Sunday, October 23, 2016

Easy Halloween Nail Art: Orange and Black Drips

After moving, getting a dog, losing my camera, finding my camera, going on a billion business trips, and surviving a nail art slump, I have new nail art for you for the very best nail art holiday: Halloween! I kept it simple and semi-local, with Gryffindor from Paint Box Polish, based out of my hometown, Richmond Indiana.

Gryffindor is a sparkly burnt orange with gold glittery shimmer and a great formula. This is two easy coats. For the accent, I used Sally Hansen Hard as Nails XTreme Wear in Black Out, my go-to shiny basic black.

When I was running my topcoat over this mani, I noticed an unexpected but super awesome quirk of using these two colors together: Gryffindor surrenders a tiny amount of it's orange and gold sparkle into the black, leaving a lit from within subtle shimmer. It's hard to describe, but it's pretty cool.

This dripping blood look is probably familiar to you if you've been reading for a while. I admit it, it's a total throwback to my Monster Blood nails from 2014. Drip nails are just so incredibly easy and versatile. Black and orange makes it distinctly Halloween-y, and Gryffindor combined with the patent black shine keeps it classy. It also looks good on shorties. About a day into this mani (yeah, by the way, this mani was 3 days old when I took the photos!), my thumb rebelled. I refused to go gentle into that good night, so I filed it down and repainted it with the same design. Still works!

So how does one create this super easy drip design? All you need is a dotting tool (or toothpick, or bobby pin, or anything else with a small, roundish tip). Make three largish dots, then drag the polish upward to the top of the nail, Connect with a stripe of polish on top, arching it a little bit. I like to add a teardrop shaped dab a little further down the nail, too. It's seriously one of the easiest nail art looks I know. It doesn't have to be perfect-in fact, it's a little better if it's not.

What are you wearing on your nails for Halloween? Do you agree that it's the best nail art holiday, or do you have a different favorite?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review: Luster's Pink Hot Oil Treatment

I know it's been a while since I posted new nails (or new anything...), but can we talk about hair for a minute? I'm biracial, and I have thick, curly hair naturally. After years of wearing it straight as my everyday look, the gorgeous curly girls online gave me the courage to go natural for a while. For the past year or so, I've worn my natural texture. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't, but there's a lot to be said for wash-and-go hair that's pretty much immune to the weather.

The trouble is, between years of heat damage, lack of regular trims (my bad), and the tendency for my hair type to skew dry, the moist, well defined curls I really crave still elude me. So I decided to try something new-a hot oil treatment. I went with the super affordable, one dose tube of Luster's self heating hot oil. This isn't my pic, but it looks kind of like this:

This "10-n-1" oil contains all kinds of moisture staples like coconut, jojoba, and shea oils. The ingredients were actually a little unexceptional, but Luster's Pink products have never done me wrong, and I had $2 and some time, so I decided to give it a shot.

I don't always look this mean-blame RBF.
My first impression was that it felt sticky, like slightly runny honey. However, once I rubbed it in my hands, it loosened up and warmed to a comfortable temperature. I didn't have any trouble getting it through my towel dried hair, in sections because my hair is pretty thick. I felt like I didn't need the whole tube, but I used it all anyway, then waited 15-20 minutes and washed out. Then I put a satin-feel cap over my hair and went to bed.

In the morning, my hair was still a little damp (normal for me), but my curls were noticeably more defined than usual. It finished drying, and felt bouncy. My hair never feels bouncy! It also feels softer than usual. Here's what I looked like after 20 minutes of walking and a handful of meetings.

My curls were still in good shape even after a heavy dose of wind. This is definitely something I can see as a regular part of my routine as I continue my pursuit of well-controlled coils. 

