And since I did have the day off, I decided to do a post about the steps I take to complete a manicure. While I'm sure a lot of you ladies who stop by already have your own manicure process, I thought, just in case a newbie stumbles over me, a post like this might provide some helpful information.
Now, before I get started here, I just want to say that this is the process and the products that work for me. What might work for me, might not work for you but that's really the fun of playing with polish. You play until you find what works and then you play some more. See? Fun for everybody.
Now to the process I follow...
First and foremost, start with clean, dry, polish free and oil free nails. Polish won't stick to nails with oil residue. You'll end up with chipped nail polish pretty quick so how do we make certain that doesn't happen? There are several options.
You can wash your hands, of course, but make sure you rinse all of the soap off and let your nails dry completely before polishing. Water will absorb into the nail and make the layers of the nail plate swell so definitely wait long enough for all that water to evaporate.
Another way to make sure you have a clean, oil-free surface on which to create your masterpiece is to wipe each nail with a cotton ball or pad or Q-tip soaked in nail polish remover.
I use a moisturizing acetone formula that I make myself with pure acetone and glycerin. Just add a bit of glycerin to any brand of pure acetone and you've got your own moisturizing polish remover. Mix it well and if you still see some glycerin floating at the bottom, add a splash of water but just enough to make the glycerin mix in with the acetone better. Too much water and the acetone will be too diluted to be usable. A blogger I follow, Loodie, Loodie, Loodie, has a great video tutorial of how to do this and you can find it here. She's got a lot of good info on her blog so explore a bit while you're there.
You can also use alcohol instead of nail polish remover if you wish. I keep some alcohol wipes on hand for just that purpose.
So, now that you have 10 perfectly prepared canvases, what next? Base coat, of course.
There are lots of them out there so experiment and find the one that works for you. As I posted earlier, I'm trying out Essie's Fill The Gap and I have to say it's working pretty well for me. I only had a few small chips in the previous manicure before I took it off to do this one. I also have the Zoya Color Lock System on the way so I'll be trying that out as well.
Base coat is actually formulated to stick to the nail while polish is formulated to stick to the base coat - information I gleaned from Nail Care HQ, the same place you can get the fabulous Pure Nail Oil I've been raving about.
Base coat can also help protect your nails from being stained by polish. There are a lot of colors and polish formulas that stain, green being a huge culprit. I've also experienced staining from some blues and, most recently, a pink that I wore. I tend to use two coats of base coat for just that reason. In fact, the polish I used for this tutorial might just be a stainer so I did use two coats of Essie Fill The Gap for this manicure.
This is two coats and as you can see, this base coat is slightly opaque and it dries to somewhat of a matte finish. It's supposed to get into the ridges and imperfections and smooth them out. Looks like all but my ring finger are exactly as described. My ring finger, though, is deeply grooved so it would probably take a third coat to get it perfectly smooth.
Next comes the fun part - the polish. For this manicure, I chose Essie Naughty Nautical, one I recently picked up. I do seem to be attracted to colors like this and I really like the way they look on me.
I think you can probably see around the pinkie cuticle what I mean about staining. No matter how much I tried to clean it up, the skin is just stained and will have to wear off. Still, not too bad. This is two coats.
I did do something a bit different with this manicure. I did clean up with each coat instead of waiting until the end and it worked pretty well. For clean up, I use a small concealer brush made by Elf. I blogged about it here. It's down toward the bottom of the post, actually. In addition to the brush, I use a little dapping dish (also in that previous blog post) and fill it with pure acetone. Dip the brush into the acetone, tap it on a folded tissue or I've even used a makeup sponge and carefully swipe away any polish from the skin around the nail. Not really as easy as it sounds but the careful swiping part does get better with practice.
Ok, so I've done my two coats of base and two coats of color. I could finish this off with a good top coat but I'm thinking of doing a little something extra with this mani. While Naughty Nautical does have a bit of glitter, you don't really see that here or in real life.
So, how do make this mani go from pretty good to wowza? Funny you should ask. This is how.
