoat. While I don't feel like I've given it enough time for a full review, after two manis (I also used it on my KISS tribute design), I'm ready to share first impressions.

I've heard a lot about HK Girl as a beauty blogger favorite and had to try it. I was happy to see that the price tag is nice compared to other boutique topcoats. I paid less than $10 for it after shipping, whereas my other current favorite quick drying topcoats, Julep Freedom Polymer Topcoat (which I wasn't wowed by at first, and now I panic when I start to run out) and Oxygen Performance Topcoat, are almost $15 with Maven pricing and free shipping. If you're not a member of the Julep Maven subscription service, they're $ shipping. Yikes! I'm pretty fond of Sally Hansen Mega Shine as well, which retails about the same as HK Girl and is available in drugstores, but takes longer to get completely hard than my Julep toppers do. HK Girl delivers on its promise to dry hard in a matter of minutes and it has a wet shine when dry. Lasting power seems to be pretty good as well. Downsides-it's a little thinner than I expected, and it smells dreadful. It's also only a 2-free formula (according to the website, it does contain dibutyl phthalate). While a 3, 4, or 5-free formula is a bonus rather than a must for me, it's important enough to some people that it's worth mentioning. All in all I like it so far, and it will be nice not to have to wait for a sale to get a topcoat with the qualities I want at a reasonable price, so I'll give it a few weeks to see if it has go-to potential. I'm especially interested in the claim that it maintains the same consistency without thickening for the whole bottle. If that's true (or if it thickens, but not past the thickness of a new bottle of Freedom) they'll have me hooked.

Colors Used
Base Nails:
Sally Hansen Insta Dri Lively Lilac (purple)
Sinful Colors Nice Stems (mint)
Julep Lilou (yellow)
Sinful Colors Cream Soda (pale orange)
Sally Hansen Nail Growth Miracle Sweet Sunrise (pink)
Sally Hansen Nail Growth Miracle Sugar Plum (dark pink)
Sally Hansen Nail Growth Miracle Kiss of Pink (medium pink)
Sinful Colors Boogie Nights (medium orange)
Sinful Colors Cream Soda (pale orange)
Sinful Colors Rainstorm (dark blue; 
mixed with Sally Hansen french tip white for light blue accent) 
Revlon Jaded Night (dark green)
Sinful Colors Happy Ending (light green)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Weekend Nails: KISS Concert Nails

One of the strange little things most people wouldn't guess about me is that I love 70s and 80s rock, and there's a special place in my heart for KISS. The theatrics! The glitter! The black and white color scheme with jewel toned accents! How could any nail art aficionado not love KISS? This year, KISS is celebrating 40 years by touring with Def Leppard, and last night I was beyond thrilled to attend the psycho circus. Of course, I needed a mani appropriate to the occasion.

This was so much harder than I thought it would be. I used striping tape, which is notoriously uncooperative but highly effective, to pay tribute to the Starchild. The end result was pretty good, and the technique has definite potential for a more conventional nail art look. The Demon and the Spaceman were freehand. It's not so easy to see here, but a light sponging of Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Tulle Kit over the silver added Starchild's signature blue glow. Surprisingly, the Cat was the most difficult of the four tribute nails. After test driving several designs thinking it would be simple, I broke the design down to the simplest possible denominator, then dressed it up a little bit with a green gradient tip to honor the Cat's dramatic green eyes.

Finally, my thumb honored the KISS Army logo with a simple orange and yellow sponge gradient. This one was all freehand as well, and was the only one that was easier than I expected it to be. I did have a little more transfer onto the black background than I hoped, but less than I feared, so I guess I broke even. Overall, I'd really like to see cleaner lines. I think experimenting with some new nail art brushes may be my next big advance in getting the clean lines I want in more complex designs-suggestions welcome!

While it didn't come out quite like I wanted, this KISS design was a fun break from my usual girlie fare and garnered plenty of oohs and ahhs at the concert. Have you ever done band art for a concert? Who was it? Share with me on Twitter at @SecretNailBlog. I promise, no judgement on your acrylic tribute to the Beebz.

