Polish Like a Pro

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I’m going to spend a few weeks writing about self care. I want to go beyond the basics and talk about things that I do that make me feel fancy. I’m on week two as a stay at home mom, and I am focusing on ways to keep our budget on lock down without losing the luxury. One of the things that makes me feel fancy is having fancy nails. I do love going to get my nails done, but it’s also nice to know how to paint my own nails and have it look professional. Going out to get my nails done runs me about $40 every time. A bottle of good quality polish is around $9. For me, it’s a no brainier way to save money. There are a few tricks and tips I’ve picked up and discovered, so this week I’m going to share them.

Step one: take off your old polish. I am definitely guilty of doing a lazy cover up on old polish. I would pick a darker color and just paint over my old polish. Don’t do it! We are going for luxury here, so just take it all off. Wash your hands with yummy soap after to get the acetone off of your skin.

Step two: trim, file and buff. A lot of the time it’s not the polish that chips off, it’s the actual nail. I make sure to trim my nails down if they are feeling weak or too long. File them into the shape you want, then buff the whole nail to make sure it’s smooth. I like to use a four way buffer block.

Step three: push down your cuticles. I don’t mess around with trying to trim my cuticles or use any of those “miracle” cuticle removing products. Mostly because it freaks me out. I just use a simple stick that is flat on the end and give those suckers a little scoot down. It’s not a huge deal if you get some polish on your cuticles, but it’s a pain in the butt to get the polish off when your ready to switch colors. It also looks a lot better, and makes it easier to paint your nails when the cuticles are pushed back.

Step four: go potty! Seriously. It super sucks to be ready to relax and let your nails dry only to realize that you have to pee. Save yourself the effort of trying to get your pants down without smudging your thumb nails. Even if you do manage to get them down, you still have to get them back up. Not happening! You will smear at least one nail in the process. While you’re at it, say bye to your coffee. No more until your nails are dry.  

Step five: apply a base coat. Think you don’t need it? Well, maybe you don’t, but it makes it a lot easier to get your color on smooth and even. It also keeps your nails from stained or chipped, and makes it easier to get your polish off when you are ready to switch colors. The base coat I use right now is Sally Hansen Base Coat. I like it because it is inexpensive and doesn’t smell too strong.

Step six: time to paint. Now it’s time for the fun stuff. First, pick your color. My favorite brands of nail polish are OPI and Essie. OPI is easy to apply, super shiny, and their forumla is pretty consistent from color to color. Essie has my favorite colors and they are always coming out with more. You want to try to get a nice even color with two coats of paint. I find that the milky pink and pearlescent colors can be a bit of a pain in the butt. I leave them for when I’m up for a challenge. My favorite OPI color is First Date at the Golden Gate. It goes on nice and smooth and I think it’s the perfect red. Butler Please is my favorite Essie polish. It is a very striking and unique color blue. It is a wonderful example of why Essie is my favorite brand of nail polish. They have the basics down and are always coming out with wonderfully unique visual treats.

You’re going to have to get a feel for how much polish is needed on the brush based on the formula’s consistency. Lighter, translucent colors are typically more runny and darker colors can get pretty thick. Put a drop of color in the middle of your nail and try to cover the entire nail with that drop for your first coat. The less you go back for more paint per coat, the less likely you are to get a globby mess on your nails that never dries. I try not to worry if the first coat looks a little bit streaky. I go for even strokes and coverage. The second coat usually evens everything out.

Step seven: apply a top coat. A good top coat is the key to a professional looking manicure. If your polish says it’s a color and top coat in one, it’s lying. A good top coat is super shiny and a barrier between your nail color and sharp evil things in the world trying to ruin your hard work. I’ve found two top coats that I like. The first is Seche Vite. You can paint it on top of wet nails and it dries really fast. It’s beautifully shiny and doesn’t chip very easily. My problem with it is that it smells really strong. It can be overwhelming. I also like Sally Hansen Top Coat. It is also very shiny and it always makes my polish last of at least a week. The smell isn’t too strong and the formula is like butter. My one gripe with Sally Hansen’s top coat is that you have to wait for your color polish to dry before you can apply it, otherwise your nails will never dry. It is in the instructions, and it is not joking. So, that adds a bit of extra drying time to your manicure.

Step eight: don’t smudge your nails! This is where gel polish wins for me when I go get my nails done. After an hour at the nail salon I am usually ready to bolt home, and I end up ruining at least one nail (usually my thumb nail on the left hand) in the process. At home, as long as I followed step four, it’s a different story. This is when I relax and watch a show or binge on social media without any guilt. Enjoy your drying time! A good way to test if your nails are all the way dry is to touch your thumb nails together. If they are still a little gummy they will stick together a little bit. Wait until they don’t stick at all.

Well, that’s how I do it. I hope I had some helpful, or at least amusing information in there. I think it’s important to take time that is just for you and your own fancy-ness. If your polish gets chipped and you are too busy to deal with it, who cares? I call chipped nails rockstar nails because you are too busy rocking your life to re-do your nails. When you do have the time, it can be therapeutic to go through the steps and give yourself a bit of pampering.

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