Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Boots Haul!

Okay, okay, I know I've been rubbish recently... The past few days have been dedicated to essays, so I've hardly had time to think about my nails. However, since I'm ahead of schedule with my deadlines, I decided to give myself a little break today. It was a lovely coincidence when I checked my bank balance and found I had money (the last week of the month is always a painful, poor one, so when the 30th hits I am in my element!) so I had a little splurge...

I've never tried L'Oreal nail products before, partly because of the price tag, but also because the colours are always pretty standard. But today in Boots I spotted a few gorgeous bottles, and when I noticed the 3 for 2 stickers all over the stand, I knew I had to take the plunge and try them out! I opted for shades 602 'Perle de Jade', 204 'Boudoir Rose' and 104 'Macaron Noisette', which are all gorgeous and creamy and girly. The pale jade colour also totally matches the top I'm wearing today, which I took as a definite sign to buy buy buy! I also bought my favourite Maxfactor mascara and powder, and since there was a 'Buy 1 Get 1 Half Price' offer on this brand, my total spend came to around £20 (rather than the £35-ish it would have been).
The nail polishes are from L'Oreal's Colour Riche collection, and according to the website the 'built-in top coat LiquiGel Technology offers easy application, even coverage and lasting glossy shine. The patented brush technology gives extra precision. The flat brush holds the formula,  so colour is applied to nails easily.'* I can safely say that is very accurate advertising, as each colour was easy to apply and the brushes made for a neat and tidy finish. They're also very even and glossy, and I especially like the subtle gold shimmer throughout 'Macaron Noisette'. Only time will tell if they're long lasting, but so far the quality is fantastic so I doubt there'll be much chipping or peeling. 
Looking online, I've noticed lots of bargain retailers selling the Color Riche varnishes for around the £1.50 area, however the shades are quite limited. I'm normally a devout online shopper but sometimes it's nice to go to actual shops and have a proper browse, try out products and compare colours. Plus I got my Boots points which is an added bonus :)
I'm planning on funking up this manicure later tonight or tomorrow, and should hopefully post a decent tutorial in the near future... Once these darn deadlines are out of the way I will be back to my regular blogging self, I promise!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Summer Sparkles

This is going to be a very quick post since these nails need little explanation! They're much simpler than my usual designs but I love how sunny and sparkly they are. I used Missguided 'Misslead' (free in a magazine agesssss ago, I'm sure many other ladies have this polish!) over Fearne 'Lemon Drizzle', which is a gorgeous lemon yellow. For my accent nail I applied 3 coats of my old faithful Models Own 'Juicy Jules'... How amazing is this nail varnish?! Because a girl can never be too sparkly, I finished off with yellow gems in a triangular shape at the bottom. This is one of the shades I got in my little £1.00 gem wheel from Amazon... Bloody bargain! As always I topped my nails with my Models Own 3-in-1 clear coat.

It feels kind of weird doing a tiny post without a photo tutorial, but I guess it's proof that I don't ALWAYS have extravagant nails!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Purple Plaits

This manicure is pretty plain compared to some of the others I've done, but I wanted to do a tutorial of what I think is the easiest way to achieve a braid effect. I've seen lots of step-by-steps which I find much more complex than this way, so if you've struggled with plaits before, see if you find this tutorial easier :)

The equipment:

Natural Collection 'White'
Fearne 'Cotton Candy'
Rimmel 'Pompous'
Models Own 3-in-1 clear coat
Silver gems
A fine nail art paint brush
I started off with a white base, and applied 2 coats for a clean finish. I made sure that the polishes I used in this manicure have a thick consistency, as the colours were to be layered on top of one another. Using watery or pale nail varnish will cause a plait manicure to be extremely tricky, so stick to thick brands and opaque shades.
Once dry, I started adding diagonal stripes in pale and dark purple. The Fearne brushes are quite smooth and narrow, so easy to apply freehand. However, Rimmel brushes are quite thick, so I had to use a paint brush for the dark blocks of colour.
When my first set of stripes were dry, I began to create the plait effect. Using the dark purple, I painted a triangular shape on top of the white at the base of my nail, and made sure it joined up to the pale purple stripe neatly. 
I then used the white to create another diagonal stripe, which cuts across the pale purple and ends on the edge of the dark purple. The pattern repeats with two more diagonal stripes, and I made sure that the colours remained in the right order.