I also want to mention that $1 from every ticket on this tour went to veteran's charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project, and both bands also accepted Motley Crue's (saw them earlier this summer!) call out for the Ice Bucket Challenge we all keep hearing about during the concert, as well as the two bands pledging to donate a total of $20,000 to the ALS Association. Click the links if either of those causes speaks to you, and click here to see KISS and Def Leppard take the challenge!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Weekend Nails: Sheers

It's been a while since I've done a weekend nails post, and this one doesn't seem too exciting at first glance. I have some big nail art projects planned for the next few weeks, but I've been a bit under the weather and didn't feel up to anything dramatic this weekend. Instead, I surprised myself by choosing some of the sheer polishes in my collection.

I much prefer opaques over bare nails or sheers about 360 days a year. I like full coverage and am annoyed by any peek of VNL. When I saw Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Cold As Ice, I was enthralled by the shimmery pink and orange shift. I'm not sure how I looked at this polish and expected it not to be sheer, but there ya go. I got it home, tried it on, and didn't pick it up again until this weekend. I started out with American Classics Bridge The Ridge basecoat. This gave a matte glaze and helped even out the color of my polish stained tips. Then I added two coats of Cold As Ice and topcoated.

This mani was pretty and simple, but I couldn't leave well enough alone, because everything looks better with glitter. I pulled out another pretty sheer that was languishing in my collection, Sally Hansen Nail Growth Miracle in Misty Rose. Misty Rose is a very, very sheer pink with tiny pink, silver, and green glitter that gives an all over sparkle. The combination brought out some of the purple sheen in both, making for a surprisingly complex mani that warmed even my sheer-hating heart. Then I finished with Sally Hansen Super Shine top coat; not a quick drying formula, but I didn't have any issues with it.

Plain nails have a place-it's a good idea to let the nails breathe occasionally-but a matte basecoat and the right sheer polish is like wearing natural makeup. It doesn't scream 'look at me,' but it shows off the hard work of maintaining beautiful, healthy nails while hiding some of the unfortunate side effects of my beloved opaque shades. How do you wear your sheers?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Before the Blog

SSNB recently hit 1000 page views, a milestone that was both exciting and humbling. This blog was created almost entirely for my personal amusement, so even though 1000 views is all in a day's work for the more established blogs, for me it's more than I ever expected. I'm the type of person who likes to always find the art and science to the things I enjoy, so painting nails turned into nail art, which turned into hand and nail care (even perfect manis don't look as good on ragged hands!), which turned into blogging-something that has continuously raised the bar. I'm so delighted that other people are interested in seeing this progression and to be a part of the generous and delightful beauty blogging community. I racked my brain on the best way to celebrate this milestone, and finally I decided the best way to commemorate the occasion was to take a look back.

I've taken pictures of my nails since long before I started blogging, they were just for a different purpose. The primary reason for the photos back then was a reference, in case I wanted to wear a design again. They weren't always great pictures, but they documented designs that I couldn't stop looking at. I'd love to go back and reimagine these sometime.

This one is a matte/shine hybrid, with Sally Hansen Tough Taupe as the base and (I think) Revlon Foxy and Copper Penny as the shades for my toothpick rosettes. I mattified using NYC matte topcoat before adding the flowers. Roses are one of my go to designs because they're so pretty and so versatile. There are a ton of variations on this manicure in my photos, but this is one of the only times I've done a mixed finish design. I wonder why that is-I really like it!    

Another rosette variation I've never repeated for some inexplicable reason is this girly white based rosette mani. I can't even begin to remember all of the colors I used, but I was so happy with the result!

I don't remember what inspired this cheerful under the sea design, but I do remember I liked it enough to wear it for several days. The base is Sally Hansen X-treme Wear in Blue Me Away with Mellow Yellow for the little angel fish. The coral and starfish are another Sally Hansen shade, Hard as Nails Mango Tango.

Finally, here's my gradient butterfly mani. I'd love to try these again now that I have steadier hands and am more skilled overall. Yes, I know everyone does butterflies, and it takes forever to do, but it's soooo pretty! I'm not sure which colors I used.

My skills were fledgling and my photos simple, but they get the job done when I need some inspiration. Tell the truth-do you have a stash of blurry pics of messy manis that you can't bring yourself to purge?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August Maven Mystery Add Ons

I went absolutely nuts with add ons for my Julep Maven box this month. I've been very stingy with my Jules, so I managed to add on two polishes and a mystery add on package to my August box (not to be confused with a mystery box, which is separate from your monthly subscription box). Yay!

