Cosmetics technology advances at an incredible rate. I know you guys have heard of acrylic nails. You’ve probably also heard of gel manicures (like Calgel) and — the latest breakthrough — gel-polish hybrids (like Shellac by CND). These options are tougher (longer lasting), more expensive, and not as DIY as regular polish. But in addition to their multi-week weartime, gel and gel-hybrids let you create nail looks impossible with ordinary polish.
When I was in New York for Fashion Week, I met up with fellow blogger and professional nail tech Solessence — and she asked me if I’d like her to do my nails. Heck yeah!
Hillary doesn’t just offer excellent manicures; she also specializes in “after-market” upgrades, like glitter. If I was going to step up my manicure in terms of technology, I wanted to do something I COULDN’T do with regular polish. I decided to go for full-on glitter.
Hillary used a gel-polish hybrid called maniQ (by Young Nails). I have naturally peely nails, and Miss H said she’d found flexible maniQ to work well for splitting or peeling nails. She buffed my nails lightly to get rid of any peeling, pushed my cuticles back, then got to work.
She applied base coat, two coats of dark blue (Blue 101), then dusted my nails with very fine iridescent glitter (craft store? MAC glitter? I don’t actually know). Finally, she applied a top coat to seal it all and make it smooth. After each coat of varnish, I stuck my hand in a UV lightbox to cure. The process took an hour and a half in all (including our myriad color tests), and the results were DAZZLING.
You’ve never seen a manicure that looked so precisely like a mermaid’s tail. The glitter rainbowed down to blue at an obtuse angle, up to yellow-green-with-a-bit-of-orange at an acute angle. Something about a gel-hybrid topcoat makes glitters insanely sparkly — they’re clearer and brighter and blingier than you would have thought possible. People walked across the room to ask me what was on my nails. And it was really nice to wake up every day with my manicure looking as perfect and shiny as if I’d just had it done.
I peeled labels off things and pried my way into boxes fearlessly. This stuff is STRONG. After three weeks I had one tiny chip on my thumb.
Naturally, your nails will grow in 2-3 weeks. I tried not to think about the growth too much, and resisted the urge to push back my cuticles. Honestly, the manicure was so blingy, I don’t think anyone really noticed (or they were nice enough not to say).
Hillary advised me not to clip or file my nails (as that would risk breaking the seal). Unfortunately, I wear contacts, and at some point my nails just got too long. I did my usual clip-and-glass-file and didn’t have any problems (my nails weren’t difficult to clip or shape, and it didn’t seem to affect the manicure at all).
Hillary/Solessence lives in Wisconsin, so if you also live in Wisconsin and you’d like her to do your nails, give her a call:
Harpo’s Classical & Innovative
5585 N. Diversey Blvd
Whitefish Bay, WI 53217
Her gel manicures start at $35.
Finally, in order to write a proper article about the experience, I needed to document the removal process. I called Young Nails, and they explained that my options were either to go to a salon and have the manicure filed off (yikes!) or soak my fingers in acetone. They suggested using the foil method (soaking a cotton ball, positioning it over the nail, then wrapping it in aluminum foil to hold it in place) — they said 10 minutes ought to get it off.
Ten minutes did not get it off. I can only assume that my glitter choice made the removal process more complicated, but getting my fingernails clean was a long and traumatic process. I ended up soaking my fingertips in straight acetone for 20-30 minutes at a time (via the foil method, in multiple sessions across several days). Soaking made the polish brittle, and then I could scrape/chip it off with a fingernail… but scraping too aggressively was damaging.
Maybe the removal process would have been easier if I’d gone to a salon. My takeaway is that gel-hybrids yield dazzling results… but I think I’ll get it done on my toes next time.