Saturday, January 31, 2015

February Julep Maven Swatches and Review: Becky, Hazel, and Hartleigh

My February Maven box is here already! I don't typically have trouble with my box arriving on time, but the past few months have been a little slower than usual, so I was pleasantly surprised to have it in hand today. This month I was only particularly infatuated with a few colors, so in my customized Maven box for February I got another bottle of Freedom topcoat and picked up Becky (an "oil slick" silk finish polish) and Hazel (a bronze fuchsia duochrome). I also got a February freebie that came with every Maven box, Hartleigh. Let me show you!

I was really excited about Becky this month. Even as I went back and forth on what other polish to get, Becky was always on the list, and I have to say, I'm a little disappointed. Not because there's anything wrong with the polish itself-that was pretty good. Becky applies well (this is two coats) and is very pretty. The silk finish isn't as matte as some of their other silk polishes, but the hazy quality I like about the silk finish is there. It's a little less purple than it looks here, a little more green, but not as oil-slickish as it looked in the Julep swatches.

Where my disappointment came in was its similarity to Blakely, their popular "purple and green molten." I noticed the similarity when I chose it, but the Julep swatches of Becky were different enough that I decided to take a risk. Now I kind of wish I hadn't, because they're almost identical. Becky is easier to work with; my major complaint about Blakely was its thick, streak prone formula, and neither is an issue with Becky.  Here I swatched them side by side, along with China Glaze Choo Choo Choose You, another purple/green shifter. Choo Choo Choose You leans much more strongly gold/green and is frostier, so I'd say it's in the same family but not the same, but Blakely and Becky are very, very similar. There are some slight differences with the finish, with Becky being softer and more scattered and Blakely more metallic. I would say you probably don't need them both, but  which one you'll like better will be a matter of personal preference. I think I prefer Becky, but since I already have Blakely, I didn't really need it.

Left to right: Choo Choo Choose You, Blakely, Becky; no topcoat.
The other polish I got was Hazel, billed as a duochrome. I love me some duochromes, so I couldn't resist. I like this one, but the shift isn't nearly as strong as I expected, again based on the Julep swatches. The color itself, though, is really pretty, with a kind of iridescent quality. It has a touch of pink that these photos don't really show, but otherwise they're pretty accurate. You can see more of the bronze end of the spectrum on the pointer finger. No problems with application; two coats shown here. It's thin enough that if you wanted to bring out one of the undertones, you could probably layer it over something else in the family of the tone you wanted to highlight to get a different effect.

Finally, Julep sent all of us Mavens who got a box this February a special gift- Hartleigh, a glitter topper with small holo glitter, two sizes of white matte hex glitter, and large shiny red heart glitters in a clear base. This topper is packed- no digging for glitters here! While it's not something I probably would have chosen for myself, I think it's fun and I really like it. The different sizes and colors of glitters might be fun for a V-day jelly sandwich, something I haven't tried before. Here I tried it over bare nail, a pale pink (Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Hard-core Party), a medium bright pink (SH Nail Growth Miracle in Kiss of Pink), and a darker purple based pink (SH Nail Growth Miracle in Sugar Plum).

Fun, isn't it? I like this one. I think the medium pink was my favorite with it. What do you think?

Did you get a Maven box this month? What did you get, and how do you think you'll be wearing Hartleigh? If you're not a Maven and want to join, be a doll and use my referral link. You can also get 50% off of your welcome box right now with code WOW. It includes 2 Plush Pout lip crayons (one of my favorite things) and two polishes, which is basically like getting one Plush Pout crayon free. And while we're talking awesome free gifts, have you entered my giveaway for a bottle of TamTam's Creations cuticle oil yet? Only a few days left, and I assure you, you will love this stuff. Ok, advertising part of the post over. Let me know what you think about this month's Julep Maven shades!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

TamTam's Creations Cuticle Oil Review + Giveaway!!!

My love affair with TamTam's Creations continues with a product so new it hasn't even dropped yet, and you can be one of the first to try it! Tamra sent me a sample to try last week, and it's now officially on my must list. I left it at home today and pouted all day at work because I don't care that it's 5 degrees outside, dry cuticles are no longer acceptable. (Product photos courtesy TamTam's Creations.)

