Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Favorite Things 2013

I thought I'd end the year with a post about my favorite hand and nail care products. I've learned a lot in the nearly two years we've been doing this blog (two years! OMG!!!) and it's nice to be able to share items I've discovered, either on my own or through other blogger's recommendations. Please excuse the less-than-stellar product shots but we recently got a couple of adorable twin kittens from a shelter and I had to shut myself in the bathroom to take the photos without them "helping." Here's a picture of Charlotte, the quieter one (Emily is the adventurer who won't stay still long enough for me to take a photo of her.)
How can you resist this little face???
Nail Files
I'll start off with files because I tend to shape my nails at the beginning of every manicure, even if it's only to even things off rather than take down length.
My favorite files
My first really good glass file was an Essie that I found at Ocean State Job Lot for $3. It normally sells for $18 so that was a good price for me to risk. The only other glass files I'd tried were ones I'd seen at the beauty supply register for $2 or so (terrible) and a Revlon one (only slightly better.) I wasn't impressed with them at all but I kept reading about how glass files were the best thing ever and Essie was a big name in nail products so I went ahead and got it. Finally! I could see what everyone was talking about — it shaped my nails without chewing them up! Later on I was lucky enough to also get a Mont-Bleu glass file and I learned a lot about what goes into making the really good ones (hint: they're almost always from the Czech Republic.) When I want to take down length I use the Soft Touch files in either 240 or 280/320 grit. These sell for about 79¢ with a Sally Beauty Supply card and last for months.

Polish Removers
I will admit that I love the scents and non-drying features of Zoya Remove+ and butter LONDON's Powder Room, but at $4.60 and $8 (plus $5 shipping!) for a 2 oz bottle, respectively, they are way out of my budget so I have to stick with something more affordable for my everyday use.
Mostly I use the Target brand "strengthening" polish — more because I like the purple color than because I actually need any strengthening — but in the winter, when my skin gets so painfully dry, I like to use Cutex Advanced Revival remover. After reading a comparison between the Cutex and the Zoya removers at Lace & Lacquers I began to look for the Cutex and eventually found it at Walmart. At $2 for 6 oz it's a bargain!  Eventually I will try to make my own non-drying remover using Loodie's directions, but for now I am quite happy with these. Now if I could only find that baby powder scent that butter LONDON uses…

On the occasions where I need to remove polish without ruining an entire manicure I like to use the dip-it removers. My favorite is Target's upandup brand because it has plastic bristles instead of a flimsy sponge so it's great at removing stubborn polish around the nail bed and especially good at removing glitters (I keep a separate jar for glitters so it doesn't contaminate the remover.) Don't the bristles look like a lamprey mouth? Like something out of The X-Files.

Cuticle Care
I have to constantly keep on top of cuticle care or else my cuticles get ragged, then I start chewing on them and before I know it they're a bloody mess. Don't be like me! Moisturize!
Once a week I use Blue Cross Cuticle Remover ($4.99 for 16 oz with a Sally Beauty Card.) I have been using this bottle for nearly two years and I'm only about a third of the way down so I expect this bottle to last me the rest of my life. You really only need a teaspoon or so. I pour a bit into a thimble-sized dapper dish (89¢ with a Sally Beauty Card) and apply it with a cotton swab. After a minute or two I gently scrape the cuticle with a birchwood manicure stick to remove the excess cuticle. Every other week or so I also use a dab of Sally Hansen Cuticle & Nail Refiner cream to exfoliate a bit more. Then I use a nail brush to remove all the residue and brush on some CND Solar Oil ($7.50 for ¼ oz at Ulta.) I actually use several different cuticle oils but I just love the almond scent of Solar Oil!

I try to keep hand lotion within reach at all times and always lotion up after washing my hands. I found this fabulous Revlon Hand and Foot Exfoliator at Big Lots one day and love how it softens my skin as it exfoliates! I wish I had gotten all that they had because it normally sells for $6–$10 online, but I only need a little bit at a time so it should still last me for a while.
Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula hand cream is on my night stand and I use it every single night, year round. It absorbs a bit slower than other lotions and really helps dry skin. I keep a mini tube in my purse in the winter, too, although the purse-size bottle of Aveena is also great for normal use. My favorite hand lotion is the one from Bath & Body Works in the rice flower and shea fragrance which, alas, appears to no longer be available. They used to have it in their annual re-release of old favorites and I would stock up but it's not there this year. Sob…

Base and Top Coats
I used to think that any old base or top coat would do but soon learned that some base coats interact with some polishes and cause streaky or gloopy application or don't adhere well. I do like the OPI base coat and will get it when Ulta has a special where it's free with any two OPI polishes, but for the most part I'm quite pleased with the SinfulColor base coat. It's inexpensive and is nearly a ridge filling base, but I tend to use the Essie base when I need a really smooth surface for polishes with a metallic or foil finish because those show every defect.
For a long time Seche Vite was my go-to top coat because it's so very shiny and dries so quickly, but I hate how it thickens when you're only halfway through a bottle, plus it's a little on the pricey side. Then I discovered RUSH at Sally Beauty and it's now my very favorite top coat. It's only $3.50 for an ounce, it doesn't thicken, and it applies beautifully. The only drawback is that you do have to wait an extra minute or two before putting it on, unlike Seche Vite, which lets you apply it immediately, but it's just as shiny and just as durable.

