Archive for the ‘Excellent Products’ Category

Dog Shaming: How I Got a New Mani Lamp

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

My mani set up is pretty simple - a table and a lamp. I use a tiny recycled wooden portable table covered with a glass cutting board. I used to just use the wooden surface but nail polish, thinner, and acetone spilled overtime has caused a lot of damage. When I saw a glass cutting board at Target, I thought it would be the perfect solution to the table’s damaged, scratchy surface. The lamp was given to me by my Mom. It was a pretty expensive desk touch lamp that she bought for me at Costco. She meant for me to use it in college, for studying and such. When I started doing my nails, I took it off my desk and put it on my little table. It was great light-wise, using a bright four prong bulb. But it was heavy, clunky and difficult to maneuver.

So, there I was with my mani set up, sitting on the couch, in front of the television. And Roy, our beloved, very clumsy Welsh corgi, was sitting under the table. He needs constant pets and becomes very distressed when he isn’t being actively loved. Since I was doing my nails, I was not paying attention to Roy. He started whining, as if to say, “give me pets now please.” We’re still not quite sure what happened next, but in our attempt to reconstruct the events that followed we determined that Roy, noticing that I had been unmoved by his whines for affection, decided to take matters into his own hands. We think he was trying to get onto my lap. Roy jumped, hitting his head underneath the table, catapulting it, and everything on it, over. He immediately ran away in fear and hid under the bed.

Edited Roy and Lamp

I tried to take one of those dog shaming photos but the marker I used wasn’t dark enough lol.

Needless to say, the light bulb shattered into a million pieces. The day this happened, I was trying to get some swatching done and it made me really frustrated. I started stomping around the house angrily, complaining about Roy’s love-me-now tyranny. Both dogs and my husband felt my wrath. After I took an anger nap and was able to behave rationally again, I decided to go out and try to buy a new bulb. But the fall damaged the actual lamp as well and the new bulb we bought didn’t work. It was a comedy of errors because my husband, convinced that the lamp still worked, kept trying to jimmy the bulb until it, too, shattered all over. Finally, we gave up and went out again, this time to buy a new lamp.


I bought this lamp at Staples for $37.99. I’m pretty happy with it so far – it uses the same 4 prong bulb as the old lamp so I get the same amount of lighting. It’s very light and doesn’t take up much space so it’s great for my small mani table. It’s also easy to adjust and move unlike my old lamp. The new one has been knocked over by Roy a few times already, since it’s lighter than the old one, it falls without breaking. In the end, I guess it’s okay that Roy’s clumsy need for constant love resulted in the death of my old lamp because I ended up with a better one. (But I think I would have liked to have saved the $40 bucks.)

Do your pets ever interfere with your polishing? : P


Frequently Asked Questions: Cuticle & Skin Care Routine

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Ever since I started blogging again, I’ve been going back through my old emails trying to respond to everyone that had questions over the past 3 years. Eventually, I plan to do a FAQ page, but for now I’m posting some answers to the most commonly asked questions. Second only to the emails from people in other countries asking how to buy nail polish on my site (I’m really not sure why I get so many of those), are questions about my nail and cuticle care routine. I’ve gotten a lot of requests for a manicure video or step-by-step tutorial. Definitely not hi-tech enough to do a video and, to be honest, I’m really not very good at painting my nails. My  application is usually a hot mess, I’m just pretty good at clean up. The next time I need to replace my clean up brush, I’ll post a tutorial. I cut and shape a regular brush, which I find is the best way to get a good brush to suit my clean-up needs.

For this post, I want to address moisturizer and cuticle care. I’m a compulsive moisturizer. In my bathroom, at my desk at work, near my bed and in my purse, I keep a barrage of different hand creams and lotions. I’ve used a lot of brands and have had mostly good experiences. I don’t have a holy grail daily moisturizer right now, but I’ve been on the look out for one. In the past, I was a really big fan of Jaqua Pink Buttercream Frosting Hand Creme, but their site was down forever and that hand creme is currently not available. If it ever becomes available again, I’ll go back to it faithfully but until then I’m on the hunt for a good replacement.

As a disclaimer – I’m not a nail tech, I don’t purport to have any specialized knowledge or background with regard to these products. Everything in this post is based solely on my experience over the years. These are just products and methods that have worked well for me. I think the best idea is to try different things until you find a product, or a combination of products that work well for you.

These are my favorite products right now – let’s go through them one by one.

