Sunday, April 29, 2012

I can't stop taking pictures

I haven't loved a manicure quite like this in a while.  You know the type you just keep taking pictures of even though each one turns out exactly the same.

DOTS!!  Actually, my first dots ever.  I stalk ANOTHER bottle of polish?! quite regularly. I saw this manicure a while back, but recently was looking at her swatches of Quirius nail polish and stumbled across it again.  I just about ordered a bunch of Quirius, still debating...

She is the Queen of Doticures and in general has some of the best color combinations I have ever come across.  My eyeballs want to marry her color combinations.  If you ever need inspiration or something cool to look at head on over ... CLICK

Since I took so many pictures, I will bombard you with them NOW..

Before topcoat it has some 3-D properties.

But it's just glorious with topcoat!

She has a white version of this manicure, which I can't wait to try as well.

So many players:
Base color: Essie -Licorice (x2)

Essie - Haute as Hello, Peach Daiquiri, Mesmerize, Mint Candy Apple, Lilacism
Ruby Kisses - Neon Green, Tangerine, Neon Yellow, Blues Clue
China Glaze - Pool Party
The neon colors had to be double dotted.

Do you dot?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The thing about topcoats

I guess first things first. What's the point of topcoat?

The use of a topcoat provides enhancing qualities to a basic manicure. First, it provides extra shine, thus resulting in a very attractive clean look to the eye. Second, it has the ability to protect the colored polish underneath, which extends the life of a manicure. This is especially true if topcoat is applied every second or third day and the free edges are wrapped.

Now, with that being said, there are exceptions to this standard definition for a variety of reasons. The fact is, not all topcoats are created equal and neither are our nails. This is wonderful, yet frustrating when trying to find something that works.

I often get asked, "what is your favorite topcoat?". As much as I would love to rattle off a quick answer, it's complicated. I buy, use and rotate a good many topcoats regularly. Why? Because every topcoat I own has a purpose. I need them all!! Mwahahahah! Each gets used based on the results I wish to obtain. Therefore, I have a "favorite topcoat of the moment", based on my (or rather my mani's) needs.

In my mind, I categorize topcoats into a few groups:
1. Quick dry
2. Regular dry
3. Half quick half regular blends
4. Dual purpose (base and top) - usually have average drying time
5. UV cure - usually quick dry/cure

These categories vary of course in drying time, but ultimately it's all about the formula. The formula determines the dry time, wear, durability (how hard or soft it cures) and finish (shiny vs. super shiny). However, even formula can vary within one category; topcoat results will vary based on the different colored polish formulations we use them with AND our own physical nail characteristics.

I specifically talked about some of the pros and and cons of quick drying topcoats in this post and mentioned a small bit about the UV types. There are many things I can say on topcoats in general (hence the length of this post already), but today I want to show you that even a topcoat in the same category can vary with interesting results due to slight variations in formula and individual nail structure (softer or harder nail plate). Further, I'd like to show proof of concept of the following statement in the aforementioned post...

"Quick dry top coat formulations may

a.) be incompatible with certain polishes (or with your own nail chemistry) OR

b.) dry to a much harder finish in comparison to the flexibility of the nail or polish underneath.

Thus in both cases the polish is much more likely to chip because there is not as much "give" as in the natural nail."

On to the meat of this post ... huh huh meat :P <---click to giggle

Touch 'n Go (Brand: LRC) is a brand I found in an online nail supply store. Google and ye too shall find it.

A slight tangent, but when my bottles arrived, one was broken. I took a picture of the bottles that survived in front of this chemistry book. Coincidentally, it communicated my sadness about the recently deceased quite perfectly.

The other topcoat I'll mention today is Seche Vite. This is quite a well known brand so I won't elaborate.

Both of these topcoats can be categorized as Quick Dry.

The other player in this story is the nail polish color:

This is Ruby Kisses - Blues Clue (RNP 140)
Shown as 2 coats, but it could have used a 3rd. This and my only other Ruby Kisses polish recently prompted me to buy a crap load more. I loved the formula and assumed others would be great. That remains to be seen. This picture is under lamp lightening.

It get's more vivid in the sun.

This was 3 coats. I absolutely loved the bright baby blue.

On to proof of concept:
Click the picture to enlarge!
Base: CND Toughen Up x2
Color: Ruby Kisses Blues Clue x3
Top: Touch 'n Go (LRC) x1

This is the second day of the manicure. You will see small cracks on each of the natural nails from the use of the Touch 'n Go topcoat. It reminds me of the desert. You can actually see the cracks in the previous "sun" picture as well.  Click the pictures to enlarge.

The cracks are the worst at the stress points of the nail, where the nail would naturally bend if you applied pressure, more so at the tips less near the base of the nail/cuticle.

These cracks appear because the topcoat dries/cures very hard thus has very little give, while the nail underneath has more give (bends, has flexibility). When I am not sitting on the couch eating Bonbons, I do use my hands. I don't use my nails as tools, but my nails will bend and give during different tasks. They have the necessary flexibility to resists breaks. This topcoat, on the other hand, lacks flexibility; it simply cracks under the pressure. Interestingly, the polish does not chip completely off the nail plate. I suspect this is because the topcoat has adhered well to the colored polish which adhered well to my nail plate via the base coat. Kinda cool!

This phenomena is not isolated to quick dry topcoats. Normal dry topcoats can do this as well, it's just a matter of time. For example, I had a wear test where I used a normal dry topcoat in this post. In this instance, I noticed cracking after about 6 days vs. 2.

This cracking phenomena will be more severe the greater the difference in flexibility between the nail and topcoat. People with very bendy nails using quick dry topcoats will experience more cracking. If they are not using a basecoat that works well for them, then the polish may also chip more quickly. Someone with very hard natural nails my not even notice a difference between quick and normal drying topcoats. Just to prove that point...