I used to wrap a bit of cotton around a manicure stick and dip it in polish remover to clean up around my nail beds, then I tried the pointy cotton swabs, but both of those always seemed to leave strands of cotton fiber in the polish. After a web search I found videos and blog posts showing how to use a small brush instead so then it became a quest for the perfect brush.
e.l.f. concealer brush and dapper dish
I did find several perfectly adequate brushes but eventually I kept reading in other blogs about the e.l.f. concealer brush, only $1 at Target stores. Only not my Target! But sometime last year they built one of those Super Targets near where I work and they had it so I stocked up (it's just my luck that when I find the perfect anything it soon get discontinued.) The brush head is small enough to easily maneuver and the bristles are stiff enough to let you scrub if necessary. I use a pipette I got at Sally Beauty to put about a teaspoon of pure acetone into the dapper dish after making a huge destructive mess by trying to pour it directly from the bottle. Then I dip the brush in the acetone, tap the excess off on the edge of the cup, swipe along the nail bed, wipe the brush on a tissue, and repeat until I have a neat nail line. So professional looking!

Rewards Cards
It would be remiss of me not to mention the advantages of getting an Ulta Rewards Card (free) and a Sally Beauty Card ($5/year, but cheaper for seniors and military.) The Ulta card gives you coupons and you get reward points based on how much you spend each quarter that you can exchange for products, although you can get the Ulta smartphone app for the coupons. The Sally Card gives you discounted prices in addition to monthly 15% discounts once you've spent a certain amount. If you shop at either of these places, in store or online, it's definitely worth getting the cards!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

NOTD - Cult Nails Ms. Conduct

I'm back with another polish from the Cult Nails Midnight Masquerade Collection.  Ms. Conduct is a dark brownish gray creme.  The formula was perfection and this is two easy coats.  I love this vampy neutral.  These are my favorite, go to winter colors.

I'll post the third polish from this mini collection, Midnight Mist asap.  Saving the best for last!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NOTD Cult Nails - Masquerade

I grabbed the Cult Nails Midnight masquerade Collection when it was available for preorder a while back and I'm SO glad I did.  I've actually never bought a full collection before and it's only 3 polishes but I love them so much.  Masquerade is a teal green jelly base with a pink to gold to copper duochrome shimmer.  This polish is complex and I love it.  I'm not usually one for a green polish but this kills me!


Monday, December 16, 2013

Super Black Lacquers - 3rd Degree & Heather

***Polish provided for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.***

Happy Monday!  I have 2 gorgeous polishes from Super Black to show you today.  Super Black has the most amazing formula, so soft and buttery.  I used two of the easiest coats for these swatches.

3rd Degree:  is a pearlescent persimmon colored polish with superfine gold shimmer. It's a warm, rich red-orange with a touch of metallic depth. Super hot!

Heather is a linear holographic polish in a purple base.  It's a soft, shimmery purple in low light, flashy holographic in sunlight and full-spectrum indoor light.  Opaque in 2-3 coats with a semi-matte finish. Don't worry about using a top coat!  Our holos look better and flashier without, and are durable and chip resistant on their own.  

 What do you think of these two colors?  I really love them both.  3rd Degree is so deep and rich and Heather is so holo but still retains that gorgeous purple.

Super Black retails for $12 and can be purchased here.  Make sure you keep up with them on Facebook for news and specials!

***Polish provided for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.***

Friday, December 13, 2013

China Glaze Holiday 2013 Happy HoliGlaze Collection Swatches

**The products featured in this post were provided for an honest review.**

Happy Friday!  Are you in the holiday spirit yet?  I am.  So let's get right to some swatches from the new China Glaze Holiday 2013 Happy HoliGlaze Collection!

Be Merry, Be Bright is a red and blurple glitter in a clear base.  I don't know if this screams holiday but I definitely love the color.  I layered one coat over Super Black Lacquers Spanked (review here) and I love this combo.  The glitter payoff is amazing for one coat.

Just Be Claws is a shimmering red foil and a stand out for me in the collection.  I know some people don't love red but I am a red lover in all forms.  I wore this to my company holiday party last week and got tons of compliments.  Two easy coats but honestly, you may be able to get away with one.

