Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekly Mani: Happy Halloween!

Purchased by Me

It's officially the week of Halloween, and with all the preparations for trick or treating with the kids, I'm feeling uninspired.  So this week's mani is a bit on the simple side, unlike those from prior weeks.  Though simple, there's a lot going on in this one.  Details below.
Stamping Nail Art
Base Color:  Ink Demure
Topper:  Gel II Rave
Stamping Polish:  Color Club Halo Hues Harp on It for the web and Konad Black for the Spiders
Stamping Images:  MoYou London XL Pro 05 for the webs, SA-10 for the spiders.  
Crystals: Czech SS3 in Siam

For tips on how to use crystals with SOG without nail glue, Kim from Ten Little Canvases is the expert.  She recently did a tutorial on how she does her crystal designs, which you can find here.  While you're on her site, be sure to take a peek at some of her creations.  Mind blowing. 

I tried my best to get a good shot of Gel II Rave in all it's glowing glory, but apparently I'm incapable of holding my hand completely still.  So please excuse the blurry picture.  Rave is a really fun topper.  My nails glow all night, and it honestly freaked me out a little when I woke up at 5:30 this morning to feed the baby and they were still glowing. 
Glow in the Dark Soak Off Gel Polish

Finally, here's a shot of Ink Demure on it's own.  As you can see, the Gel II Rave did lighten the color just a bit.  I used two coats of the Rave to be sure I had even coverage.  However, one coat would have been sufficient and wouldn't have altered the base color.  Demure is a great orange coral with a slight pink shimmer. 
Ink Soak Off Gel Polish

That's all for today.  Check back later in the week for some Sally Hansen gel swatches and my poor attempt at swatching RNP.  ;)

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekly Mani: Hubby Designed Halloween

Purchased by Me

My current mani is, well, interesting.  I have to admit, it's completely outside of my comfort zone and isn't what I would usually wear.  You see, my husband hates my nail obsession.  I know he hates it.  Yet for some crazy reason, I find myself asking his opinion on colors or designs.  Today, I should have known better than to ask his opinion.  He's a total Halloween fanatic.  When I told him I wanted to do something Halloween and started showing him my Halloween stamping images, he actually took interest.  And that is how this mani design was born.

With that said, there's a lot going on in this one.  Details are below.
BundleMonster Stamping Image
Base Color:  Ink Black Out + Red Carpet Manicure Evening to Remember + Spectraflair top coat
Stamping Polishes: Mundo de Unas Black, Mundo de Unas Orange, Pure Ice Silver Star
Stamping Images: XL M plate (from Ali Express), Bundle Monster BM-305 and BM-413

Check back later this week for a few nude swatches and a new tips and tricks post. :)

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Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm in the mood for a little Lechat Perfect Match

Purchased by Me

I have a few more LeChat swatches to show you today.  Not moods this time, but gorgeous none the less.  These are all from the Perfect Match line and come with a bottle of matching regular polish.  I'm jumping around in different collections again. As usual, I'll start with the least of my favorites and save the best for last.

Before I get to the swatches, I also want to point out that I havs created a facebook page where I will share new posts and some of my manis that don't make it onto this blog.  Please feel free to like my page for updates.  And I'm on Pinterest now as well.  Now, onto the swatches.

Knight's Honor is a gorgeous, frosty gun metal grey from the A Royal Affair Collection.  There's not much to say about this one as the picture speaks for itself.
LeChat Soak Off Gel Polish

One thing I love about LeChat is they have managed to get their soak off gel (SOG) and regular polish (RNP) versions to match almost exactly.  The gel is a tiny bit lighter, but not enough that anyone would notice.
Knight's Honor

Next, Dark Forest from the new Mystical Beauty Collection.  The name says it all; a sultry dark forest green cream.  This one just screams winter to me.
Soak Off Gel Polish

