I’m gonna start with my first faux-nadicure, that I actually wore last week, but haven’t had time to post as of yet. It’s a bit picture heavy, since I also want to show you the base color, since I am in love with it! I plan on wearing it on it’s own at some point, because it’s just too pretty to use as just a base color.

For this mani, I used Ulta’s Faded Blues from their I’ve Got The Denim Blues collection as a base, and Sinful Colors Almighty for the faux-nad.  I used a bundle monster plate, but I am nowhere near them at the moment and cant remember the plate number! I’ll edit this with the number later. 🙂 The rhinestones were an afterthought, just because I wanted a little bling.  They actually held on for a couple days too!

Not too shabby for a very first try, right? I was amazed that this was actually harder than water marbling was! But well worth learning. I love how konad/faux-nad manis look!

Here is Ulta’s Faded Blues. Check out the silvery white tones in this color. It really is a stunner!

I adore this color! The flashes of silvery white just make it for me. Application was a dream as well, no bubbles or streaking, went on smoothly and was opaque in one coat, but I always use two.  My apologies for the pic heavy post, but I just had to show off that color!

And now, Holy Grail talk! Cut, since this post is already so damned long!

So, I have finally found my holy grail base coat and top coat! Since I am just over the moon about them both, I figured a Kimber’s Holy Grail products post is in order! Not that my nails are so well adored and people are just dying to know what I use! 😉

Kimber’s List of Holy Grails! 

-Cuticles: Twice a week I do a “full” mani. As in whitening nail cleanser, cuticles, shaping and buffing, etc. I used to skip cuticle removers altogether since my cuticles were so horrible from picking and biting at them that they were pretty much gone anyway and what was in their place was a torn up, bloody mess. Once I really started getting into polish a couple months ago, I resolved to heal my poor cuticles once and for all! I no longer chew at them when I have a dry spot, I don’t dig into them with clippers or nippers anymore in an attempt to make them look less ragged (but ultimately more bloody and irritated), and I purchased and experimented with all sorts of cuticle removers. At first I swore by Sally Hansen’s gel cuticle remover, since it was the only one that could actually remove a significant portion of my stubborn cuticle overgrowth (the reason I was picking and biting at them in the first place). It left me with actual cuticle looking cuticles, without a ton of scraping, pushing, and using a crowbar and blowtorch combo to remove those nasty flakes attached to my nail plate. As my cuticles began to heal, the Sally Hansen gel ended up irritating my cuticles and removing more than I was after. I tried a different Sally Hansen, but still too strong and my cuticles, although now smoother and no longer overgrown, were very dry despite moisturizing during the day and using balm at night. On a whim i picked up a bottle of Revlon’s gentle cuticle remover. What a lifesaver! This product not only removes my unsightly cuticles, but it also moisturizes. It has a thin yet creamy formula, and a little goes a long way. You won’t catch me without it!

– Strengthen:  I use a coat of Seche Natural as my first base coat. I use 2 base coats since I have yet to find one product that does everything I need and doesn’t bubble, glop, streak, or take 2 weeks to dry. My husband picked up Seche Natural by mistake, seeing only that the box said “Matte Finish”.  Hubs has me paint his nails as well, dark manly colors with a matte top coat, so he thought he had found a new matte top coat. Oops! I decided to give this a whirl instead of my holy grail base coat, and although I love what it has done for the strength of my nails, it doesn’t smooth the surface of my nail at all, which I am OCD about since I have some ridges from overzealous buffing when I first started painting my nails again.  The strength and flexibility that Natural gives me isn’t to be discounted at all, so I rotated it into my routine, using it as my very first base.  Followed by….

