28 January 2014

Top 10 Manicure Items

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polish insomniac's Top 10 Nail Tools

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is all about our favorite nail tools.  Trying to narrow my favorite nail tools down to ten is like trying to ask a mother which of her children she loves more!  So instead of ten individual items, I am going to bring you “categories.”  Let’s see if I can truly get it down to just 10!

Tip:  Unlike emery boards, glass nail files last forever.  When they lose their grit or get cloudy, simply wash them with soap and water. 

1.  Nail Files

I started using glass nail files several years ago and I will never go back to use regular old nail files!  My favorite glass files are from Mont-Bleu and Cult Nails.  I always file my nails before I remove my old polish – having a color on my nails when I file allows me to better see the shape of my nails and create a more uniform shape across all my fingers.

Use these before doing your nails so your skin doesn't look hard and dry in photos!

2.  Cuticle oils and creams

I sometimes get rude random comments on Facebook about my hands and how great they look, basically implying that I must not have a real job, do dishes, or basically act like a normal human being.  In real life, I have a full time job at a office superstore that has me opening cardboard boxes, unloading pallets from trucks, changing shelf labels, and lugging around giant boxes of chairs and printers.  I generally am only able to swatch two days a week, Thursdays and Sundays.  And believe me, unless I put a lot of effort into moisturizing my hands before my swatching sessions, you would not want to look at my pictures very closely!  My secret is oils.  I apply oils multiple times the day before I swatch, and often in between swatches!  In the past I have really enjoyed using argan oil, but currently I am rotating between an awesome apricot cuticle oil by Cowshed, and from ybf intended for your face!  I love to apply the oils first, then slather on a generous layer of Rococo Cuticle Cream to seal in the moisture.

Cuticle Softeners - Use the Deborah Lippmann once/week and the Sally Hansen daily

3.  Cuticle Removers

I am a big fan of cuticle removers.  There are two different ways to using them – using a weekly (or as needed) product like Deborah Lippmann’s Cuticle Remover, or a daily product like Sally Hansen’s Cuticle Eraser + Balm.  I actually prefer using a daily product because it is easier on your nails, but I am rather forgetful and often fall back on my Deborah Lippmann instead. 

I also love using the Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover when I have a polish that stains my nails!  I just apply it over the nail, let it sit for a few minutes, then massage felt over the nail to remove.  Works like a charm!  A cheaper alternative is the Blue Cross brand at Sally’s, though I personally find it a little harsh
Use felt instead of cotton balls to remove your polish.  You will save money and improve your cuticles at the same time!

4.  Felt

I learned about using felt a few years ago on Makeup Alley’s Nail Board.  There are several reasons I prefer felt over cotton pads to remove polish, the first being it’s cheaper!  I buy it two or three yards at a time from Michael’s (they ALWAYS have coupons).  $10 worth of felt will actually last me almost two years.  It does take a long time to cut several yards of felt into little one inch squares, so I usually try to rope my husband into helping me while we are watching TV.

The second reason I prefer felt over cotton pads is that it gently exfoliates your cuticles while you are removing polish!  Which means you won’t need to use as much cuticle remover!

This scrub from Barielle is my favorite for getting stuck on glitter off my skin

5.  Hand Scrub

I actually only have one product for this category!  After using several different hand scrubs (both those intended just for the hands and those intended for hands and body) I have fallen for Barielle’s 60 Second Mani-Pedi.  It smells wonderful (like a Push-Up Pop!), feels great and leaves my hands moisturized, thanks to ingredients like Grape Seed, Avacado & Soy Bean Oil.

I always use this right before a big swatching session, and it helps remove any dead skin that thas built up around my nails, as well as removing any stubborn pieces of cuticle.  What I really love using it for though is removing stubborn glitter than won’t come off in between swatching!  There is nothing worse than swatching the perfect crème and taking the perfect picture than looking back at said picture and seeing tiny pieces of glitter that got left behind.

Tweezerman makes the best nail tools!