Add a holographic top coat, of course. This one is from Starlight and Sparkles. Issa, the shop owner, makes two different ones. The one I used here is, ironically enough, called Starlight. It's a strong holographic finish that looks awesome over darker colors but tends to wash out and obliterate lighter colors. Thus, the second one called Starshine. Starshine is much softer and tends toward a more golden glow where Starlight offers that strong blue flash that we all love in a holo. And what it does to this color....WOWZA!
Since it's night time for me right now, there's no sun for pics but I think you can see pretty well what Starlight adds to this mani. The holo in this one is even visible under incandescent and florescent light so it's a good all round holo top coat.
Ok, now that we've all been dazzled by the holo, we are not yet finished with our mani. Top coat is next.
Now, with some holographic polishes, a top coat can dull the holo. I use Sally Hansen Insta-Dri and it doesn't seem to do that. At least, it doesn't with Starlight.
This pic was taken in the same light as the non-flash one above and there's virtually no difference in the appearance of the holo.
I like Insta-Dri because within just a few minutes, my nails are what I call 'bed ready', meaning the polish has hardened enough that I don't fear getting sheet marks.
The only thing worse than sheet marks is bubbles. My manicures tend to get a bit bubbly, mainly along the ridges of my nails. This time was no exception, despite the good base coat. Also, I had to add polish to some of the nail corners and that kind made a noticeable ridge as well. This top coat makes all that disappear and leaves such a shine behind. It's my recommendation if you're looking for a good top coat.
Still with me? We're almost to the end, I promise.
The next step for me is to use an oil to help set the polish so that I can start using my hands as quickly as possible. As good as Insta-Dri is, you still have to wait a short bit before you can safely use your hands. But after slicking on an oil and gently rubbing it into the cuticle and over the nail bed, I'm ready to do whatever in just a couple of minutes and I do think that the gentle rubbing over the nail also helps to set the polish.
Another benefit I've found in using an oil to finish off my manicure is that in spite of every effort to clean up polish from the cuticle and skin, there will be some left over and the oil seems to help. Not sure why it works but I would guess that the oil gets underneath the bits left over and the rubbing rubs them away.
When choosing an oil for this purpose, make sure it's one that won't absorb into the skin very quickly. Olive oil will do if that's all you have. It's what I used until I discovered Nailtiques Oil Therapy. It has more ingredients in it to condition the cuticle and skin around the nail.
yeah, just a bit shiny here
This oil works great and has a nice scent to it as well. It's also part of a weekly heavy duty moisture treatment I try to do between manicures, usually on a Saturday. So much oils, potions and lotions and creams that I walk around the house looking like a surgeon who's just scrubbed up for surgery. I really need to get me some cotton glove to put on for those treatments.
And now we come to the last step (finally) - the hand cream. I use Burt's Bees Honey & Grapseed Hand Cream. I love how this smells an it dries more or less matte so that I can immediately take pics without having to wipe all the moisturizing goodness off my hands.
I get these four at a time from DermStore - $9.99 each and free shipping, you can't beat that. I keep one pretty much everywhere. I can feel the moisture just sink right in as soon as I start putting it on. I might follow with a second lotion if I feel the need but mostly I just use this one.
And of course, I do an application of Pure Nail Oil once the pics are done.
So, that's my process for doing a manicure. Takes me about an hour or so if I'm giving plenty of dry time between coats. I'll either be watching something or playing a computer game while I do a manicure - I have one where you explore the land and run into enemies that must be vanquished. This game lets me set the combat to auto so I can polish while my army does their thing. I can usually only finish one coat on one hand before the fight's over and the time between fights is generally enough that one hand is dry by the time I'm doing the other.
The end, finally. Hope this wasn't too much.
Now, there will a lot of swatching getting done this week. The Sweet Heart polishes came today, three little lovelies that I can't wait to play with. My huge Zoya order is on its way to me so that'll be (counting on fingers) a gagillion swatches at least so thanks for reading and definitely stay tuned. There's lots more to come but maybe more pics and less reading.