Again, only a very slight different between the SOG and RNP versions.  The color looks a bit lighter here on both swatches due to the light shining through the back of the clear swatch.  As you can see in the picture above, it is actually a darker green on the nails.
LeChat Perfect Match Dark Forest

Finally, Night at the Cinema from the Vintage Hollywood Collection.  This is a deep, glittery purple that leans maroon.  It seriously broke my heart to soak this one off.  Added bonus: it was opaque in 2 coats.  Of course, I swatched 3 anyway for consistency, but the third coat certainly wasn't needed.  I foresee this color being one I wear multiple times this fall and winter.
Night at the Cinema Swatch

This one is slightly different in the RNP version as well.  The color is the same, but the texture is different.  Another coat of RNP top coat would likely make them a perfect match.
Night at the Cinema

That's all for today.  I have a few more LeChat Perfect Match selections in my stash, but those will have to wait for another day.  :)


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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Weekly Mani: Crushed and Stamped

When I finished my mani this week, my sweet, three year old little boy took one look, put his hands on his hips and shook his head.  I guess I took it a little too far for his tastes.  ;)

But hey, I like it!  That's what really matters right?

Base Color:  Couture Amethyst Crush
Stamping Color:  Konad Black
Image Plate: SA-02
Crystals:  SS5 light pink generic Czech

Please excuse my dry hands.  I did a massive swatch fest this weekend, which means a ton of soaking off.  But be on the lookout for three Couture swatches later this week :)
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sometimes You Just Feel Like Going Nude

Purchased by Me

Today, I have a few nude polish swatches to show you.  But first, a warning.  In preparation for today's post, I decided to Google "nude polish."  Little did I know, Google does not differentiate between "polish" and "Polish".  So here's your Google search lesson for the day:  when searching for nude polish swatches, it helps to be very specific in your search terms.  And even then, be aware of anyone standing behind you when you press enter!  ;)

Onto the swatches.  I actually don't have many nudes in my collection, which surprised me a little.  I guess I need to do something about that.  However, I do have a few and I swatched them for you.

First up, ASP Golden Opportunity.  ASP Soak Off Gel is a new addition to the SOG offerings available at Sally Beauty Supply.  They had some nice color offerings, but I resisted the urge to buy them all and picked up just one to test out.  It applied quite nicely.  I haven't tested the wear yet, but I will soon.  This one is extremely hard to photograph.  The base is a pinkish nude but it is loaded with golden shimmer.
Golden Opportunity Swatch

The next nude on my list is Gelish Forever Beauty.  I have a fair number of Gelish polishes in my collection, but you likely won't see many of them swatched on this blog.  It's not that I have anything against Gelish.  It's simply that I have so many other brands and polishes to share and Andrea at Chickettes has covered Gelish beautifully!  With that said, Forever Beauty is a peach toned nude cream
Gelish Soak Off Gel Polish

My final nude swatch for today is OPI GelColor Bubble Bath.  Bubble Bath is the color I chose for my first Soak Off Gel experience and is the reason I got hooked.  It's such a soft, gorgeous pinkish nude.
OPI GelColor Soak Off Gel

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Cuccio Match Maker Swatches and Review

Purchased by Me

I have a few Cuccio Color Veneer swatches to show you today.  This is a new brand to my stash, and I am pleasantly surprised.  It applies like a dream, levels well, and the colors I selected to test are opaque in 3.  I will definitely be adding more to my collection.  And how cute that the colors are all named after locations around the world. 

First up, Moscow's Red Square.  This is a shimmery red that leans slightly toward a wine shade.  I really wanted it to be a deeper red based on the name, but it's a pretty color none the less.
Cuccio Colour Veneer

The second color I chose to test out is Fountains of Versailles.  This is a color I picked based on pictures of the "matching" Cuccio lacquer.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the gel version of this shimmery blue is actually a green leaning teal.  I do love my teals.  This one is slightly less opaque than Moscow's Red Square, but I couldn't see vnl in regular lighting.
Cuccio Colour Veneer

As both of these came in "Match Maker" sets, I took a few comparison shots between the gel and regular polish versions. Of course, it would be too easy to take them both in the same order.  Sorry about that.

