Nail Art 101 – Water Decals

We’re taking things one step at a time here, for the sake of those new to nail art. Because of that, I felt that to open my Nail Art 101 series, we’d start with one of the simplest ways to make your manicure looking gorgeous and complicated! There are two main types of water decals: ones that are small and that I lovingly refer to as Partial Decals. There are also options that cover the entire nail in a print, and I call these babies Wraps.

 

Wrap Decals
Wrap Decals

Water Decals are super fun and easy to use. Nine times out of ten you’ll want some form of a base color to put the decals on top of. I want to make sure when I say “Base color” in this excerpt I am talking about a base coat and at least two coats of the desired nail polish. Especially if you are using a partial decal. If you are using a wrap it in part comes down to the wrap itself. I’ve had one or two that were opaque enough that they didn’t necessarily need a base color, but by adding a base color it can change the mood of the design. Something like a simple white can bring it to a bright and vibrant life. Black and dim things down to an extent, or something like a grey is great for cooling it off. Etc., etc., etc. Other wraps require a base coat, usually a white in those instances, at least to acquire the effect displayed on the packaging.

 

To apply a nail decal, once you have your nailed polished, you’ll need:

  • A small cup or bowl of warm water (warm water always works best, but if it is cold out side, it will be very difficult to get the decal to come free with cold water).
  • Tweezers are usually a good idea to have on hand incase you need them, depending on how thin the decal is once it comes free.
  • A paper towel or napkin. Ideally I would avoid a tissue because it will come apart if it gets too wet, and leave parts of itself behind on your mani, and cleaning that off can cause some issues with the placement of the decal shifting.
  • Nail File – Depending on whether it is a wrap or a partial decal or a wrap, and
    Partial Decals
    Partial Decals

    where the decal is going, you may require one to clean up the free-edge of your nail.

  • A Clean-Up Brush – These you can either get a small squared off make-up brush, or they usually come in groups of Nail Art Brushes. The links below will take you to a few pages where you can buy some if you need them. These are just a few, there are tons of options out there!
  • A bottle of 100% acetone. When it comes to clean up around the edges of your nail, removing parts of the decals that are on your skin, you want pure acetone. Polish remover is not pure acetone because it does not have to be, but it will not do such a clean job of removing stuff from your skin.
  • Scissors

Now that we have everything we need to get going, shall we? Take a look at your decals. usually, they are sorted and ordered along the page by size, so it is easy if you want the size of the decal to correspond to the size of your nail. But feel free to mix and match them! This is your mani after all. You have complete control so you an get exactly what you want out of this.

Pick a decal and cut it out of the sheet of decals. Be very careful not the snip the decals around it. If you hold the page up to the light, usually you will see that there is a clear or white border around the decals, that is difficult to see without the reflection of light.

Once you have your decal cut out, pinch it in the tweezers and plunge it into the water. Normally I try to grasp the edges of the paper cutting that do not have the decal on it, simply so that if the decal should come completely off in the water, the tweezers don’t accidentally tear it. But sometimes that is not an option, so you just have to be vigilant.

Normally it takes anywhere from 10-20 seconds for the decal to become loose enough that you can slide it off the paper. I usually check it and lightly rub it between two fingers to see if the decal while shift for slide at all. If not: then back into the water with it for a few more seconds. If the decal does slide: great! Note: Don’t peel the decal off the paper if you can avoid it. Peeling the decal off the paper opens it up to many opportunities to tear. Instead, slide part of it off the edge of the paper and use the tweezers to gently grab it and slide it the rest of the way off.

Next you want to place it on your nail. Just a heads up, some decals stick in place very well after you dry the water off of them, and some of them won’t stick in place well until they are top coated, both of which can pose tricky situations, so just be ‘ware. Make sure that you get the decal as close to the correct positioning as possible when you lay it down. Once it is on the nail I like to start with the pad of another finger and press it firmly into place. This will press any water between the nail and decal out and allow the decal to – hopefully – become fixed where you have it. Some decals are nice and while you have your other finger pressed on it, may allow for some gentle adjustments in placement.

