Makeup/Beauty

I haven’t talked much about mascara in a while. At the beginning of the summer I had a bout of Pink Eye which required me to throw away all my eye makeup and start from scratch. It takes me a while to get over Pink Eye and I like to wait a few weeks before it’s gone gone before I start wearing eye makeup again to prevent contamination should there still be bacteria in my eyes. So for several weeks everyone I knew gave me a strange look when I’d show up everywhere sans eye makeup. They could tell I looked different and worse; but they couldn’t put their finger on why.

I spent my eye-makeup-free time dreaming of mascara. I got so tired of my beady little eyes.  My old favorite mascara was by Sonia Kashuk. Of course it’s been discontinued, as is the case with all great makeup. I’ve heard rumors that they’re going to bring it back but I haven’t seen it yet.

After doing lots of research, my first mascara purchase was some Japanese stuff called Heroine Make Lash and Curl. This stuff has the greatest reviews and everybody adores it.

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It’s a Japanese cheapo brand so even with shipping (off of ebay) it wasn’t too expensive. My verdict: It was horrible. HORRIBLE!  It was so wet and gooey that my lashes all stuck together in one disgusting clump. And it took forever to dry. Seriously, I put the mascara on, finished my other makeup, put my shoes on and got in my car and the mascara was still goopy. Heaven help you if you sneeze or rub your eyes before it’s dried. I have no idea–none-why people would like this mascara. The positive reviews on Makeup Alley confound me. My lashes certainly didn’t look full or lush. They just looked stubby and gross. I thought maybe some eyelashes had fallen out because of the pink eye, they looked so pitiful.

Next I turned to another positively reviewed mascara, Be Long by Clarins. I saw Clarins makeup all over Europe but it’s not as well-known here in America. I mean, I’ve seen Clarins counters around but it just doesn’t seem to be as popular as Clinique or Lancôme. So I ordered a small tube of Be Long off of ebay because it’s pretty spendy if you buy it retail. (Ebay is such a great resource for trying out makeup without having to pay a fortune.)

Clarins Be Long

My eyelashes that I thought were short and sparse? Oh my goodness! Never before have they looked so long and gorgeous. My lashes curled beautifully and the mascara didn’t clump at all. All I could do is look in the mirror and say, “Wow!”.  Sadly, Be Long is not waterproof. By the end of the day it had smudged and little tiny flakes were dotting my cheeks.  Going out in the bright sun (which is all the time here in Texas) makes my eyes water and after a while I started to look streaky like Tammy Faye talking about Jim’s infidelity.

I was just so, so, so disappointed. I’ve heard that there are products that you can apply to mascara to make it waterproof. But once you factor in expensive mascara plus an expensive waterproofer, it’s quite a lot of money just for eyelashes. While lots of people think that eyelashes are tremendously important, they’re just a row of hair so really they’re not my number one concern. If I were a blondie with pale lashes I might feel differently.

Next I decided to try Clarins waterproof mascara called Wonder Proof. While it’s very nice and one of my top picks, it’s not as great as Be Long. It’s a little clumpier and my lashes don’t look quite as long. The great thing about this mascara, though, is that is doesn’t budge.  No smudging and smearing at all. I wash my face with oil and I still have to rub hard to get this stuff off at the end of the day.

Wonder perfect

Every day when I reach for my mascara I want to grab Be Long. It just looks so fantastic. But I don’t fancy looking like a raccoon by the end of the day so I pick Wonder Perfect instead. It’s a very good mascara but it’s not my Holy Grail. I’d put it on the same level as my old favorite, Lights Camera Lashes by Tarte (which is not waterproof but a little more smudge resistant than Be Long). I’m still on the look-out. Do you have a waterproof mascara that you’re madly in love with? I might need to try it.

I haven’t done a Makeup Monday in a while. I got pink eye at the beginning of the Summer and I’ve been keeping the makeup minimal to prevent contamination with my germy eyes.  I’ve also gotten pretty sick of doing my nails too. When summer got here I just needed a break from everything!

