Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monster Blood Nails

Vamptober has been so much fun, but for the last look of the month, I decided to do a bright, fun play on the Halloween dripping blood nail art: monster blood! You'll have to excuse my poor photos; I haven't gotten home in the daytime all week, so I had to choose between decent lighting for my pics or posting my Halloween themed post after Halloween.

For this look, I started with 2 coats of Sinful Colors Happy Ending, a glowy bright green. It is so pretty, a lit from within green with a subtle gold shimmer that makes it extra special. Then I did a simple paint drip design with NYC Ruby Queen. The jelly texture was thick enough to cover, but still kept that bloody goo feel. The chunky glitter sparkles and matches the playfulness of the bright monster green.

As a side note, I wore Zoya Jesy with a cute black cat decal for most of the week, but as I was taking it off I realized I never photographed it- fail! For the record, Jesy is a gold tinged orange glitter jelly. I didn't think it was really me when I first got it, but it was great for a Halloween mani. The more I wore it the more I liked it, and I got tons of compliments. Halloween is the best time for nails! What will your nails be costumed in tonight?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Julep Maven Anniversary: Hits and Misses

I have officially been a Julep Maven for one year! Last October I took my first ever subscription box risk and joined the Maven program. Between my monthly Maven boxes and a ridiculous number of outside purchases, I've amassed over 50 Julep polishes and an armload of beauty products. In honor of my Maven anniversary, here are a few of my very favorites and least favorites from my first year of Maven boxes. My style profile is Classic With A Twist, for the record, but I think I may be a closet Bombshell. I focused in on products and polishes from the past year's Maven boxes, so the whole Julep catalogue isn't represented here, or this would be a verrrry long post!

Hits: Polishes

May "Fresh Twist" Collection
Laree has been out of stock almost since it was released, and I understand why-it's amazing. This is not just another pink. That's why I'm kicking myself for not getting its purple shimmer twin, Paulette before it went out of stock. If Laree ever becomes available again, I may have to say polish budget be darned and get a backup.

December "Glitterati" Collection
I actually did get a backup of Joelle, and now I need a backup for my backup. Joelle is endlessly variable, stunning, and equally sophisticated and playful. It's a must have for me.

July "Poolside" Collection
Lissa is nothing special on the surface, but it's turquoise done just right. It's a little smoky, a little bright, and all around fun. I went back and forth on which polish to choose in July, but I am SO glad I ultimately chose Lissa over the lovely but predictable Beverly.

Misses: Polishes

February "Dramatic" Collection 
Keeping it real, I don't like Greta and I don't know why. It's just not "me." The finish is weird and foily, and the color isn't exciting to me at all. I've only used it once, in nail art, right after I got it, and I just don't feel inspired to pick it up again.

December "Glitterati" Collection
I almost didn't get Jillian. I swapped out my December Classic box for Boho Glam to get Misty (surprise! the must have for that box was Joelle), but I couldn't stop thinking about Jillian, so I ended up picking it up as a free polish (more on that later). While it's...fine, I guess, it just didn't have the depth I expected for an "eggplant bronze molten." It's red. A pretty red, but red. I was equally perturbed when I got Sinful Colors Rich in Heart and discovered they were pretty much the same polish. I haven't done a side by side, but they look identical to me, and Rich in Heart has a more agreeable formula. NOT happy to find out I wasted my freebie on a polish that has a $1.99 dupe when Julep has so many more unique shades.

April "Vivid" Collection
I think Mariska's a love it or hate it polish. I loved the "juicy tangerine" description, but I just couldn't love the polish in practice. It's ugly. My daughter, however, loves it. She's dying to know when I'm going to finally destash and give her my "traffic cone orange." There's also quite a bit of love for it in the reviews on the website. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Near Misses

October "Black Magic" Collection
I got Shailene as an add on, and it has been plagued with issues. My bottle, like many others apparently, was so thick and gloppy that it was barely wearable. I put it on my toes for a few days, but didn't care for it. When I saw that others has the same issue, I asked for a replacement. Julep shipped one out immediately, but the new one was just as bad, so I declared defeat and attacked Bottle #1 with polish thinner. It's still pretty thick, but why it went in the near misses column instead of the fails is that this color is absolutely beeyootiful. Once it got on my fingers, I saw it was a shimmery browned purple that's different depending on the light- it's rich and complex and interesting, and I think I love it. It's  If a color is going to be this much work, it better be special, and I don't have anything at all like Shailene. However, I also don't have any other Julep polishes with such major application issues, and I would never recommend it without a disclaimer, so Shailene gets filed as a near miss.

