Nails

Oh, it’s summer all right. How do I know? We’ve spent four of the last seven days at the neighborhood pool and the sweat is at a constant trickle down my back. And I can tell by my toenails. It’s time to bust out the crazy pedicures. All the better for sandals, my dear.

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!

To celebrate the festivities I’ve made a Lemon Truffle Pie and painted my toenails. Hope your day is fun, not too hot, full of deliciousness and that nothing around you catches on fire!

 

I have had so many questions about Gelish since my post a couple of weeks ago (which you can read here) that I though I should write a little more. So here are a few more details:

This is what you must have for Gelish:

Foundation Gel

Color

Top it Off (all three products are by Nail Harmony. They also make Red Carpet Manicure which is sold by Ulta and has almost identical colors.)

LED light or UV light (LED lights in a nail lamp are stronger than those in an LED flashlight. Which is why you can’t find a decent LED nail lamp for less than $200. Don’t you think somebody would be selling a super cheap version on ebay if they could?)

Nail prep. Either use the Gelish Cleanser by Nail Harmony or 90% rubbing alcohol sold in most pharmacies. You have to remove all residue from the nails or the Gelish will just peel off. This is also used at the very end of your manicure to remove the sticky layer.

Paper towels. Good for applying nail prep/alcohol. Cotton balls leave tiny threads that get stuck in the polish.

These things are nice but not necessary:

Pro Bond (by Nail Harmony). This is used after the nail prep/alcohol but before the foundation gel. It keeps the polish on extra well. I just use it at the tips.

Cuticle Clippers. Keeps cuticles nice and tidy.

Orange Sticks. These multi purpose wooden sticks are great for a dozen different tasks. I use them constantly. I prefer the slightly fancier ones with a nice pointy end rather than the kind that are sold in a huge pack for super cheap.

Several people have asked if it’s possible to use regular nail polish sandwiched between the Gelish Foundation Gel and Top Coat. Yes, technically it works. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t last nearly as well as Gelish brand polish. It chips sooner. Plus you have to wait for the polish to completely dry before you can apply the Top It Off. That adds up to an hour to your manicure while you sit around waiting for your polish to dry.  The UV light will not make it dry faster. It’s an entirely different chemical reaction than takes place with Gelish polish. It sucks that the Gelish nail polish costs $10-$15 dollars per bottle, but it does, so too bad.

Since the Gelish color palatte is somewhat limited, here is what I do to make it seem like I have more colors than I do: I own five or six basic Gelish colors that I use often and I pour small amounts in a dish and mix up new colors. I have not had any issues with my new concoctions chipping or not wearing as well. I will just mix a few drops at a time (enough for ten nails which is really not that much at all).

I also layer colors. Some are more sheer than others and will completely change the look of your polish. Samuri is a lovely, purplish sheer that is OK on its own, but looks marvelous when applied over most any other color. Two coats of Gossip Girl with a coat of Samuri over the top is my favorite.

Here’s a quick run-down on the complete Gelish application process:

1. File nails and push back cuticles.

2. Apply nail prep/alcohol with a paper towel.

3. (Optional) Apply Pro Bond to nail tips, edges, underneath free edges.

4. Apply Foundation Gel very sparingly.

5. Cure for 1 minute.

6. Wipe off excess foundation gel with a paper towel.

7. Apply a thin coat of color, including free edges and tips.

8. Cure for 2-3 minutes (under UV lamp. Less for LED. 2 minutes for pale colors. 3 for darker colors.)

9. Repeat color and curing until you have three coats.

10. Apply Top it Off.

11. Cure for 2-3 minutes.

12. Wipe off sticky residue with rubbing alcohol and paper towel. DONE!

As far as removing the Gelish goes, it is a bit of a pain. The top layer must be filed with a coarse file so that the remover can penetrate the layers underneath. The nails must be soaked for about 10 minutes in 100% acetone (available anywhere). I usually fill up a little dish and soak one hand at a time while I read a book. After the nails have soaked, use an orange stick to scrape off the polish. It won’t hurt your nails but it will make them look kind of gross. Afterwards wash your hands with a big dollop of soap and your nails will look just fine.

This would not be worth it if you had to do it all the time, but every two or three weeks is certainly worth the trouble. All told it probably takes me about 45-60 minutes to remove my nail polish and apply a new color from start to finish. I adore Gelish and don’t think an hour every couple of weeks is too much to ask for great-looking nails.

Let me know if you have any questions!

It’s Makeup Monday! Which means it’s time to talk about makeup! Or in this case, nail polish. Women seem to fall into two camps: fake nail afficianodos and people who don’t really care all that much about their nails. Before I had children I loved to get my nails done and, being a life-long nail biter, usually stuck to fake acrylics.  But once your money is being spent on things like diapers and babysitters, things like nails are the first casualty.  I tried keeping my nails polished but you know how it is: smudging, chipping and peeling polish are unavoidable. It’s not even worth bothering.

Last year I heard through the grapevine that there was some new kind of nail polish that stayed on natural nails for two or three weeks. I did my research and found that there are several brands such as Shellac, Gelish and Geleration. Unfortunately these were all “professional only” products that still meant going in for an expensive manicure every two weeks. This gel polish theoretically didn’t damage nails either, unlike acrylics. It sounded like some sort of nail miracle!

As a woman who’s motto is “I could do that myself for cheaper”, my interest was piqued. I belong to several online makeup forums (admit it, you probably had no idea there were such things) and got people’s opinions about whether it really is that great (verdict: it is!) and which product line was the best. I decided on Gelish. It provides a little more strength for the nail as well as staying on for 1-2 weeks.