The cuticle oil I received is the lavender peppermint scent, which has a less sweet smell than the body butter and really lets the peppermint shine while still having the soothing qualities of the lavender. It's very calming and pleasant, and just strong enough in my opinion. During the day, when I'm outside in the winter air more often, I've been topping it with the body butter, and they compliment each other beautifully both in texture and scent. The oil leaves my cuticles feeling instantly and noticeably better-soft, comfortable, and neat looking. My thumbs, which seem to dry out faster and are more susceptible to cracking, seem to drink it up. I've been using it a few times a day, the ragged spots around my thumbnails have started to heal and feel much better. The cuticle cream I was using before felt nice, but didn't do much by way of healing. I've even tried pure Argan oil without success to deal with winter cracking and cuticle dryness, and this oil has done noticeable damage control in just a few days.

But it gets better-oh, it gets better. I also put it over soft-dry nails after using the Sally Hansen 3D Gel Shine topcoat and gently rubbed it in, and I could have sworn it made them dry faster. In the interests of science,  I deliberately used the same topcoat for the next mani and went about my evening. If you'll recall, one of my complaints about 3D Gel Shine was that it didn't dry hard fast enough for my liking. Once I topped it off with this oil, it was hard-dry within a ten minutes. My guess is that it works similarly to the popular quick drying drops like Julep's Ta Da! drops (which I was not impressed with, but some people swear by).While polish-drying is not one of the advertised superpowers of this oil, I'm a believer. Look-no polish wrinkles! This photo is completely unedited aside from cropping to show the exact condition of my cuticles right now-and I am most definitely not blessed with naturally smooth and pretty cutes.

And yet it keeps getting better, because you can have one! One very lucky reader (and me, because I'm her favorite and she knows I don't like to wait for stuff) will be getting a bottle of Tam Tam's Creations cuticle oil before it hits the shop. Like all of her products, it is vegan, organic, and uses only Young Living for her essential oils. She will be offering two scents-the fabulous lavender peppermint that I reviewed and citrus fresh, which is a fresh, light orange, tangerine, mandarin, grapefruit, lemon, and spearmint scent. Both scents are in a base of jojoba oil, almond oil, vitamin E oil. They also both include lavender oil, which she calls the "Swiss army knife of oils" for its calming, healing, and skin friendly qualities and ability to help heal cuts and scrapes. These cuticle oils come in 0.5 mL polish style bottle with a brush applicator- as a side note, the brush had some stiffness on first use, so I tapped the excess oil off and rubbed it between my fingers for a few seconds before using, which fixed it right up. They will be priced at $9 apiece once they launch at TamTamsNaturals on Etsy. This giveaway is US only (sorry, internationals! I still love you all very much, but shipping liquids overseas is more complicated than it sounds) and will only be open one week, so be sure to enter today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Weekend Nails: Inspired by Meghan Trainor

Unless you've been completely off the grid for the past year or so, you've probably heard Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass, and if you've really been paying attention (or are one of the over 100 million people who have watched it on Youtube), you've seen her Lips Are Movin' video, too. After hearing these two songs, followed up by the absolutely adorable Dear Future Husband, on a car ride with a friend today, I'm officially a fan.  I had so much fun listening to her songs today that I had to bring back Weekend Nails with some Meghan Trainor inspired nail art!