6.  Implements (aka Nail Tools)

One of the areas I absolutely refuse to skimp on is nail tools.  Using a quality nail tool can make a world of difference, and Tweezerman makes the best, hands down.  (Get it?  Hands down?) 

Use the Tweezerman Pushy just one time and I promise that you will never go back to orange sticks for pushing back your cuticles!  And because I do get a lot of hangnails (thanks again to my job) I absolutely cannot live without the Tweezerman Cuticle Nipper.  Just don’t cut your cuticles (unless you absolutely positively know what you are doing).  Just use it for removing those pesky, painful hangnails.

My Favorite Base and Top Coat PairingsTwo of my go-to top coats (when I'm not using CND Air Dry)

7.  Treatments, Base coats and Top Coats

I could write a whole separate post on this (and maybe I will?) but let me just run down my favorites.
  • Favorite Base Coat/Treatment – Salon Sciences Instant Artificials 
  • Favorite Top Coat – CND Air Dry
  • Alternate Favorite Top Coats – Seche Vite for when I am in a hurry or using a non B3F polish; HK Girl for glitters that require more than one coat of top coat (because layering SV is not pretty).
  • Any time I use butter LONDON polishes (and since they are one of my favorite brands I use them a lot!) I use their Nail Foundation and Hardwear Quick Dry Top Coat.  There is much to be said about using a brand’s matching base and top coat – the chemicals were designed to work together and I can definitely get longer wear out of my butter LONDON polishes when I pair them with these!

    Help your mani dry faster and prevent smudging with CND Solar Oil or Drying Drops from Qtica or Zoya

    8.  Solar Oil and Cuticle Drops

    If you are a klutz like me, the first thing you want to do after finishing a fabulous mani is protect it with some quick dry drops.  For the longest time I relied only on Qtica’s Half Time Polish Drying Accelerator (what a name!) but I highly suspect Zoya’s version is the exact same thing (after all, they are the same company).  However, I stopped using them both completely when I discovered CND’s Special Edition Solar Oil.  It smells SO GOOD!  Nothing like the original. 

    Zoya Remove+ and Orly Thinner.  One takes off your polish, the other thins out a polish that has dried out or is too thick.  They are not one and the same!

    9.  Remover & Thinner – Same Category, Not the Same Thing

    If your significant other complains about the smell every time you pull out the nail polish remover stop what you are doing and order Zoya Remove + right now.  My husband used to complain every single time until I bought this.  It smells good, plus it contains moisturizers so it doesn’t over dry your skin (or leave that horrible white cast that pure acetone leaves behind.

    Have you ever heard someone say that you need to throw polish away because it “went bad?”  THEY ARE WRONG.  Have you ever heard someone say that you can add some nail polish remover to a polish that has thickened or dried up?  THEY ARE WRONG TOO.  Scrangie said it best in this post.  Let’s just say I have owned this bottle of Orly Nail Thinner for 5 years and I still have plenty left.  WORTH THE $4!  It is perfect for making a polish that is “too thick” just right.

    My favorite winter Hand Creams from Neutrogena and Barielle

    10.  Hand Creams

    I don’t reach for super heavy duty hand creams all the time, but with this being the most frigid winter that I can ever remember, these are the only two hand creams I am using at the moment
    • Barielle Intensive Hand Treatment Cream – this cream was actually created for (and tested by) jockeys softens and moisturize hands while forming an invisible shield to help protect against water, wind or extreme cold. 
    • Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula Hand Cream – I forgot just how wonderful this product really is, although my husband and I both enjoy the original “with fragrance” version!  The best part of this product is that it really “sinks in” to your skin.  Within about 60 seconds you can’t even see that you applied it, which is great for when you want to take pictures of that fabulous mani!

    What are YOUR favorite nail tools?  What else do you think I should have included in my list?

    Disclosures: polish insomniac at times reviews products provided by a representative of the company. When we do so, we specifically state so. We also use affiliate links. For more, please see the disclosure page.