Showing posts with label Manicure 101. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manicure 101. Show all posts

My Must Have Mani-Pedi Items

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My Must Have Mani-Pedi Products

I don't talk about it on the blog so much, but I'm a mani-pedi girl. When I have the time (which isn't super often, given I have 2 young girls), I love to have my nails done. I don't go out for a professional mani-pedi. Instead, I do it myself at home. I like the convenience, I know where the tools have been (and how they've been cleaned) and I have polish at home that I can easily touch up with later.

I thought I would share my favorite products to use when doing an at home manicure and pedicure. The products do get swapped in and out as I try new things, but I've found that these are the tried and true. The products that I keep stashed in my office polish area, that I rebuy, and that give me the best results.

1. Cuticle Remover: Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover (available at ULTA, Amazon)
Before starting, I love to put a thin bead of this around my cuticles, move it around a bit with my fingertip. I push back my cuticles with a fingernail and then just wash my hands. It takes under a minute and makes a big difference in how my cuticles look!

Alternatives I Like:
Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover (at Nordstrom, Sephora, or Amazon)
Blue Cross Cuticle Remover (at Amazon): Note that this one isn't as fast on my hands, but I've found that it works really well on my feet! It comes in a huge bottle, and I actually will sit down in the shower and put this all over my toe nails and my heels. I push back my cuticles, use a pumice stone on my heels, and sometimes use a foot scrub all over. It makes my feet super soft without needing to do something like the baby foot peel. Which I'm not going to lie, kind of freaks me out.

2. Base Coat: Orly Bonder (at ULTA or Amazon)
I just don't even use others now. Bonder is so much better for me! I have longer lasting manicures, my nails don't get stained by polish... you get the idea.

3. Polish
I have thousands of bottles of polish. This is not an exaggeration. After all of this polish buying and wearing, I've limited myself to a few favorite brands of polish that I use. Others just don't seem to work as well.

OPI (from ULTA or Amazon), pictured in It's a Girl
Nails Inc
Chanel: Note, the wear is only about 3-5 days for this brand, but the colors are so great that I don't care. Shown in Particuliere.
China Glaze
Zoya: When I wear Zoya I need to pair with their top coat.

"Long Wearing" Formulations:
Chanel Long Wear (at Chanel or Nordstrom) with Le Gel Topcoat (at Chanel or Nordstrom)
OPI Infinite Shine (from ULTA or Amazon) with Infinite Shine 3 Gloss Top Coat (from ULTA)
CND Vinylux (at Amazon) and CND Vinylux Weekly Top Coat Nail Polish (at Amazon)
Essie Gel Couture (from Amazon) and Gel Couture Top Coat (from Amazon), shown in Make the Cut

4. Top Coat
My go-to top coat is always Seche Vite (from ULTA or Amazon). It dries quickly, is thick enough to cover up imperfections in polish (but isn't so thick that it looks strange), and is super shiny. I have found that it gets thick quickly, but a few drops of any polish thinner will fix that.

If I'm using a longer lasting polish that has a top coat to make a "system", then I'll use that special top coat instead of Seche Vite.

Alternatives I Like:
Poshe (from Amazon)
Nails Inc 45 Second Top Coat (from Sephora)

5. Hand and Cuticle Cream
I have a huge collection of lotions, oils, balms... you name it and I've tried it to keep my nails and cuticles looking smooth and hydrated. No matter what product I'm using, the key really is regular use. I keep lotion in my pocket at the hospital and reapply it frequently throughout the day. We have a bottle of lotion next to the kitchen sink at home, and I even keep some on my bedside table. I apply lotion a lot, and that's really what keeps my hands soft and hydrated. My favorite hand cream for years is the Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve (from Kiehl's or Nordstrom)

6. Polish Remover
I know it dries out your nails, but I admit that I use 100% Acetone to remove my polish. Non-acetone polish removers always seem to leave just a little polish behind, or they take a very long time and I get frustrated.

For my fingernails, I prefer one of those plastic jars of remover (like this one on Amazon). I can put each finger in, swirl it around and my polish comes off right away. If I need to clean up after applying my polish I can also just use a brush dipped into the jar.

On my toes, I use an acetone nail polish pad. I prefer the Cutex pads (my faves on Amazon), which come individually packaged (making them great for travel), and are a thick felt. It doesn't take much work to remove polish with these pads.

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Something Different: Buffed and Shiny Nails

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Buffed and Shiny Nails

Now that it is 2015, it's time to try something different! And also... to admit a bit of defeat. Why is that? I'm a girl with thousands of nail polishes. Yes, you read that right. I have thousands of nail polishes. They live in plastic drawers in the closet of my home office. (Yes, I have a bit of this going on. I have hundreds of dark purples and bright pinks. They're not the same!)

This is the admitting defeat part. I love my polishes. I really do. But it is very difficult to find time to change my polish with a newborn. Even with quick dry products, there isn't enough time to get them dry before the baby needs my attention. Because she knows when mommy has wet nails. Oh yes, she really does!