But now I’m back with a minimalist manicure and a great new product that I’m kind of in love with. (What? This is a minimalist manicure for me!)

green dot manicure

If you do gel nail polish, you know it’s the best to apply. It “dries” super quickly so you can get a great manicure and not worry about smudging anything. But removing gel polish is the worst. Really a complete drag. You can either soak your nails in acetone which is smelly and awful, or try to come up with a system of soaking cotton balls and wrapping your nails with tin foil. That method is drippy and inconvenient and I don’t recommend it.

I stumbled across a new nail polish removal product while I was reading one of my favorite nail blogs. Intrigued by the product, I ordered it for myself. And wow!  It’s fantastic! Totally non-drippy things you stick on the tops of your fingers. They took my polish off in less than ten minutes. No scraping involved either! The polish pretty much just fell off.  They’re called NailMates.

nailmates

They come with thin, little sponges that you dip in acetone polish remover and slide into the pink rubber covers. You wear them on your nails and they work like a charm. You’d think that they would be pretty leaky but they aren’t at all. You can’t exactly type at your computer while you wear them, but it’s way better than being stuck at a table with your hand in a bowl of acetone. And NailMates are reusable. Just rinse out the sponges and that’s it.  I’m just loving these!  They’re $14 for a set (includes shipping) and right now they’re giving an extra set of liner sponges for free. You can get them here.

I wasn’t paid to recommend them and I bought them with my very own money. I just think they’re a great product.

 

I recently bought a new mascara by Tarte. It came highly recommended on Makeup Alley (if you don’t consult Makeup Alley before you buy makeup, then you are really missing out) and it was 40% off at Ulta the day I happened to be there. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to try it on and found this:

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Yeah, it’s fake alligator-ish leather. This isn’t some kind of case to hold the mascara tube, this is the mascara tube. It’s supposed to be swanky, I guess. Really it’s slightly awkward with a seam down the sides.

Mostly, though, I’m just slightly embarrassed because all I can think when I pick it up is that it looks like a fancy tampon case.  Seriously, Tarte, what were you thinking?

P.S. The mascara is excellent, by the way.

A year or so ago I recommended my favorite mascara (by Sonja Krashuk), but of course that was the signal to Target to have it discontinued. So I’ve been wandering in the mascara wilderness for a couple of months now. Mascaras, more than any other product, rely heavily on adjectives (Super maxi thick ultra-long lash supreme!) Their names are like watching those little girl beauty pageants; there are so many adjectives that the title becomes meaningless.

I love to peruse the trial sizes at Ulta. You can try out some fancy-pants make-up for cheap (they’re usually all piled together in a rack by the cashier). I bought They’re Real mascara by benefit and I’m really liking it. It does make my lashes look super thick, but super thick can also mean super clumpy and globby. I can only get my lashes to look great about half of the time with this mascara.

So my search resumes for a mascara that looks thick but still manages to separate my lashes. Have you found anything that you really love? I’ve heard good things about Clinique mascara but I hate sinking a lot of money into mascara since really it’s not the thing that people notice first. It’s just a couple of rows of hair. But my eyes look beady and bland without it. So the search continues . . . .

Oil cleansing method

Have you been hearing about cleaning your face with oil yet? If not, you will soon. The Oil Cleansing Method is all the rage. If you’re new to the concept of cleaning your skin with oil this will sound like the most ludicrous, bizarre notion EVER. Because who puts oil on her face? Who??? Lots of people! Me, for one.  I am incredibly picky and vigilant about skincare. So when I say that my skin has never looked better since I started washing with oil, you’d better believe that it’s good stuff. We’re talking luminous angel skin.

You know your skin produces oil all the time, right? Oil isn’t bad. Oil is what keeps your skin looking dewy and fresh. But if the oil production goes into overdrive it can cause problems. It can combine with bacteria and dirt and cause zits and blackheads. But without oil you will start to look like a raisin. No girl wants to look like a raisin!

All the commercials and ads have convinced us that we must use cleansers to get rid of the oil! That only when all oil is gone will we have good skin. So we buy all these cleansers thinking that we must get our skin clean CLEAN CLEAN. But then our skin gets dried out. Skin doesn’t like to be dry, so it sends a signal that we must produce even more oil. So our face becomes oilier. And more oil attracts more grime.

