First, I need to start this post off by saying I am NOT affiliated with any of the companies whose products are mentioned here today. I’m just a gal who loves nail polish and thought I’d share my experiences with different brands.
But you could sum up my love of nail polish–and horses–in this OPI commercial.
I’m not one of these people who is supremely talented with nail art. I’m also hard on my hands, and the day job prevents me from wearing my nails too long. To be honest, it’s hard for me to grow my nails out very long these days, which is probably just as well for a writer as well as a horsewoman.
But that means I need nail polish that lasts.
If you’re interested in what I do for nail health, I’ve posted about it here. In that post, I mention that when the pandemic struck, I stopped going for my monthly manicure at the nail salon. (I stopped everything: haircuts, doctor’s appointments, going to the grocery store… I got everything I needed online and if I couldn’t get it that way, I did without.)
After a year of going nail-polish free, I realized I’d broken my nail salon addiction. I no longer felt I could afford either the time or the cost of getting my nails professionally done. And to be honest, of all the things I gave up in 2020, going to get my nails done was the least traumatic to lose. Besides, you can’t check your O2 levels with a finger pulse oximeter while wearing most nail polishes.
But gradually, the urge to paint my nails returned. Painting my nails is a form of self-care. In times when we’ve had to sacrifice so much for so long, I’m not going to apologize for a little self-indulgence.
I went back to my old standby, Live Love Polish first. Sadly, after over a year of abandoning my shades for salon manis, most of my LLP colors were too old and tacky to be revived. I discovered that the site has moved away from selling any polish but their own brand, which is understandable, but I missed the variety they used to offer, particularly when it came to thermal nail polishes. I adore Rothko Red, and was sad to see LLP no longer carried it, but fortunately, I was able to find it elsewhere online. Thermal nail polishes are so much fun! They are color sensitive, like mood rings, so the tips of your nails are often darker than the beds. The color changes dependent on temperature, so I’ve seen my nails go from one shade on a cold morning walk to another after washing your hands in hot water. So much fun!
LLP still has some other fun polishes–most notably, their magnetic series. You paint your nails in black for a base color, then paint the magnetic shade of your choice over it. (My personal favorite is Siamese, but I don’t see it on their site anymore). Before the polish dries, you hold a magnet over the nail, which aligns the metal flecks in the polish to cause a linear area of refraction. The effect is similar to a tiger’s eye stone, very cool!
But neither polish is great in the longevity department. I don’t know about you, but I resent spending a significant period of time painting nails, waiting for them to dry, doing a second or third coat, more drying time, and then a top coat as well… only to have the edges wear or chip within 24 hours. That’s no fun! Gel polishes seemed to last a little longer, but no where near the promised two weeks touted by the companies.
So I began exploring other options. You’ll see a lot of those on Facebook and Instagram! The two that appealed to me the most were ColorStreet and Nailboo.
ColorStreet is a system that has you apply strips of real nail polish to your nails. (No, I don’t understand how they do that!)
What I like about ColorStreet is that I can create some of the fun nail art designs I’ve seen online by using their clear overlays on top of a base coat polish. I found the application a wee bit challenging at first, and I would strongly advise watching the videos for tips. Do NOT apply strips to your thumbnails until you’ve done the others because you need your thumbs to shape the color strip around your nails. And be absolutely sure to apply a top coat of clear polish!! I didn’t do that the first time and was disappointed at how quickly the color began to peel as a result. There are other useful tips to know as well–such as using a flat iron or other such device to reseal your packages once you open them to save for future use–I’m afraid I wasted quite a bit of my first package as a result of not knowing these things in advance.
The end result? I really like some of their patterned designs (and am saving them for special occasions, such as Halloween, or the next time I go to a book convention) and the color lasts longer than your standard nail polish (even premium brands such as OPI) but I didn’t find ColorStreet to be cost effective for me, and the application can be a little finickity. Don’t be in a hurry!
But this sheet color Dallas Darling (since discontinued) came out nicely, don’t you think?
But then I discovered Nailboo. I have to say, I am in LOVE. It’s basically the SNS powder system I enjoyed when I was getting my nails done at a salon and it’s SO EASY. I’m going to attempt a little video later today. If I am successful, I’ll link it here. But the short version is not only is the Nailboo system easy to use, but the nail polish is incredibly durable too. Cost-wise you are paying more for the system than the others, but the ease of use and the durability makes up for it, in my opinion. So far, I’ve maintained a shade for two weeks without major issues, aside from twice I’ve had the entire polish pop off the nail in one piece (much like a fake nail) when I hit my hand wrong about a week post polishing. No big deal. I just reapplied the powder and it matched the others like I’d just done them all.
A couple of tips:
- Apply the base coat carefully. This is the coat that you use for the building powder, as well as the color powders. If you’re messy when you apply it, you’ll wind up with powder adhering where you don’t want it. Once I’m applying the actual color, I don’t take the base coat to the side edges of my nails, as this can result in a ridge of buildup that needs to be filed down, or you can get too thick a coating.
- Use the little brush provided to dust off the powder between applications, but just lightly brush over the nail or you can smudge up the powder. Be sure to use the cleaner to clean the brush afterward or you’ll end up with clumps of polish gumming the whole thing together.
- When the instructions suggest waiting two minutes between applying the activator coat and any next steps, wait five instead. You’ll thank me for it later.
- After I apply the first coat of color powder, I don’t take any subsequent coats all the way to my nail bed. This tend to build up a thick edge that will catch on your hair and clothing a week or so later, and make it easier to pull the paint off. I try to taper the color application here as a result.
- When the instructions tell you to buff and file the nails before applying the top coat, DO IT. Don’t be shy about buffing that surface. If you don’t, you won’t get that highly desirable glossy shine with the top coat because the color coat will be too rough.
The whole thing takes about twenty minutes to do both hands, even with the wait times. Seriously, the more you do it, the faster you’ll get as well. Here’s Ocean Blue before the final buffing and top coat. There were some thick areas of powder buildup where more stuck to the nail than was supposed too–I suspect I put too much base coat on. But it filed down without issue.
And here’s the final result. Pretty snazzy, eh? Honestly, it’s like getting salon nails done for a fraction of the time and price. What I paid for a Nailboo starter kit was the equivalent to a single trip to the salon. I have no idea how long a jar of powder will last, but I suspect I’ll get at least four or five treatments from one jar. Maybe more. My only con for Nailboo is that so far, their color palette is somewhat limited. But I think that will expand as the product catches on!
I’m curious: what do you do as a form of self care?