So, for the next few months I'll be sporting natural nails, sans pretty polish colors. This is a defeat of sorts (all of my pretty colors!) but it's also somewhat liberating! No more worrying about chipped polish! Don't worry about wearing a shade that looks a bit crazy with my outfit of the day!

But, no polish doesn't mean unkempt. Instead, it just means no polish. I've decided to really commit to no polish, which means buffing my nails to a pretty shine!

Natural Buffed Nails at home

Here's a quick peek at most of the products that I used to get this look. Yes, that is a lot of products! But, you'll really have almost no daily/weekly upkeep. This really is a polished look without much upkeep. I bought everything at my favorite store for nail supplies, Sally Beauty.

Prepping nails for an at home manicure

To start, I get my nail surface ready for everything! These are the same steps as when I do a regular manicure.

First, I remove all of my polish. I love using a polish remover pad, they're no fuss and get the job done quickly without a mess.

Next, I wash my hands, being sure to get under the ends of my nails. While my hands are still wet, I'll apply a little cuticle remover to my cuticles, rubbing it around to make sure everything is covered. I like to run the nailbrush over my cuticles, and I'll also use my thumbnail to push my cuticles off of the nail surface.

Products Used:
Beauty Secrets Nail Polish Remover Pads
YCC Clear Plastic Cuticle Pusher
YCC Handled Manicure Brush
Dr. G's 3-in-1 Antimicrobial Callus & Cuticle Remover

Once my hands are dried off, it's time to make sure my nail shape is how I want it and that any left over hang nails are taken care of. I only use the Cuticle Remover shown here on hang nails, not on the cuticle itself. You don't want to cut into the cuticle bed itself, this is setting yourself up for a nasty nail infection. So, just get rid of any hang nails and you'll be all set!

Products Used:
Colossal Collection Nail File
Beauty Secrets Cuticle Remover & Pusher

Buffing your nails to a high shine

Next it is time to remove ridges! I like to use a buffing block or file, I have both and just grab whichever I feel like that day. The first side is a nail file, it is definitely too harsh to use on your nail surface! I use sides #2 and #3 for this step. Side #4 does do a good job of shining the nail surface, but the chamois and cream do a better job, so no sense in duplicating that work!

Products Used:
Tropical Shine 4-Way Mini Nail Buffer
Tropical Shine Mini 4-Way Nail Buffer Block

Using a Chamois to Buff your nails

Using a chamois to buff your nails to a high gloss is a step above and beyond the buffing block. The shine is unreal, so much more than the block alone! Especially when you combine it with the buffing cream. This step is why I can't wear polish now (unless I go and really rough up my nail surface), it is so shiny and smooth that polish just peels right off!

When using a chamois, I put a dot of cream on each nail bed and then start buffing. Note that it does take a while the first time (about 10 minutes total), but the results are definitely worth it! You won't really see the shine until you wash any residual cream off of your hands.

Products Used:
Winning Nails 7" Chamois Buffer
Winning Nails Nail Buffing Creme

best cuticle moisturizers

Once you've washed off the rest of the cream, it's time to moisturize your cuticles! You can use a cream or an oil, it's up to you.

Products Used:
Barielle Pro Cuticle Renewal Oil
Orly Cuticle Therapy Creme

Natural Buffed Nails with a Chamois and Cream Tutorial

To keep up my buffed nails, I'll use the Chamois, without the cream, about once a week. As my nails grow out I'll need to redo the whole process just on the new areas every few weeks. In addition, I moisturize my cuticles nightly during the winter to keep them looking great! I prefer to use the oil first and then I layer on the thick cuticle cream to really lock in the moisture.

When I'm ready to go back to wearing polish I'll buff my nails with the #3 side of the buffing block. That should give my polish enough texture to hold on to the nail bed.

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Want Great Cuticles? Here are 12 Great Products To Get You There

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the best products to give you perfect cuticles via

Great cuticles take a lot of work. This isn't a once a week treatment, instead you need to take care of your cuticles multiple times a day to keep them hydrated and looking perfect. There are a lot of cuticle products out there, but which ones are great and how often should you use them?

I thought I would share my favorite cuticle products and tips on how to use them to get perfect cuticles at home. The real secret is to keep up with using the products. Travel seems to always make my cuticles especially dry, I can get on to a plane with perfectly manicured nails and get off a few hours later with dried out cuticles with hanging skin everywhere. I have an answer for that too.

Cuticle Removers

My best tip for great cuticles is the regular use of a cuticle remover. I usually use a remover about once a week, though when the weather gets cold and dry, I will increase my use to every 5 days or so. I usually use cuticle removers around the entire nail plate, since they'll help prevent hang nails and remove dry skin.

1. Aveda Cuticle Control Minimizing Complex: This one uses quite a few plant based ingredients, but it does take about 4 or 5 minutes to do the job.

2. Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover: This cuticle remover contains Lanolin to add a little extra moisture.

3. Sally Hansen Nail Treatment Instant Cuticle Remover: Sally Hansen in "the blue bottle" is the one I usually recommend. It works super fast (under a minute) and never irritates my skin by over doing things.

Hydroxy Acid Cuticle Creams

Think of these creams as a combination of a cuticle remover and a moisturizer. As you moisturize, the alpha hydroxy acids help to exfoliate the cuticle area, improving cell turn over and preventing hang nails. I've found that they're not a substitute for cuticle remover, but they definitely keep my cuticles looking better and they are essential in the winter.

4. Sally Hansen Complete Treatment for Cuticle Rehab: I started using this cream after Michelle from All Lacquered Up raved about it, and she's right! It is very hydrating and doesn't irritate my skin at all.

5. CND Cuticle Eraser

Other Options:
Formula X Erase AHA Cuticle Cream
Poshe AHA Cuticle Care

Cuticle Tools

I don't use actual scissors or nippers on my cuticles, it's best to not cut the cuticles since that increases your risk of infection. However, the Cuticle Pusher shown here really is the only thing that will remove my hang nails when they pop up and are painful. Be sure to only remove the dead skin, don't go into the live skin!

6. target="_blank"Sally Hansen Cuticle Pusher

7. Cuticle Pusher

Cuticle Moisturizers

The real key to great cuticles is moisture. Frequent and intense hydration is really what you need, and under dry conditions (in the winter, when I'm washing my hands a lot, especially when I'm on an airplane). I apply lotion to my hands multiple times a day, and I always make sure to concentrate some of the lotion onto my cuticles. I usually only use cuticle specific products at night, unless I'm having issues (and then I'll use them 2 or 3 times a day). It is really up to you whether you use a cream, balm or oil. However, I do recommend having different options so that you can layer your cuticle treatments for extra hydration when you're particularly dry. I love to use an oil and then a thick cream like the Orly Cuticle Therapy Cream.

8. Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil

9. OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil To Go

10. Lush Cosmetics Lemony Flutter

11. Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream

12. Orly Cuticle Therapy Creme

Other Options:
Formula X Quench Cuticle Oil
CND Solar Oil Skin and Nail Conditioner
Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil
Nailtiques Oil Therapy

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Top 10 Tuesday: My Favorite At Home Manicure Products

Bought It Myself

best diy manicure pedicure products

Today for Top 10 Tuesday we're sharing our favorite manicure products. If you read my blog regularly, you'll likely recognize many of these products, they were most recently featured in My Quick and Easy Manicure Routine. I'll discuss why I like each product here, but if you want a real step by step for an at home manicure you should head over to that post instead.

1. Cutex Nail Polish Remover Pads: I love these pads for removing toe nail polish! They're just felt soaked in polish remover, so if I run out I'll grab some craft felt and remover, but I always seem to make a mess on my own. These pads are also great for travel.

2. Acetone Jar: This is my usual method of polish remover. I love these jars! It's super easy to just dip your finger in to remove polish. I use pure acetone jars for glitter polish (this one is the in house Walmart brand) and Cutex non-acetone jars for regular polish.

3. Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover: I use this at least once a week on my cuticles to keep them looking neat, but it also does a great job of helping my feet looking soft.

4. Orly Cutique: Similar to the Sally Hansen product, except I use this one primarily for removing stains from my nail. A light layer for a minute or two, then scrub with a nail brush.

5. Sally Hansen Push 'n Trim: Yes, you aren't supposed to cut your cuticles. But even with regular cuticle remover use, I get those little hang nail things off to the side of my nail that just hurt like crazy every time you bump them. This is perfect for removing just that bit of skin and leaving everything else around it intact.

6. Orly Bonder Base Coat: My favorite base coat.

7. Seche Vite Top Coat: My favorite top coat.

8. Dappen Dish: I clean up a manicure with one of these cheap little dishes. Fill with pure acetone, then using a little stiff angled brush (a cheap eye liner brush is perfect) I brush the acetone along the edges of the nail. The brush is stiff enough to pull off the excess nail polish but it can go under the nail plate edge as well.

9. Orly Cuticle Therapy Creme: I love this thick creme! I use it at night right before bed. In the summer it goes mostly on my cuticles, but during the winter I'll use it on my entire hand.

10. CND Solar Oil: When I need extra moisture in the winter I'll apply a layer of Solar Oil to my skin first, let it sink in for a minute or two and then seal it in with the Creme.

What are your favorite products? I'm always looking for new ones!


My Quick and Easy Manicure Routine

Fast and Easy DIY Manicure at Home
I haven't been writing as much about nail polish and manicures lately, though be assured that yes, I am wearing lots (and lots) of nail polish. Despite being super busy with my toddler, my "real" job, the blog and all of my other writing, I do manage to squeeze in manicures! It's been a while since I wrote my Manicure 101 series, and my original My Manicure Routine post (I still can't believe how long that thing is) is still one of my most popular posts. I thought it was well past time for a little update.