Moscow's Red Square lacquer (RNP) is a much richer, truer red than the gel (SOG) version.  This is what I really wanted the gel to look like.  The gel is a bit muted in comparison.
Cuccio Match Maker

The lacquer (RNP) version of Fountains of Versailles is flatter with more of a blue tone.  I couldn't get my camera to cooperate and capture the difference in the colors in my light box, so I snapped this one under my ottlite.  Excuse the glare from the lights.  You can also see in this picture that the RNP has pigment particles that make it almost look like metallic.  Whereas the gel (SOG) is more of a scattered shimmer with green tones.  Both are great colors, but definitely not a match.
Cuccio Match Maker

Despite the non-matching "Match Makers", I will definitely pick up more of these in the future.  I really like the formulas of both the Soak off Gel and traditional lacquer versions. 


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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Essie Gel: Swatches and Review

Purchased by Me

I have been excitedly awaiting the Essie Gel since first learning of the pending release a few months ago.  I was a little surprised Essie decided to make their gel line a pro product.  Especially since many of the colors are based on their regular nail polish (rnp) colors that are available to the general public through  retail stores.  They are also much more expensive than their competitors, which also surprised me.  I expected a price point that would be competitive with OPI.  But that didn't stop me from getting a few to test out and compare to the rnp colors.

Essie Gel is advertised in industry magazines as LED cure and is supposed to have added nutrients to support healthy nails.  I don't know about the added nutrients, but the LED cure is questionable.  I tested it in my two LED lamps (Sensationail and Salon Edge).  It did not fully cure in either lamp.  A friend tested it in her Red Carpet Manicure LED lamp.  It did not cure fully in her lamp either.  In all three lamps, the color completely wiped off in spots before top coating.  I usually don't wipe the color coat before top coating, but I noticed a lot of color transfer on the top coat brush, which prompted me to test it.  Essie does make an LED lamp for their gel line, so it is completely possible that the formula requires a different frequency than most brands.  But for those of us who cross brands on a regular basis, Essie is a dud unless you want to purchase their lamp.  (Note:  I have not tested their lamp...I only assume it cures their gel.)

With that said, it did cure in my UV lamp.  However, there was a bit more color transfer than I am used to seeing with other brands after 2 minutes.  I ended up curing each layer for 3 minutes.

Application was tricky as well.  The brush in the gel line is the same brush they use in their regular polish bottles - a thin, round brush.  I usually like the thinner brushes, but I found this one difficult to work with.  Though I admit I may have just been annoyed by the LED issue.  Aside from the brush, coverage is ok.  There is a bit of shrink back on the first layer, but it seemed to correct itself with the 2nd and 3rd coats.

So, onto the swatches.  I have two colors to show you.  First up, Break a Sweat.  This is a dark, shimmery purple based off the popular rnp color, Sexy Divide.
Essie Gel

So, is Essie Gel Break a Sweat the same color as Sexy Divide?  Nope.  As you can see, it's similar but not exact.  The gel version is lighter. This is actually the one thing I think Essie did well with their gel release.  They marketed it as "based on" or "similar to" the original colors and gave them new names.  Smart. 
Essie Comparison
Please excuse my horrid rnp application.  I've been using gel for so long I have a hard time getting the right amount of polish on the brush.  :/

The second color I tested is Suggestive and Sultry.  It's a pretty light blue with a barely there shimmer.  This one is based off the popular Bikini So Teeny. 
Essie Gel

So, does this one match the rnp color?  Nope.  It's close, but slightly darker and muted compared to Bikini So Teeny.  Again, excuse my RNP application.
Essie Comparison

So, there you have it.  While the colors are nice, Essie failed to impress me.  I wanted to love the Essie Gel.  Especially after being so excited after seeing the announcement.  With the price point at around $17-$18 each, I expected it to blow my socks off.  Instead, I am grossly disappointed.  I won't be buying any more of their gel line.

