I've recently been receiving a few emails askingsome general questions, so I decided to start an FAQ page. I'll try to keep this updated as I make new friends out here in the blogosphere.
Are your nails real?
Yes, my nails are 100% natural, as evidenced by the ever-changing length! I used to swear by acrylics, but I was spending way more money than I could justify just maintaining my acrylics that I decided to save some cash and start painting my own nails. In the long run, I haven't saved any money since I stopped wearing acrylics; if anything I spend more on polish than I ever did on the upkeep of acrylics. However, my nails are finally healthy and strong, although they do still bear the marks of long term acrylic wear.
What base coat/top coat/products do you use?
I did post about this topic awhile back, but things have changed since then! I love testing out different products, but in the end I always end up going back to my tried and trues.
Base Coat: I have tried so many base coats on my quest for my Holy Grail base coat. I use different base coats for different things, so I'll share the list here.
-My number 1 base coat is OPI Nail Envy Matte. This base coat dries quickly, has a wonderful formula, glides on like silk, and has made a huge improvement in the health of my nails. I use this with almost every manicure now.
-Ridge Filler: When I wear a polish that needs very thin coats or is unforgiving, I use Seche Base. Seche Base is by far the best stand alone ridge filler I have used.
-Holo Base Coat: At the moment I am using Orly Bonder as my base coat for Holographic Polish. I have yet to try an Aqua Base, but from what I have seen Aqua Base is the way to go for those finicky holos. Orly Bonder does work well, but there is still some of that pesky drag. I also sandwich my holos with bonder as well.
_When my nails were weak and damaged, I used Nail Tek Foundation II to whip them into shape. Foundation II is a combo strengthener and Ridge Filler and worked wonders after I had some issues with weak, thin, nails. I used this religiously for a good 6 months, until my nails were healthy again and I discovered Nail Envy. I still recommend this for those that need a strengthener and ridge filler.
Growth Treatment: I love Qtica's Natural Nail Growth Stimulator. I've tried to grow my nails out without it, and even though they grow rather fast, Qtica really does accelerate growth. Taken with 5000mcg of Biotin daily, I can grow my nails back to their full length (Usually about 5-6mm above my fingertips) in just a few weeks. Right now I'm rocking shorter nails since my usual length is incompatible with diaper changes and all that goes with having a 2 year old son, but whenever I break a nail and have to go down to nubbins I hot the Qtica and I have decent length back in no time.
Top Coat(s): I swear by Seche Vite for my fast dry top coat. Nothing can beat SV's shine and dry time. When I want some added protection I use Seche Ultra-V UV top coat. It's just like SV, but you must use a UV lamp to cure it. It lasts longer than a regular top coat, and is hard to dent or chip. When I have nail art that I actually really like and want to keep on for a few days, I'll use a coat of Gelous Top It Off UV top coat.
Cuticles: I have very sensitive cuticles and they are very problematic. I'm also very hard on them since I do alot of cleaning, pulling weeds, and fixing broken toys. I'm also a compulsive hand-washer and I mix my own flavored nictone juice for electronic cigarettes, so I also play with chemicals. My cuticles used to be 100% worse than they are now. Here are the products that helped me get back to decent cuticles from cracked, bleeding, torn, non-existant cuticles with tons of hangnails.
-Blue Cross Cuticle Remover: This stuff works wonders on my hard to remove cuticles. I've used alot of cuticle removers, but Blue Cross gives me the best results. I do recommend caution though. It is very runny and comes in a gigantic bottle with no applicator. I used to use a cotton swab that I dipped into the remover and swabbed over my cuticles, but that led to dripping onto my skin and for days after use I would have sloughing skin around and under my nails. I recommend using an old, cleaned out polish bottle and brushing this very carefully on the cuticle only. You can pick this up for around $6 for 16oz at Sally Beauty.
-CND Solar Oil: This stuff made a huge difference in my cuticles. Once I started using this, my cuticles began to grow back in (I had no live cuticle for years due to years of chewing, cutting, and abusing my cuticles. I had no idea how to care for them!). I use this every manicure after removing my old polish and washing my hands as well as immediately after clean-up. I also use this at least once daily to keep my cuticles in good shape.
-Eucerin Original Hand Creme (Or the Walgreens or CVS version): This is a petroleum Jelly based creme that I used often throughout the day and at night before bed. Since I wash my hands at least 2-30 times/day and live in the desert, I am prone to dry skin. Nothing else has come close to what this creme does for my skin and cuticles.
-Heel to Toe "feels like new" foot softener: I know this is a pedicure product, but I tried this out after reading about it on All Glammed up. She used this on her cuticles and reported that it works just as well, if not better than Lemony Flutter, so I decided to give it a try. And, it works! I use this about 30 minutes after polishing and randomly throughout the day. I am prone to forgetting it lately though! A little goes a long way, and I've had the same small tub of this stuff for a good 4 months now and have used about 1/3. You can pick this up for around $3 for .62oz at Sally's.