I’ve talked about Gelish before but things have changed quite a bit since I last wrote about the subject. Namely, these products are much more consumer-friendly. Meaning that the average person who does not have a nail license can now buy these products. Here’s how it works:

This nail polish has a gel base that does not air-dry. It will stay sticky unless it’s cured under a special lamp. Here is the extremely cool thing: Once you’ve cured your nails, they are completely and unbelievably dry and hard. There is zero possibility that your nails will get smudged or ruined. You take your nails out from under the lamp and you can immediately dig around in your purse for your keys, or go straight to bed without getting sheet prints, or do the dishes or whatever. This alone makes this nail system completely worth its weight in gold!

You need to have a special UV or LED light. These are made especially for nails. Please don’t ask if you can use a tanning bed or an LED flashlight or some wierd thing like that. I have no idea. Just spend the money on a real lamp and stop being such a cheapskate. I got mine on Amazon. I have been super happy with it and you can get the same one here. They run about $60 and can do two hands at once. Or you can get one at Sally Beauty Supply or Ulta. Do your homework before you go and make sure you get the kind that will cure gel polish.

Gelish is now sold at Sally Beauty. There is also a version made by the same company but sold exclusively at Ulta under the name Red Carpet Nails. The colors are almost identical but Red Carpet is about $10 for a bottle of polish vs. $15 for Gelish at Sally. The stores also sell a tiny little LED light that will do four fingers at a time. It’s quite a bit smaller but cures the nail faster than a UV light, so I doubt the small size of the light would be a huge problem. It’s about $50.

You also must have the foundation gel base as well as a special topcoat. Each of these is about $13-$18.  So you’ll probably end up spending about $125 to get the entire system including a couple of colors of polish. I do my nails, my mom’s and occassionally my daughter’s. I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth.

It really does work fantastically well. My polish will easily last for 10-14 days without chipping. And conequently I have entirely stopped biting my nails. I do my mom’s nails and her polish lasts for about a week. Her nails are incredibly bendy and peely, though. Even still, Gelish has gotten them so they’ll grow longer than they ever have before. Gelish also won’t damage your nails when it’s removed.

I’m so spoiled about having nice nails now. To me there is simply no excuse for having ugly fingernails. But that’s because I have Gelish and can have nails that look perfect for a week or two at a time. If I had to rely on regular polish again, I’d be one of those women who just couldn’t be bothered.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

 

UPDATE: I have been receiving so many questions about gel nail polish. Read through the comments or check out my latest post with answers to FAQs here.

I get no money for raving about Gelish. But if you click through my link on Amazon to buy that lamp I do get a tiny smidgen of money.

I am vain. I admit it. You may have noticed due to all the pictures I post of myself. I figure my vanity is OK because I’m pretty diligent with my preparedness. That makes up for it. And I have two callings at church, which also counteracts the amount of time and money I spend on myself. (Actually I’m a brunette who likes being a brunette so monetarily I’m way ahead of all you brunettes who are convinced that you’re really blondes. No highlights and root touch-ups for me, suckers!)

Lately I have been spending an excessive amount of time on my eye makeup (one of these days I’m going to do a tuturial. Really. Because I never got around to it on Makeup Monday) and on my nails. I used to get my (fake) nails done all the time when we lived in Oregon. This was back in the Pre-Cambrian age when I had to drive twenty minutes to get to a nail salon. I can barely remember the time when there wasn’t a nail salon on each corner. Then we moved to Utah and I was still getting my fake nails done. But I noticed that everyone was getting their fake nails done by then. Everyone. Even our fifteen year-old babysitter. And I kind of hated being like all the fake Utah girls (although I don’t have fake boobs or a fake tan so I’m already way better than them*). So I decided to let my nails go natural and boring. Being a nail-biter who loves her bad habit, my nails haven’t looked good since then. My nails are peely and brittle and then there is the whole hangnail issue. Apparently my vanity only made it down to my elbows.

I tend to not bite my nails when they are painted but you know what a drag it is to have to keep up polish. Every day there is something chipping off. What a drag. But, my friends, a miracle has occurred! And its name is Gelish. It’s a brand new type of polish that lasts for two weeks and does not damage your nails at all. It’s true! I have tried it! There are similar types of products such as Shellac (which I’ve heard through the grapevine is not quite as durable). But I am loving my Gelish. It’s sold “to professionals only” and you have to go to a salon that does Gelish to get a manicure. But being a DIY girl through-and-through I bought all the stuff myself off of Amazon and ebay. It’s not cheap. No ma’am. It only cures with a 36-watt UV lamp (at least $75). And the polishes, base coat and top coat are between $15-25 each. But once I figured that I would be doing my nails, plus my girls’, plus my moms’ (who has the most awful nails in the history of the world so her polish only lasts a week), it seemed not too unreasonable.

Plus, as I mentioned, I’m vain. And the promise of having lovely nails for days–no, weeks!–on end is pretty intoxicating.

And I make my own soap and lotion, for crying out loud. So look at all the money I’m already saving! Money that I can now spend on my nails.

It takes a couple of tries to get the hang of applying Gelish. But I’ve been wearing this red polish for nine days already. And this is after spending an hour scrubbing bathtubs with that harsh, nasty cleanser AND painting the hallway in my house (requiring much scrubbing of the hands to remove latex paint) AND doing a whole bunch of crafts involving acrylic paint (again requiring much scrubbing of the hands). Impressive, no?

*I have zero problem with fake boobs. It’s just when it’s combined with fake everything else that it starts to irritate. And if you happen to be smaller than a size 6 I will be especially critical of you. Sorry. (Not really.)