I've streamlined my manicure process, and start to finish it is well under 20 minutes, usually under 10 minutes. To be truthful, the variable seems to be how long it takes me to locate all of my tools (you'd think I'd keep them in the same place, but they seem to always move around on my due to a little "helper") and picking my polish color!

I've put all of my manicure essential products in a collection, where you can follow me.

Easy DIY Manicure that lasts 5 days!

My first step is always cleaning up. I remove old polish, making sure to get all of those bits that like to cling around the outer edges. While I'm really good at using lotion after washing and I apply cuticle cream every night, all of the hand washing and foaming and gel using that we do in the hospital definitely takes its toll on my cuticles! I start with my favorite cuticle remover, the Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover. It's really fast and easy to use, I wet my hands, put a little bead of remover on my cuticles and rub it around. Then I run my thumbnail along the edges and wash my hands. The whole process is only a minute or two, but it makes a huge difference! I then use the Sally Hansen Push-n-Trim tool on any hang nails, neveron my cuticles.

Now I'm ready to shape my nails! I'm not allowed to have my nails long at work, so I just use a crystal nail file to shape them a little rounded but short. I prefer crystal over a regular emory board because it helps prevent splitting in my nails.

Finally, I'm ready to start applying polish! There's always a lot of discussion about which base coat and top coats work best, and while I agree that there are general trends, there is a lot of individuality in which products will work best for you. It is really because everyone has their own nail makeup, some of us have stiffer nails, some are a bit more flexible, and different base coats, top coats and polish brands all have differing amounts of flexibility. Which may or may not last longer or shorter on your own nails. So, it is definitely worth experimenting until you find the combination that works best for you! After years of trying other products, my best combo by far is Orly Bonder Base Coat and Seche Vite Top Coat.

I start with one light layer of Bonder. It dries very quickly and by the time I finish all 10 nails I can start applying polish to the first nail. I prefer to do 3 thin coats of polish over 2 thicker coats, the results are more even and last longer. I start in the middle of the nail, placing my brush tip close to the cuticle but with a small gap. I push the brush toward the cuticle to where I want my polish edge, then pull the brush down the nail. I usually do this 3x, I start in the center of the nail and then do it once on either side. Place, push and pull! After the first coat I do run my brush along the edge of my nail, "sealing" the tip. I personally don't wait long in between coats of polish. You can wait for it to dry, you can apply over still wet polish. I haven't noticed a difference in look and wear for me.

After I'm happy with my polish, I apply top coat. Seche Vite is thicker than other top coats, so it does take a little bit of getting used to using. I use the same Place, Push and Pull technique for applying and I do run my brush along the nail edge to seal the top coat in as well.

The last step is cleaning up mistakes! While I have a lot of practice doing my nails, I'm definitely not perfect. My favorite way for cleaning up mistakes is to pour a little acetone into a glass Dappen Dish and use a stiff, angled brush (usually an eye liner brush works well). The brush is stiff enough to have traction along the nail edge, it can fit under the tip of my nail to get mistakes there and since it isn't a cotton ball there aren't any little fuzzies to trail along and ruin my manicure. I typically clean up as the last step, but if I've made a lot of mistakes I sometimes will clean up earlier in the process.

My typical manicure lasts 5 days chip free despite working in a hospital and having a toddler at home! What are your favorite manicure products and tips?

Check out all my collections on eBay and follow me to stay up to date on all my beauty obsessions. Guess what, eBay is giving away $25,000 to shop my collection. Just Share my eBay collections for a chance to win $25,000 to shop this holiday on eBay. Official rules:

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The Nail Files: A Common Pedicure Mistake and A Contest!

I fully admit to liking reality television, though I'm pretty selective about what I will watch (some Kardashians, Real Housewives of the OC... but no Bachelor. Sorry.) There's a new show coming out soon on the TV Guide Channel that will likely be making my list of reality shows!

Nail Files is from the creators of Jersey Shore. Katie Cazorla, owns a Hollywood nail salon popular with celebs, is engaged to Walter Afanasieff, a Grammy award-winning music legend. The series follows Katie as she aspires to take The Painted Nail to the next level. Katie has gifting suites at Sundance and the Oscars, attends the Grammy Awards with Walter and has a ton of drama with her staff. She looks fun and just... real.

The series premieres on Tuesday, June 21st and I've already set my DVR!

To celebrate the premiere, I have 5 prize packs! Each includes Katie's line of Painted Nail Nail Polish, a mini fan, a manicure set, TV Guide Network T-shirt, and a poster. The Painted Nail's polish is created with Nubar, and my friend Michelle over at All Lacquered Up loved it in her recent review.