Creative Nail Design (CND) Solar Oil is my favorite cuticle oil. I’ve tried a few, but none have been as effective. If I’m doing a full-blown manicure, i.e., cuticle dissolver, bleaching agent, filing, and painting, then I usually apply Solar Oil right before I file. Generally, I place generous dabs of it on all my nails, then rub it into the cuticles and let it soak in while I file with a glass file. The oil tends to dulls the glass file. Scrubbing the glass file with a nail brush usually solves that problem. Obviously, the downside of doing it this way is that any oil that remains on the nail bed can cause your mani to bubble. I use Zoya Remove+ both as my go-to polish remover and nail prep for the purpose of removing cuticle oil and other moisturizers. It’s more gentle than 100% acetone which definitely helps in maintaining cuticle health. With that said, I do use a very small amount of 100% acetone for clean up without much ill effect. If I’m just painting my nails, I’ll use the oil  right after I photograph the finished manicure. I just ladle it on with the brush and let it soak in without rubbing. I buy Solar Oil in the largest bottle and then decant into smaller ones. I keep a bottle in my manicure kit and one next to my bed.

I keep a bottle of CND Cuticle Eraser next to my bed and in my purse. I use it two to three times a day, everyday. I use a slightly smaller than pea-sized amount on every nail, rub it in the cuticle, then rub my hands together. This is an amazing moisturizer. It smells pleasant, my Husband says it smells like Fruity Pebbles… I’m not so sure about that. It’s a little oily but dries fairly quickly. It contains A.H.A. (alpha hydroxy acids) which are known for helping to improve skin moisture and removing dead skin cells. I find that using this makes a  noticeable difference in the appearance of my cuticles. After not using Cuticle Eraser for a long time when I stopped blogging, I noticed a marked improvement after a week or so of daily use. After prolonged use, my cuticles require less dissolving and cutting. In fact, after about a month or so of using it, I am able to stop cutting my cuticles completely (which I prefer to avoid doing as much as possible, because I’m bad at it and it inevitably always causes damage to my nail bed). It doesn’t “erase” the cuticle completely and it’s not a dissolver in the traditional sense. My experience has been that it just keeps your cuticles in check – it keeps them from growing out of control and keeps them from drying which helps to prevent hang nails, etc. I get my CND products from the typical online retailers but they are also available at some brick and mortars. I haven’t seen Cuticle Eraser very often but Solar Oil is seriously available everywhere, even drugstores.

Finally, Lush Lemony Flutter, the best cuticle butter ever. Just be forwarned, it smells like lemony gasoline. It’s about as pleasant smelling as that description makes it sounds. My husband hates it (I feel for him but beauty comes at a cost and, in this case, it’s his olfactory suffering - hahaha). The scent is so overpowering I can’t really imagine using this during the day, or subjecting humans other than my husband to it.  The closest Lush store is about 30 minutes away for me, so I buy mine online. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but one tub lasts me about 2 or 3 months.  I keep a tub next to my bed. At night, I use a generous amount. I rub it into my cuticles and then rub my hands together to cover both evenly. (I also occasionally use it on other problem areas, like elbows, knees, and feet – this stuff really works miracles). After I’ve applied a good amount of Lemony Flutter,  I put on…

Gloves. Yes, gloves. *Stares blankly*

 I know – this is excessive but I swear I’m not crazy. Swatching beats up your hands pretty bad. These little gloves make a world of difference when used in conjunction with a strong moisturizer. These gloves are very widely available. I got a ton of them at TJ Maxx once. The ones pictured here, I got at Publix. They’re helpful for using thicker moisturizers like Lemony Flutter or Bag Balm. With Lemony Flutter, I use so much that it doesn’t really fully absorb into my skin. The gloves help to keep it on my hands and also prevents the treatment from getting all over everything. (Can’t have the bedspread smelling like a lemony gas-station, after all). I sleep in these every night. When I take them off in the morning, I usually have a little Lemony Flutter residue but I have super soft skin.

Whew. That pretty much covers it – I’ve now divulged all my secrets. Haven’t been bathing in placenta or anything, just compulsively using some legitimately good products. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for a new holy grail hand cream.


Reader Request: Lippmann Nefertiti

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Some of you might not know this but I do take requests. If I have the color you want to see, I’ll get it up as soon as I can, even though I’m not as speedy as Scrangie is with her requests. Lippmann Nefertiti was recently requested by a woman looking for a good gold. Nefertiti is slightly lighter and less foil-like than OPI I Get a Kick Out of Gold. It’s very appropriately named. This shade of gold is reminiscent of ancient Egyptian sarcophagi. The texture is antique-ish, fairly unique. It’s not rough to the touch but it has a rough looking texture, almost matte. As far as application – I was impressed. Very easy to apply, perfect in two coats.