February-Free Gift
Love was free, and I like free. A lot. However, when I got it, I was kind of underwhelmed. It wasn't quite a glitter, not quite opaque, and the magenta glitter scattered throughout didn't really go with the rest of the glitter. I didn't think I'd ever use it. However, Love's saving grace is that it's incredibly versatile. It looks washed out on its own, but gives great coverage over other colors and really stands out as an interesting accent. On its own, Love is a miss, but with a little creativity, it's unique and a great addition to my collection.

Products: Hits
Glow Pore Minimizing Blush in Peach Bellini- April
I'm weird about blush, but this stuff looks and feels amazing. I was nervous about buying it, but as soon as I put it on, I was wowed. It's pricey (I wouldn't have initially spent even the Maven price for it if it didn't come in my box), but I use it almost daily and have barely made a dent.

Oxygen Smoothing Base Coat-June
Oxygen Base Coat has quickly become a favorite for me. I always use a base coat and a top coat, and Julep's are my favorite. I have other good topcoat options, but Oxygen is my go-to base. My nails are getting stronger without getting so hard that they break, growing faster, and splitting less since I started using Oxygen Base Coat. I ordered my third bottle with this month's box!

Products: Misses
Sweep Eyeshadow Palette-December
This is another item that fell in the "nothing special" category. It was a set of uninspired neutral shadows that don't apply, last, or look any better than the shadows I already use. I didn't hate them, but if I would have chosen something else if given my druthers.

Eye Sheen Liquid Eyeshadow- February
The Eye Sheen shadows were a sneak fail. They were a product I was really looking forward to. When I got it, the pot was tiny and it applied poorly on me. I also do my day to day eyeshadow with a finger- no tools for me- so the fact that I can't get to the shadow without getting it under my nails was not fun. I wanted to like it so much, but I just couldn't make it work, and eventually it hardened into an unusable ooblecky plasma. Now they aren't even available on the Julep site anymore, so maybe they're going back to the drawing board? The little glass pot is pretty cute, though; maybe I'll scoop out the shadow and make a custom lipstain or something fun like that!

Maven Experience: Hits and Misses
Whether Julep Maven is a good program or not is a hot topic in the beauty blogs. Honestly, I can only speak to my own experiences, and there are plenty of people whose experience was very different, but I am quite content with the service I received this year. I've always gotten quick responses to my e-mails (I hate the phone, so never tried to call), any issues, like the goopy bottle of Shailene, were resolved to my satisfaction, and I've never received a broken or incorrect item. Looking at the comments on their Facebook page, you would think Maven is a total nightmare, but I have had a wholly pleasant experience. They did used to give a free polish code on your third consecutive box (how I got Jillian), and I was disappointed when they unceremoniously discontinued that. They also changed the skip policy and raised the cost of the lowest subscription tier unless you prepay. Even though I got to stay under the old terms (I did decide to upgrade to My Maven, I'm in love with customizing my box!), I didn't think it was a positive change across the board. Part of the reason I joined was because the option to skip anytime made it risk free. Fortunately,  I have only skipped once all year, and now with the option to customize, I don't expect to need to skip very often at all. [Update: Julep recently announced the "I'm out this month" feature, which is essentially just bringing back the option to skip anytime. They can call it new if they want, I'm just glad it's back!] I will say this: Maven is not a budget program. They're expensive products, and while you get a good deal for their sticker price, you're not exactly getting a steal for $20-25 a month. I love that I get free shipping on my copious amount of Julep purchases, and this is more about treating myself to a fun splurge and maybe trying something new every month than saving on products I probably would have bought anyway. I haven't saved much money, but I am getting what I wanted out of joining and don't have any major complaints.