Then we start throwing moisturizers in there because our skin is so dry after we wash it to death; moisturizers full of chemicals and all sorts of nasty things and pretty soon our faces are not happy. Our skin is a big fat mess. We need to find a happy medium.

That’s where oil comes in: oil actually cleans oil. Without getting too science-y, like dissolves like. We need nice, nourishing oils to get rid of the gross, dirty oils on our faces and to do it without stripping our skin bare.

I know you are feeling mighty skeptical right now but believe me when I tell you that washing with oil will make your skin look phenomenal. It will feel so lovely and healthy you won’t even be able to deal with it. I get compliments on my skin every single day. Not kidding. This is one of the big reasons why.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Get some washcloths. I like grey ones because I don’t want to have to worry about stains from my eye makeup.  I bought a big stack of them at Target for just a few dollars. You’ll only use them a couple of times before they need to be washed in very hot water. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets.

Get some hot water. Let your faucet run til it’s nice and steamy or heat some up in the microwave. You want it hot but not hot enough to hurt you.

Make up your oil mixture.* You can’t just use any oil, silly! The number one important oil is going to be castor oil. (When I make soap from scratch I always use castor oil because it makes nice big bubbles.) Castor oil has extra-great oil-removing properties and gets the yucky stuff from your pores. You’ll also need a companion oil. There are dozens of different kinds of oils: if you have oily skin jojoba, sunflower, and sweet almond are your best bets. Regular skin does well with grapeseed or Apricot Kernel Oil. Dry skin like mine prefers avocado or Extra-virgin Olive Oil (I’ve heard a lot of complaints about olive oil causing skin issues but I haven’t had any problems personally. If you have dry skin, try avocado oil first.) Tamanu oil is especially good if you’re prone to acne. It’s a spendy oil but is supposed to be fantastic.

Only mix a small amount at a time. You might need to play around to find the right blend for your skin.

Get a little bottle; one of those travel sized bottles is perfect. Make sure it’s totally clean. A bunch of conditioner residue is not going to help. Depending on your skin type you’ll mix your oils up in various ratios depending on your skin type.

If your skin is oily, mix 2 parts castor oil with 1 part companion oil. For example: 2 Tablespoons of castor oil for 1 Tablespoon of almond oil.

If your skin is regular, mix castor oil and your companion oil in equal parts. For example: 2 Tablespoons of castor oil and 2 Tablespoons of apricot kernel oil.

If your skin is dry, mix 1 part castor oil to 2 parts carrier oil. For example: 1 Tablespoon castor oil to 2 Tablespoons avocado oil.

This is how to wash your face using oils: The first part will be the weirdest. You will take some of your oil mixture (about a quarter-sized amount) and rub it all over your dry face. No need to get your face wet first because we aren’t using soap. Just massage the oil all over your face for a minute or two. Make sure to rub your eyelashes because it will get rid of any trace of eye makeup in a snap. (Eye makeup remover is ancient history!)

Soak your washcloth in hot water (don’t burn yourself, for Pete’s sake!), wring it out, tip your head back slightly and lay the washcloth on your face. Leave it here until it starts to cool down. This is going to open up your pores and cut through the grime. Then gently wipe the oil from your face. I usually wipe my face off once, but you can do it again if you feel like it. Make sure to wipe under your eyes to get rid of any mascara, but be gentle!

Apply your moisturizer as soon as you’ve finished. I am still madly in love with my night-time syrum that I make with olive squalane (among other things). Yes, I wash my face with oil then apply more oil! My skin has never looked better. That’s saying a lot considering I’m 42. I also use the oil cleaning method every single solitary night. It truly pays off. Remember that your face is your calling card; treat it well!

Your skin might freak out a little during the first 1-2 weeks. Remember that it’s gotten used to having oil stripped away and has made your oil-producing factory wig out. Let your face have a week or two to settle down and get used to the new regimen. Just stick with it and try to resist using your old cleanser for a while. I think you’re really going to fall in love with your new glowing, velvet-y skin. Give it a try and tell me how you like it!

