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test-driving the DIY gel manicure

December 8, 2012

Other than a pedi or two during the summer months, I almost never set foot in a nail salon. I’m a strictly DIY kind of girl when it comes to nails, so I haven’t been tempted to try a gel manicure. Sit in a salon for half an hour or more, and then come back to take it off? No thanks.

Enter the at-home gel mani. I hate chipped nails as much as the next girl, so with a promise of chip-free nails for two weeks, I had to give it a try.

LED light gel nails

Several brands have joined the DIY gel market like SensatioNail and Sephora, but I’m using the Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit from Sally Hansen. The kit includes a small LED lamp (safer than a UV lamp!), a base coat, nail color (my kit included the bright red shade Red My Lips), a top coat, nail cleanser pads, a file and cuticle stick, plus special acetone remover.

I often paint my nails while multi-tasking on the couch, but this technique requires about 15 minutes of devoted time and a tabletop near an outlet. I followed the simple instructions, leaving my nails under the light for 30 seconds between every coat of polish. After “curing” the final layer of top coat, I was thrilled to see that my nails were completely dry. I usually spend about as much time waiting for my regular polish to dry as I did completing this entire process.

gel manicure

I’m not used to such a high-tech mani at home, but I have to say, the results are pretty amazing. The candy apple red is seriously glossy, with a shiny, glass-like finish that regular polish rarely achieves. Despite showers and dishwashing, I’m still chip-free on day four, which is pretty impressive in my book.

The downsides? The color options are pretty limited, and the removal process for gel nails (whether at home or in a salon) is a bit daunting. The instructions for my kit recommend soaking a cotton ball in remover, pressing the cotton ball to each nail, and then wrapping each finger with aluminum foil to let your nails soak for 15 minutes. Time consuming, yes. Difficult? Not really. Potentially harmful if done excessively? Possibly.

I like to switch up my polish too frequently to commit to gel nails year-round, but they’re brilliant for a vacation, wedding, or any time when I don’t want to worry about chips. And forget the salon—I’ll be plugging in my LED lamp for the same results in the comfort of my own home.

UPDATE: My gel mani stayed in beautiful shape before peeling off on day 8. Since regular polish rarely makes it past day two, I give this DIY gel process a big thumbs up. 

inside my birchbox: november 2012

November 17, 2012

I was happily surprised to see my November Birchbox sitting in my mailbox this afternoon – I’d completely forgotten it was on its way. And an even happier surprise: it’s a great one this month! Here’s what I got:

Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper: I haven’t tried this product or brand yet, so I’m excited to give this a whirl. I keep going back to DevaCurl products no matter what other brands I try…but maybe this will be a winner? At $10 for the full-size, it’s certainly kinder on the wallet than my current hair care regimen.

J.R. Watkins Lavender Hand & Cuticle Salve: My hands are already starting to feel the wrath of winter, so this is a great product for me. I love that this salve is almost completely natural, and it smells good, too. The ingredients are simple (canola oil, sweet almond oil, beeswax, etc.) so I probably wouldn’t pay full-price when I could make a similar concoction in the kitchen, but I’m happy to use this great-sized sample!

Sumita Color Contrast Eye Pencil in Ziba (lime green): This full-sized eyeliner has a wonderfully smooth formula, though I can’t say I can see myself wearing lime green eyeliner with much frequency. How would you use this pencil?

ModelCo SHINE Ultra Lip Gloss: Another full-sized product, I’m impressed! It smells like something I would have worn in 7th grade…which I actually sort of enjoy. The color is very sheer and it’s quite glossy, though it wore off pretty quickly on me. The mini-mirror on the side of the tube is a smart idea!

Chuao Chocolatier Assorted ChocoPod: I will admit that I ate this about 4 seconds after I snapped the photo. Delicious! Mine was Honeycomb, with amber honey carmelized in crispy pieces in dark chocolate. Yum.