Mingle With Kringle (such a cute name) is a shimmering gold foil and screams New Years Eve to me.  I don't think it's great on my skin but it doesn't make me like the color any less.

Put A Bow On It (even cuter name!) is a fuchsia microglitter that builds up to opacity in 2-3 coats.  I did 2 coats for these pictures and was satisfied with the coverage.  I love this color so much!  I like glitter on short nails and I just cut my nails down so I might put this back on this weekend.  The color is just so pretty!

So Blue Without You is a shimmering blue foil.  I'm not a fan of blue polishes in general but this is definitely a one coat wonder and the color is gorgeous.  I would wear it in clothes but I just don't like myself with blue nails.  I could see a gorgeous blue and silver mani for the holidays though...

Snow One Like You is an opaque white texture polish with white hexes.  Oh Snow One Like You...you are the stinker of the collection.  I can see people using this for snow nail art but I couldn't wear it as a full mani.  I tried to save it and do one coat over a white base but it didn't really help.

Overall I love these colors for the holidays.  They are a great mix and variety.  Put A Bow On It and Just Be Claws are my favorites.  What about you?  Do you have any that you love?  Hate?

The Happy HoliGlaze collection consists of 12 polishes and you can see them all at China Glaze's website. You can purchase China Glaze nail polish at Sally's, Ulta, and many other salons.

**The products featured in this post were provided for an honest review.**

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Zoya Naturel Comparisons

Since the Zoya Naturel Collection had so many of my favorite colors you knew there were going to be comparisons, didn't you? Of course there were! Because Chantal was the one color that wasn't very flattering to my skin tone I don't have anything similar to compare to that but I do for the rest, so settle back and enjoy.

Taylor is very close to Avery, from their Winter 2011 Feel Collection. Just a touch darker and grayer but if you already have Avery you probably don't need to get Taylor.
zoya taylor, zoya avery, swatch, comparison
Zoya Taylor & Zoya Avery, two coats each, no topcoat

Rue is similar to a couple of OPI colors, My Very First Knockwurst and Tickle My France-y. It came closest to Tickle My France-y but they are all different enough to not be considered dupes. Both of the OPIs needed three coats to cover evenly.
zoya rue, opi my very first knockwurst, swatch, comparison
Zoya Rue, two coats & OPI My Very First Knockwurst, three coats
Zoya Rue, two coats, & OPI Tickle My France-y, three coats

Brigitte was also similar to Tickle My France-y but not as close as Rue is.
Zoya Rue, two coats, & OPI Tickle My France-y, three coats

Odette is close to both OPI Parlez-vous OPI and butter LONDON Toff. While brighter than Parlez-vous OPI, for those of you who have been pining away for that discontinued OPI this might do well in a pinch.
Zoya Odette, two coats, & OPI Parlez-vous OPI, two coats
Zoya Odette, two coats, & butter LONDON Toff, two coats

Normani is a dupe for Zoya's own Jana, from their Fall 2011 Smoke Collection. If you already have one of these mushroomy taupes that every polish manufacturer has come out with by now you probably don't need another, but who am I to talk since I have at least a dozen of them?
Zoya Normani & Zoya Jana, two coats each

So other than Taylor and Normani, the Naturel Collection is similar to several other colors but different enough to need them all, in my book!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Zoya Naturel Collection

**These products were provided for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.**

The Naturel Collection has got to be my most favorite collection that Zoya has ever brought out, neutrals with gray-pink tones and five out of six colors were total winners on me! Ranging from a pale nude beige to a warm lavender, the first five colors would make a great ombré manicure so you should probably get them all, just in case. (wink, wink)

I'll start off the mid-tones because those were my favorites from this collection. Rue is a pale pink similar to another favorite of mine, Mia, but slightly grayer and warmer in tone.  Perfect formula, opaque in two coats.
Rue, two coats, no topcoat

My second favorite is Brigitte, a darker version of Rue. Again, smooth application and you can really see the juicy shine of the formula here.
Brigitte, two coats, no topcoat

The lightest of the beige-toned colors is Chantal, which also has a more yellow cast so it was less flattering on me. Like many pale pastels, the formula on this one tended to be streaky and needed three coats to even out but it was the only one of the set that I had any problem with.
Chantal, three coats, no topcoat

Taylor is a perfect nude color on me! Darker and less yellow than Chantal it's a great mannequin-hands color and it also had that easy, shiny formula.
Taylor, two coats, no topcoat

Odette (I love that name!) is the darkest of the pink-toned colors and it's a color I always seem to be drawn toward.
Odette, two coats, no topcoat

Normani (is that a pun I see there?) is the odd one here because it's more of a mushroom-taupe color than a lavender. The color is one we've all seen many times before but here it has that lovely jelly shine that adds so much dimension to the color.
Normani, two coats, no topcoat
I just loved the formula on this collection, other than Chantal, which I think was a fluke. So squishy shiny yet still so opaque. Similar to a crelly but so much more. I hope this is a sign of things to come! I know I have to share them with Erin and Anna eventually but it may take me a while to get to the post office…

The Naturel Collection will be available in stores in January 2014 at USD$9 but is available now on the Zoya website.