What are your favorite moisturizing hair products? Have you tried hot oil?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Black Dahlia Cuticle Remover and Quick Dry Drops Review

I don't usually ever win anything, so to say I was excited to win a Facebook giveaway from Black Dahlia Lacquer, probably my very favorite indie polish company, is a serious understatement. As the prize, they sent me full sized bottles of their brand new Quick Dry Drops and Cuticle Eliminator, plus a surprise bonus bottle of polish that I couldn't even find on the site, Lotus Leaves. Let me tell you about them!

Let's start with the mani. How gorgeous is this color? Lotus Leaves is a soft tauped dove grey with the softest hint of holo. The holo flash shows more in the bottle than on the nail, but it creates a very subtle, almost ethereal, glow of Black Dahlia's characteristic shimmer. This is a great SFW neutral grey. It goes on a little sheer, but builds to opaque in two coats with no visible nail line at three. I used two coats of Black Dahlia's No More Ridges Basecoat underneath (such a steal, buy the big bottle), which gave a smooth, slightly whitened matte base. I also wanted to test the quick dry drops over several layers, so we had that added benefit as well as a perfect canvas for this soft polish. It's topped with Sinful Shine topcoat.
Ooh, shimmer!

I'm not typically a fan of quick dry drops in general. I've tried a few different types, and I'm never particularly impressed. These, unfortunately, didn't shake out to be a huge improvement over others I've tried. However, I did not say these were a fail-there were a few points of note that may make these worth a try if you generally like quick dry drops.

I tried the drops after topcoating on my left hand and allowed the right hand to dry on its own as I usually do. As far as dry time, the left hand actually dried a little slower, which is what I've also consistently encountered with other brands of drops. Both hands were mostly dry within 15 minutes, though I did end up with some wrinkling on the quick dry hand the next morning (I polished about an hour before bed). I did notice, though, that my cuticles were better moisturized on the hand I used the drops on. I cleaned up with acetone before applying the drops, and my left hand didn't require any cuticle oil before the photos here were taken. They felt really nice. The drops are unscented, which is a little different, and I don't know what gives them the blue color, but I didn't see any signs of them staining anything. All in all, I think if you generally use quick dry drops and want something that doesn't have a heavy "essential oils" smell without sacrificing moisturizing qualities, try these.

Edit: A week or so after originally posting this, I was doing some nail art that required a dry base (didn't work, don't ask). These drops did an awesome job of drying my base polish enough that I could attempt nail art minutes after laying it down. Even though my nail art fell flat, my base layer held up. So while these don't dry hard fast like quick dry topcoats, they're a pretty awesome tool for impatient nail art lovers like me, who just can't wait to start sponging and taping.

Cuticle remover was one of those things I had no clue I even wanted until I started using it. I never cut my cuticles, and balms didn't really do anything interesting. I've been using Julep's Vanish cuticle softener about every two weeks, though, and have been having good results with that, so I was thrilled to have a chance to try this one. One of the things I don't love about Vanish is that it's a liquid and gets everywhere. Black Dahlia's Cuticle Eliminator is a clear, scentless gel. I really liked this! I still like Vanish, but I think I like this better. The gel wasn't super thick, but it stuck well, making it very neat. I was able to easily and gently sweep away all the cuticle yuck. My nail plate was clean, without any drying aftereffects. Out of all of the cuticle softening products I've used so far, I like this one the best.

Black Dahlia's Quick Dry Drops and Cuticle Eliminator are now available for sale along with the basecoat and other nail treatments on their website, give them a try-and be sure you don't forget to try one of their ahmazing polishes. Have you won any good giveaways lately?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Julep Essential Cuticle Oil Review

I'm running low on my favorite TamTam's Cuticle Oil, so I decided to tack on Julep's Essential Cuticle Oil to my February Maven box. I was apprehensive about trying something new when I already have a favorite, but the convenience of adding it on to my Maven box wooed me. I haven't been using it long enough to make any long term claims about what it does, but I do have some first impressions to share about how it stacks up to my usual brand.