I neatened up any suspicious looking areas and then applied a clear coat, which made for a better finish. On my other fingers I just applied 2 coats of 'Cotton Candy' and finished with silver gems! As I said before, it's a pretty simple manicure, but it looks really cute. The plait will probably look more effective with thinner stripes so that the pattern can continue for longer, so next time I think I'll just use a fine paint brush all the way through!

Has anyone else attempted braid/plait nails? And what kind of technique do you use?

Naked Nails... Eeeeek!

Recently I've been on the receiving end of lots of nail related questions, whether it's about how I achieve my designs (this is also answered with LOOK AT MY BLOG!), what brands I use (a variety, but Models Own is a firm favourite), and where I get my stuff from (I always find AmazonDirect Cosmetics and Nail Polish Direct reliable and extremely purse friendly). I'm also approached for general advice on nail queries, and although I am by no means a nail care professional, I think it's about time that I dedicate a post to the basics! 

I spend a good long while on each manicure I create: thinking up the design, picking out colours, making mistakes, swearing, removing it all and starting again, spilling nail varnish remover everywhere... You get the picture. Anyway, it takes bloody ages to achieve my most detailed stuff (Pastel ButterfliesChinese Porcelain and Big Cats, to name a few), and although I'm generally happy with the results and love receiving compliments, I feel no sense of sorrow when scrubbing back to a blank canvas for my next design. Removing one manicure just makes room for the next, and means I can spend some time pampering my hands and nails prior to the next round of nail art!
So before the nail varnish, paint brushes and glitter come out, these are the products I turn to. I use a Boots own nail polish remover which, despite being acetone based, is enriched with moisturising oil and stops my nails from drying out. I have to use this remover because acetone-free just doesn't seem to the job properly, especially with all the layering up of colours in some of my designs. 3 or 4 cotton wool pads tend to do the job for both hands, and are much easier to use than cotton balls!

Once my nails are free of nail varnish, I use my Sally Hansen Gel Cuticle Remover. I got this from Direct Cosmetics for an amazing £1.99 - it came with a double ended tool for pushing back and smoothing ridges, but since I don't tend to suffer from uneven nails, I stick to my little pink and white cuticle tool. I leave the gel on for a few minutes, then push back and neaten up any raggy bits. I then trim and file my nails (how cute is my zebra print glass nail file?!), and use the tweezers to clean beneath my nails (a bit gross, yes, but when you have long nails it can be a problem...)

When I'm happy with the shape of my nails and neatness of my nail beds, I wash the remaining cuticle gel off my hands, and start moisturising! Palmer's is one of my favourite brands and I swear by their products. As you can see, my Skin Therapy Oil is running out, but I've had it for a couple of months and use it every day. I think it was about £3.00 from Wilkinson's, so definitely a worthwhile buy. I rub it into my cuticles, and because it's a quick absorbing formula, it leaves my fingers feeling fresh and moisturised without any grease. I also use this oil for dry skin on my arms and legs, and it works like a charm :)

I don't always use a specific 'hand' cream, just any good moisturiser that I have lying around (there are quite a few, it's a bit of an addiction). I got the Palmer's butter in my Cosmopolitan freebie bag the other day (see here for details), and it was perfect timing since I've only just run out of my other bottle. It's so important to keep your hands moisturised, especially if, like me, you take A LOT of photos of your nails! Once my paws are smooth and soft, I finish off with a coat of Sally Hansen Age Correct Strength  Dry & Brittle Nail Care, which is also courtesy of Direct Cosmetics and was amazingly cheap. My nails aren't naturally strong, so I have to make sure I keep them topped up to avoid any breakages. I try to use this product a couple of times a week at least, and it's really making a difference. If you're prone to snaps and tears, give it a go!

Ok so I'm going to be really brave now and actually show you my bare nails... For some reason this feels really wrong, but at least it's proof that I only paint on my natural nails (I have been accused of falsies in the past!) Like anyone who wears nail varnish every day, they're slightly more yellow than I'd like, but overall they're in pretty good condition apart from a pesky cuticle or two!
I love spending time pampering my hands and getting my nails into good condition before the next manicure. But I must admit, the sight of naked nails makes me feel slightly uneasy, so it won't be long until my next design!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Pastel Butterflies!

Hi guyssss. Today I decided to do some super girly nails, with lots of pretty colours and sparkles! My last attempt at butterfly nails was way back in 2012, just as I had started to get into nail art. At the time I thought they were absolutely amazing and I was so proud, but I can safely say that I've come on leaps and bounds with this manicure.