-Protect: I cannot rave about this one enough! A few months ago (yup, it’s only been about 2 months since my polish obsession bloomed), my hubby replaced my engagement and wedding rings, and they are so gorgeous that I felt my naked and battered nails needed something so that my hands didn’t detract from the beauty of my rings. I had been allowing my nails to recover from a set of acrylics for a few months, keeping my nails short since they were so weak and brittle from all the buffing, filing, belt sanding, etc. that goes with acrylics. They were almost entirely grown out at that point, but I like having a hard, smooth surface to polish over (especially since I was so very bad at it at first!), and so on a trip to Sally’s, I picked up Salon Sciences “Instant Artificials” acrylic base. I use 2 coats of this over my Seche Natural to protect my nails and even out the ridges. It self levels, so I have a glassy finish to polish over, and as an added bonus it’s slightly tacky so my polish sticks to it like glue! When I use this, I don’t have any peeling at all, and even though I do get some tip wear after a day or so (all that typing!), never, ever a chip. I can’t say that of my other base coats (Gelous, Nail Magic, Hard as Nails). Since this product mimics acrylic, my nails appear to be a good 2x thicker after application. Unlike acrylic, it is easy to remove, and doesn’t have a heavy odor. I currently have 3 bottles in my stash, as well as a bottle of Nutra Nails Rock Hardener as a backup.

-Polish!: Ahhhh my favorite part of the day! Applying my color! I go through phases with different finishes and colors. My very fave color to wear on my nails is blue – any shade of blue. In fact, I have to work hard not to just load up on blue polishes! When shopping for polish, I literally force myself to look at colors that I wouldn’t usually be drawn to first, and then colors that catch my eye, and save blue for very last. Otherwise I will inevitable end up with a basket full of blue polish and cant find anything else that may be just as stunning as blue. Lately I have been picking up a lot of darker, vampy reds and purples, glass flecks, and duochromes. Glitter is slowly becoming a contender as well. The other day I picked up a Sally Hansen bar glitter (sorry, don’t have it in front of me ATM so no names), and since then I have been dreaming up pretty layering combos with my glitters. I typically wear my glitters on an accent nail, either as a full nail or in the shape of a shooting star. I also never really could get into bar glitters. I had seen a really sweet mani done with layering and bar glitter and decided it was time to pick one up. I layered it over black on a color wheel and wow! What a great look! Simple and fast, young and fun, elegant and relaxed. Just a very versatile look, and the rainbow holo in the bar glitter is just to die for! I’m still hunting for a good deal on Sally Hansen’s Nail Prisms, since I am really loving duochromes lately. The other day at Ulta I managed to come across a “new” (not really brand new, but still new to me so the sticker that said new on the bottle wasn’t really lying, right?) Essence polish called “Where is the party”. It’s a lovely silver/chrome polish with purple and teal, and is just gorgeous. It doesn’t photograph well at all, though. I may actually wear that tonight, since my Nfu-Oh 51 should be here tomorrow or Tuesday and I know damn well when that gets here I will immediately drop what I am doing to change my mani. Nfu-Oh 51 has been a serious lemming for me since I first discovered Lacquerized.  Nfu-Oh Opal series polishes are all over my wish list! But back to my point: polishes are very fave product ever, and I spend countless hours swatching, shopping, drooling over, and experimenting with them. Speaking of experimenting, I came across some pictures that show my very first “mani” from August (hard to believe it’s only been a couple of months and I’ve learned so much, as well as accumulated an entire 3 drawer storage unit full of polish, milk crates filled with nail art supplies, and 1/3 of a china cabinet full of various removers, thinners, quick dry sprays and drops, brushes, cuticle oils and balms and a little carry basket filled with all my basic mani supplies. My hubby swears that if I don’t slow down I’ll end up at 1000 polishes within a year. Especially since I started out with less than 10 polishes and in 2 months have increased that to almost 200 (birthday hauls, Dollar store and closeout store hauls, clearance hauls, Amazon and Ebay, etc. I can stretch a dollar when it involves my polish budget!). I don’t know how some of you with thousands of colors can pick a color! I have a very hard time with my little stash (a good 3/4 of which is unused), and often have to have hubs pick, or do something like let the dog sniff at them and whichever she noses or licks wins.)! Good thing I set a polish budget every month and force myself to stick to it. Otherwise we would be broke and swimming in polish! 🙂