No touch up on my cuticles in this photo

Essential Cuticle Oil comes in a .28 oz rollerball bottle, perfect for everyday carry. It's similar in size to a Julep polish bottle. The main ingredient is jojoba oil, and it also has rosewood, vitamin E, sweet almond oil, and ylang ylang. On the Manna's Manis review of TamTam's oil someone mentioned a lavender allergy, so unfortunately this one isn't an alternative in that respect. However, it's a good quality oil. Nothing weird on the ingredient list, does what it says it does, and isn't that bottle pretty?

I wasn't sure what I would think about the rollerball, and I like it more than I thought I would. I think my preference is still for the brush, but it dispenses enough product without having to fight with it. One thing I could take or leave on this product is the smell. It has a sort of woodsy overtone, which I didn't mind, but didn't love. If you prefer a sweeter smell, this may not appeal to you as much, but if you like a more earthy smell, this will be right up your alley.

After about a week of normal-for-me use, which is a few times a day, my cuticles aren't perfect, but are definitely improved from the state they would be in, especially considering the wonky weather we've been having here in the Midwestern US. The oil is very light, and absorbs into the cuticles quickly, leaving them smoother and soft.

All in all, I think I prefer my old cuticle oil (you can find it at TamTam's Etsy shop). I love the smell of her oils, and they feel a little thicker and richer. This one is lighter, but I feel like I reapply it a little more often, and didn't get the instant impact that I did when I first started using TamTam's. They're also half the retail price of the Julep oil for a bigger bottle (.5 oz vs .28 oz). However, many of the reasons I'm going to be repurchasing my old brand rather than switching to this one are based in preference. This is definitely a good quality cuticle oil that's well reviewed on the site. If you prefer a rollerball to a brush, like a light formula, and enjoy a more earthy smell over the more "girlie" scents, this may be a good cuticle oil for you. I have no problem recommending it, but when I look at the relative value of buying a good cuticle oil I like for $18 versus a great cuticle oil I love for $9, I'm going to be switching back myself.

Have you ever tried a high end version of a favorite product? What did you think?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Drugstore Find: Revlon Untamed Review

Swatch surfing, I've recently seen several gorgeous deep browns that I'd love to try. Trouble is, whenever I try a brown, I feel kind of underwhelmed. Cool browns look dull on my skin tone, and I hadn't run across any warm browns that spoke to me, so my collection has been kind of brown deficient. Imagine my surprise the other night when I found two to choose from! I may end up going back for Sally Hansen Insta Dri in Cocoa A Go Go (because wow), but I settled on Revlon Untamed, and boy am I glad I picked this one up!

Untamed is a rich, sparkly brown with gold and pinkish flakies-kind of hard to explain this finish, but it's pretty. My big worry about it was that the flakies are very visible in the bottle, so I wondered if it would be opaque without undies. Turns out it is. This is two coats, no VNL, no streaks. It's not a true one coater unless you go pretty thick, but two thinner coats is perfect.

I really, really like this color. The flakies make the shimmer really unique, almost like a base color and a topper in one. Every now and then one of the big gold flakes shows through, giving it a really interesting mottled look (you can see a little of that on my ring finger). The little pink flakies show a lot in the bottle, but on the nail, they don't skew the tone pink. They're more for texture and warmth, though they do pop in the light. The effect is a gorgeous duochrome-ish shimmer.

One caveat-this color needs topcoat. Untopped it dulls, and all of the things that made this polish really special are muted. I used a coat of Sinful Shine topcoat here, and it dried with a nice shine and plenty of sparkle. (Unrelated: I got two bottles of Sinful Shine topcoat for $.74 on sale at K-Mart the other day! I left a few for the rest of you, but couldn't resist grabbing some spares. Now I have a purse bottle. #obsessed)

I'd give the formula on this one a B+. Cleanup isn't super precise because those flakies cling, but it's still ok. I opened the bottle in the store to get a feel for coverage, and I immediately noticed that, like many Revlon polishes, it has a strong smell. It didn't bother me while I was polishing, but if you're sensitive to smells, you may want to open this one to see if it will be an issue before you purchase. Revlon's website does say that this line is 5-free. I don't have any complaints about application, it went on smoothly and had good coverage. It dried quickly and was well on its way to dry before I added my regular topcoat. I also noticed that it gets a little fussy at the tips, so wrapping the tip is a must.