Check back latter in the week for a few Cuccio and LeChat swatches.  :)


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Weekly Mani: Breast Cancer Awareness with Couture

Purchased by Me

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Naturally, I did a mani to show my support.  As I am sure many of you do as well, I know way too many women who's lives have been threatened by breast cancer.  Strong, amazing women!

I admit, I was so focused on the art on this one, I completely spaced and forgot to take a picture of the base color on it's own for my swatch page.  I'll have to swatch it next time I wear it.  But enough of that...on to the nail art.

The base for this on is Couture Off the Shoulder.  This is my perfect pink.  The dots and heart are done with Couture Ooh La La French and the ribbon is Off the Shoulder.
Pink Ribbon Nail Art

I have also entered this mani in Couture's Breast Cancer Awareness contest on their facebook page.  If you have Couture polish in your collection, break out your best Breast Cancer Awareness mani and enter it by October 20, 2013 for a chance to win 2, 3 or 5 Couture colors!  Contest rules can be found here.

That's all for today.  Be sure to check back later this weekend for a few new swatches.  :)


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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

OPI GelColor: Random swatches

I admit it, I couldn't think of a good title for this post.  But believe me, it's worth a peek!  I have three OPI Gelcolors to show you today.  Two new, one old.  These three really challenged my photography skills. 

First up, the older OPI GelColor Thanks a Windmillion.  This is a gorgeous cool green with blue undertones.  And it wreaked havoc on my camera. I had to play with the lighting some to get the color right, so it completely washed out my skin.  Also, please excuse the dust on the bottle.  This one has been in my stash for a while. 
OPI GelColor

Purchased by Me

I admit, I'm usually not a fan of OPI GelColor.  Traditionally, application has been a nightmare.  Lots of shrink back at the tips.  However, I'm happy to say that OPI has apparently fixed their formula.  Thanks a Windmillion is the old formula and I had to flash cure each finger to get good tip coverage.  The next two, on the other hand, applied like a dream with no shrink back and no need to flash cure.  Yea!

Up next is My Favorite Ornament from the Mariah Carey collection.  This is a gorgeous, dense champagne glitter.  I was a little unsure of the color when I ordered it, but I'm so glad I did.  The light bouncing off the glitter makes it appear more silver in some places.  The shadowed portion of my index finger is the best representation of the true color. 
OPI GelColor

And finally, the one everyone has been waiting for.  Peace, Love and OPI from the San Francisco collection.  This is the first really amazing duo-chrome I've found in a soak off gel.  Well done, OPI!  It shifts from a greenish blue/grey to purple.  Very hard to capture on film.  This is the best shot I could get.  Three coats offers great coverage. 
OPI GelColor
You may notice that it looks a bit sheer on my index finger.  I should note that I had to play with my lighting again to capture the shift.  The lights are set low and angled up, so they are shining directly through the nail on that finger.

I'm very pleased that OPI has changed and improved their formula.  I would love to see them go back and fix some of the earlier releases.  Although it may be the worst thing ever for me.  My collection is already getting out of control.  ;)

That's all for today.  Hopefully I'll have a few of the new Essie gels to share with you next week.  :)


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Monday, October 7, 2013

IBD Just Gel Tinseltown Collection Glitters

Purchased by Me

I have a few more glitters to show you today.  This time, the two from the newer IBD Tinseltown Collection.  Both of these are very interesting glitters and extremely hard to capture on camera.

First up, Glitterazzi.  This is a clear topper with a blue shimmer, silver and black glitter, and flakies.  Like the Calligraffiti collection, this one was a little difficult to apply.  The flakies don't really want to lay flat on their own.  But, I digress.  On to the pictures.  As usual, I swatched 3 coats.