You can only win once, and you must be in the United States to win. You can have multiple entries! Fill this out once to enter. For additional entries, you can follow me on Twitter or are my Facebook Friend or subscribe to my daily emails. For each of these items you can fill out the form again, and indicate why you are cool. You have until next Sunday, 6/26 at midnight eastern to enter. Good luck!

I used to draw numbers, the winners were entry numbers: 27, 98, 125, 6, 7

The prizes have been provided by TV Guide

Manicure 101 Extra Credit: Vitamin Supplements & Nail Growth

Vitamins and nutritional supplements that work to increase hair and nail growth, thickness and strength

Everyone wants to have thick, strong nails that look nice. Who hasn't wondered what vitamins or supplements to add to their diet in order to have stronger, thicker nails that grow faster?

There are a lot of misconceptions out there and little accurate information on this topic available on the internet. I'll go over the most commonly mentioned foods and supplements and let you know why only a few of them are worthwhile in regards to nail growth.

Manicure 101 (Super) Extra Credit: Nail Anatomy and Composition

Now, is this post absolutely necessary? Umm... probably not. But, I like anatomy posts. I thought I'd share with you where some things are, mostly because I saw pics in my derm textbook and played a little with photoshop... As well, I'll be referring to this post for some upcoming posts, like Thursday's review of vitamins and how they affect your nails.

So, you can see here the nail matrix is underneath your cuticle basically, and this is where the nail is basically made. You can see its extension as the Lunula, the white semi-circle at the base of your nail bed. I think the other things are pretty self-explanatory. The hyponychium is the skin under your nail's free edge and acts just like the cuticle, adhering to the nail to keep things together and prevent infection.

The nail itself is what we're really interested in. The nail is made by the nail matrix, an area under the base of your thumb. This area is alive and needs to be nourished. So, the matrix creates the nail plate itself, slowly pushing it up and down your finger as it grows.

The nail plate is made by the nail matrix as the cells die off, becoming progressively thinned out and broadened. They fill with keratin (a protein) and even lose their nuclei. These cells are embedded within a matrix of more proteins and you'll also find some elements (sulfur, calcium, iron, aluminum, copper, silver, gold, titanium, phosphorus, zinc, and sodium) just kind of hanging around in this area as well.

Obviously things don't look exactly like I've depicted in this image, but I think it gives you a general idea. Dead flat cells, filled with protein. Big structural proteins (red and green) in the background and elements are found somewhere... in there. Yes. I didn't show that the cells are actually cross linked together for more stability. They use cysteine bonds, which contain even more sulfur. Decreased cysteine levels have been found to cause brittle nails that split and chip.


Manicure 101 Extra Credit: Thinning Out Clumped or Thickened Polish

How to fix thick or goopy polish, thinner

We've all been there. You head to your polish stash, only to find that bright pink you wanted to use for your pedicure is thick and clumpy. Or that the new polish you just bought is a bit to thick to apply easily.

A quick Google search reveals a TON of posts about what to do. What do they all say to do? Add a few drops of nail polish remover or acetone. Never, ever do this! The remover is exactly the wrong thing to use. What you need is nail polish thinner.

Nail polish thinner contains chemicals typically used as solvents in nail polish. These chemical hold everything, the pigments and the resins that hold the polish together. The solvents must also be carefully chosen to control drying time and prevent bubbling and peeling of the polish. A quick glance at the ingredients in Beauty Secrets Thinner (the house brand at Sally Beauty Supply, I've purchased this thinner a few times), shows typical solvents such as Butyl Acetate.

Nail polish removers such as acetone do a great job of re-suspending the nail polish ingredients during removal. If they didn't do this you would never be able to get the polish off. However, because they dry so quickly, the polish is not able to properly set up on the nail. So, they will thin out the polish, but what is the overall effect? The polish's drying time is off and even if you can get it to apply properly the look and wear time of the polish will be off.

So, if you need to thin your polish, go for a thinner closer to the original solvents used in your polish. An actual thinner only costs a few bucks and will actually save that bottle of polish. A few drops at a time, shake and add some more until you reach your desired effect. I've saved bottles that appeared completely (and I mean completely) dried out by adding thinner, shaking, and sometime letting the bottle sit for a week or so before moving on to the next step.


Manicure 101 Extra Credit: How I Travel With Nail Polish

Travel, Packing, Nail Polish
First, let me start this post by reminding everyone that I am not a low maintenance girl. There's a reason I've had the slogan above since first starting my blog 4 years ago.... If you need even more evidence, you might want to check out some of my previous travel packing posts. Obviously, I'm a girl that has problems paring things down and I need to have a lot of options at all times. I simply can't travel with just 1 option, I need to have 3 or 4 at all times!

So, now I'm going to reveal how completely and utterly insane I am. This is how I bring nail polish with me when I travel. I'm not sharing how I do it for a simple weekend trip, this is the full blown, I'm heading out of town for a week and want to have lots of options because I will need to change my mani and likely my pedi while I'm out of town.

So, read on to see what I bring with me!

