|How can you resist this little face???|
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|
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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|
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!