Monday, September 5, 2011

How I Do My Nails

This is a really simple post. I'm just going to go into my method for doing my nails. I've been doing them since maybe middle school and I used to go for maybe a month to a couple of months without repainting at all without chipping or damage (unless I did something like catch my nail while closing a drawer). The only problem is my nails grow really quickly (I know, what a problem to have, right?) so if I want to keep them looking salon fresh I really have to redo my manicure every week (or 2 weeks if I'm lucky).

DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert. This is just what works for me.

Step 1: Wash your hands.
Clean hands are essential because a) you don't want to be painting with dirty hands or even with too much of the oil and grime you pick up naturally because you don't want your fingers slipping when they're holding the brush or transferring dirt onto your nails b) you're essentially sealing anything on the surface of your nail with a few coats of lacquer so you don't want to be trapping dirt and bacteria in there until you remove your nail polish (ugh)

Step 2: Clean and file your nails.
This step can involve whatever you're comfortable with. Filing tools, emery boards, hand cream, cuticle oil, etc. etc. If you have old polish on your nails, clean it on with non-acetone polish remover. Then, personally, I just take my Revlon filing tool (wait for some kind of coupon/sale and they're pretty cheap considering how long they last) and use the shaping side to reduce the length of my nail and maybe to file off the corners and the finishing side to do most of the work in perfecting the shape of the nail. You can file your nails square, oval, circular and short. Whatever works for you. I like either a long oval or a short oval because my fingers are long and thin and I think it looks more elegant. I don't like to touch my cuticles. They don't bother me. If you are having issues I would go to a salon you trust and have your nails done once every few months or as often as necessary to deal with the problem but I think cuticles are like undesirable body hair and the more you fuss with it, the worse it gets. After filing, I will wash my hands again to make sure I rinse away all the nail residue from filing my nails. Then, this is important, I let my nails dry. You want your nails to be dry before you start painting them because they can retain water and then change their shape as they dry. Then, I just take a Q-tip and dip it in some Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover (I use Harmon brand but nail polish remover with alcohol or that dries quickly is fine) and rub the Q-tip over my nails to prep them for the polish.

Step 3: Use a base coat.
Now, it may seem like it's way too much money to spend on base coat, nail polish, AND top coat, but it's worth it. To cut costs, I use Sinful Colors as a base coat (I think it's around $1-$2 at most drugstores). It goes on pretty smooth if I've done a good job of cleaning up my nails. Sometimes I roll it between my palms to mix it. I try and avoid shaking any polishes because it usually creates bubbles when I try to apply the color. Base coat will protect your nails from the nail polish (especially dark colors) and provides a nice smooth base for you to work on. I know there are other base coats that claim to fill the ridges you might have in your nails from sanding, filing, or acrylics but I don't have ridges so I've never tried any of them. If you want to splurge on a slightly more expensive base coat, I've heard lots of good things about Orly Bonder.

Step 4: Apply nail polish
Now, a lot of this depends on the formula. As you can see from my reviews, sometimes there's nothing you can do to make something work.
  • Creamy/regular formulas are the easiest to apply especially if they have some shine or shimmer.
  • Frosty colors can apply streaky
  • Glitter polishes are a pain to remove especially if they contain large flakes of glitter and not granules
  • Try and choose something that goes with your skin tone so you don't obsess over how much you don't like it every time you look down at your hands (which is a lot more often that you think)
  • In-store tips: If you can open the bottle of nail polish, do so and watch how quickly the polish runs down the brush. If there isn't a lot of polish on the brush and the polish runs down very quickly, chances are you have a watery polish. If you're in love with the color, try other bottles (maybe that's just a bad one) or look for dupes. Do not try polish on your nails in the store. That is tacky and inconsiderate if you don't end up buying the polish.
  • Match your polish to your life. Try and choose something work appropriate that will go with what you have in your closet which will make you smile when you look at it. If this seems like too intense of a plan, nude colors, reds, pinks, and dark colors pretty much go with everything.
  • Pay attention to the tone of the color. Is it bright or dull? Is it cool or warm? Essentially, even if you look good wearing that color will the tone of that color wash you out or bring out yellow, red, or dull tinges in your skin? Alternately, will a color bring out brightness and warmth? Don't just look for a color, look for a certain kind of color.
However, your best bet is usually to dip your brush into the polish and wipe off one side of the brush on the inside edge of the bottle.
  • If you can see that you have a watery formula or that a lot of polish was at the top of the brush and it's running down the brush, do not apply the brush to your nails. Wipe off the brush on the edge of the bottle (as much as possible) and then just get a dab of polish on the tip of your brush.
Whenever you think you have enough polish to cover your nail once but not to make a mess, make once stripe along each side of your nail (where your nail meets skin) and finish with a stripe in the middle. Now, leave the nail you just painted alone and move on to the next nail.
  • If you're a beginner, are having problems keeping your fingers apart, or are trying to paint your non-dominant hand (your left hand if you're right-handed, your right hand if you're left-handed) then you may want to wait until the coat of nail polish you painted is completely dry before moving on to the next finger. This way you won't run the risk of smudging the nail you just painted.
Apply as many thin coats as necessary until you get the color you want or your desired level of opacity. I like to do 3 coats. If the polish is a little sheer, like O.P.I.'s Mimosas For Mr. and Mrs. I will try 4 coats but at that point I usually stop. You don't want to keep building up layers of polish because that'll just make it easier to damage and may damage the nail. Try and pause between each coat. I like to wait 3-5 minutes between coats (especially if I'm trying out a new polish) and a good 20-30 minutes after I've applied top coat before doing anything too intense that might damage the nail. The time actually goes by faster than you think. If you go through painting all your nails a considerable amount of time will have passed and you can just start at the first one you painted since it will be the driest. Of course, if you use nail painting time to study or watch youtube videos like I do, the time passes very quickly.
When you're on your 2nd or 3rd coat, wipe most of the polish off of the brush. Then, run the edge of the brush along the edge of your nail (the tip) and seal off the polish. This helps the polish stay on longer.

Step 5: Apply a top coat
A top coat is very important. Like a base coat, it leaves a smooth, often shiny, finish to the nail and protects the nail from damage. I am a big fan of Seche Vite. I know the formula isn't a 100% healthy but I've said this beauty products are likely not going to be the thing that kills me.

And that's it! 5 easy steps to long-lasting nail polish. Of course, you should try to buy quality products and to try and avoid slamming your nails in drawers. :)

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