Monday, August 13, 2012

Get Salon Perfect Nails At Home

Welcome to "Second August Post" S+SR Readers!

So Summer is ending....  But mani/pedis are a year round affair right?  But if you were at all like me, I had no idea how to do this myself.  Most of my initial attempts involved paint everywhere, bending into strange positions, and a small amount of choice words.  But at $30 a mani/pedi (at best), from a salon, what are you supposed to do?!  Never fear, Susan Sparkles has solutions to make your nails shine and sparkle like a pro!  Please bear with this longer than usual report.** 
Side Note: If you are unfamiliar with the tools involved, I suggest Googling them.  You can also often buy mani/pedi tool kits that have all the necessary tools for quite a reasonable price. 

Susan Sparkles-Nail Model.  Normally nail models are holding flowers or zen rocks.  I am holding a "Moofia" figure by Tokidoki.  Got a problem with that?!

The Basic Manicure/Pedicure:
This is basics of what the salon people do before they actually paint your nails.  While this part is great before those special beach days or romantic vacations, I personally do not find this to be a time effective step for my day to day life (I normally I paint after I get out of the shower and moisturize after all the paint is dry.)  But for you gals (and guys) that want to look fresh out of the salon, here is a quick run down:
  1. Remove Old Polish-  I suggest using any 100% acetone nail care product and a cotton ball.  It is cheap and much faster and more effective than your standard nail polish remover.  It is a bit harsher on your skin, but it is why the salon takes 30 seconds to remove polish and you are at home scrubbing forever.
  2. Trim/File/Buff- At this stage I trim long nails with a nail clipper and use a nail file to shape the nail the way I want it.  Next is use a nail buffing tool (basically a block with different grades of sand paper) to buff the whole nail to create a smooth surface.  Always start with the roughest part of the buff and work your way to using the smoothest.  Some salons use cuticle oil (I just use jojoba oil and it works just fine) on the cuticle and nail before buffing.  I do not find this necessary, but maybe you do.
  3. Soak Hands/Feet-  Fill an appropriate container with warm water.  Add Epsom Salt in amounts for "foot/hand soaking" according to the directions on the package. You can buy this in bulk at any drug store or mega store (Costco*, Target, Etc...)  You can get smaller amounts that have essential oils that smell good for a higher price, but the base of all bath soaks is Epsom Salt.  I go the cheap route.  If I'm feeling special I add some essential oil but it is not necessary.  After soaking, use a towel to dry hands/feet.  I also take this moment to clean under my nails.  You can use a specific nail cleaning tool...or a tooth pick.
  4. TrimPush-Back Cuticles-  There are many cuticle tools available for cheap on the market.  Always use them when your cuticles are soft.  Only cut parts that are excess and "dead" looking, if you cut healthy cuticle it will come back with more dead parts than before.  I honestly prefer to just push back my cuticles to avoid possibly cutting myself or damaging my nails.  You can do this with a specific cuticle pushing tool or just with the thumb nail of your opposite hand.
  5. Moisturize- Have you noticed that moisture is a huge part of all Shine and Sparkle Report articles? Anyway, salons moisturize with lotion at this point to lock moisture into the skin after the soak.  You can use whatever moisturizer you want, specific hand/foot lotions exist, but unless you have extreme need for them, I prefer to stick with whatever I have on hand (no pun intended.)  Salons then spray the nails with rubbing alcohol to remove lotion residue and start painting with a clean surface.  I personally like to moisturize after all my nail polish is dry to avoid another step.  You might want to do it by the books.
That was a laborious processes I know.  I tend to do the whole mani/pedi and painting process while watching a marathon of my favorite shows.  I also know a lot of people like to do the Mani/Pedi one night and paint the next.  Honestly, it's all about what you are willing to do. 

On to painting those nails! I'm going to detail two options.  Option 1 is a little more expensive in the long run but is fool-proof & saves time.  Option 2 is most cost effective but takes some time and practice.  There are 3 basic stages to painting nails: Base Coat, Color Coat(s), Top Coat.