Ok, so it was still a very long post, but I hope it was fun to read. If you're not a Maven and want to try it out, hook me up and use my referral link to get started, and be sure to use code FREEBOX to get your introductory box for only the $3.99 shipping cost.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Grandma Cleo's Leopard Print

My great grandmother, Cleo, passed away last week. Grandma Cleo was one of those women you would call a 'character.' I didn't meet her until I was an older teenager, and she was a personality that could fill the room. Even as she crept toward her 90's (and eventually crashed through them), she maintained a life on her own terms. For her funeral today, I have decided to honor her in a way she would surely appreciate: a nail art tribute to my favorite memory of her.

One of the first times I ever heard anyone talk about Grandma Cleo was the scandalous gossip that she wore head to toe leopard print to the funeral of my other much loved great grandmother, Minnie. At the time, this was an outrage, but as I got to know Grandma Cleo over the subsequent years, it became clear that no disrespect was intended, that was just kind of how she rolled. Eventually, it became a symbol in my mind of her big personality and 'do what feels right' attitude. I combined my existing mani with a leopard accent in the same colors: Revlon Copper Penny as the base, Colors By Llarowe Human Nature for the inside of the spots, and outlined the spots, appropriately, with Julep Cleopatra. I let the latex finish on Cleopatra stay this time by topcoating before outlining the spots. The combination of the classy plastic wrap mani and the playful leopard print is a perfect representation of the woman it symbolizes.

Thanks for letting me share my tribute to Grandma Cleo with you. I know she would absolutely love it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vamptober: Saran Wrap Black and Gold

For today's Vamptober look, I tried out a plastic wrap mani in the style of this tutorial from Polish Me Please, where you essentially use a balled up piece of plastic wrap as a sponge. I started with a base of Julep Cleopatra. Cleopatra is a "black latex" polish (no latex in the actual formula), which means it has an edgy matte black finish. It's a good formula that looks much cleaner if you apply two or three thin coats as opposed to one thick coat. Currently it's sold out on the Julep website, but it's a pretty simple finish that could be replicated with a good quality black creme polish and matte topcoat. For this look, though, I ruined the latex finish anyway by covering it with super shiny Oxygen Performance Topcoat. I just can't resist shining up my matte polishes! Before I did that, though, I "sponged" on Revlon Copper Penny (an opaque copper gold metallic shimmer) and Colors By Llarowe Human Nature (a holo infused dark mushroom taupe).

Copper Penny is very opaque for a shimmer, which makes it great for this type of look. At first glance it swallows up Human Nature, but the addition of the second polish gives it a subtle depth and scattered sparkle that kicks up the vamp factor without allowing Copper Penny to chunk apart the black base. To put the look over the top, I layered Copper Penny over the backs of my nails for a black and gold Louboutin mani. I finished off with matte silver studs on my accent nails.

This look is vampy because of the rich contrast between the black base, the texture created by the two colors, and the lush details of the silver studs and Louboutined tips. This is a look that would look equally appropriate at a formal gala or a costume party. The copper tips don't have great staying power, so that's more of a one-night-only feature, but the rest of the mani can be worn anywhere. It's a perfect Vamptober look!

Remember to show me how you're celebrating #Vamptober on Facebook and Twitter! Be sure to tag me so I can see your looks.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekend Nails: Dia De Los Muertos

For this weekend's adventure, I took a break from Vamptober for a nail art look inspired by Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Like much of the world right now, I'm enthralled by the Mexican sugar skull theme, representing the celebration and remembrance of loved ones who have passed away.

For this design I was inspired by the sugar skull themed makeup designs often punctuated by spiderwebs and roses. Instead of the brighter colors or black base used for Dia de los Muertos nails, I chose a more ethereal color scheme, using Julep Sera and Harlow as my base colors. For the skull accent, I also used Julep Colette (shimmer purple) and Greta (shimmery pink-red). For my rose accents, I used Julep Nellie and Greta and outlined with a black striper, which I also used for my spiderwebs, to give more of a tattoo vibe. My detail work isn't quite good enough yet for the more realistic look I was shooting for, but I think they came out a lot of fun and have the spirit of the look I envisioned.

These nails are a cute reminder that there's more than one fun holiday in October! What do you think?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Vamptober: Chocolate and Gold Tentacles

This week, I started out thinking this mani wasn't one of my best, but I've become very fond of it. Behold-my first attempt at tentacles!