Manicure 101 Extra Credit: At Home Paraffin Wax Treatments

Manicure 101, easy, paraffin wax treatment
I received my paraffin waxer as a holiday present about 9 or 10 years ago from my medical school roommate. It wasn't something I would have bought for myself at the time, but wow! I was in love with it from the first use. The waxer has moved across the country with me twice and been used a huge number of times, but it's still going strong. (Obviously they no longer sell my model, but I think it might be the great-great-great-great-great grandparent of this paraffin hand bath from Homedics.)

I don't break out the paraffin spa very often, but when I do it is definitely worth it! The wax is warm and soothing, and I swear it does amazing things to hands that are dried out. My favorite wax is Gena's Peach Paraffin wax, which contains Peach Oil and smells super yummy.

The wax is very easy to use. Simply turn on the machine to the "melt" temperature and wait until the wax is a liquid (this takes about 4 hours), and then you'll want to turn down the temp a little so it isn't super hot when you dip in your hands. When you're happy with the temperature you're ready to dip!

I like to apply either cuticle oil (like Solar Oil) or a hand lotion first to dry areas. Then dip your hands into the wax for a few seconds and lift out, allowing the wax to harden slightly. I usually do a few layers of wax. I wait about 4 or 5 minutes until the wax has cooled and then I can easily peel it off of my hands. To lengthen the time before the wax cools you can put a plastic treatment bag over your hands and then an insulating mitt. I find this difficult to do on my own so I skip this step.

Once the wax is removed your hands will feel oily, so a quick hand wash is necessary. This is why I typically do my wax treatments in the bathroom so clean up is easy. I follow it up with an application of a very occlusive cream to seal everything in, my favorite is Orly's cuticle cream.

If you want to go ahead with a manicure after the paraffin treatment, you'll need to clean the oils off of your nail before nail polish application, or everything will slide right off. Using a little rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover do the trick.

Make sure you throw away the wax you just took off! It is incredibly tempting to just throw the wax back into the machine, but you shouldn't do this. I fully admit I used to do this back in my cheap/broke student days. It's fine if you're the only one using the wax, but I warn you that little bits of dead skin will be floating in the wax. This is definitely not a pretty sight.

I typically use my paraffin wax when my hands are undergoing quite a bit of abuse. So, a lot of severe hospital soap hand washings at work... winter cold and arid conditions... You get the idea. A paraffin wax treatment can take my hands from dry, aching and looking 20 years older than I really am to hydrated and happy.


Manicure 101 Extra Credit: Gelous & Instant Artificials

Gelous is something that I've just started using at the continued recommendations of the girls over on the Makeup Alley nail board. Instant Artificials is something that I just bought yesterday, but is the same idea (and again, beloved by the MUA Nail Board), but it's just there looking pretty in the picture, I haven't actually used it yet. They are available pretty much only at Sally Beauty Supply, and really seem to be somewhat all purpose very thick polishes.

Gelous and Instant Artificials can be used at almost any point in the manicure. The Sally site recommends using them directly on the nail (something about bonding to the nail). I haven't noticed a difference in wear if Gelous is applied over a treatment coat (I like Barielle Fortifying Nail Builder, when I'm having a lot of weakness or peeling issues I put that on first). I have noticed that a coat of regular base coat and then the Gelous results in a more smooth looking manicure that lasts an extra day or so.

Gelous also has a great 2nd life as a top coat for glitter polishes. Have you ever put on a great glitter polish, only to notice the next day that your top coat (even a thick one like Seche Vite) has been "eaten" by the glitter? A coat of Gelous over your glitter polish and then your top coat over that seems to do wonders. It smooths every thing out and makes the glitter really shine.

So, if you want at thicker polish look, to make your nails tougher or need something to go over a glitter polish, these are both great options!


Manicure 101 Extra Credit

I hope you've enjoyed the Manicure 101 series! Last week I covered the basics of my manicure in 5 posts. For the next couple of weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays you'll find posts that deal with more advance nail care issues such as specialized base coats like Gelous and Instant Artificials, Paraffin Baths and Vitamins to help your nails grow stronger. Let me know if you have any nail questions you'd like to see addressed!


Manicure 101: Cuticle Care, Perfect Cuticles are Easy!

how to get perfect cuticles

cuticle care
Over the last 4 days I've shared with you all of my steps in creating a great looking manicure at home. The problem? I haven't shown you what I do to maintain it, and I keep saying "Acetone, Acetone, Acetone." Which means that if you've been following my directions from this week your fingers and cuticles are probably cracked and bleeding by now because they are so dry!

So, the key to having great looking nails and cuticles really is moisture. Yes, even when you have on polish, you need to keep moisturizing. I am really not so good at remembering to keep applying moisturizing products to my nails, but I do apply before bed every night and this seems to be often enough for me. My favorite method of moisturizing my cuticles is to apply a cuticle oil such as CND Solar Oil first. The oil step seems to really be key for me, don't skip out on the oil! After the oil has had a few minutes to sink in I apply a thick cuticle cream to "lock" it into my cuticle. My favorite is Orly Cuticle Therapy Cream, but the Kiehl's cuticle cream works great as well. The point is to have a fairly occlusive cream on over the oil.