The equipment:

Models Own 'Peach Sherbet'
Models Own 'Pastel Pink'
Essie 'Sweet Talker'
Fearne 'Cotton Candy'
Fearne 'Lemon Drizzle'
Models Own 3-in-1 clear coat
Models Own black nail art pen
Silver gems
A kitchen sponge

Yes, a kitchen sponge! I've tried using soft make up sponges for my nail art, but even with gradients I find my trusty kitchen sponge to work the best. Plus they're less than a pound for a pack of four, so they're bargainous AND effective! 

So I started out with my base coats, applying 'Peach Sherbet' to my thumbnail, blue 'Sweet Talker' for my index finger, 'Pastel Pink' for my middle finger, 'Lemon Drizzle' for my ring finger, and finally the purple 'Cotton Candy' for my little finger nail. I decided to have different bases for each nail as I wanted  a bit of variety, and I knew I'd be sponging the other colours on top eventually.
Once dry, I began work with my sponge! I snipped off a section so that I had a few different lengths and shapes to work with...
Using a flat edge of the sponge, I blobbed on the colours in different positions, and layered them up for a funky graffiti effect...
As you can see, the blue and purple stand out the most. For the paler colours I made sure to dab again with another blob of varnish on the sponge, but I didn't worry too much about the solidity of the colours as I knew I'd be adding another design on top.
I then used the sharper edges of the sponge for thinner, more defined patches of colour. These turned out really well on my thumb nail, middle finger nail and index finger nail, where the purple and blue cut through the other colours beneath.
Next I took my black nail art pen and applied the outline of my butterfly. As I always say, get to know your nail art pen prior to attempting complex designs, since the amount of pressure you apply to the bottle is important in the avoiding of mistakes! A fine paint brush would probably suffice if you don't have a nail art pen :)
Then I filled in the wings with little swirly patterns and dots. I also thickened out some parts of the outlines, and made sure that I was completely happy with the final design. Finally I added little silver gems for the butterfly's body! As you can see in the first picture, all the butterflies differ slightly in their angles and patternings, but I think this just makes more a more interesting nail design :)
Once 100% dry, I topped with my Models Own clear coat. I really love this manicure; it's so cute and girly, and the butterfly design was pretty simple to achieve despite it looking rather complex! Have you ever tried a design like this? And does anybody else employ the use of basic kitchen utensils in their nail art endeavours?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Cosmo Careers Masterclass!

Last night I attended the Cosmopolitan Careers Masterclass in Manchester. Although I was initially unsure of how beneficial this would be, I am so so so glad I decided to part with £30.00 and secure myself a ticket. The event was so worthwhile; the panel were fantastic, the advice was priceless, and the freebies were also an added bonus!

Held in the Renold Building of the university, the class took place at 6.30pm, and was filled to the brim with young ambitious women (and a couple of lads!) who want to forge a career in the Media. I was pretty worried about finding my way there, despite actually going to Manchester University and having access to Google Maps, but the lovely ladies at Cosmo sent a confirmation email earlier on in the day and attached a little map for those of us who lack a sense of direction! I was also concerned when I saw lots of girls arriving in pairs or groups, and was dreading being a little lonely goat... Luckily, once I'd grabbed my free glass of wine, I bumped into the lovely Carey from Rare Fashion Finds. We had a good chat before the class kicked off, and she liked my nails! (I was in such a rush beforehand that I hadn't any time to post a tutorial, but for those who are interested, I did a version of the design in this post. However, rather than purple, I did pale pink to hot pink gradient nails).

Anyway, when we entered the lecture room there were immediate squeals at the goodie bags lined up on the desks! When you think freebies, you picture little paper or plastic carriers with a few little testers and some vouchers stuffed inside. Cosmo take this to another level...
Big bags = lots of goodies, and nobody was disappointed! Along with two of my favourite products, Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula and DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, every girl received Beverly Hills Formula 'Perfect White' toothpaste, Little White Lie tanning lotion, Umberto Gianni 'Frizzi' hair oil, Creighton's 'Fake Don't Bake' tanning cream, and NYC lipstick in 'Flirty'. We also got floss picks, a fake tanning mitt, a lip paint, Kleenex shine absorbing wipes AND a packet of Popchips... Generous or what!
Once we'd gotten over the excitement of our goodie bags, we all settled down for a talk from the panel. Although this consisted of amazing women such as Cosmo's Editor-in-Chief Louise Court and Digital Editor Pat McNulty, it was Rachel Burke-Davies and Lizzi Hosking who made the biggest impression on me. They were such relaxed, chatty, friendly women, and had heaps of advice along with funny little anecdotes. Although I've never thought about pursuing a career in Radio, Rachel is the definitely the sort of presenter, and professional, that I'd want to be like! Lizzi was hilarious and 100% honest about her job role; it's so nice when hugely successful women are down to earth as well!