 

*So where do you get these oils? If you have a natural grocery store, that will probably be your best bet. My local H.E.B. has a big aisle that sells natural/health products and I can get most everything there. Sometimes sunflower seed and avocado oil can be found in the baking aisle by the vegetable oils. Quite often you’ll find castor oil in the pharmacy department near stomach medicine. It is a big-time laxative (I drank a couple of spoonfuls of it once when I was enormously pregnant and trying to get labor started. Hoo-boy was that a crazy night in the bathroom!). If you live in the middle of nowhere or just don’t feel like searching high and low, there are lots of places online that carry oils. My favorite site is Wholesale Supplies Plus. Their prices are usually a lot cheaper than the grocery store and they have free shipping on every item.

I have the most horrid, nasty undereye circles. It has been thus since I was a wee lass. I remember my mother taking me to the doctor as a kid to see what in the world was the matter with me. Turns out it’s just bad genetics and pale skin. In other words, tough luck for me.

Concealer and lipstick are the two things I would never leave the house without wearing. A good concealer, however, is hard to find. I’ve been a huge fan of Cargo’s Blu-Ray concealer. It is the one that stays out of fine lines but it’s coverage is a bit meager. My undereye circles are still there, just not as bad.  I’m getting a little tired of them, though. I’d like to be under eye-circle free–at least for a few hours.

I have tried a new concealer that does a great job covering things up and staying put BUT I can only recommend it with a caveat: if you have lines under your eyes you’ll need to wear it with a make-up primer. If I put a make-up primer on first, then it tends to stay out of the lines and it looks a million times better.*

So what is this great concealer? It’s called Erase Paste by benefit. It’s spendy  ($26 for a tiny little pot) but a little goes a verrrry long way.

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If you have bad circles or scars that need to be covered, you’re probably willing to spend quite a lot to get the job done. I know I am. But the good news is that you can get a teensy travel size of this stuff at Ulta for $10. (I found it up next to the register in the display that has travel sizes of all sorts of products. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can’t find it.)  I hate to shell out almost $30 for something I can’t even try out.  I’ve been really happy with this concealer and plan to keep using it.

 

*The Primer I’ve been using lately is by Too Faced, one of my favorite brands of makeup. It’s called Primed and Poreless. I like it a lot but I don’t love it. I like it more than Smashbox primer, though.

It’s been Prom time around here. We have a no-dating-til-age-16 rule which means this was the first year that York and India were both old enough to go. India went with her boyfriend, Ethan, to both the school Prom and MoPro (Mormon Prom) where there aren’t so many skanky dresses and hoochie dancing. York just went to MoPro. Boys have a really easy time as far as the Prom is concerned: we bought him a nice suit, got his haircut, picked up a corsage and voilà! He was all set. For girls it is another story entirely. First there is the dress. It’s bad enough finding a dress that is cute and affordable, but when you’re Mormon it’s supposed to be modest too, meaning no crazy cleavage and shoulders must be covered. Choices are very limited locally. (I wish there were some sort of modest Prom Dress Excahange!) One of India’s friends loaned her a really pretty navy dress that we managed to modest-ize and I think it turned out well. Now that the Prom’s over we have to unpick all the modest additions so we can return it. Good thing they were just basted on.

It’s also a good thing that I know how to do nails, hair and makeup. There were a lot of girls who didn’t even bother to put on lipstick! For the Prom! It’s a good teaching opportunity to explain the difference between daytime and nighttime makeup. Of course India’s face showed up the best in all the pictures. I don’t take my beauty responsibilities lightly! Because India went to two Proms, that meant I got to spend two Saturdays in a row getting her all ready. (Luckily I used Angel Pro nail polish–with some silver glitter on the tips–so her manicure looked just as nice the second weekend as the first.)

Mister waited for India’s date to show up.

India’s boyfriend is the nicest boy. Terribly sweet and gentlemanly. Even so I had a little chat and told him that I’d punch him in the face if he drank any alcohol. I like to make sure that we’re on the same page.  I was sort of kidding, but not really.