On days that I'm making an effort to remember my cuticles, I use hydroxy acid moisturizers on my cuticles. Pictured here are products from CND and Poshe (I have the old packaging of both, I stocked up about a year ago and am still using them up). The idea behind these products is pretty simple: they hydrate and the hydroxy acids help to exfoliate. When I'm using these a few times a day I find that my cuticles look amazing, I don't need to use cuticle remover and I can go ages between hang nails.

how to get perfect cuticles
no more hang nails or nasty cuticles


Manicure 101: Polish Removal and the Foil Method

For nail polish removal, I love the little pots of remover. I can open them up, stick in a finger and swish it around a bit. I've found that the pure acetone pots have plastic scrubbing bristles and work really well for glitter polish removal. Again, they are super drying, so I don't use them frequently and I always follow up with some intense moisture.

If the polish that you need to remove is particularly tough, you might want to consider using the foil method of nail polish removal.

To do this, you'll want some cotton or craft felt cut into squares about the size of your nails, Acetone and foil squares about 3"x3" or so. Get the cotton/felt wet with the Acetone, place it directly on your nail. Put foil over the whole thing and just encase your nail pretty tightly. The foil is there to hold the cotton/felt tightly to the nail and prevent the Acetone from evaporating away. About 10-15 minutes later (go as short a time as you can because the Acetone is so drying), you can remove the whole thing and the polish will either be gone already or only need a small wipe to take off the remainder.


Manicure 101: Manicure Clean Up Tips

Now that you've got the polish on, you want it to look perfect, right? I'm frequently asked where I get my nails done or how often I go to the salon. The answer is that I've been twice. Ever. I just know how to clean up a manicure so it looks perfect!

My favorite way to clean up a manicure is with a brush. You can see my well loved and nasty looking mani clean up brush in this picture. It's a really old Sonia Kashuk eye liner brush from Target. I am not sure why I started using it, but this brush is perfect. You'll want a stiff brush so it can be easily directed and can scrub off the polish. I went for an angled brush, but a square or even pointed brush would certainly work. I've heard that the paint brushes from a store like Michael's work well.

First, I pore pure Acetone into a little glass dampen glass. Mine is a from a nail supply, you can find them on-line or at Sally's for less than a dollar. Don't use the cap from your Acetone, you'll want to be able to close your bottle right up to minimize the evaporation. I wet my brush and simply run it along the areas that need to have polish removed. I wipe the brush off on a tissue or piece of felt, redip in the Acetone and repeat until I'm happy with the results.

Note that the Acetone is pretty drying to your nail and skin, so you'll want to moisturize right away when your mani is all dry. Some people have tried doing this using regular nail polish remover, but I've found that it doesn't clean up as nicely.


Manicure 101: Polish Application

Now to get to the part everyone is really curious about, applying the polish! I've found that the secret to making a manicure last really is the base coat and top coat. I can make a manicure last for 7 days without any chips and barely any tip wear. Considering everything that I do in my daily life, I think that's pretty amazing!

My favorite basecoat is Orly Bonder, though I have great results with CND Stickey as well. Stickey is a little cheaper, so I've just ordered a big 2.3 ounce bottle of it and will be using it for most of my manis. My only issue with Stickey is that it seems to tint lighter colored manis a little green on my hands (I took a ton of pics and the Stickey keeps showing up as blue, but it really is a green color, similar to the other flavor of Scope mouth wash), this is likely because I'm so fair. I'll be saving my Bonder for light manicures to avoid this issue. Otherwise I get equal wear with regardless of which basecoat I use. So, Stickey for mid tone or darker polishes, Bonder for light colored polishes. My wear is equal, it's the color issue that's really at play here.

Next is of course, color. I've shown Chanel's Morning Rose, but that's only because it had just arrived when I took these pics, so it was in the big pile of polish on my desk. My favorite polish brands:
OPI: I get the best wear out of OPI and they do have a lot of fun colors. The Sephora OPI polishes are the same formula, though they are a little more expensive. I'm not certain if the Nicole by OPI polishes are the same formula, but in general they apply just as well on me (and I prefer the Nicole brush) and they also have a great color range.
Essie: Now owned by L'Oreal, Essie can be found in your local Walmart, Drugstore and in salons. If you want a light pink/nude color, look to an Essie. They also do pigmented creme polishes very well, often only 1 or 2 coats are needed.
China Glaze
Chanel: I love the colors and the shimmer, but typically the wear is only for a 2 or 3 day manicure. I usually change so often that I don't care.
MAC: Similar to Chanel, they have some great colors but horrible wear. I get 1-2 days max.
Sally Hansen: I admit that I'm only including them on this list for completeness. I know their Salon range wears for 7-10 days, but I really haven't tried them myself.
Zoya: Usually a 4-5 manicure for me, the wear is a little worse than the OPI/Essie/China Glaze brands, but they also have some great colors and are free of 5 different chemicals.

