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 very favorite Base Coat is A-England The Knight base coat. It doesn’t have any sort of strengtheners and it’s not a ridge filler, but it applies like silk, dries fast, levels perfectly, protects against stains, and increases wear time for my manicures. It’s a little pricey at $10-$12 (not including shipping) per bottle, but it’s still cheaper than most strengtheners out there.
-Ridge Filler: When I wear a polish that needs very thin coats or is unforgiving, I use Simply Smooth from NailCareHQ.com . Simply Smooth is an inexpensive base coat ($4.99) but it is the best ridge filling base coat I’ve tried.
-Holo Base Coat: For holo polishes I use Stuck on Blu from Glisten & Glow. It works just as well as an aqua base and is less pricey.
-I no longer use any sort of nail strengthening base coat since my magical nail/cuticle oil wiped out that need. In fact, those chemicals don’t actually strengthen your nails at all! They do dry them out though! Since I stopped using those and use only my nail oil to hydrate and strengthen my nails (Strong nails are hydrated and flexible as opposed to rock hard!), I have a lot less wear on my nails which means I keep more of my new growth/length, I break nails only when I’m being bad and using them as tools, and I no longer have weak spots, tons of ridges, or extreme curling in my nails.
Glitter Base Coat: When I wear glitters, which is a good 90% of the time, I always start with a coat of Nail Pattern Boldness Glitter-A-Peel. I used to make my own peel off base coat, but as soon as I tried Glitter-A-Peel, I tossed that aside. GAP works so incredibly well that you barely need any remover (only for those stray bits) after peeling your polish off. I also don’t have to bother with the foil method (and soaking my already sensitive skin in acetone) or scrubbing with this stuff. A must have for glitter and flakie lovers.
Growth Treatment: I no longer use any sort of Growth treatment for my nails. My secret weapon negates the need. See Cuticle stuff for more info!
Top Coat(s): I used to be a Seche Vite girl, but I can’t justify a top coat that gets ultra thick less than halfway through the bottle and requires an additional pricey product to get it back to usable. I now use HK Girl Quick Drying Top Coat from Glisten & Glow and no longer even glance at a bottle of SV. HK Girl dries faster, is shinier, last longer and no dreaded shrinkage or polish incompatibility. I also don’t need a second product to keep it at a usable consistency! This is the top coat that I use the most.
I also LOVE A-England The Shield. The Shield is a quick drying top coat as well and has the most amazing shine. It self levels, doesn’t thicken up, and plays well with every polish I’ve tried it with. I always use The Shield (and The Knight Base Coat) with my A-England polishes.
Glitter Top Coat: For glitter bombs and textured glitter polishes I always use Nail Pattern Boldness Glitter Food. This stuff does an amazing job at leveling out the surface of my mani and creating a smooth surface. It dries fast as well, but has a matte finish so you’ll still need top coat for shine and protection.
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.
-Pure Nail Oil from NailCareHQ.com. This stuff is a miracle in a bottle! Pure Nail Oil healed my cracked, bleeding and infected cuticles in days, and within a week I had the best looking cuticles of my life. I use this stuff several times a day and am never without a full backup bottle. It’s also a nail oil, so I use it to hydrate my nails as well. My nails are now stronger, smoother, and healthier than ever, which is saying alot since they ended up very damaged before I found Pure. Pure starts to work immediately and you’ll see results within the first 24 hours. After 3 days the change is dramatic and amazing! If you’re interested in Pure Nail Oil, you can check it out at http://nailcarehq.com/kimberskorner . You can find all the info you need by browsing around the site, and you can even check out before and after shots (including mine!).
-Coconut Oil is a staple in my hand/skin care routine now. I discovered this stuff by accident and have been addicted ever since. Just a little bit relieves the extreme dryness that I suffer from (I live in the desert and have sensitive/allergy prone skin) and keeps that moisture in my skin. A tiny bit goes a long way (just like my nail/cuticle oil) and as a bonus it smells divine. I use this often throughout the day.
-Jergens Crema Deep Conditioning Oatmeal Hand Cream. I use this a few times a day just to relieve any random dryness, usually before I photograph. The coconut oil handles most of my moisture needs, but since I am allergy prone, I will occasionally get dry/flaky spots. I use this in order to tame them and stop a full blown Eczema flare up.
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. Of course, without Pure Nail Oil, I would still be suffering with horrible gorilla cuticles and nails so dry that they curl up.
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 July 2013 my stash is sitting at around 2000 and growing weekly.
Do you buy your own polish?
I do buy alot of polish, but I also do swatches and reviews for several polish Brands. I always use a disclaimer button at the top of my posts so that it’s obvious which polishes were purchased by me and which are PR Samples. Although I do receive PR Samples, this does not influence my opinions. When I review a polish I review them fairly and objectively. You won’t see alot of negative reviews though, since I always contact the Brand before posting a negative review. This gives them a chance to make some changes and ensure that their polish is top notch before going out to anyone else.
Why don’t you swatch entire collections at once?
ography. Ho I really wish that I could, actually! Honestly it’s a time constraint. With a 3 year old, a 12 year old Aspie, a husband, Dogs, my own business and my Mother’s Cancer, I just don’t have the time to sit down and swatch 5-10 polishes at once. For now I rotate swatches from different brands and collections so that you all can see what’s going on with more than one brand at a time. Occasionally you will see posts from one brand in succession, or a rare full collection post.
How do you take your pictures?
I use a Canon Rebel T4i DSLR Camera at the moment. I just bought this beast in February and am still learning all of its functions. It’s a fabulous camera though and I highly recommend it.
-Lighting: I use 4 lamps and a lightbox from Cowboy Studio. I have 2 5200k lamps, one on each side of my lightbox. I use an overhead boom with a 5200k bulb inside the lightbox, and a 5200k spot that I angle directly onto my nails.
-Settings: I use the manual mode on my camera, and use Macro Filters (not the same as a macro lens). 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! I use a tripod religiously these days.
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 known to take a good long time getting it just right so that my colors are accurate.
Exposure: I shoot at different exposures depending on lighting, however most people use a setting that automatically controls the exposure. Honestly it’s a lot easier to let the camera do the work as far as Exposure.
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’m notorious for having random cat hairs on my hands!). 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 Indie polish than big brands?
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Indie Nail Polish. I love that I can find polish that is truly unique and different. When I go to the drugstore or beauty supply stores, I see the same polish colors and finishes being recycled over and over again. Nothing wrong with this, but when I look for new polish I want something new and exciting. I want variety! With Indie Brands you can find those new and exciting colors as well as crazy glitter mixes, awesome holos, color changing thermal and UV polish, jellies, shimmers, cremes…you name it, it’s out there in Indie Polish land. Variety abounds! Not to mention that the mainstream polish world is now looking to independent brands for inspiration.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that handmade polish isn’t quality either. Most of the Indie Brands that I own far exceed those drugstore polishes and alot of mainstream brands.
Why aren’t you doing more nail art?
It’s hard to find the time! 🙂 Honestly I usually have a bunch of Indies that need to be swatched, and those come first. Most of the time I post nail art on Wednesdays (for the challenge that I’m a part of), and I also do reviews for Born Pretty Store and KKCenterHK, which involves nail art products. I’m hoping to work in some more nail art, but I can’t make any guarantees. For now, Wednesdays are all that I know I can stick with.