Painting Nails Option 1: Nail Strips-
What are these nail strips you say?  They are real nail polish (base coat, color coat, and top coat) that have been 95% dried in nail shaped strips then vacuum sealed.  You peel them from the backing and place the appropriate sized on directly on a clean nail then remove the excess.  They dry in 1 minute and then you can carry on with your life!  So easy!  They come in colors, french tips, and patterns.  The idea has been adopted by all sorts of drug store brands (like Sally Hansen) but I have found INCOCO Nail Strips to be the very best I have come across.  The site has tons of "How To" videos, FAQs, and so many fun options.  Read through their "Lean" section and you will be a nail strip pro!  The sets (for both hands and feet) range between $7-15.  This is more expensive than a bottle of nail polish but for perfect patterns and french tips, I couldn't ask for anything more.  

Painting Nails Option 2: Traditional Polish-
When I'm not doing anything fancy enough to warrant using one of my beloved nail strips, I paint my nails in the traditional fashion. I am not going to get into nail art or anything fancy in this post, but leave a comment if you are interested in such a post!  

You will need: Base Coat, Color Coat, and Top Coat.  As for brands of base and color coats, a lot of Salons use O.P.I or Essie (around $8 a bottle).  I have had equally good experiences with cheap drug store brands.  I like Wet n' Wild-Mega Last and Sinful Colors Professional  both under $3 and lots of trendy and classic colors.  FYI, both of these paint quite thick so you might only need one coat.  I like to do 2 coats of this and achieve a more shellac nail look-I have seriously had nail salon professionals start trying to take off my polish like you have to for shellac and I had to tell them it was just regular polish!  

Once you have practiced the technique of painting your nails, it will just come down to what consistency & price point you prefer. That being said, I have found Seche -Dry Fast Top Coat to out shine and sparkle any other top coat on the market.  I feel that it is a worth while investment.

  1. Basic Idea:  1 coat of base coat (let it dry completely).  2 coats of color-1 coat of color for thicker polishes, unless you want a more shellac look. (let each coat dry completely). 1 coat of top coat (let dry completely).
  • Mini Tip: Time for coats to dry is time consuming! Be patient!  To avoid finger marks, you can tap two nails together and if it is still tacky, you need to wait longer.  If you don't wait in between layers the top layers will dry but the inner layers will be wet.  Then when you touch something, the polish will shift and wrinkle.  This is something that nail salons never do.  It is frustrating to pay for a mani/pedi then wrinkle or chip your polish right after leaving the salon...
      2. Some Professional Tips:
  •  Scrape off excess polish about 1 side of the polish brush and .5 of the other side on the edge of the bottle before beginning painting (just 1 side for big nails.)  Too much polish on the bush means globs coming off when painting and resulting in a mess.
  • Steady your hands on a flat, well lit surface to paint.  Painting up in the air is a lot trickier!
  • Start painting in the center of your nail.  For each coat, carefully push the brush down towards the cuticle but don't touch the cuticle!  Then, use small strokes to bring the color to the tip (you will have nice stripe down the middle of your nail.)  Then repeat this process shifted slightly to one side then the other.  You are basically using small strokes to create a nail shape of polish on your nail as close to the cuticle as possible without touching it.  The second color coat and top coat will go much faster because you have your fist color coat as an outline.
  • Seal the polish during the Top Coat stage. This means dragging the paint across the edge of your nail (the part exposed when you cut/file your nails.)  This prevents water from getting under your beautiful paint job and causing chips as fast.  The edge will wear away first and extend the life of your manicure.
  • Clean up any polish that gets on your skin.  I have two little tricks for doing this.  1) When the mess up is still wet take something thin and hard (like a thin coin, edge of a paperclip, fake plastic nail, etc.) to remove.  This is essentially what the salon professionals do when they clean any messes up with their own nails.  This is best for mess ups that touch the newly painted portion of your nail.  2) If they are really small mistakes that do not touch the actual painted part of the nail then I let that mess up dry.  I either take it off with acetone on a q-tip or scrape it off in the shower after my skin has been soaking for a while (make sure your mani/pedi is REALLY dry before attempting this touch up.
Last point of this very long report:  Practice makes perfect!  No matter what, you are your harshest critic.  Most people wont notice an imperfection or two as you learn.  No matter if you are a pro yet or not, I hope you found this helpful to make you...

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. 

**Take my advice at your own risk...that being said, I think it's great advice! Consult with your doctor, especially if you are taking medications or may/are pregnant.  If you don't, "it said so on the internet" is not a great explanation to St. Peter.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Alternative Menstrual Products Review

Hi S+SR Ladies and Curious Men (Who I encourage to share this with any appropriate people!)

