Nail Polishing Basics

I’m currently trapped in my computer room at home while some guys install our new carpet in our living room.  I figured writing a new post is a good use of time while I’m a prisoner in my own home.

Here’s a mani I did a week or two ago for the Weekly Nail Art Challenge (#wnac2015) on instagram.  IMG_4810  The prompt was neon tribal.  I started with a white base of nail polish and then used neon craft paint for everything else.  I did the black lines first and then added in the color. I just sort of winged it.  (I always want to say “wung it”, but I know that’s not a word.)  I looked at a bunch of tribal prints on line to get some good ideas before I started, and then I really just made a bunch of diamonds and triangles and dots and circles and lines on my nails.  I sort of regret that I didn’t take a picture of my right hand, since all 10 nails were different.  The lines on my right (or Cinderella) hand weren’t as straight and crisp and the ones on my left hand, but it turned out decently enough. These suckers were time consuming!  They took around 2 1/2 hours on a Friday night in front of the TV.   I get that spending that long painting tiny shapes might be infuriating and painstaking for some people, but for me it’s sort of therapeutic and relaxing.  We all have our own thing, right?

Okay now, let’s cover some nail polishing basics.  This is all stuff that I either figured out on my own over the years or that I learned from some of the amazing nail guru types that are out there.   Here’s we go.

1.  Do the stuff in Nail Care Basics first.  Now that you have done that, you are allowed to move onto step #2.

2.  Start with clean nails.  I don’t just mean that you should clean the dirt and nonsense out from under your nails, although that’s always a good thing.  For nail polish to really adhere to your nails, you need to remove any and all oil and lotion from your nails.  A good drying soap, like dish soap that breaks down oil works well.  For extra measure, you can whip your nails down with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover. If you have a lot of problems with your polish chipping really quickly, you may have naturally oily nails.  There are nail dehydrators out there that might help.  They typically are in a little bottle and look just like clear polish.  I’ve never used one.  I think in my old age, my nails are probably naturally kind of dry.

3.  Apply a base coat.  This will do two things: it will protect your nails from staining and it will help the polish adhere.  There are a ton of base coats out there, so you might have to try a few to find one that works well for you.  I covered based coats a little more thoroughly here.  Since I wrote that post, I have found two more base coats that I like.  The first is Orly Bonder.  This is a “rubberized”  base coat, so like the Revlon base coat, it feels like rubber cement on your nails when it’s dry.  The Orly base coat is a lot thinner than the Revlon one, so one bottle seems to last forever.  I don’t feel like it wears quite as well as the Revlon one, but it’s a great value since one bottle lasts so long.  Another thing I really like about the Revlon base coat is that it is sort of thick, so it fills in any ridges you might have on your nails. The other base coat that I’ve been using a lot lately is Rejuvicote.  I don’t feel like it wears as well as either the Orly or the Revlon base coats, but it really works well to strengthen my nails.  If you have weak nails or nails that are prone to pealing, you might want to give this a try.  With Rejuvicote, I can really grow my nails as long as I want them.  (They start to drive me nuts when they get too long, so I sort of keep them a medium length.)

3.  Roll your polish.  Don’t shake the bottle like a crazy person.  If you do that, you’ll get little irritating air bubbles in your polish which will show up as your polish dries.  Just roll the bottle on its side between your palms.  I’m good, so I can just roll the bottle with one hand.  Just kidding.  The one-handed roll is not hard to do.

4.  Load your brush with the right amount of polish.  All polish is different, but generally, I pull the brush out of the bottle and wipe off one side of the brush on the bottle neck.  You want to transfer a decent size drop of polish onto your nail without having a bunch of polish drip all over the place in the process.

5.  This is maybe the most important thing: DON’T GET POLISH ON YOUR CUTICLES!  Seriously, this is what separates the5.10.14 002 pros from the amateurs.  I look at some of my old nail pictures and shudder.  Do you see that polish slopped all over my cuticles?  Oh the shame.   5.10.14 003Really, the only way to get good at not slopping polish all over your cuticles is to practice.  The best way that I’ve found to avoid getting polish on your cuticles is to take your polish brush (after you’ve loaded it correctly) and place it on your nail close to – but not touching  your cuticle.  Then sort of push the polish up as close as you can to your cuticle without touching your cuticle.  Then pull the brush down to the tip of your nail.  Lacquerized has a great little graphic of this technique. The only thing I do differently than she does is that I do the sides of my nails first and then finish with a swipe down the middle.  Figure out what works best for you.  JUST DON’T GET POLISH ALL OVER YOUR CUTICLES!…. So you messed up and got polish all over your cuticles?  There’s still hope for you.

6.  Do some clean-up with a little brush and some acetone.  I use the e.l.f concealer brush. This sucker only costs $1-2 and it works perfectly.  You should be able to find it at Target or Kmart, and I think Walmart is starting to carry e.l.f. products, too.IMG_4843 Just dip the tip of the brush into acetone and then give it a quick dab onto a paper towel.  Then use the brush to remove any polish that ended up where IMG_4843it wasn’t supposed to be.  To some degree you can clean up your nails with a Q-tip dipped in acetone, but you can’t really get into the tight placed with a Q-tip that you can with a little brush.

Apart from just using the little brush dipped in acetone to clean the polish off your skin and cuticles, you can also use it to get a perfectly rounded edge near your cuticle.  l  as you can see from the super-duper up close and unforgiving picture on the right my polish follows the curve of my cuticle with out actually touching it.  This is the goal, folks.  (By the way, over my white polish is Nicole By OPI – Party Bus and China Glaze – Point Me to the Party. I’m kind of loving this combo!)  After you get your polish all cleaned up and perfect looking, it’s time to…

7.  Apply a quick drying top coat.  There are lots of these out there.  I’ve used Seche Vite, INM Out the Door,  and Hoofer’s Choice, but I keep going back to NYC – Grand Central Station.  It dries so quickly and it’s so shiny and it only costs around $2!   I hear amazing things about Glisten & Glow HK Girl top coat, but I have yet to try it because I’m so happy with NYC.

So that’s it!  Your nails should look perfect now!  Seriously, it does take practice to get your polish looking perfect, so just hang in there.  It will come eventually.  Your thoughts, comments, questions, and tips are all very welcome!  Thanks for reading!