Nails and nail art seem to be in the media spotlight more now than ever before as trends have gotten more extreme and products have grown more advanced. Adele’s Louboutin-inspired nails at the Grammys? Top coats with a pottery-like effect? UV lights? The hottest ‘now’ nails aren’t your basic manicure. While there are plenty of drugstore and make-up store tools and polishes to help achieve the look, some work better than others.
Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Polish Strips
Although they may look like stickers, the Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Polish Strips really are nail polish — I don’t know the how, but I do know they smell and feel like the real thing, which is trippy all in itself.
I have had amazing luck with this product, removing it more often than not because my nails grew out and not because the pattern chipped away. There are a few note-worthy tips I’ve discovered that really help the polish function. Like most polish, it seems to work best if you wipe your nails (even clean ones!) down with polish remover before applying. To completely seal the look in, finish with two coats of clear topcoat.
The only issue? These nail strips are hard to remove. Normal nail polish remover does the trick… slowly. I recommend a textured cotton pad or a small piece of felt soaked in polish remover to rub away the product.
The small kit comes with a wide range of strip sizes and I aim to use strips slightly smaller than my nail. The only real issue I had was peeling around edges I didn’t seal correctly, areas where the strip stuck to my cuticle. It’s better to have a thin line of bare nail than a missing hunk of print, right?
To get your money’s worth, try buying these strips from a major retailer (Walgreens, CVS or Target) during a ‘Buy One Get One 50% Off’ promotion, which seem to be fairly common.
Rating: Hello, new love! I’ll take one in every pattern.
China Glaze Magnetix Nail Lacquer with Hardeners
After seeing such perfect-looking results pictures on websites like Pinterest, I was thrilled to try magnetic nail polish. I choose China Glaze because of the three pattern options, despite my surprise upon discovering the magnet must be purchased separately (an additional $10.00 at Ulta).
The directions recommend a specific top coat which I admittedly did not have; since it didn’t say anything about magnets in the topcoat name I assumed it was product placement rather than necessity. They then explain one coat of the polish should be painted on, then five to 10 seconds of magnet and voila, there’ll be pattern on your nails! If only.
While none of the magnets seemed to work within 10 seconds, I was able to get a semi-clear pattern to appear eventually. There is a definite difference between the magnets, as the stripes showed up quite nicely and the chevron-like pattern looked like a pathetic smudge. The starburst, which was the pattern I was most excited for, worked about half of the time and looked like a poorly drawn asterisk instead of the beautiful star I’d seen in the pictures.
To be honest, I gave this polish more tries than I should have. Time and time again I wiped my nail clean, swiped on some polish and thought ‘I know what happened! I’ll get it this time!’ Alas, I’m starting to think it’s not a me problem and more of a polish problem.
Rating: Am I doing it wrong?
Nutra Nail Gel Pefect UV-Free Gel-Color
A long-lasting gel manicure without the salon price? Sounds wonderful! That is exactly what this at-home kit advertised, hence my major attraction.
The three-step process (activator, polish, brush cleaner) is easier to master than I had guessed. It was, however, a peculiar smelling process; in fact, the odd smell lingered in the finished, polished nails until I took the polish off.
My list of product complaints starts with the funny smell and continues into chip-ability and harsh side effects. The polish was chipping off in excess by the next morning, despite the fact that it was my day off and my hands had done little typing, no dish washing and hardly any other nail-ruining tasks. I tried to touch up the problem areas but they chipped yet again.
Perhaps the only perk of the Gel Perfect kit is that the polish really did dry completely within the five-minute time frame it advertised on the box. Sadly, that only seems beneficial if the polish stays put.
After two days I took the polish off, using the sold separately remover, and discovered the tops of all my nails were breaking, peeling, cracking and practically crying. Need I say more?
I can’t imagine this is what a gel manicure is supposed to be like.
Rating: I returned it. I’m still mad. ‘Nuff said.
Salon Express Nail Stencil Kit
This “As Seen On T.V.” nail art set allows beauty enthusiasts to decorate their tips with patterns and symbols. The process seems simple enough: drip polish on engraved image, scrape excess away, transfer polish with stamp.
I gave this a few tries with no success, despite my diligent reading of the instructions. After glancing at a few customer complaints online I discovered some things the directions forgot, mainly that there is a plastic film over both sides of each disc that must come off but is so nicely attached it doesn’t want to. This is around the same time I realized said discs are sharp on the edges, hence the odd contraption that comes with the kit to hold the disc whilst you stamp.
Once I tried stamping the correct way I was amazed to see it actually worked — it wasn’t perfect, but it was good and getting better each time I tried. There is hope!
Unfortunately most of this hope came crashing down when I went to clean the polish off the tools and sliced my thumb open with that darn sharp edge. I still can’t decide if I want to try again, mainly because it feels like a huge, deep paper cut and I’m afraid I’ll start throwing the discs like cosmetic ninja stars if I get sliced again.
Rating: It doesn’t matter how good the nails look when there’s a bandage on the thumb.