Following the talk, which covered everything from perks of the job to work experience nightmares, there was a Q&A session with the audience. I kind of wish I'd spoken up, but I hadn't really got anything to say (surprising!). The session ran over about 25 minutes so quite a few girls had to get up and leave early, which was kind of disruptive, but I guess they had buses and trains to catch. Luckily for me I could hang about, living so close by and everything! This sort of event reiterates how lucky I am to be living in such a busy, vibrant city, and even the panel made a point of saying that not EVERYTHING happens in London, and there's plenty of stuff going on up North too :)

Anyway, I'll stop all the chit-chatting and get to work on my nails. I feel guilty whenever I post and don't include anything remotely nail-related, but I promise promise promise that I'll come back soon with a brand spanking new design! Ooooh and for anybody that found this post interesting, Cosmo are holding a Superbloggers masterclass in the near future, so I completely recommend!

Update: As all those who are Social Media savvy do, I linked the details of my blog and this review to my other networks. To my absolute disbelief, I received an amazing mention from the Cosmo Beauty Team via Twitter! For those of you who don't follow me, hit the pink birdie button on the left, and you can be inundated with even more nail arty posts (along with general chit chat, random nonsense, and a few moans & groans!)

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Big Cat Nails!

I'm so excited about this post, but dreading how long it's going to take... Just a warning, this is going to be A LOT longer than my usual tutorials, because it involves such intricate designs. There will also be lots and lots of photos, but I guess that's not a bad thing! Anyway, I've been planning this manicure for a very long time, ever since I first created my Cat's Eyes nails. As the old saying goes, practise makes perfect, and I think I've come a long way since I first attempted this design.

I know I normally list all the equipment I use, but this would honestly take forever. Instead, I'm just going to say that I used about 17 polishes, 2 nail art pens, and two nail art brushes. In my step-by-step photos I will try and mention each colour I used, but apologies in advance for anything I miss! Anyway, here's where I found my inspiration. Good old Google images! I found lovely detailed photographs of a lion, a leopard, a snow leopard, a tiger and a panther.
I decided to use the panther for my little finger, as there's not as much to it. Initially I painted it black as you will see throughout the tutorial, however I eventually realised that it would work best in a dark grey with added black details.
I applied the bases, using Fearne 'Lemon Drizzle' matte yellow topped with Missguided 'Misslead' shimmery yellow for my thumb, Models Own 'Nude Beige' topped with shimmery gold for my index finger, matte white for my middle finger, 'Fuzzy Peach' topped with Fearne 'Burnt Out' (a sparkly orange) for my ring finger, and then black (eventually swapped to Barry M 'Grey') for my little finger.
Once dry, I started adding the details. For my thumb, the lion, I used 'Fuzzy Peach' to shape around as the mane. I did this using a fine paint brush, and then added further details using the sparkly orange. For my leopard, I blobbed on a brown/purple colour for the beginnings of leopard print, and did the same for my snow leopard using grey. I then added white highlights for the eyes and snouts of my lion and tiger, and used Models Own 'Nude Beige' for these sections of my leopard. 
I then started adding the black details, using my trusty Models Own black nail art pen. I added a few more details to my lion's mane, making sure that I didn't squeeze too hard on the bottle and cause any casualties! My nail art pens are old faithfuls, and I use them so regularly that I know exactly the amount of pressure to apply and the speed of the flow. If you don't have nail art pens, or don't trust yourself with them, then a fine paint brush and black polish will work just as well!
I added further detail to my leopard print, bordering the original dots and then adding a few more little black dots. I discovered that small, tight leopard print looks best when doing my Pink Leopard Print Nails, so I made sure that I did this throughout.
I did the same for my snow leopard, ensuring that I shaped around the edge of my nail and left enough room for the cat's face. I could already tell that the snow leopard was going to end up being the prettiest cat; black and grey on clean white looks so effective!
Using the same black nail art pen, I added some tiger stripes, along with a few little 'splodges'. I decided  to make these stripes a little bit haphazard, rather than keeping them very structured as I did in my Animal Print Nails.
I then added blue or green dots for eyes, using Models Own 'Feeling Blue' and 'Jade Stone'. Obviously the panther was later wiped away and begun again in grey, but I still kept blue for the eyes. I knew that the tiger would look best with green because it contrasts well with orange, and the same for the snow leopard.
Now it's time for some more black detailing! I outlined the eyes in almond shapes, leaving enough space to fill in with white. I then added a little nose and whisker dots.
I did the same for my snow leopard. As you can see, the eyes look a little bit wonky, but you can hardly tell with the finished product! It's so hard to make everything perfectly symmetrical in nail art, but you can always cover up mistakes. 
My leopard ended up very cross-eyed, and you can tell that I squeezed a bit too hard on my nail art pen when outlining his eyes! Never mind...
I finally added more black details to my tiger, who is probably the most symmetrical cat! As you can see, I extended lines slightly beyond the noses.
Finally I added white to the eyes, and black dots for pupils. I used my finest paint brush and shimmery gold to add highlights to my lion, making for a more textured fur. I added the same final details to my other cats, using the shimmery gold again for the tiger. For the leopard I added further white highlights to the 'eyebrows', and did the same in grey for the snow leopard. I also took darker shades of the eye colours - No.7 'Totally Teal' and Rimmel 'Azure' -  and carefully outlined the irises, however you can hardly see this in the photos! My little panther nail was constructed in basically the same way as the other cats; grey base, white muzzle, blue eyes, and black details. I always seem to neglect my little nail, but it's just so small that the designs never look as good.
So there we go, Big Cat Nails! This manicure took sooooo long but I am really pleased with the results. I think this might be my favourite design yet... Let me know what you think! Has anyone else tried a design like this before? 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Union Jackie Nails!