Click the picture to enlarge!
Here I have pictured the same manicure (same base, color and top) except one of the nails has been Shellaced before the manicure was applied.

Two of the natural nails are seen with cracks while the Shellaced nail is completely smooth.

I find Shellac to be a nice temporary way to protect the nail as it grows out after a break. That process can be seen in this post and video. Shellac is a soak off gel that is harder than the natural nail. The hardness of the gel makes the final nail surface hard and prevents the Touch 'n Go topcoat from cracking.

Out of curiosity, I re-did this manicure in exactly the same way changing only the topcoat.

This manicure used Seche Vite as the topcoat. After 4 days, I saw no cracking on either the Shellaced or natural nails.

To summarize: This post just goes to show that all of our nails are different and will experience varied wear and durability outcomes with different nail polish formulations and topcoats. We have to find a topcoat/polish combination that works well with our own nail plate characteristics.

There is sooooo much more I could say about topcoats, wear, durability, soft nails and wear etc etc etc. MIND EXPLODES ... more in the future I suppose.

Have you ever noticed cracking with your topcoat? Which one?
Do you have flexible nails that tend to chip more with quick dry topcoats?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm just buying time.

Let's be real, I've been a bit busy. While I work on a more substantial post, here is some spam!!!

If you don't own China Glaze - Cowgirl Up YOU NEED TO.

I mean LOOK.

It's amaze-balls, correction ...cowgirl-balls.

Almost equally as awesome is China Glaze - Heart of Africa. 
It is deep, more burgundy, not quite a duochrome like Cowgirl Up, but still rich and delicious.

I really loved wearing this mani.  It was so fun. :D
It makes me think of cotton candy and balloons!

Revlon - Whimsical over Color Club - Take me to your Chateau

(2 coats of each)

Color Club - Fashion Addict

Of course every time I wear Fashion Addict the sun hides. Finally I got lucky, this is the one and only pitiful picture I took.  Must re-wear.

L.A. Colors - Treasure Island (BCC 556)
This glitter is beautiful, but sparse.  I layered at least three coats (my memory fails me as this was probably a year ago) over L.A. Colors Atomic.

An older OPI - Wanted...Red or Alive

I'll leave you with a few shots of Soul Train from the 70's.  I am so grateful for the entertainment my antenna picks up!

A dude wearing a boxing get up, gloves included, doing a head stand move.

Then there was this epic dance off. Two dudes with serious moves.
Somehow in the midst of all the excitement his shirt came off.

We were all ecstatic. LOL

He then started brushing his teeth with a large over sized toy toothbrush. The pictures didn't come out, but I was all O.O

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Red Flag

I am a big advocate in research, education and knowledge of all things nails. Actually all beauty products. I've never been one to buy things on a whim. I think this is a consequence of my own frugalness, skepticism, and curiosity. I want to know how and why products work. Would they work in my circumstance?  Are they worth my hard earned money?

I grew up kind of poor, so although I find it much easier to splurge now, when it comes to most things I can wait months if not years before caving. I am the master of denying myself things. As with most people, I have ideas in my mind about whether things are worth it, so perhaps I'm not denying myself at all.

I would say with most things in life I am pretty optimistic. Beauty products are not one of those things. Part of the problem with nail products (and beauty product too) is that companies can make pretty much any claim they want without too much repercussion. The thing that bothers me most is that at times companies either consciously or unconsciously prey on what people don't know. I guess that is why advertising is such a big business.

My love for chemistry started when I was a kid. I was a label reader. Perhaps a weird thing for a 12 year old to do, but I couldn't help it. What is that, what does it do? What purpose does it serve in the formulation? What other products contain this ingredient? How does price and efficacy compare in products containing similar ingredients?

These three things often govern my shopping habits and more times than not throw up a red flags. This is not a bashing post, but rather a conversation with myself.  These are the kinds of things that cross my mind when I research products before I buy.  On to the products...

Knockout nails (Link)
On occasion I receive emails asking for my opinion on certain products from fellow readers.  One that has popped up on more than one occasion is "Knockout nails".

I had not heard of "Knockout nails" before, but after doing some research I can say I'm pissed off. With the popularity of soak of gels, it's no surprise so many gel products are popping up so frequently.  One important thing the normal consumer may not know is that soak of gels are different from traditional gel systems. Traditional gel systems cannot be soaked off. The product has to be filed off.  This opens the door for potential nail damage. The company portrays the product as a nonchalant way to do your nails and in my eyes tries to ride on the coattails of soak off gel success without making this important distinction. Had they made this product for "professional use only" (as most traditional gel systems do) I would not have batted an eyelash, as nail professionals would know this distinction, but their target consumer seems to be the everyday woman. NO BUENO.

Flexinail (Link)
Holy hell! The whole selling angle seems so shady, very miracle in a bottle. Guess what, it's just oil ... and a jacked up price for standard ingredient cuticle oil. RAGE. There are a lot of expensive cuticle oils, but this one takes the cake. If I'm going to pay $80 for cuticle oil it better have DNA changing ingredients that permanently transform my nails in 3 hours.  

The truth is the use of a basic cuticle oil (or cream/balm/whatever you like) consistently and frequently is what makes a difference. It will not be a miracle. Unless you were born with amazing nails already, it will take hard work and dedication. I was not blessed, so I'll stick to using the basics on an everyday basis. I preach this all the time ... see moisturizer tag.

If I come across any other delusional products/companies I will pass along the information.   

Oh and a few pictures just because...
DC Cherry Blossoms 2012

China Glaze - Agent Lavender topped with Prisma Luminous Color glitter