-Top Coat:
As evidenced here, I have had one hell of a time finding my HG top coat. Since that post, I have encountered all sorts of little issues with Orly Sec N Dry. It doesn’t play well with duochromes at all, it hates some shimmers, and has some pretty harsh cuticle drag and tip pull; but only with certain polishes. I don’t like not knowing what my top coat is going to do to my mani, so I started using my Revlon Quick Dry more often, using the Orly with Orly polishes or over a regular top coat. It is a very hard top coat, and since I am the queen of dents and dings, i opted to just use a normal topcoat over my polish to eliminate cuticle drag and tip pull, make sure I wrap my tips and extend past my clean up line to avoid any chance of shrinkage (I do this with all top coats now since my experiences with SV really left me wary of deep dry top coats. I LOVE them since I don’t have time to just sit and let my polish dry for an hour or so, yet I also HATE them due to their inevitable “side effects”. I didn’t think finding a great top coat would be this hard (or expensive!)!
I still love my Revlon Quick Dry, but the formula is so thin that it does flood my cuticles at times. Its worth it for the shine, but that shine also comes with a price. This top coat is sooooo shiny and glassy that when I scratch the surface of my nail, even superficial scratches, it is glaringly obvious. I can literally count the scratches in the surface, even with a light polish color. Since I wasn’t 100% thrilled with both of these, and Seche Vite (Seche Cancer as my hubs calls it since it isn’t 3 free) is not an option save for my toenails, I decided to keep looking. I kept reading the reviews on MakeupAlley, tried a few more products, and eventually came across Essie’s “Good to Go” at CVS. I was hesitant since I had read that some people do have some shrinkage with this top coat, but hey, couldn’t be worse than SV! I picked up a bottle and used it on my next couple of manis. And wow! Color me impressed! GTG dries a touch slower than SV and Orly, but just a touch faster than Revlon. I have yet to see any shrinkage, it doesn’t smudge my polish, create cuticle drag or tip pull, doesn’t show scratches on the surface. It dries to a gorgeous, glassy, SV-like shine, and is hard as glass as well. I literally can’t dent my polish without serious effort. It doesn’t claim to self-level, but it appears to do just that. After 2-3 days still no chips, peeling, and very very little tip wear, which is impressive considering how much typing and household chores I do! My 16 month old son has even bit down on a nail, and GTG did not dent. I feel like a strange kind of loner since my HG is something other than SV, but GTG is most definitely my HG top coat. In fact, I need to pick up a few bottles in case of zombie apocalypse!

-Clean-up: Since my cuticles tend to get incredibly dry, you would think I would avoid using acetone whenever possible. Not so much. I have zero patience when it comes to polish removal/clean-up, especially if it involves glitters. For removal I use pure acetone in this awesome little jar with a scrubby brush kind of thing inside. This thing makes polish removal lightning fast, even with glitters! I know most people use the foil method, but I don’t have that kind of patience. Since the scrubby jar works so well, why try another method?
For clean-up I have a dappen dish that I fill with acetone. I have a bunch of different brushes, but my HG brush is a flat gel/acrylic manicure brush that I picked up for about 4 bucks at Sally’s. I’ll be stocking up on those as well, since it took me forever to find one that I really liked. They were either to fluffy, too big, too small, too wide, not wide enough, you know the drill. My backup brush is an organic wooden eyeliner brush with slanted bristles that I picked up at Wal Mart for around 5 bucks. It was my HG until I tried to gel brush, which creates such a fine line at the cuticle and gives me a ton of control. I use this dipped in pure acetone and clean-up comes out lovely, unless you look at the macro shots, in which case what seems to be a perfect line is really rather wonky!