That's alot of moisturizing products, right? I subscribe to the Loodie Loodie Loodie school of moisturizing: Moisturize like it's your job! With the horrible desert climate and how rough I am on my hands, if I didn't moisturize as much as I do, my hands would literally look like Lizard skin. As it is they still have a ways to go to being where I want them, but after years of cutting, picking, nipping, biting and generally abusing my cuticles and surrounding skin, I'm pretty pleased with my progress.
Polish Remover: I love Zoya Remove, but it's kind of pricey and since I use ALOT of remover, I took a cue from Loodie Loodie Loodie (her blog is the nail care gospel!) and made my own version using Acetone, Glycerin, and a splash of water. I also cheat and use one of those scrubby tubs to remove stubborn polish or heavy layerings. For clean-up I use the faux remove mixture as well.
Shaping/Filing: Depending on what I'm trying to do, I use a barrage of files. I have a wide glass file that I use for general filing and maintainence. I use a 180 grit Zebra file for taking down length, and a 240/400 grit for shaping after the length is handled. I use a 400/600 grit file for sealing the nail and tapering the free edge. When I buff my nails, I use a pink buffing block that I picked up at Sally's. It's a fine grit, but I don't know the actual number. When I do buff, I buff lightly and carefully since I don't want to weaken the nail.
Phew! That was long winded. Thanks for sticking with me there!
How many polishes do you own?
As of September 2012 my stash is sitting at around 850 and growing weekly.
Do you buy your own polish?
For the most part I either buy my own polish, or it's been given to me for special occasions by my friends and family. I will accept products for review purposes, however, this does not influence my opinions. When I review a polish I review them fairly and objectively.
Why don't you swatch more often?
I have very limited time to polish and blog since I have 2 kids. My 11 year old daughter has an Autism Spectrum Disorder known as Asperger's Syndrome, so I spend a lot of time taking her to Occupational Therapy, Social Skills Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, etc. as well as being there for her on a daily basis. Asperger's Syndrom is very different from typical Autism; she has a genius IQ but has social skills deficits as well as fine motor deficits. Social Interaction is very hard for her since she does not have the ability to read facial/body language and everything is literal for her. I also have a 28 month old son, and he is a HUGE mama's boy! He does not have Autism, but being a toddler, he requires constant supervision and interaction. He is also still breastfeeding (I am a huge breastfeeding advocate) since the WHO recommends nursing until at least 2 years of age, so my boobies are at his back and call. We're starting to weaning process, but I also believe in self-weaning so it's al onger process than some choose. TMI, I know! Anyway, those 2, as well as my hubby, keep me pretty busy so I barely have time to do a mani, nonetheless sit down and swatch. I also don't have access to all of the newest collections, since for some reason New Mexico seems to be a good decade behind as far as recent collections and LE polishes are concerned! I also stick to a budget religiously since I have kids and kids tend to be expensive! I am planning on swatching some more now that Dex is a little older and I've been able to find some of the newer collections locally. One of my upcoming nail projects is to swatch my entire polish stash, so there will be tons of swatches soon enough, just not the newest polishes.
How do you take your pictures?
I am very lucky since my BFF ( I call him my brother) has a GIT degree and has taught me much about photography. However, my favorite camera is pretty old and is just a point-and-shoot digital, so my photo quality as limited. I am planning on buying a good DSLR at some point.
-Lighting: I use a daylight lamp and a dark background for most of my photos. On occasion, if I have a hard to photograph polish or not enough light, I use a DIY lightbox either lit from the sides (duochromes) or top (most polishes).
-Settings: I use the manual mode on my camera, and make sure my macro mode is on as well. I set my ISO rather low, usually around 200 in order to get a clear picture. If you do use a lower ISO value, make sure you have a steady hand or a good tripod handy!
White Balance: I use manual white balance since my house has very prominent fluorescent lighting and this results in a yellow cast if I use the auto setting. I change my white balance depending on the time of day, whether I'm shooting in the light box or just under the lamp. This is the hardest setting to get right, and I've been know to take a good long time getting it just right so that my colors are accurate.
Editing: The only editing I do to my photos on an everyday basis is cropping and adding my watermark. On occasion I will have to enhance the color of a polish (usually with reds, but with the right balance I no longer have to do this), or get rid of something that I did not notice lurking in the background that couldn't be cropped out. I do not alter my photos otherwise, and it is very rare that I have to alter anything. I'm not the best photographer, but I don't have the patience or dedication to photoshop my photos. What you see is what you get!
Why do you show more drugstore polish than big brands?
I like to show polishes that people see and overlook every day, and are readily accessible at stores that people are at the most. In this economy, alot of us are on tight budgets. There are some really amazing lower cost/drugstore polishes out there that deserve to be shown and loved just as muh as the bigger brands. Don't get me wrong, I own alot of the bigger/popular brands as well, but I love drugstore polish. My first polishes were drugstore polish and I've been in love ever since then. Also, the bigger brands and new collections are swatched by so many people. I like to show polish that you don't see as often, if at all.
Are you planning on doing tutorials?
Maybe in the future, but I'm not sure I have much to add to all the great tutorials that are already out there.
That's about it for now! If you have a question for me, feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me an email at KimbersLacquerKorner(at)blogspot(dot)com.