Once the decal in pressed into place, use the paper towel to gentle absorb the rest of the water off your nail. Make sure you get all of it, otherwise the water will bubble under the top coat. Don’t top coat just yet though.

If part of the decal is hanging over the free edge of your nail, use your nail file and at a 45-90° angle, file the excess off. Should come away super easily. If part of the decal is hanging over the skin around the nail bed, use your Clean-Up Brush, dipped into your 100% acetone, and clean it up. Make sure that your Brush doesn’t have too much acetone on it so as to flood your cuticle. If it happens it’s not a super big deal, but it can mess up the edges of your mani and you will want to make sure to douse your cuticles in oil once your mani is all done.

Once the edges are all dialed in, now you can sweep your Mani with a Quick Dry Top Coat. And off you go! And make sure to be proud of that mani. You just did that yourself, and I bet it looks awesome!


Natalie

The Basics of Polishing – Manicure Prep

Are there are secrets to starting off a manicure right? I think this is a question every woman asks at some point in her life, and honestly, probably some men as well. And the answer is “Yes!” There is a correct way to starting off a manicure correctly, but don’t worry, it’s actually pretty simple, and it has everything to do with Nail Care. I will go over the extensive options for Nail Care in that specific series, but be warned, there may be some overlaps here.

If you are just starting this for the first time: take your time. Don’t rush anything with this process. It will set you up for success with your manicure, and make things ten times easier next go-around.

Step 1: Wash Your Hands

Say wha’ now? Yes, wash your hands. Get any and all dirt off of them, and make sure you get under your nails. Sounds pretty simple, but excess dirts and oils on your hands can cause some issues with your mani.

Now, let’s add a Nate-trick here. Wash your hands with a sugar scrub instead of a soap. I will admit, I have never come across this being used by anyone else but it is amazing! I personally just buy some by Tree Hut® from the store, and I do this for three main reasons:

  1. Exfoliation – it helps remove dead skin and calluses from your hands.
  2. Cuticles – Oh yes, it works wonders with rough cuticles, and helps minimize maintenance on them, by doing most of the work for you, and the sugar does it so gently.
  3. Moisturize – manicures are rough on hands and specifically fingers. I’m not going to sugar coat it, they are. Sugar scrubs are a great way to prep your hands before you do anything, because they almost guard your hands from the worst of it, such as acetone and getting dried out.

Step 2: File & Shape Your Nails

I cannot stress this enough: Do not clip your nails. As someone who fought weakened nails for years, using clippers made it so much worse, and I had no idea what I was doing, until I came across another blogger who pointed this out. I unfortunately cannot remember where I found it, but to whom it may concern: a most sincere Thank you! The force of clipping your nails, even though to some it may not seem as much, frays the free edge of your nail, starting your impending broken or peeling nail for you.

It is much nicer on your nails to simply file them down. For some this may seem like a chore, but as I said before, if you do this before each manicure, or once every two weeks even, it is not that terrible of a chore. It is actually something I enjoy doing while I sit in front of the T.V. with my family at the end of the day. Take heed to file your natural nails properly, otherwise filing them could also be detrimental to their health. A lot of people file their nails with fast, sharp back and forth strides with the file. That is not proper etiquette for natural nails. That is only allowable when filing down built-up acrylic nails. When filing your natural nails make sure that you consistently file in the same direction. Did you know that the fibers that make up your nails are essentially woven in a criss-cross? Filing back and forth, weakens that weave at the free edge and essentially starts any fraying that you may be trying to avoid. By filing in a single direction, your nails will adjust to it, and it will in turn, help your nails grow stronger.

There are many shapes of nails that you can files your to, and we will cover them at some point in another post, but the simplest, and usually most attractive shape to most people is the most natural, and/or that reflects the shape of your cuticle bed, for the sake of symmetry. If you struggle with weak nails, I would recommend starting by keeping your nails shorter for the first couple manicures you do, to help avoid any unnecessary possibilities of breaking or damaging them.