The Prom was pretty nice and a good time was had until things started to get crazy and everyone was grinding on the dance floor.

The next weekend was MoPro. Since York doesn’t have his driver’s license yet, India had to drive him to pick up his date, Taylor. It was like some sort of bad Brady Bunch episode. Taylor is a pretty low-key, casual girl and York likes hanging out with her so they had a fun time.

I especially love this picture because York never–and I mean never–smiles for pictures. But lookie here! What a nice smile! I knew he could do it. York is not really into looking good (I picked him up from track practice a few weeks ago and he was wearing a dark green t-shirt, orange silky basketball shorts and black knee-high dress socks. He wears this ugly stuff proudly!). Finn, who is 14, is super into his looks. He actually had to tie York’s bow tie for him, help York style his hair and loaned him a nice watch to wear. It was pretty funny to see.

All the people going to MoPro together came over to our neighborhood and took pictures before heading off to dinner. What a cute bunch of kids!

I’m wild about polka dots. I love them always, on everything. Polka dot nail art was the first thing I wanted to learn how to do when I started getting more into nail design a couple of years ago. I would read all these nail blogs and wonder how in the world the nail artists could make such perfect and uniform dots. It’s pretty impossible to do with a brush. And then I found the secret: dotting tools. These are plastic sticks, kind of like shortish pencils. On each end is a metal ball. There are different sized balls depending on how big you want your dots to be. They almost always come in a set of five with graduated sizes of tips

All you have to do is put a tiny bit of nail polish or acrylic paint on a palette or plate, then dip the dotting tool into the paint and tap it on your nail. It makes a perfectly round circle instantly. There is no swirling, no trying to match up both sides of the circle to make it look right. Just dip the tool in polish, then touch it to the nail. Really, that’s all there is to it. If it’s not the right size, just wipe it off and try again.

It really couldn’t be easier. It takes a smidge of practice to figure out what size dot you want and how to get consistent results, but honestly an eight-year-old could do this. It’s that simple.

All you have to do is make sure that you apply at least one layer of a topcoat when you’ve finished your dots.

A variation on the dot is an outline of a circle, which is what I’ve done on the pink nails in the photo collage above. It isn’t actually an outline of a circle at all, it just looks that way. I made a large dot, then added a smaller dot in the center of the main background nail polish. It only appears to be an outline; it’s actually a dot sandwich.

So the big question is where to buy your own set of dotting tools. I have some good news and some bad news: The good news is that there are a million sellers on ebay who offer sets of these for $2-3 (shipping included!). The bad news is that they’re mostly in China so it takes about two weeks to get them. That’s where I got mine and have been perfectly happy with them. Just search for “dotting tools” on ebay.

Dotting tools are really wonderful and can be used for all sorts of art projects where small polka dots are needed, not just on nails. I have an odd little hobby of painting teensy peg dolls and dotting tools are perfect for the details.

For such a cheap price, it’s a great idea to have a set of these in your drawer.

 

More than any other nail art question, I get asked how to paint roses on fingernails. Everyone assumes that since roses are so pretty, they must be incredibly difficult to make. Not so!  Making a straight line is about a million times harder! This tutorial will show you how to make a perfect rose garden on your fingernails using nail polish and acrylic paint.

 

There are only a couple of tools you’ll need: A fine, flat-tipped paint brush and a super-duper-fine pointy paint brush. I’ve bought a ton of paintbrushes over the years hoping to find one with an incredibly fine tip for doing detailed nail art. My favorite brushes so far have been from this set of 5 brushes by Martha Stewart that I got at Michaels. They’re for painting glass, of all things. Who cares what you use them for! They’re great (especially if you have a Michael’s Coupon). I really only use the two finest ones but the other three might come in handy for other things.

You’ll also need either nail polish or acrylic paint for the flowers (Yes, I’m telling you that you can use plain old acrylic paints that they sell at the craft store). For the base of the flower I usually use the same nail polish that I use for my other fingers so it will match perfectly. This yellow is gel polish (Angel Pro Gelly #20). For the darker-colored detail on my yellow roses I used Delta brand acrylic craft paint.