I have a few Revlon polishes, and they're ok, but they really have to do something special to catch my eye. This polish was eye catching. I love the richness, the unusual finish, and the ease of application. I'll definitely wear again; it's got the sophisticated finish of an indie topper in one step. All in all, I think this one's a winner!

Is Untamed in your collection? I think I'm going to be on the lookout for other Revlon shades with this type of finish. What other Revlon polishes are worth a try?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Budget Beauty Wins

To my surprise, I just realized I've never done a "beauty on the cheap" post. This must be remedied! I love beauty products, but I'm very selective on what I spend a lot of money on. It stinks to take a chance on something new to find out it's nothing special, or worse, that you hate it. I can justify the occasional splurge if the rest of my arsenal is inexpensive. Plus I'm an instant gratification kind of gal, and I think it's awesome to just be able to pick up something I like at a drugstore or grocery. I hate those cheap beauty posts that are like "this awesome lipstick is only $10!" A $10 lipstick is not cheap. These are some products I adore, several of them recent discoveries, that I promise are actually inexpensive: $5 or less.

Dollar General Brand Face Wash: about $2-3
When I initially bought this, it was for my kids. I was trying to teach them about skincare, and didn't want them practicing with my $28 cleansing oil (ok, I didn't pay $28 for it, but it still was not cheap). However, recently I started to get low on my fantastic oil, so I took the plunge and tried the DG Beauty brand face wash to stretch out my bottle of the good stuff for a little longer. 

When I first squirted it onto my hands, I was not impressed. Ew. It felt gross. It smelled like soap. For a foaming face wash, it was not getting very foamy. But then I shut up and put it on my face...and wow. I'd been looking for something that made my face feel really, really clean for a while, and this was what did it. A swipe of astringent verified that my face was completely makeup free in no time flat, and it felt soft and clean. This wash converted me from a cleanser snob. My one complaint: it did make my skin feel dry. A little of my regular moisturizer and I was fine, but if you have very dry skin, YMMV. I can't find this on the Dollar General website now, and I have to admit, I'm kinda panicked. I'm going to need more soon!

This buy came from necessity. I've tried several concealers to deal with my undereye circles, and all have disappointed. When I ran out of my good-enough liquid concealer, I was broke, so I picked up the cheapest one that looked like it might work in Medium. This is not the chalky stick concealer I tried in the 90s. It was creamy, easy to apply, and did a better job of minimizing my dark circles than the past three concealers I'd tried combined. I'm hooked. It also played into my weakness for easy beauty: as much as I like products, I'm not a morning person, so makeup I can put on in a hurry without looking like I did it half asleep in the dark (even if I did) is my friend. This stick? We're friends. Downside: no option for dark skinned beauties. Even though the medium shade was fine on me, it's always a bit of a downer when a company doesn't even attempt shades for darker skinned women. I'm not as familiar with the variation in light skin tones, but I'm guessing that very pale lovelies would be out of luck, too. 

The priciest everyday makeup is generally foundation, and it's also the item most likely to make you look ridiculous if you buy the wrong shade. So much pressure! Luckily, I found Rimmel Stay Matte Liquid Mousse. I love this stuff. I'm currently on my third bottle. The bottle looks tiny, but it lasts a while because you don't need a lot for good coverage. It spreads evenly, never drips, and gives noticeably smooth coverage with a little buildability for blotchy days. I love it. My main complaint, once again, is a low range of shades. It does have a good balance of cool and warm tones, and the very light faired a little better this time, but I wear Sand, the darkest shade, and I am far from the darkest skinned person I know. On the up-side, if you're somewhere between porcelain and sand, I'd highly recommend it. 