Are you a subscriber? If so, what did you get this month? Let me know in the comments!


style board: essie leading lady collection

October 24, 2012

As much as I adore a good glitter, sometimes I just want to keep things clean and crisp – and that means cremes. Have you seen Leading Lady, the latest collection from Essie? I haven’t tried them yet, but I love the less-glittery shades, especially that blue. That blue!

Polish L to R: Leading Lady, She’s Pampered, Butler Please, Beyond Cozy, Snap Happy, Where’s My Chauffer.

Dresses L to R: Carmindy DressPleated Ponte Dress, Tabitha Dress, Hothouse Floral Dress 

What a great color palette for the holidays. Will you be picking up any of these new shades?

nail art: blood splatters for halloween

October 22, 2012

Halloween is less than two weeks away – have you planned your manicure for the big night yet? If you have a bottle of red polish, an ordinary plastic straw, and 10 minutes, you can pull off these super simple bloody nails—no nail art experience necessary.

Head on over to the Birchbox Blog today for a full tutorial…

orange nail polish picks for halloween

October 15, 2012

With just over two weeks to go before Halloween, it’s time to start gathering up your oranges and blacks for the big day. There’s more nail art on the way (check out these easy, medium, and difficult Halloween designs I put together for Birchbox), but for now, these are my top orange polish picks for the season.

1. Kure Bazaar Afrika 2. Deborah Lippmann Brick House 3. China Glaze Code Orange 4. Butter London Jaffa 5. Essie Meet Me At Sunset 6. OPI Deutsche You Want Me Baby 7. Nails Inc. Porchester Place 

Do you have your nails or costume picked out yet? Let me know in the comments!


swatched: ten over ten church

October 10, 2012


You really can’t go wrong with a deep red polish, and that’s certainly the case with ten over ten Church.

It’s rich, glossy, and applies smoothly in two coats. I tried three coats on my pointer finger, which made the shade significantly darker without turning completely black. This shade works well with my skin tone, and I think it would be universally flattering on just about everyone.

The bottle shape is a bit unconventional, but it works perfectly for me. Unless I’m doing detailed nail art, I generally paint my nails while sitting on the couch with my knees up by my chest (I’m not recommending this method…), and the large, square bottle is perfectly suited to hold between my knees as I paint! Is that strange? Nevertheless, I like it.

I topped my mani today with Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, one of my top coat standbys.

As I gear up for a “battle of the base coats and top coats” post, I’d love to hear your favorites so I can test-drive them myself. What are your top/base must-haves? Let me know in the comments!


nail art: argyle manicure for fall

October 2, 2012

[Cross-posted from the Birchbox Blog.]

It’s starting to feel like fall here in Brooklyn, and I couldn’t be happier. The air is cool and crisp, and I’m more than ready to trade in tank tops and crops for jeans, sweaters, and boots. Fall is brimming with nail art inspiration, so today I’m bringing the classic argyle pattern out of my closet and onto my nails. Here’s how to get this look in four simple steps.


Step 1: After applying a base coat, paint nails with the shade of your choice. To bring a metallic kick to this preppy mani, I chose tenoverten Worth, a gold foil polish. Apply a quick-dry top coat, and let your nails dry completely (I’m talking about at least an hour of drying time here).

Step 2: Cut four small pieces of Scotch tape for each nail. Apply the pieces of tape diagonally to stencil off a diamond in the center of each nail, firmly pressing down on the edges to ensure a tight seal.

Step 3: Choose a contrasting shade of polish and paint over the taped-off diamond. You have to remove the tape while the polish is still wet, so work one nail at a time. I used bubblegum-pink If You Moust You Moust from OPI.

Step 4: To complete the classic argyle pattern, use a small nail art brush or pen to paint two criss-crossing lines of white polish onto each nail, creating an “x” in the center. You can rest your elbow on the table to steady shaky hands, but don’t worry if your lines aren’t perfectly straight! After the polish has dried, apply a glossy top coat for shine and protection.

Try pastels for a classic look, or use brighter, bolder shades like these from Color Club to add a little edge.

Do you have any nail art ideas for fall? Let me know in the comments!


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