Meghan's videos have a fairly consistent color palette so far: pastels with pops of brights (usually red). For this nail look, the main mani was inspired by this screenshot from the All About That Bass video, with Meghan laying in a pile of wispy pastel pink, purple, yellow, and blue cloth. I started with one coat of a white base, then used a cotton bud dipped in acetone to sponge on the color. I used Sally Hansen CSM in Tulle Kit (sheer blue glitter), Insta-Dri Lively Lilac (purple), NYC Robin's Egg Blue (pale blue/green), Nicole by OPI Naturally (bubbly pink), and Julep Lilou (yellow). Usually when I use this technique it comes out too bright, but this time it was actually a little softer than I'd planned. The timing isn't great, but maybe I'm finally learning to match up my pastels! For my accent nail, I took my inspiration from a Lips Are Movin' setpiece, a bright blue striped background with a talking lips cutout in the center. I knew that if I tried to make it too complicated I'd end up frustrated, so I started out planning for just a closed mouth. Then I realized that fleshing out the shape would be just as easy with an open mouth as a closed one, so I went for it. Up close you can see a little peek of the blue stripe underneath, but from a normal distance, it looks smooth. I'm pretty happy with how it came out as compared to what I imagined. For the accent, I used Sally Hansen Cherry Red for the lips, with a no-name Sally Hansen white with Julep Lissa for the stripes-it was a perfect match for the inspiration photo!

As the mother of a daughter, I'm constantly trying to toe the line in pop culture between being hypersensitive and shielding my little girl (and, just as importantly, my teenage son) from messages that women are props rather than people and that her worth is tied to her weight/clothes/relationship status/etc., which is harder than it sounds. No artist can be all things to all people at all times, but Meghan's overall attitude of confidence and self respect is something I can feel comfortable sharing with my kids. I had a lot of fun honoring her unique vibe and playful videos with my nail art look, and I wish all the best for her as she continues to turn heads!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sally Hansen 3D Gel Shine Review

I've got another review for you! It's very unusual for me to pick up a brand new product without looking for reviews, but recently I was desperately low on my favorite topcoats, so I picked up a bottle of Sally Hansen 3D Gel Shine Top Coat completely sight unseen. In a fit of buyers' remorse, I went digging through the blogosphere for reviews the minute I got home, and was surprised to find none. Zero. While I will most surely read all of the reviews to come, I was beyond thrilled to have the jump on a product that hasn't already been reviewed to death, even though it's a mystery to me why there's so little buzz.

According to Sally Hansen, "Top coat goes on thick, dries quick. Unique Vinyl & Gel Tech formula combines with nail color to create multi-dimensional shine & volume. Transform your regular shine into spectacularly gel-like brilliance with no UV light!" I've never had a gel manicure before, and I know "gel shine" is kind of a buzzword right now (All Lacquered Up has a great breakdown of the different types categories of "gel" manicure). Over the course of a few days, I tried the topcoat to see if it holds up those claims. 

Day 1 

For this mani, I wore two coats of Nicole By OPI in Goodbye Shoes with an accent nail of one coat of Revlon Copper Penny with Goodbye Shoes and Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Tulle Kit for my freehand scale print design (easier to do than I expected, by the way). I wanted to see how the topcoat performed over both a regular mani and a layered nail art look, and over several different finishes. I was glad to see that the topcoat did dry fairly quickly. It was a little slower than Julep Freedom Polymer Topcoat, another "gel finish" topcoat that doesn't require an LED lamp. However, within 20 minutes, it was dry enough that I had to press on it to disturb the finish, and was easily able to smooth the fine lines from pressing down with my thumb. By an hour later, it had dried hard-no visible disturbance, even when I tapped on one nail with another. The accent nail wasn't smooth, but I resisted the urge to add a second coat (didn't want to skew my highly scientific results). The final mani had a gorgeous wet shine.

Day 2 

Disclaimer-The chipping on the middle finger is my fault!
I had a break that led to massive chipping on my middle finger, so please disregard the carnage there. Across the rest of my nails, I mostly just had the minor tip wear you see on the other fingers. I tend to have tip wear within a day or two anyway and chip easily, so I would say 3D Top Coat was comparable to others that I've used in terms of lasting power. I tried it again that night over a plain colored mani that required several coats (Julep Harlow, for the curious), and the dry time seemed to be a little slower than the previous mani-faster than most, but not fast enough to keep the smudge queen here from getting polish wrinkles. I have a habit of doing my nails right before bed, so lightning fast dry time is important to me.