Welcome to August! Today I am here to sing the gospel of alternative menstrual products.  I thought it was about time to have another reminder that Shine and Sparking also means taking care of what is inside of you.  If you are overly sensitive or squeamish I might stop reading.  That being said, I plan to write this as professionally as possible as to try and educate rather than make people uncomfortable.

That being said, I feel that this is a really important subject for us ladies. As hush-hush we try to be about this subject, it is a reality for just about every woman at some point in her life.  A wonderful friend of mine introduced me to this concept while we were roomies in college.  It was revolutionary.  You might be thinking "Hey Ms. Sparkles, take your hippie notions somewhere else."  While this might sound kinda granola, it is actually common sense.

Diva Cups* and Luna Pads are great alternative products to revolutionize your life!

Reasons to use Alternative Product for "That Time of the Month":

1) Health**:
In a nutshell, disposable menstrual products use chemicals.  If it is bleach to make the materials white or some strange substance that absorbs tons of liquid due to science.  They often have chemicals with (I think strange) fragrances as well.  None of these things should be in such a sensitive area in my opinion.  There are disposable menstrual products without bleach or fragrance. If you HAVE to have something disposable, you might want to look for these.  They do tend to cost a bit more.  In addition, lets just say anything with small fibers that goes into your body, inevitably leaves some of those fibers in you.  While it's worse if these fibers have chemicals, I just don't like the idea of stuff that [insert deity of choice] didn't intend to be in there....being in there.... Don't tell me that Toxic Shock Syndrome thing doesn't worry you juuuuust a little.  I will testify that after cutting out the disposable products, I had a significant decrease in the things that you take Midol for. What isn't to love about that?!  Now, I know there are people who think this is baloney, but hey, I'm not alone in this view, here is a link about menstrual products and health considerations.

2) Environmental Impact:
Here is the granola bit.  Pretty much think about every woman on earth.  Think about how they each use disposable menstrual products once a month.  Think about how you never see a "recycle" or "compost" bin in a women's public bathroom stall.  It is always "trash."  You do the math.  Mother earth would totally prefer you use a sustainable/environ-friendly menstrual product.  If you want a more detailed look at environmental impact, look at this link.

3) Cost Savings:Whether it is chemical free or not, you can't deny that menstrual products seem like a necessary item in a woman's budget.  Nope. Some alternative products last for pretty much life.  Some last for a few years.  No matter how "cheap" a disposable menstrual products are, you have to keep buying them for a large portion of your life.  That is a lot of money.  I will refer you to this great Cost Savings Analysis, which should convince you to go alternative....even if you hate being healthy and the environment.

So, if this all intrigued you, I have two product companies I highly recommend.  They both have amazing FAQ sections, educational blogs, and answers to any other questions you might have about this subject.

Places to Get Alternative Products that Shine and Sparkle:
Just so you know, I have used both of these companies and find the quality and effectiveness of their products to be superb.  There are lots of other brands with the same concepts, but these are my favorites!

1) Luna Pads:
Luna pads sells by far the best pad replacements on the market.  They are reusable   They also come in tons of fun colors and patterns for the fashionista to enjoy.  Their site will tell you anything you need to know about logistics and answer all of the questions that this blog post probably made you wonder.  I suggest looking at their sales if you want to be extra thrifty!  I also know if you subscribe to their email, they often have free shipping and other great discount codes.
Mini Tip-Luna Pads Coupon Code: For the month of August 2012: Get $10 off orders over $75 with the promo code: 10BUX OR bump your order up to $100+ and save $20 with the promo code: 20BUX

2) Diva Cup: 
While it is totally convenient and possible to buy your Diva Cup from their website or from Luna Pads, I bought my most recent one from Amazon for only $26!  That being said, I encourage you to look at their site and educate your self about their AMAZING product.  This is really the one that revolutionized my life.  It is also adorably packaged for all you divas out there.  
So I hope I have gotten you thinking about alternatives to your current routine!  Have you used alternative menstrual product before?  Let me know what you think in the comments!  And as always,

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. 

**Take my advice at your own risk...that being said, I think it's great advice! Consult with your doctor, especially if you are taking medications or may/are pregnant.  If you don't, "it said so on the internet" is not a great explanation to St. Peter.