Ok, I cheated a little on this one. I usually get the two pack of Equate sterile multipurpose solution, which is $5.98. The single 12 oz bottle and the two pack linked in the headline for this section are both under $5 though. I spend a touch more because I actually wear contacts, so it does double duty for me. What I recommend that you use it for is removing eye makeup. I discovered quite by accident that a cotton ball with a little bit of regular old saline solution removes eye makeup beautifully and leaves your eyes feeling refreshed. I also like to dip a cotton swab in it to correct eyeliner mishaps. Since I do wear contacts, I'm hesitant to use the pink, cosmetic-y fare typically marketed for eye makeup removal, and this is something I'm already safely using on my eyes. It's designed to keep your eyes clean, so why wouldn't we use it for that? And if you're not fussy about the brand, it's crazy cheap. For your actual contacts, that's between you and your doctor, but for taking off day old mascara, cheapo contact solution works just fine for me.

I love a good beauty bargain so much! I'll be on the lookout for more beauty finds at pocket change prices to share with you. What are your favorite inexpensive beauty steals?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Second Chance Mani Do Overs

Have you ever tried a polish and said "meh," dropping it in your stash as unimpressive, only to decide later that it very well may be your Favorite Polish of All Time? I know I have. I hate the idea of having great polish going unused, so I decided to dust off a few of those "meh" shades for polish Do Overs! The rules were that it couldn't be a polish I use regularly for manis or nail art, has to be a polish that I disliked because of the color itself, not formula or some other reason unrelated to the particular shade, and I wore them all for at least a full day. Here's what happened.

I started out with Julep Rochelle. When I first picked it up, I tried it on and thought it was...fine, I guess. It was purple. I have a love/hate relationship with purples-I have dozens, and some of my best loved shades are purple, but I tend to find purple polishes uninspiring in general. Then I kept picking up Sinful Shine Haute Shine and thinking "I already have Rochelle, it's nothing special, and this one looks just like it," so I decided I needed to crack out Rochelle again before buying a dupe. Turns out, I love Rochelle! It's a gorgeous, glowy shimmer that applied beautifully and looks rich and elegant. It's almost chromy, and the shine is fantastic. I have a coat of Sinful Shine topcoat over it here, but it shines on its own as well. This is two easy coats. I did have some tip wear pretty quickly, but this one is still officially back in the rotation.

My next Do Over was Sinful Shine Prosecco. I was so disappointed when I bought this one a few months ago. I had oohed and ahhed over it in a display but didn't buy, and when I went back for it, it wasn't there. It suddenly became a unicorn. I needed it. I obsessed over other bloggers' swatches. I scanned the displays in multiple stores looking for it, only to leave dejected. So when I finally found it on eBay for $7.99, I snatched it up.

You have to understand, I'd just paid eight dollars for a polish that retails less than $2, waited a week to get it, then put it on my nails and hated it. Not just didn't love it, straight up hated everything about it. Super thin formula. Terrible with my skin tone, even though on paper it should have looked great. Between the formula and the finish, couldn't even use it for nail art. Three strikes. I pushed it to the back of my Sinful Colors stash and growled a little every time I looked at it.

My relationship with this polish is now better, but still strained. This was 4 coats, and it took a very long time to dry. I still think it's completely wrong for me, but when I was wearing it, I had to appreciate that gold shimmer. I probably won't wear it alone again, but maybe there's some hope with layering?

The last polish granted a do-over this round was Essie A Cut Above, from their LuxEffects lineup. I've used this polish here and there for nail art, but it never really struck me as a headliner. A Cut Above is kind of basic: shimmery pink hex glitter in different sizes in a clear base. It's my only Essie polish, gifted to me by someone who didn't think it was her style. Since it is a topper (and I don't think it was ever intended to be a standalone), I paired it with Julep Linda, a cool pale grey. I love pink and grey together, especially in the winter for some reason, so I hoped it would bring out the best in it. For the most part, I was right. Linda and A Cut Above seem to play well together. Linda is warmer and more lavender toned when they're teamed up, which looked nice with my skin tone, and A Cut Above's sparkle was more sophisticated on a neutral base. I really like this mani.