The Verdict

I like it, but for me, Sally Hansen 3D Shine is more of a backup than a go-to. I'd compare this to Sally Hansen Mega Shine in dry speed and shine. In fact, it's very similar across the board in performance, the texture's just a little thicker and the brush is flat rather than round. I didn't notice any distinguishable level of "plushy" gel look. The closest I got was with Sinful Colors Dream On (the picture at the top with the bottle), and it's a jelly type formula that looked pretty plushy pre-topcoat, too.The shine level was impressive, but much more obvious on cremes than metallics. Maybe Julep and HK Girl have ruined me for other topcoats, but this one didn't have quiiiite the speed I need for an everyday topcoat. That being said, compared to other topcoats, it's still pretty fast, and I do have to acknowledge that while it says it's quick drying (true), the dry time wasn't the focus of the advertised benefits- the "plump" look and high shine were the main selling points on their end. Thing is, I didn't think my nails looked much plumper than with any other topcoat when following the instructions on the box to use just one coat. If you're in love with your Mega Shine (which is also a few dollars cheaper), you probably don't need this one. If you're slightly more patient than I am and strongly prefer a flat brush, give this one a shot.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tam Tam's Creations Review: Natural Beauty Bonanza

Recently a good friend of mine started her own Etsy shop, TamTam's Creations, so today I have a few of her products to review for you! Unless noted otherwise, these products were purchased by me, and friend or foe, I always provide only honest product reviews.

Before I get into telling you about the products, I have to take advantage of my insider knowledge to tell you more about the company itself. Tamra, the owner, is one of my oldest friends. I've always known her to be someone who takes her health seriously and isn't interested in fads, so when I heard she was starting a natural product company, I knew there was more to it than cashing in on the organic trend. Tamra explained that when she looked for products that weren't loaded with chemicals, heavily processed, or packed in pounds of plastic, she came up empty. Likewise, even the "natural" products were often padded with fillers that she couldn't pronounce. Long story short, she did some research and started making all kinds of organic beauty products on her own. TamTam's Creations was born when she realized that other people wanted the same thing she did: to know what was in their beauty products and how those ingredients work. I had a chance to see some of her processes, and I can personally vouch for her claims that all of her products are made in small batches with only Young Living essential oils, the brand she uses personally. I only ordered lip balm, but by the time I got to see, smell, and touch her products, I came home with lip balm plus a body whip and sugar scrub.

So now for the part you came for: the reviews! First up-lavender peppermint body whip. From the minute I smelled it, I called this "Thin Mint body whip." Tamra put a tiny dab on the back of my hand, and when I felt how soft it left my hands, I knew it had to come home with me. It has a sweet homey smell that reminds me of Thin Mint cookies. I've been using it primarily as a hand cream, and I love this stuff. In the tin it feels almost hard to the touch at room temperature, so I run my finger over the top to produce a little "curl" of product, which quickly melts to the texture of a light oil in your hands as you rub it in. I've been using it obsessively for about 2 weeks now, and my hands and cuticles look amazing, especially considering how dry I normally am at this time of year. I can't stand the greasy skin that usually comes with heavy hand creams, but don't like how thin body lotions on my hands either. This body whip is the perfect compromise-the thickness of a cream with the lightness of a lotion.

Tamra also gave me a sample of her shea butter body butter to try. The consistency was similar on my hands to the body whip, but in the container it had a lighter, softer consistency than the heartier body whip. It comes in several scents. Mine was unscented, but it has a very light, nutty smell from the shea butter. Really nice! I think I prefer the whip overall, but the body butter would be better for spreading over large areas versus as a hand cream or spot treatment for rough patches.
"Thin Mint" body whip (left) and shea butter body butter (right)

The other unplanned purchase was the brown sugar and vanilla scrub. I'd never used a sugar scrub before, so I decided to give it a shot. This scrub isn't sticky (one of the things that had dissuaded me from trying them in the past), and it has a heady, rich scent that reminded me of a good bourbon. Surprisingly, body isn't where I expect to use this most. It's been stupid cold, and my lips have been flaky, so I used it as a lip scrub. I figured all of the ingredients were natural, so what would it hurt to try?
Lip balm and sugar scrub
This was a fine idea, and I'm still pretty pleased with myself for coming up with it. The sunflower oil, which you don't particularly notice in the overall scent, is more pronounced on the lips, giving it a somewhat odd taste. It's not bad-just a strange combination. Otherwise, it's perfect. I rubbed it over my lips for a few seconds, then rinsed off, dabbed with a towel, and layered the lavender and peppermint lip balm over it. The lip balm is a good, solid balm with the same Thin Mint scent and minimal flavor, which is a plus for me. I like my balms to smell good, but I don't like to taste them constantly. The two together, though, were magical. The sugar scrub is 8 whole ounces; it's hard to tell in photos, but this a good sized jar. It does separate a bit, as organics tend to do, but is easy to mix back up.