And a closeup that shows the shimmer better.
IBD Just Gel

Up next, Lights! Camera! Karats!  This is an awesome topper with a clear base, blue shimmer, iridescent glitter, and silver holographic strip glitter.  Of the two, I think this one is my favorite.  It was much easier to apply, but equally difficult to capture on camera. 
Lights! Camera! Karats!

Here's a close up of Lights! Camera! Karats!
IBD Just Gel Swatch

And here they are side by side over a base color.  For this picture, I did one coat of each topper. 
Tinseltown glitter

For the above comparison, I used a base of IBD I'm No Damsel (from a previous release).  Here's the swatch before toppers.
I'm No Damsel

And that's all for today.  :)  I still have 2 OPI GelColor swatches to edit - including Peace, Love and OPI - so look for those later in the week. 


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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weekly Mani: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Purchased by Me

It's that time of year when pumpkin patches are open and all the kids are getting ready for Halloween.  But most importantly, it's the time of year for "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"!  My favorite Halloween special.  In all honesty, we watch it year round in my house.

Naturally, my first Halloween themed mani of the year just has to the Great Pumpkin!

I started with a base of Couture Vintage Denim - the perfect stary sky base.  Vintage Denim is a navy jelly base with awesome, dense blue shimmer. 
Couture Gel Nail Polish

I then used acrylic paint to freehand my favorite Great Pumpkin scene.
It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

This is my first attempt at using acrylics with gel, and it has definitely been a learning experience.  It's super important you make sure to encase all of the acrylic paint in gel when you top coat.  If you don't, water will penetrate the paint and cause bubbling.  I had to redo a few fingers thanks to that.  :(

Be sure to check back in a few days for swatches of the two glitters from the IBD Tinsel Town collection.  And I have a few OPI Gelcolor swatches to share this week too. 

I hope everyone has a great Halloween Season! 

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tips and Tricks: Expanding your Stash with DIY Toppers

Purchased by Me

If you use soak off gel polish, you have likely discovered that building a polish stash isn't cheap.  So today I'm going to show you a fun way to expand your collection without spending a lot of cash by making your own toppers out of pure pigments.  There are several places online where you can find pure pigments for frankening nail polish and making cosmetics.  My personal favorite is Coastal Scents.  Coastal Scents has a large selection of mica powders that are perfect for mixing with top coat to create amazing toppers.  And they offer sample sizes that are more than you will ever need for nail art for $1 to $2.50.

I swatched a few custom toppers to show you out of my pigment collection.  I painted half of each of the swatch sticks with Couture Little Black Dress and left the other half clear to give you a better idea of how each topper will look over light and dark colors.  When selecting pigments, look for the ones that appear white(ish) in powder form.  Those make the best toppers. 

First, the mirage powders.  I love these for the chunkier finish and the fact that they don't change the base color as much.

Next, I swatched a few of the crystals and other super fines.  These are finer powders that do alter the colors when applied over a base.

Now that you've seen how gorgeous these are, onto the "How To".

I mix my toppers on a piece of foil as I go so I don't have to buy extra bottles of top coat.  4-6 drops of top coat is usually more than enough to do all 10 nails once mixed with the pigment depending on the length of your nails.  You can use a little pigment or a lot to get varying effects.  However, as a general rule, you should never mix more than 1/3 pigment to 2/3 gel to avoid curing issues.  :)

I use an orangewood stick to place a small amount of pigment (half a grain of rice) on the foil.

Add 4-6 drops of topcoat.  The picture below shows the size of one drop of topcoat on the foil.

Mix well and you're ready to paint it on like you would a store-bought topper.  I use the topcoat brush and simply clean it well with alcohol when I'm finished to avoid transferring pigment back into the topcoat bottle. You can use a gel brush if you don't want to risk contaminating your top coat bottle with shimmer. 

Add a layer of pure top coat and you're done.  There you have it, DIY toppers for less than $1 per mani.  :)

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