Right thumb

You'll have to forgive me, between the gloomy weather, heavy topcoating, and the nature of the beast, this mani turned out to be very difficult to photograph. I took pictures from a few different angles to (hopefully) let you get a feel for it and see why I like it so much. You'll recognize this color combo from my NYC Fashion Queen nail art- it's Royal Chic, a rich chocolatey brown, and Fashion Queen, a glam gold glitter. Fashion Queen is so bold and complex that it actually makes this mani a little hard to figure out when you're looking at're blinded by the sparkle.

Fashion Queen is also easily buildable, making it more pliable for the complex swirls of my tentacles. Once they were in place, I carefully added dots of Royal Chic with a toothpick to create tentacles rather than just randomly placed glitter swirls. The key with this look seems to be not to overdo it. With too many tentacles, the design is cluttered and you can't tell what it is. One or two per nail is perfect for a subtly dramatic look (is 'subtly dramatic' a thing?). I also love the technique of injecting a swirl on the edge or a partial design across the top for the appearance of a design that stretches beyond the nail.

These are vamp nails because of the combination of creepy subject matter and elegant color combo. Tentacles are one of those designs that can be ghoulish, playful, or glamorous depending on how you play it, and the finished product here was vamp glam. Royal Chic is a warm color, but the addition of Fashion Queen brings out another side of it. The end result is unique, intense, and, dare I say, vampy.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Vamptober: Matte and Flames

Vamptober continues! I've started to get fond of flame nail art, and as a result, I've been trying all manner of experimentation with them. This round, I used Julep Lacey, a shimmery, rich midnight blue, ad my base. Lacey's pretty on its own, but nothing special. But you throw a matte topcoat on it...

With NYC Matte Topcoat

And Lacey becomes a vamp. The shimmer in this polish mattifies to a satiny finish with tons of depth. I added on silver flames with Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Pumping Iron with a little Glitter Gal Turbulence for sparkle. I thought about warming up the bottom with a little bit of blue gradient, but I decided that the monotone flames were more sophisticated. Interestingly, this is my dominant hand. I almost always photograph my left hand, but this time, my right hand came out much better.

Since I mentioned flames, here's a look at another flame look I did recently. This one was all about sparkle, using colors from the NYC Fashion Queen collection. The base was Rule The City with Ruby Queen, and my flame accents were Ruby Queen with a little Julep Love, a gold with fuchsia glitter. Since Love and Rule The City both have red toned glitters, they gave a great crackling fire effect.

Thanks to my Julep Maven box, which showed up today loaded with Vamptober essentials, and a great suggestion from the comments (thanks Tiffany!), I'm feeling inspired. Yay October!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's Vamptober!

October is an absolutely amazing month to be a polish addict. It's fall, so all of the gorgeous, rich cremes are coming out in the new collections, and if you're lucky enough to be in a country that observes it, October means Halloween! I love all of the outrageous nail art that Halloween brings out. For Halloween, anything goes.

This October, I've decided to try on a nail trend that hasn't always been my cup of tea: "vamp." Vampy to me is luxe, dark, richly colored polishes and elegant finishes with a slightly edgy feel.While vampy colors are often quite beautiful, they're rarely first on my list when it comes time to pick a color. Since I love all the polishes, though, this month I'm going to be spotlighting my vampy polishes and giving them some wear time before I rediscover metallics and ice blue for winter. I don't plan to blog every mani, so be sure to follow on Facebook and Twitter for my Vamptober NOTD selections.

To kick things off, I pulled out one of my first Julep polishes. Padma is a vamp because of the patent leather shine and deep, rich color. It's listed as a "royal plum creme," but the first time I put it on, I was surprised at how dark it was-almost black. In the light, the purple comes out more and it has an inky indigo purple sheen. It's the color I imagine Ursula the Sea Witch wears for a night on the town. It applies beautifully, and one careful coat will do. I topped off my accent nails with Julep Kirby from my September Maven box. Kirby is a silver glitter topper in a clear base with several sizes of small hex glitters and bigger jagged pieces. There's no fishing for glitter on this one! If anything, I had to be careful not to overapply because I didn't want to completely bury my base color. I topped it with HK Girl, even though Padma is shiny enough to go without a topcoat if you want to.

What does "vampy" mean to you? What are your other favorite October-ready nail trends?