That being said, I don't particularly like this polish any more than I did before. Because all of the glitter is the same shade, it falls a touch flat. What really tipped the odds against it was the application. Because I was going for gradiation, I had to do quite a bit of manipulating to get the glitter where I wanted it. I like the finished effect, but it wasn't very cooperative when I was trying to get it. All in all, the re-try didn't improve my opinion of this polish. It's just not exciting enough to be worth the price tag.

Even though two of my three do-overs still struck out, I enjoy retrying polishes I wasn't initially in love with every now and then. My tastes change sometimes, or I notice a new way that this polish could fit into my style. And you never know when a polish will be exactly right for the look you're going for, so pulling out colors I don't wear often reminds me what I have available. What's a polish that didn't win you over right away, but now you love it?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Broadway Nails Gel Strong: Neons and Shimmers and Glitters-Oh My!

I knnnnooowww my last few reviews have been Broadway Nails Gel Strong, but my mother-in-law got me a few new really cool ones that were a little outside my usual picks (she gets me, by the way), so I decided that you'd surely forgive me for one more Gel Strong review post.

I'm not typically a fan of neons, so I wasn't so sure about Powder Green at first. What won me over was, surprisingly, the application. Application has been very hit and miss with this line, and neons are notoriously poorly behaved overall, so I was very pleased with how smoothly and evenly this one applied without a white base. I still needed three coats to get to the opacity I like, but two would be sufficient if you don't mind a looser finish. It mattefies a touch as it dries (another common feature of neons), and is just enough "bright." As far as neons go, I don't have much to complain about on this one.

My second gifted polish was a mixed hex and round purple, pink, and orange glitter topper called Playground (shown here over Powder Green). It looks pink in the bottle, but as you can see, the color in the bottle is an odd representation of what it looks like on the nail. The purple kind of steals the show once you get it over another color. The clear base doesn't obscure the color underneath, making it good for a fun accent like the ones here. On the middle finger, I applied the polish to a sponge and dabbed it on, while on the ring finger I applied directly from the bottle. From the bottle gave a lighter touch, using the sponge really packed it in. This is a fun polish that will be great for experimenting. I want to try it over different color palettes, matte, shiny, dense, many possibilities!

The third polish was Chalice, a blue shimmer. I had passed over this one a few times because I'm pretty happy with my midnight blue selection. I already have Julep Lacey and Rimmel Lasting Finish Pro Midnight Blue, both gorgeous, and I recently added Julep Austen to my midnight posse. Truth be known, though, Austen hadn't turned out to be exactly what I'd wanted. I'd expected a royal blue; what I got was lovely, but much darker than the website swatch. (Caveat: I got Austen from a batch that Julep proactively identified as flawed and replaced with a free polish for people who'd already ordered it, so my opinion of it may not be representative of the "good" Austens.) When I tried on Chalice, I was so excited-it was a dead ringer for the Austen swatch! Chalice is a royal blue/rich cobalt shimmer that applies beautifully in 2-3 coats, and cleans up really easily for a bright blue polish. And it is so pretty, y'all.

Can we just take one more look at this polish? This time it's paired up with Julep Angie, a silver linear holo, with Sinful Shine topcoat over the whole thing. I thought about doing a design on the accent nail, but these two are so perfectly paired that I didn't have the heart to mess with it. I'm in love with this mani right now.

I think my MIL is a visionary. These are all three polishes I'd consciously passed over, and now I'm glad they're in my collection, especially Chalice. Have you ever been wowed by a polish you'd initially written off as 'meh'?