China Glaze Are You Jelly? and Models Own Southern Lights
I went back to acrylics for about 2 years whilst I wasn't blogging, and had them all taken off last summer. One thing that's really irritating about natural nails is that the polish doesn't last anywhere near as long! Those two things combined have lead me to develop a very rigorous process when it comes to my at home manicures. I thought I'd share the products I use along with some general tips to help your manicures last longer whilst strengthening your nails!
Now this is LONG, and some of it seems like common sense/you'll have been doing for years, but I wanted to compile it all into one post.
Using the following process and products helps my manicures last about a week with minor tip wear. I do usually get bored and switch it up before the week's out, however.
Before the mani
Clean (not pictured)
The first step is to remove any lingering polish you have on your nails. Do this with your regular nail polish removal method, but no peeling! this peels off the top layer of your nail as well as the varnish!
Now as you can see above, I like to have my nails in a pointy shape, and this requires me filing them weekly. Id you have square nails you won't need as much upkeep.
Make sure that you file in one direction only- sawing the nail will cause it to split, which a) means it's likely to break as the nail is weakened, and b) if the nail is split, water can get in between the layers of nail and varnish, and can cause chipping, or peel
Now this an extra step that I've added over the years. If you have any oil on the nail at all when you apply any kind of polish, it can't adhere to the nail as well, so we need to ensure that all oil (including that which is naturally on your nails, and any gylcerin etc in the polish remover you used earlier) is gone from the nail.
I use two products for this; acetone (which I get in Sally's - £3.89 for a small bottle) on a cotton bud, and then OPI Chip Skip (I got mine in Boots but it isn't on the website anymore, Amazon has it for £9.95) which both dry out the nail bed. This sounds like a bad thing - but as the nail is dead, we don't need any moisture in there anyway.
I always use two base coats, the first one being a strengthener. I'm currently using Nails Inc A&E Base Coat (which I got in a duo set with a topcoat for £12 from Boots) but as you can see I'm running fairly low. Any fortifying base coat would work at this stage, I've used OPI Nail Envy before with good results.
Next I use a rubberized base coat - my favourite is Orly Bonder, or Polish Bond as they've now called it (£10 - Boots). This is a nifty little invention; even when it's dry it feels a little bit plasticy and sticky, which actually grips on to any polish you apply on top. Another alternative (and the original, I believe) is CND Stickey.
Colour (not pictured)
Now comes the fun bit! Apply your coloured polish! I generally use 2-3 coats, jelly finishes etc may need more. Obviously if you're after a really long lasting mani then better quality polish will perform better (generally, I find Essie polishes rubbish for wear, but that's just me) - China Glaze are one of my absolute favourite brands - I find their colours great and the wear very good. The best polish that I've found for wear time, however, is OPI. I get around the price by either buying the sets of minis that they sell of certain collections, and limiting myself to only colours that I adore.
Every mani must have a topcoat (unless you're using a matte or textured polish, shhh) and my favourite ever is the famous Seche Vite. I like it because it dries fast and has good shine, but there are plenty of others out there if you're after something cheaper. The one thing with this is that it must be applied to wet polish, or it doesn't work. Magically, though, it dries the polish to the touch in a matter of seconds, and completely in hardly any time at all (sorry for being so vague, I've never tested it). I got mine from Sally's for £10.99.
Although I cannot cope without a fast drying topcoat, I also need an extra step to stop any smudging as I'm so clumsy. This is where an oil comes in! Once the nails are dry to touch (I sit still for 5 minutes) I brush OPI Avoplex Oil (I got mine from Amazon for £6.35 - nearly £10 less than Boots sell it for!!!!!) all over the nails. This doesn't make the polish dry faster, but does mean that if your nails touch anything the oil will cause said thing to slide off, rather than denting the polish - within reason, of course. Olive oil is also great for this purpose, but a bit messy to apply.
This is more for upkeep rather than part of the manicure itself, but as I apply it before bed every night, I thought I may as well include it here. Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter (£6.75 from guess it... Lush!) This is a fairly recent addition to my nail clan, but I don't think I could live without it now. It's a thick oil based cream for the cuticles (duh) and it smells like lemons (duh again). You get a ridiculous amount of product in the pot, and the process of rubbing it into cuticles daily has really seemed to help my nails get stronger.
So, I wasn't lying about the process being long, was I? If anyone is still reading, here are some general (but important) tips:
-Let it dry! If I want a manicure to really last, I let every layer dry completely before putting the next coat on. With most OPI and China Glaze polishes 15 minutes is enough. So that means 15 minutes between both bases, the first layer of colour, next layer of colour, and then go straight in with the Seche Vite whilst the last layer is wet. This means that the polish is more likely to last, and less likely to bubble. Worth it, in my book.
- Wrap your tips! This is something I do out of habit now, but for those of you who don't know, this is where you paint the endge of the nail by holding the brush at a 90 degree angle to the end of the nail. It stops the polish chipping as easily and stops Seche Vite from doing its annoying thing of shrinkage. I do this with the bonding coat, the last layer of colour and the topcoat.
-Maintenance! The above process means that I usually get to 5 days with only a little bit of shrinkage of the polish from the tips, which is wearable but means that they can chip as water can get underneath. When this happens I either remove the polish and start again with a different colour, or revive the polish I'm wearing. To do this I apply another coat of bonder, polish and then Seche Vite, ensuring to wrap all of the tips to seal them again.
- Keep your nails polished! Although my nails aren't hugely long at the moment as I've recently filed them all down, my top tip (other than being gentle with your nails) is to keep them constantly painted. If your nail has polish on, it's much thicker and stronger. I couldn't tell you how many times I've bashed a nail, gasped, slowly looked at it and then breathed a sigh of relief when I realised it was only the polish that chipped, not my actual nail.
So, that's how I do my nails!
Are your nails always polished? Is your routine even longer than mine? Let me know :)