**These products were provided for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Zoya Mason

Hi everyone!  We have some snow on the East Coast today so I hope you all are safe and warm.  I have a quick NOTD post for you, Zoya Mason.  I picked this up a couple months ago during one of Zoya's awesome promos.  This is such an Erin color, I love a good fuchsia polish!  This color really glows and the color is so flattering.

Do you have Mason?  Do you love it as much as I do?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Zoya Naturel Collection Press Release

I'm really excited to share with you the press release for Zoya's Naturel Collection — all my favorite colors in one collection! I can't wait to review them for you!

From the press release:
The natural nail only better... The Zoya Nail Polish Naturel collection masters delicate tone on tone color with six new, full-coverage (opaque) neutral nudes with a pink undertone, that can be worn beautifully alone or stunningly together to create modern tonal accents.

The Look: It’s not about matching - it’s about coordinating colors with slight tonal differences to create interest.

Zoya Naturel Collection
• ZP704 - Chantal: French Vanilla Cream, Full Coverage Formula.
• ZP705 - Taylor: Light Toffee Cream, Full Coverage Formula.
• ZP706 - Rue: Boudoir Blush Cream, Full Coverage Formula.
• ZP707 - Brigitte: Bombshell Mauve Cream, Full Coverage Formula.
• ZP708 - Odette: Sultry Maroon Cream, Full Coverage Formula.
• ZP709 - Normani: Sable Mauve Cream, Full Coverage Formula.

The Naturel Collection will be available on the Zoya website on January 1, 2014 for USD$9 each.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

OPI Spam Post

Did you know that Sally Beauty Supply now carries OPI? If you have a Beauty Club Card (and if not, why not?) they're $7.99 each and if you get their emails you often get coupons for 10%-15% off purchases so they're even less! Sally is having a sale this month to celebrate and if you text SALLY to 47766 you can get extra discounts texted to your phone. They're carrying over 90 shades so I thought I'd repost some of my favorites.

Tickle My France-y
Tickle My France-y
You're Such A Budapest (I can't believe I didn't give this lovely a post of its own!)
You're Such A Budapest
Black Cherry Chutney (Erin has some gorgeous photos on her review but I only have a comparison.)
Black Cherry Chutney
Pirouette My Whistle sandwiched between My Pointe Exactly
Can't Find My Czechbook (I only got the minis and never got around to writing a review!)
Can't Find My Czechbook

They also have all the the San Francisco collection, of which I only got A-Piers To Be Tan,  Lost On Lombard and I Haven't The Foggiest. (I got the last two for free during Banana Republic's 8 Days Of Giving — did you get any?) Look for those swatches soon!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

OPI French Quarter For Your Thoughts

After teasing you with some no-longer-available polishes I think it's only fair to give you this beautiful palate cleanser gray that is part of OPI's core line, French Quarter For Your Thoughts. Originally from their Touring America collection back in 2011 it's still a classic.
French Quarter For Your Thoughts, two coats plus topcoat
I don't know how OPI does it but they continue to come out with some of the best grays out there. If I had to choose only one to wear forever I don't think I could do it! This is a totally office appropriate warm neutral gray that belongs in everyone's collection.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Blue Monday: Sally Hansen Resurrection

I found this gorgeous blue in the clearance bin at Ulta earlier this year, along with Butterscotch, and I'm finally getting around to reviewing it for you now that it's too late to get it for yourself. Bad, bad blogger! Interesting name, too, since I think I may have worn it on Easter.
Resurrection, two coats plus topcoat
I didn't get it when it first came out because I was sure I'd already had something similar (I must have been in a no-buy period because when has that ever stopped me?) But when I saw it on clearance for a couple of bucks I decided to go for it. Good thing, too, because it's not a dupe for any blue in my collection! The closest blues were SinfulColors Rain Storm and Nubar Boyfriend Jeans but, as you can see, they are all very different.
L-R: Boyfriend Jeans, Resurrection, Rain Storm
Close, but not the same
I would say that Resurrection is a more faded version of Boyfriend Jeans if you're looking for a nice denim blue. And, yes, my OCD is in overdrive that I put "Rainstorm" instead of "Rain Storm" in the photo labels but I don't feel like redoing it so we'll all have to live with it.