Step 3: Cuticle Care

The next step to prep your nails for a manicure is to take care of your cuticles. Now, I want you to take a good close look at your nail. Most people call the skin bed around the base and sides of the nail bed, the cuticle. I am going to bust that myth right now. That is actually called the Eponychium. Your cuticle is the thin sliver of tissue between the base of your nail bed and the Eponychium.

Your cuticle can cause issues with your mani staying put, if it is left in the way. Don’t think I want you to go cutting it or anything. Nothing of the sort! We’re simply going to move it out of the way. You may use an orange wood stick or there are metal cuticle pushers available. Word of Caution: The metal cuticle pushers are great because they can move most of the cuticle at a time but it is very easy for you to scrape your actual nail with them if you apply too much force.

With either of your choice, you’re simply going to push your cuticle back towards the Eponychium. Sometimes, pushing your cuticles back can be difficult, and can cause them to rip if they are too dry. If this is the case then simply apply a bit of cuticle oil, or olive oil will do the trick if you do not have any. You do not need a lot of the oil, just the smallest amount will do. Paint it around all three edges of your nails and rub it into the nail bed and cuticle, minding to rub towards towards the free-edge of your nail. Not only will this massage the oil into the cuticle quicker, but it also stimulates healthy nail growth. Once the cuticle oil is completely absorbed and your cuticles are in place, you’re ready to move on.

Step 4: Dehydrate Your Nail Bed

That sounds much worse than it actually is, I promise. If you are someone who struggles with nail polish staying on, it may be due to the natural oils our nails produce to keep them moisturized. Polish or any Base Coat, won’t adhere to the best of its abilities to a nail covered in oils. For this you will need a bottle of 100% acetone and a medium sized brush. Drip the brush in the acetone and simply dust it across your nail bed. It will be cold, and pay attention if you have any torn cuticles, because that can hurt if you get acetone in the wound.

The nice thing about using a brush and keeping the brushing to a minimum is that it only removes the oils from the surface of the nail, and doesn’t dry out the complete nail. Once you’ve done this then congratulations: you’re ready for your Base Coat and then the Mani.


Natalie

The Basics of Polishing – The Base Coat

I wish to welcome all of you who are new to the idea of nail polish and nail art. If done correctly, even a simple nail polishing can look exquisite! Which is why you and I are both here. One of the most important steps of a manicure is laying a solid foundation for it

Step 1: The Base Coat

I have heard, seen and read it various ways with various opinions on the use of a base coat when painting your nails. As someone who genuinely cares about the condition of my nails, I always use a base coat, for a few different reasons, which I will share with you. Ultimately it is up to you to decide if you want to use it. If you decide not to, I would only urge the use of a base coat if you are using a highly pigmented polish, so as to avoid staining your natural nails.

Base Coat has a few helpful perks. The first is that it helps the adhesion of the polish. Polish adheres better to a base coat than most natural nails due to the oils of your natural skin. If you struggle with wearing polish because it just comes right off, I would suggest trying a few different base coats and see if one stays on your nails better than polish. Different brands of base coat will stay and sit on your nails differently. It is alright to go through a few different types of base coat before you find one that you like best.

Base Coat also helps your polish lay smoother across your nail. It may come as a surprise to some of you, but most women have ridges of varying degrees in their nails. It is nothing to worry about, it is a rather natural part of aging, as our nails slowly dry out (I will touch on this in a different post). Whatever you do, please do not sand these ridges down to get your polish or natural manicure to lay smoother. Base coats help fill these in just a bit, and if the ridges in your nails are severe enough, there are actually Ridge Filling Base Coats. If you do go for one of those, I would recommend trying to find a fibrous one, because not only will it fill in the ridges with a more natural appearance, it will help strengthen your nails as well.