Look at this adorable little jar!
Sorry for the length of this post-without even trying, I managed to end up with almost the whole line! But that means that I can, in full confidence, recommend that you give TamTam's Creations a try. All of these products are great quality and are extremely well priced ($12-20 is normal for comparable brown sugar scrubs on Etsy, and $7-12 is typical for body whips while hers are $5 each, with the shea butter body butter slightly more expensive but still at the low end of normal at $9). And it gets better: I suggested that Tamra add a cuticle oil to her offerings, and she was one step ahead of me. That's right, a cuticle oil is on its way to me as we speak! If it's as good as these products, I can't wait! For more pictures, sizes, and full descriptions with ingredient lists, check out the TamTamsNaturals Etsy shop.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Black and Brights Striping Tape Nail Art

I have a nail art quickie for you today: black nails with a simple, bright accent. I usually have a ton of trouble with striping tape, but this time it was (more or less) cooperative.

For my black, I used one coat of Sally Hansen Black Out, then covered it with one coat of Sally Hansen Triple Shine in Slick Black. Slick Black is very sheer on its own, but layers well over a basic black polish, it cleans up any streaks or blotchy spots, so no need for a perfectly opaque base. It has an interesting finish-it almost looks textured, but doesn't have that textured feel that I hate. For my accent nail, I started with a white base, then used a wide striper to make big diagonal stripes of five different colors. I didn't worry about making the stripes perfect, I wanted a more casual feel. Then I covered the dry striped design with three pieces of thin striping tape that met in the corner for a diagonal starburst in the opposite direction of the polished stripes. I layered the two black shades on top and carefully removed the striping tape with tweezers. Easy! On my other hand I didn't give my striped undies quite long enough to dry, so I had a small bald patch on my yellow stripe. I just carefully filled it in with a detail brush, and the mistake was barely noticeable. Initially I planned to put a rhinestone where the stripes meet, but it would have completely covered that pop of bright red, and that area came out cleaner than I was worried it would, so I decided to let the look stand.

Every now and then I feel like black nails, but I usually add in some color or glitter to make them more "me." I think these came out pretty well, especially since striping tape usually hates me. Is striping tape your friend, or do you (like me) usually end up with a sticky tape mess, even for simple looks like this?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January Julep Maven Review and Swatches

Once again, customization was too much for me-I passed on Julep's new Luxe Lip Treatments this time (I'm trying to go bolder with my lip colors, and these were super sheer) in favor of another bottle of Bare Face cleanser, and now I'm kicking myself for not getting more topcoat, too. Bah! The struggle is real, people; I need all the things. But enough of that, let me show you some of the new pretties that came in my box this month! Warning: this one is pic heavy. We'll start with Alicia, one of Julep's "from the vault" polishes.

Alicia is a "sunny salmon creme," cheerful even if not particularly original. Peachy corals are a shade I can't seem to get enough of, and this is a really nice one. It does go on a touch streaky, so apply carefully for best results. I'm pumped about Julep's announcement that several polishes will come out of retirement this year. There are certain colors I never got a crack at that I'm hoping will be on the list (lookin' at you, Ginger).

Next we have my one acquisition that debuted in the Chrysalis collection: Margit. You caught a sneak peek of this one earlier this week as an accent to my marsala roses with January Maven mystery add on polish Coco. On its own, Margit has a pink shimmer that warms it up and makes it a great SFW neutral. My job doesn't stifle my polish spirit (thank goodness!), but if yours does, you can still get a unique polish fix during the work week with Margit.