-Moisture:
Hands: I used to just use EOS hand lotion to keep my hands moisturized. I wash my hands frequently, and they tend to be very dry, especially in fall and winter. EOS is a great product (I swear by their lip balms!), and I have zero complaints. I did want a product that worked a little better on my cuticles for general moisturizing and daytime use though. Since I have struggled for so long to get my cuticles in decent shape and they tend to get very dry very quickly, I decided I would look for a hand lotion that was formulated for hands and cuticles. I hit pay dirt on my first shot! While perusing Walgreens one day, I came across Sally Hansen’s Nails and Cuticles Hand Creme. It runs about 6-8 dollars for a 3.4oz tube, but is well worth it. Mine lasts me about 2 weeks since I moisturize several times daily. It does claim that it will last through hand washing, but I work with dogs outside all day, so I wash my hands probably about once every hour and a half to 2 hours. I have found I need to re-apply after every third wash or so. It is a light creme, absorbs quickly, has a lovely light citrus scent and does a fantastic job at keeping my dry hands and cuticles moisturized throughout the day. I also use this at night before I apply my cuticle moisturizer.

Cuticles: I’ve tried a ton of cuticle oils, balms, and cremes. I was using California Mango hand and cuticle, which is a lot like orange colored Vaseline with a mango scent. It worked great in the short term, but my cuticles would be back to dry and ragged looking within an hour or so. Being petroleum based, it didn’t absorb well at all, and most of it ended up on my sheets and pillows. The only thing I liked about this was the scent. I then tried a cuticle oil that I picked up at Sally’s for around 4 bucks for a giant bottle. I use this immediately after a mani, and it works well, but it *is* an oil so it only absorbs so much before it just smears all over everything I touch. For a good while I was using Sally Hansen’s Apricot Cuticle Cream. I loved this product so much that I kept 3 on hand – 1 for my purse, 1 in my mani kit, and one as a spare. I used it before bedtime every night, and in the mornings if my cuticles were still a little dry. For the most part it did a wonderful job. My cuticles were no longer like bits of jagged plastic! My biggest complaint was that this creme does not absorb well at all. It’s a very heavy, almost wax-like creme that you have to really work into your cuticles. Even with tons of time and effort, a lot of the product just stuck between my nail plate and cuticle, leaving an unsightly orange line around the nail ( you can see this in some of my pics). It did the job though, so I stuck with it. Every time I tried a different product my cuticles would dry out again and I would end up back with dear old Sally and her orange tint. Last week I braved a new product, thinking I would end up back with my Sally Hansen creme again. Not this time! My HG had arrived! I had read rave reviews about Burt’s Bees Lemon butter cuticle creme, so I picked it up while at Wal Mart. I was in love the very first time I tried it! The scent is lovely! Very light lemon – quite unlike the pledge scent some people had mentioned. Its definitely a balm, very smooth and lush. Within a few minutes of applying this bad boy my cuticles were soft and supple. Amazing! I was used to products that didn’t show any results until the next morning (save for the hand and cuticle creme), and I was floored that Burt’s Bees worked so quickly! Since it is a balm, I thought it would feel heavy and greasy, but it is very light, and the greasy feeling lasts about a minute or 2 before it absorbs. It leaves very little product behind, so I no longer have to scrape cuticle product off my nail plate in the morning. My cuticles have never looked better! I have been using this morning and night, and as long as Burt’s keeps making it, I’ll keep using it. I hear Lush Lemony Flutter is even better, but I cant find it anywhere here, and since I have Burt’s I really don’t need to go hunting for it online. I’m happy with what I have (for once!). EDIT: I am allergic to my HG Cuticle Cream! Back to the damned drawing board, but for those of you that aren’t allergic to bee by products, by all means, try Burt’s Bees!

I think that’s it. At least I hope that’s it, since Im tired of typing now, and I’m sure you’re tired of reading (if you made it this far).

Next up: Milani One Coat Glitter an Nfu-Oh 51!

Happy Polishing!

-Kimber

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