For this manicure I used one coat of Color Club Stuck on You, two coats of Lippmann Nefertiti, and one coat of Lippmann Addicted to Speed. Ever since Lippmann included a mini Addicted to Speed in the very popular Party Like a Rock Star mini set, everyone has been raving about it non-stop. All the hype made me decide to cheat on my Holy Grail, Seche Vite. Addicted to Speed dries *alot* faster, amazingly so. All the other common seche beefs were absent as well, no bubbles, no tip pull even with no tip wrapping. Addicted to Speed has a no fuss application that might be easier for people who have not yet mastered the application of Seche Vite. It’s not as glossy as Seche, which might actually appeal to some people. It’s worth the money though I admit that it’s a bit of a splurge. I’m going to hoard my bottle for as long as I can.


3 Products That Will Change Your Life

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Product #3 Bag Balm

Being a member of the MUA nail board means you get to hear about all these really amazing random products. Bag Balm, for example, is a very impressive intensive moisturizer that comes in an unexpected green tin. You can get it at any drugstore. The catch is that… well…. it’s for cow utters and it smells like death. It’s basically just petroleum with an added chemical that helps prevent cow utter fungus. I can’t figure out why it works better than regular petroleum but it’s amazing for cracked feet and dry hands. Shockingly, it’s not expensive at all. I’m actually a little suspicious that the chemical that prevents the fungus also extends the life of your mani. Ever since I started using Bag Balm, I’ve gotten 2 or 3 days extra days of wear from my nail polish without changing any other part of mani routine. Now, I can’t prove that it is bag balm – yet – I plan to experiment.

Product #2 Barielle Nail Camouflage

I have a lot of streaky polishes so the girls on the nail board pointed me to Camo. It’s a bit on the expensive end but very worth it. It hides ridges, discoloration, and imperfections on the nail very well. More importantly, for some inexplicable reason, it evens out streaky polishes… yes… even those extremely streaky Essies. My only criticism is that you can’t wear it with all polishes. It seems to make polishes that are not streaky, goopy and more difficult to apply. I had this problem recently with both OPI Just Groovy and Rescue Beauty Lounge Concrete Jungle. Neither polish is actually goopy but with Camo they were almost impossible to apply. All was well with both polishes when I used a regular base coat. Even though Camo is an extremely effective ridge filler, I don’t recommend it as a work horse. But if you’re like me and you have a ton of really difficult to apply streaky polishes that you love none-the-less, Camo is an investment.

Product # 1 Seche Vite

Seche’s company motto is “Feel Complete” and I do. Seche completes me – I’m not kidding, really. I refer to my life before I tried Seche as the dark ages. I only changed my polish once a week because it was such a tedious process. I just didn’t have the time to do it more often. In the dark ages doing a mani meant 1 coat of base coat, wait a few minutes, paint a coat of polish, wait a few minutes, another coat of polish, redo any nails that have bubbles, wait a few minutes, 1 coat of top coat, the entire process took about 40 minutes. After that the endless dry time wait began, usually upwards of an hour for my nails to be dry to the touch. During those darkest of hours, I was completely incapacitated. The slightest move could potentially destroy the mani and set me back another 30 minutes of waiting. And of course, I would never paint my nails at night or else risk the dreaded sheet marks. I had tried fast drying top coats before, I was never impressed. Which is why I was so reluctant to try Seche… I thought pfft, really, how fast can it possibly be? I thought for sure it was just another gimmick but I caved and got it. I can only describe the moment I tried Seche as enlightenment. The clouds split open, an angelic light shone down on my nails, harps were playing, doves were flying around. I cried, it was beautiful. Now, I’m a true believer and I preach the Seche gospel whenever possible. It’s a little bit on the expensive side but you can, seriously, do your nails and be out the door in 15 minutes. I can do my nails 20 minutes before bed – NO sheet marks. What’s more, Seche is *high* gloss, self-leveling, and it fixes everything. Are you bad at application? Get Seche. Do you have a problem with bubbles? Get Seche. It’ll walk your dog and mop your floors too, it’s that amazing. There has to be voodoo in it. Life after Seche means I can do my nails as often as I want, whenever I want.

The downside is that Seche tends to go bad at about half a bottle. It gets very goopy and difficult to use, even with thinner. You also might have to change your application style because Seche causes tip pull when you apply really thick coats of polish. I haven’t had the problem with my Seche getting goopy yet, but I thin it religiously – every 3 manis or so. Adding new Seche to freshly thinned Seche has also worked very well for me.

If you don’t have these products – go out and get them, especially Seche, they will change your life.