So yesterday I managed to spill nail polish remover all over my iPhone. I spent the rest of the day trying to dry it out (pointless really since solvents dry instantaneously, and so no amount of rice made any difference), then researched my insurance plan and realised it'll cost me a minimum of £50 to get it fixed. ANYWAY, it's still completely usable and the only issue is the screen, which now has a lovely patchy effect across it. It's not really noticeable unless I'm loading up a blank page, so I reckon I'll just have to live with it. My sparkly gold case was not so lucky - overnight the acid went to work bubbling and disintegrating the plastic, so I'm crossing my fingers that this won't happen to my phone as well!

This morning I reopened my nail art box, and decided to try a design that I've been thinking about for a while. It's a girly take on the Union Jack, swapping red and blue for pink and purple, and adding a little gem. All of this was done freehand as I want to get as much practise with straight lines as possible, so apologies for the messiness! I think they look quite cute, but they're not an all-time favourite. Maybe if I'd kept my nails square it would have looked better... Anyway, here's how I did it!

The equipment:

Natural Collection 'White'
Models Own 'Pastel Pink'
Fearne 'Cotton Candy'
Pink gems
Models Own 3-in-1 clear coat
A fine nail art brush
I started out with white bases, using 2 coats to achieve a good finish. I didn't realise that this Natural Collection varnish is actually a nail tip whitener... I got it from Boots as they have a 3 for 2 on cosmetics at the moment, so I couldn't really resist. It seems to work okay, but it's nothing to write home about!
Once dry, I started adding crosses using my fine brush and the pale pink. As I said before, this was all done freehand, so the lines aren't perfect. I think I did pretty well though!
When my pink St. George's cross was dry, I added the outlines of triangles using purple. These were really tricky to do, and I had to make sure that my paint brush was carefully cleaned prior to application. I also cut away any stray bristles which could have caused trouble!
I filled in the triangles, leaving enough white gaps to finish adding the St. Patrick's saltire (yes, I am a geek who researched exactly which part of the United Kingdom each section of the flag relates to!)
Once complete, I added a pale pink gem to the centre of each flag, and then finished with a top coat. The Models Own clear coat always seem to neaten out any messy bits, and creates a lovely finish. As I said before, this would probably look better with squared off nails, but I'm still pretty pleased with it. I'm probably the least patriotic person in the world, but I've seen so many Union Jack/flag nail designs, I had to add a Little Tip Off twist. Maybe I'll try this again with striping tape, to ensure straight lines and symmetry, or mix it up a bit with different flags for each finger nail!
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