Some of us have very thin nails that are soft and weak and that love to break on us. I will let you in on a little secret: I actually use a Nail Strengthener as my every day base coat. As a quick bit of background on myself, when I was just out of high school, I was dealt the blow of becoming seriously ill. Due to this, my body made the decisions for me to let me hair and nails start to fail, in order to overcompensate for the ailments I was dealing with. As someone who has loved my nails since I was little, it was devastating to see them start to crack and splinter at the simplest touch. I was used to nice strong nails, that were straight and narrow with a slight curve to their almost straight free-edge. Gorgeous they were, and I knew it and I loved it. This is when I started to do some serious research into extensive nail care, to try and make up the difference with the available nail care products and procedures. It has taken time, almost five years now, and they are finally getting back to what I would consider normal. Using O.P.I.’s Nail Envy Nail Strengthener was my saving grace for my weakened nails. And the nice thing is, unlike normal base coats, it dries super fast. And you can feel the difference once you have it on.

Going off of that, there are tons of various nail-care products that can act as a base coat, to help your unique situation with your nails. For example, O.P.I. has treatments and strengtheners specifically for aiding Soft & Thin® nails, or Sensitive & Peeling®  as well as what they call their Healthy Maintenance®. Or China Glaze has their Calcium Gell Fortifier®, which covers weak, dry and/or splitting nails. Using those treatments, in combination with a polish on top of it, could help give your nails the support and protection they need to strengthen and improve on their own.

Base Coats have many uses and perks. I know that it is something I will never go without, and something that I would recommend to anyone who puts polish on their nails. Unless an allergy is involved, Base Coats are a precaution to protecting your natural nail, and more harm could be done going without, than the few extra minutes of time.


Natalie

Polishes – O.P.I.

O.P.I.

Three simple letters that pack a big punch. From my days of scouring the nail-web, O.P.I. is easily one of the biggest, if not the biggest, player in the polish department. If you have never used their polishes, or are just starting out and are unsure of what polishes to buy, O.P.I. is a dependable source. New bottles usually go for around an average of $10.50/bottle, depending on where you shop. It is a little spend-y compared to a bottle of drug-store polish, but you get a lot of polish in a bottle, it lasts for years, and they wear great.

The pigments that you see in the bottle are fairly accurate when they are dried on your nail, and depending on the color, they can take a few coats to get the desired result.

>>SIDE NOTE: I want to take a second here to comment on something that I have seen in this industry, in blogs, youtube channels, etc., etc., etc. Not all nail polishes are supposed to cover in one coat. Sure, it can be nice sometimes when it is possible with some colors, but that is far from the most important thing about a polish. Layers and coats is what helps the color wear longer as well as be stronger on your nail. Thinner layers are harder to chip than thicker ones. Above and beyond that, the designers that create these polishes have achieved exactly what they wanted to with a color before they release it, and with most colors, that requires more than one coats. Be it for the depth of a jelly or the coverage of a glitter, or the smoothness of a solid. Multiple coats are not a bad thing to have in polishes.

Ok, rant over. Moving on.

O.P.I. also loves their collections. They have a new collection for every season that comes out, and then some additional ones scattered in between, usually with some fun effect, such as their Metemorphisis® Collection.

O.P.I. is a staple in my personal collection and I thoroughly enjoy playing with their colors. O.P.I. also has a complete line of what they call their Infinite Shine, which is a line-up of lacquer colors designed to have a gel-like wear without the hassle of a salon or the gel polish itself. It is a system that entails a three-step process including a proprietary base coat that uses ProStay technology, the color coat itself, and a setting top coat that enforces the entire manicure while giving you a maximum shine. If you are someone who struggles to keep polish on your nails for more than a day, or even a few hours, this may be something to look into and see if it will work better for you.

For those who are more experienced with nails, and want to venture into the realm of gels, O.P.I. also has that for you. I will admit that I have no personal experience with their gels, but I do have my experiences with the rest of their products, and given that, I would recommend the O.P.I. Gel Collections for sure.

O.P.I. makes a great product so it is no wonder they are an industry leader. I will definitely be following up with them as new collections come out and as exciting events take place. If you have any collections that you would like to see swatched, or have questions about, I invite you to place them below and I will get back to you.


Natalie