I chose this month to get wild and out with my Jules because August's Wanderlust collection of polishes just didn't appeal to me. Not that they weren't lovely, but none of them spoke to me. I was pretty excited about the new gel eye gliders, though, so I restocked on my Oxygen base coat and tried the black eyeliner for my box, then added presents.

Gel Eye Glider: I've been using the same black Wet N' Wild kohl eyeliner pencils since I was fourteen, and my eyeliner technique hasn't changed much either. A raccoon faced attempt at liquid liner scared me off of all other products, but this is one I think I'll be giving a chance. My current liner wears off and leaves me with smudgies by lunchtime, but it's pigmented, reliable, and I can usually get them 2 for $1. While the gel glider didn't maintain the crisp, unfaded lines I had secretly hoped for, my liner stayed intact with no smudgies. I wouldn't say the no dragging promise held up completely either, but my top lid actually looked lined rather than like I just filled in from the crease down. Julep suggests warming it on the back of your hand for smoother application...but that leaves a streak of no-budge liner on your hand! Mine is ever-so-slightly visible 8 hours later. If you're expecting the perfect 10 hour wear and zero dragging that Julep promises, you'll be disappointed. If you want an improvement on your current product in both areas, this one's worth a try.

Add On Polishes: Since I knew I wasn't getting any polishes and that just won't do, I added on Cameron and Blakely. Blakely has been in my wishlist just because it seems to be a quintessential love-it-or-hate-it Julep shade. My curiosity wouldn't let me say no to getting it basically free. Blakely is a molten chromey purple/green duochrome with a fairly defined shift. The green end is a forest green, while the purple end is rich and sort of royal plum. The green is the more dominant of the two- the only way I can describe it is sort of lizard industrial. I's not easy to describe! I did find it to be kind of thick, and that made application difficult. It wasn't sticky, but it was uncooperative, and I had to redo several nails. Then I had chipping issues almost right away. I think I'm going to put a few drops of thinner in it to try to make this lovely polish better behaved.

Cameron was the big surprise. I'm not crazy about textured polish, but the Julep Stardust finish looked so pretty. After not hating Zoya's PixieDust finish, I decided to give this texture a shot. I expected to immediately smooth it out with topcoat, but I absolutely loved Cameron all by itself, too. Matte glitter sounds like an oxymoron, but it's actually very nice, subdued with sparkle, full coverage but super easy to work with, and subtle enough to wear as a full mani, and I suspect it's even opaque enough for nail art. Glitter swirls are within reach! I'm livin' the dream right now. The mattified finish and soft purple shade was an excellent pairup with the industrial feel of Blakely, so I used it as an accent nail and added a burnished silver stud on my middle finger to tie it all together.

Mystery Package: I was a little wary about the 2000 Jule mystery add on, but after receiving a polish from my wishlist as a mystery polish add on, I was feeling a little bolder, and I have to say I'm glad I did! In the package, I received Solace oil free sunscreen, Glycolic hand scrub, a glass nail file, and one polish, Lilou, . The sunscreen was on my 'I hope' list when I ordered the mystery add on, and I'd just told my partner how much I needed a glass file. The glycolic scrub is something I wouldn't have bought myself, but was more than happy to try, and it turned out to be a great get. It has a light floral smell that I liked, but not everyone will be crazy about it. My cuticles loved it, and I can't wait to try it as a foot scrub. It could also be used very carefully as a face scrub if you have hearty skin; it's too rough for sensitive skin. I haven't tried the sunscreen yet, but I did note that it lacks the heavy sunscreen smell, which is a huge plus. The jury is still out on Lilou. It was most definitely not on my I hope list. Yellows aren't my favorite, but Baby Love seemed enthralled with it, so I put it on her, and it didn't look bad at all. It was a bit thin, two coats was still a touch patchy, but this was with no base coat, no topcoat, and on a squirmy-by-nature ten year old, so I'll let you know what results a proper swatching produces.

Blank Canvas Eye Primer: Here's another product that the jury's out on. This was my gift for taking three add ons. I wasn't expecting a full size beauty product, so that was a pleasant surprise. I tried it today, and it feels nice and even looks pretty on its own, but I can't speak to it's power as a primer just yet. I wore it under a pinkish blush that I brush over my eyes for a gentle glow when I'm not wearing eyeshadow. It seems to be holding, but we'll see how it works with my actual shadows. It also may have potential as a concealer. Stay tuned...

So that's the end of my Julep product review grab bag. What do you think? Anything you're considering picking up?