"But wait," you say. "Didn't January have a free gift in the Maven boxes?" Why yes, it did. Each Maven that checked the e-mail or blog and opted in got one of three metamorphic topcoats. I was delighted to find that mine was purple tinted Tyra. I don't know if these will go on sale, but they're pretty cool. I decided to sample Tyra with several colors, including a couple that I'm...less than in love with to see if it could transform them into polish I could adore. Here's what I got.

Left to right: Tyra over Julep Amy, Greta, Ryan, Sally Hansen Black Out
I tried Tyra over Alicia first, but wasn't wowed, so next I tried a warm blue creme, berry shimmer, matte teal green, and basic black. The biggest transformation was the teal, which changed to a shimmery purple-blue duochrome. Nice! The pink is Julep Greta, which I mentioned before isn't my favorite in my Maven anniversary post. I was so meh about it I didn't even have a decent swatch! With Tyra, it becomes a shimmery dark pink that I much prefer over the original. The black was ok. From the photos Julep provided I expected a bit more dramatic of a transformation, but it's a fun option to have. The blue was probably the most subtle transformation, but it added a distinct purple shimmer, I liked it enough that I put it on all of my nails when I was done playing.

Now that you've seen this month's Maven polishes, I have a bonus for you. Last month the weather was gloomy and grey, and I didn't have my lightbox yet, so I couldn't seem to get a decent picture of my December Maven polishes. I really fell in love with Paula, so I went back and snapped a few pictures to show it to you. Paula is a cobalt with gold shimmer, and it is absolutely fabulous.

Did you get your hands on one of the metamorphic topcoats? I'd love to see the blue and green ones, so tag me in your pictures @SecretNailBlog on Twitter or on my Facebook page SuperSecretNails!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Marsala Rose Nail Art

So I haven't been such a good blogger this week. I wanted to at least tweet my simple NYE mani, but I maaay have trashed it in some NYE shenanigans before I had a chance to take photos (for the record, I wore Sally Hansen Insta Dri Wined Up with NYC Top o' the Gold Topcoat on the tips). Then I vowed to make it up to you with a full swatch and review of my January Julep Maven box, but I can't bring myself to take this mani off yet!

I chose a Mystery Polish add on with my Maven box, and it turned out to be Coco, this magical oxblood red. At first I thought, "" Then the light bulb went off. This isn't just any red! This is marsala!

Yes, marsala, Pantone's Color of the Year for 2015, an honor heralded as the indicator for the trends in fashion and beauty for the year. According to Pantone, "flattering against many skin tones, sultry and subtle Marsala is a great go-to color for beauty, providing enormous highlight for the cheek, and a captivating pop of color for nails[.]" When I first saw it I was underwhelmed, but it's grown on me, and the range of polish that fits into the marsala family is phenomenal. It seemed fitting that my first post of 2015 should show you one of them, especially one named for style icon Coco Chanel, the embodiment of the "message of glamour and luxury" that Pantone says a shiny marsala conveys-you know I love my shiny nails. 

Paired with Coco for my accent nail is one of January's new Maven colors, Margit. Margit is a "mushroom with rose shimmer." Julep's glowy shimmers have been hitting on all cylinders for me lately, so even though I've not been crazy about mushroom in the past, I gave it a shot. It proved to be a wonderful balance with the earthy tones of marsala. I kept the earthy+glamorous marsala theme with a rose design, going for bigger, all over roses rather than my usual tiny rosettes along the edges. It is such a gorgeous, sophisticated manicure! I used a large dotting tool and a small detail brush, then followed the same technique I use for the rosettes, just bigger, which allowed me to be a little more deliberate and get a nice effect with just two shades rather than my usual three. The leaves are Julep Ryan. It's topped off with Sally Hansen Super Shine topcoat.

So in the coming weeks, I'll give you a proper swatch and review of my Maven box as well as a review of some natural products I'm trying right now from a brand new maker. I'm also starting to experiment with my lightbox for better photos, thinking about blog design, and kicking around some ideas on what direction I want to go in with nail art this year. 2015 is going to be a lot of fun for SSNB, and I hope to hear all of your thoughts, feedback, and ideas as I go!