Step 1. Paint your nails. Make sure they’re nice and dry if you’re using traditional polish. If you’re using gel polish, cure them but don’t use the top coat.

Using a flat-tipped brush (this is the crappy brush from one of my kids’ watercolor paint sets), put a few blobby-looking circles on each nail. You don’t want these to be perfect circles; that looks weird.

Let the circles dry/cure completely.

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Step 2. Find a color about 3-4 shades lighter/darker than the flower base. On this nail I’ve used a medium pink so I could either use a pale pink or a really dark pink. I did a few flowers of each so you can see the different look of each one. Basically, though, if you have a pale flower base, you’ll use a darker color. If you have a dark flower (red, for example), you’ll use a pale color as the accent.

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To make the details in the rose you’ll use your super fine brush to make about two or three lines. One towards the top of the rose, one towards the bottom that kind of swirls into the middle. You don’t need to be really scientific about this. I promise that you will be kind of disappointed by your roses. It’s not until you do the leaves that they actually look like pretty flowers.

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Step 3. Rinse out your superfine brush and make some leaves. They need to look a little like teardrops.

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If you really want to go for broke you can add a darker shade of green to the top of every leaf.

 

Step 4. Apply a top coat. Acrylic paint flakes off very badly. Apply at least one layer of clear topcoat. Now get ready to enjoy all the compliments!

It’s been a couple of years since I first started doing my nails with gel nail polish (not to be confused with UV gel overlays which are not very common anymore. I’m talking about systems like Gelish, Shellac, OPI Axxium, etc.). I get asked the same questions again and again so I though I might give you some answers to FAQs. Here’s the original post describing what gel polish is in case you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about. Here’s my latest pedicure that I did with Gel Polish*:

The most common thing I’m asked is if it’s possible to use regular nail polish with a Gel polish base coat and top coat. While I certainly understand wanting to do this–gel polish is about 2-3 times more expensive than regular polishes and comes in very limited colors–it’s really the worst of both worlds. One of the great benefits of using gel polish is that it doesn’t dry, it cures. Meaning once it’s been under the UV/LED lamp for a couple of minutes it’s throughly cured; it’s perfectly dry and touchable. There is absolutely no fear of smearing or smudging anything. Hallelujah! This is most certainly NOT the case with traditional nail polish. It takes a while to dry. After you’ve done a couple of coats you have to wait up to half and hour. In addition to that you have to take it easy or you can STILL end up with messed up polish. It’s such a pain!

Traditional nail polish also chips like mad, even sandwiched between the gel base and topcoats. There’s a reason the gel polish companies make their own nail polish colors; it’s not just to get all your money. The gel type of polish actually lasts longer. I’ve sandwiched regular nail polish before when I’ve needed a color I simply can’t find in a gel and I can get maybe 3-5 days of wear before everything starts chipping like crazy. Hardly worth the trouble. So while layering regular polish between gel base and top coats is possible, it’s not much of a solution. Just bite the bullet and buy some colored gel polishes. That’s the whole point of using this nail system: you want nails that look great for a long time.

Another question I get asked is what brands I like the best. Pretty much every high end nail company has come up with their own version of gel polish and I simply can’t try every one. There are great forums on the internet that discuss the pros and cons of different brands so you might want to google those. I’ve tried Shellac and Gelish and out of those two I definitely prefer Gelish. It’s thicker and stronger which is ideal for my thin, peely nails. Shellac doesn’t seem to protect the nail as well. I buy most of my Gelish products on Amazon. The prices are great and it’s nice to read reviews of each color because the Gelish color swatches and charts are way off base. Last month I bought the most adorable Gelish green polish (kind of a muted green apple color) and my daughters can’t get enough of it. At less than $13 for this polish Amazon beats the pants off of stores like Sally (sorry Sally!)