My favorite top coats are Seche Vite or Poshe. I have Seche Vite right now as I bought a big pro sized bottle and just refill my bottles. Both are thicker than other brands, and apply over wet polish pretty easily. Super shiny and dry to the touch about 10 minutes after application!

So, I've created this little graphic to show you how I apply polish, though I'm planning to create a video for this post as well. You can click on the image to enlarge it if you want.

So, the cuticle is at the purple semicircle. Not pictured here is my first step, which is wrapping the tip of my nail in basecoat, polish or top coat. Simply run the brush along the tip of the nail. Try not to get it all over your skin, but if it is there don't worry, you'll clean it up later.

Next to apply polish to the nail itself. I place the end of my brush in the middle of the nail, a few millimeters from the cuticle (look at the light blue line, that's roughly where I place the brush). I push/wiggle the brush right up to the cuticle (the yellow squiggle), and let the brush fill in the nail right up to the cuticle. I do like about a millimeter of space there, but if it gets on the cuticle that's fine. Then I pull the brush along the nail (green arrow).

Usually I have enough polish on the brush that there will be some extra off to either side. I use this polish to help me repeat the process off to the sides. I cover the entire nail in 3 strokes, though I sometimes need 4 for my thumb. I do not reload the brush in between stroke on each nail, this results in too much polish. I do my entire left hand, then right hand and then just repeat. I rarely wait between coats, since the Seche Vite will dry all of the layers together.

All of the products pictured/featured here were bought by me. I've repurchased them so many times that it is somewhat crazy.

Manicure 101: Preparation

manicure tips, preparation
Obviously, the first step has to be preparation of the cuticle area and your nail. Here you can see the products that I use to get ready for a manicure.

Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover: There are a lot of products like this on the market, but they all seem to be either much, much too strong or to do absolutely nothing. This product from Sally Hansen strikes the perfect middle ground Simply apply a small bead on your cuticle bed and it does its job while you push back cuticles and run your nail over the cuticle. Simply rinse off to find perfect cuticles!

Cuticle Trimmer: I think mine is from Revlon, but this tool costs about $2 and it is money well spent. While you shouldn't cut your cuticles themselves (they help protect you quite and bit and cutting them is just asking for an infection), I like to use this along the sides of my nails in case of a hang nail.

Emery board: Yes, I know. There are a lot of people that swear by the crystal or glass nail files instead. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but I have found that those files take forever to work and don't cut down on the issues I have with splitting nails. I like to use one that is coarse and either fine or medium on the other side. This one is from Sally's Beauty Supply.

Smoothing Block: Again from Sally's Beauty, I like to smooth out my ridges just a little so I can avoid needing a separate ridge filler. The blocks come with 4 sides, #1 is a fine/medium nail file and #4 really buffs your nails to a shiny finish. I only use #2 and #3. The goal is to lightly smooth out the ridges without overly thinning out the nail, but you want to leave behind a little rough surface so that your polish has something to grab on to. If you over buff the polish will peel off very quickly. So, #2 and #3 only!

Orange Stick: In case you're not a fan of using your fingernails to push back the cuticle. I don't always use these, it truly depends on whether I feel like hunting one down in my polish stash.

Nail Clippers: I have 2 of these, a "normal" one, and one that is pointed. The regular nail clippers are to clip down my nails before filing. I like to have pretty short nails, longer ones harbor bacteria under then tip which is bad for infection control at work. So, I like to keep them about 2 mm past my nail bed. The pointed nail clipper I rarely use, but it is for those instances that I have a hang nail my Cuticle Trimmer can't take care of.


Manicure 101 Week

In case you haven't noticed, I've become a bit more candid about my nail polish obsession over the last few months. I fully admit that I was once a very active member of a nail polish forum (Makeup Alley), and I'm still a semi-active lurker and sometimes poster over there.

The picture above is the closet in my office. See all of those drawers on the left? That was my polish collection a few months ago. It recently spilled over onto the right side of my closet... it might have more than a few hundred colors. Yes, I'm obsessed and am willing to admit it. And I really do need that many colors, I can totally tell apart dark purple #1 from dark purple #5 and of course dark purple #12. So there.

Anyways, I've gotten a lot of questions about how I do my manicures and make my nails look good. I do have a large post that contained my manicure routine, but it's pretty long and things have changed a bit.

So, this week I'll break things down step by step. Posts to watch for:
• Preparation
• Cuticle Care
• Applying Color
• Clean up

And, if people are really nice, I may even make a few videos to show each step of the process!

Edit to add: It really isn't so much of a week any more. I keep finding topics to include and I've spilled over well into next week too. Let me know if there is a topic you'd particularly like covered!

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