I have to tell you that I am not a fan of the Red Carpet system. The polish is incredibly thin and watery which, as you can imagine, does not hold up as well. It is made by the same company that makes Gelish but it’s definitely not the same quality (kind of like Old Navy vs. Gap). I have a Red Carpet LED lamp that is OK in a pinch but is so small that only four fingers fit at a time. The light barely reaches the sides of each nail which means that they aren’t fully cured. That leads to polish rubbing off. Not good! I have about six Red Carpet colors and each one has been disappointing.

I subscribe to nail blogs all over the world and my favorite blog is by a Singaporean girl named Ying (her blog is here).  She does the most fantastic nail art! She has moved away from Gelish to a Korean brand called  Angel Pro Gelly. She raved about the quality and the amazing amount of colors so I scoured the internet hoping to find it somewhere. No dice. This stuff is pretty hard to find. I contacted Angel Pro and they were more than happy to sell their polish to me directly. As a matter of fact they were offering orders with no shipping and handling charges, even though I’m on a different continent. The prices are a little steep ($20-$26 per bottle) but I had some Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket so I thought, “what the heck?” and ordered a few bottles (plus the base and top coats). Let me tell you, I am madly in love!!! This stuff is quite thick (which means fewer coats) and it lasts like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve tried five of the colors now and this stuff stays on without chipping for 2-3 weeks easily. I could never get my Gelish to last for even two weeks. Especially the reds. Those seem to chip especially badly. But my Angel Pro Gelly red (A gorgeous blood red, #147) lasted like a champ. I just can’t say enough great things about this brand. And the colors! They have everything! Check them out here. I’m sticking with Angel Pro from now on. Kind of a bummer that it’s so hard to obtain but it’s so worth it. Here’s just a fraction of AngelPro’s colors:

Let’s talk about lamps: You can’t do gel nail polish without one! The prices of UV and LED lights are going down all the time. UV’s are cheaper but they take longer to cure nails. The UV lamp that I’ve been really happy with (that you can get here) has gone down in price to around $50. You can do two hands at once too, so I’m very fond of it. LEDs cut way down on curing time (45 seconds vs. 2-3 minutes) but they cost more than twice as much ($100-$300). I prefer a lamp that lets me do both hands at once and so far only UV lamps have that option. As I said, I have the Red Carpet LED lamp which is quite tiny (not a good thing unless you’re traveling). It does a decent job provided you can expose all angles of your nails to the light. It’s less than $50 (even cheaper if you buy it from Ulta with a coupon) so I can’t really complain. I place mine on top of a sheet of tin foil to make it even more reflective.

Removal is probably the biggest pain of gel nail polish. The top coat of the polish should be filed briefly, then soaked for about 15 minutes. If you get bored with your color or it starts peeling resist the urge to peel it all off!!! It will take the top layer of your nail with it and that is no good at all. Instead just take the time to give it a nice soak in pure acetone. Some people soak cotton balls with acetone then wrap the cotton with tin foil. I just put the acetone in a small dish and soak one hand at a time while I’m browsing the internet (Pinterest is perfect for this! It’s a time suck that requires almost no typing). Both removal styles work just fine; I find the whole tin foil thing a bit of a pain, personally. The important thing is to allow the polish to bubble up, then scrape it off with an orange stick. If it’s being stubborn, place the nails back in acetone for a few minutes. You don’t want to be too forceful about scraping off the polish; you’ll take a layer of your nails with you if you do. As long as you let the acetone do it’s job, the quality of your fingernails won’t be compromised.

Since I’ve switched almost exclusively to AngelPro Gelly polish my nails are longer and stronger than they’ve ever been. My ring fingernail on my right hand has been permanently peeling for about five years but the gel polish keeps it in place and looking good. I’m super happy to find a polish system that makes it look like I have perfect nails. Don’t tell anyone that I do it myself and it takes only a couple of hours every two weeks to maintain!

* colors used for my paisley pedicure: background pale pink (angel pro gelly #40), white (APG #124), black (APG #29), very bright pink (Gelish “Gossip Girl”), brownish pink (Gelish “Exhale”) and medium pink (APG #21)

I get no money from Angel Pro or Gelish for liking their products, but I do get a few pennies if you buy products through my links to Amazon. Let me tell you, I could use all the pennies I can get!