A Neon, Studded Manicure That Screams "School's Out For Summer!"

These nails might not be appropriate for work, but you better believe they're appropriate for LIFE.
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Publish date:
May 28, 2014
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It’s almost cliché to say this, but every day that I get to spend time with my incredible group of girlfriends, I feel lucky.

Growing up, I was a lonely kid. I wasn’t really good at interacting with others. I was bullied horribly. I was so reactive and prickly that I was hard to be around. At a certain point, I accepted that I would probably never have friends. It just wouldn’t happen for me.

I wish I could reach back through time and give Baby Alle a hug, tell her that one day things won’t hurt so badly. One day you’ll be surrounded by amazing, inspiring women who love you for who you are, and who make you want to be better every single day.

Those are the ladies that I have in my life now. Some I met when I moved to Perth at 11. Some I met in dance class. Some I found in college. And some--a lot, actually--I found through writing for xoVain. These women motivate me daily with their drive and their passion, and every day I’m amazed at the awesome things they’re doing with their lives.

Cait is definitely one of those people. We met when we were 18 and 19 and immediately became inseparable. It’s been 11 years, and even though our fashion game has stepped up considerably, we’re still tight.

Cait is currently an adjunct professor specialising in art history and the humanities, which she teaches at four community colleges. She also finds time for her own research, to present at conferences AND to write scholarly papers. She’s a freaking dynamo and a half, and I’m always happy when we can force our schedules to align and hang out.

It's been easier than usual to do that lately, because Cait just got done with finals and is now on a brief break before summer classes begin. Her first order of business? An unbelievably awesome manicure. We're talking something so fabulously outrageous that she’d NEVER be able to wear it to work.

Here's what I came up with:

This is the platonic ideal of nail styles: it looks amazing, but is also super-easy to do!

Here’s what you’ll need:

• Your chosen base coat

• An all over polish colour. I’m using Purple Panic by China Glaze, a neon fuchsia so bright that it defies photography.

• Gold studs from the Sally Hansen I Heart Nail Art Studs kit (and the included tool)

• Your chosen top coat

• An orange stick to tidy up with

If you haven’t seen these yet, the I Heart Nail Art kits are pretty awesome. I love everything that Sally Hansen does, and putting together some commonly used nail art tools and decorations in one package that you can pick up at any drugstore is GENIUS. I got the studs and the tool kit at CVS, and even though I don’t have cause to use them all that often, I’m really glad that I have them.

The black and silver tubes contain flat backed rhinestones, which are by far the easiest decorations to use. The golden studs took a little more getting used to--they’re very lightweight and the backs are concave, so they threaten to fly away if you exhale on them too hard. But even though they're small, they don't take that long to feel comfortable with.

Okay. So lets talk about these awesome gold polka-dot nails.

Cait came over and picked out the polish she wanted to use as the base. Usually for work, she sticks with the basics: pinks, reds, nudes. She wanted something really bold now that’s she’s on break.

Bold polish I’ve got in spades. I have easily over 200 bottles of nail polish, so I pulled a few that I thought she'd especially like.

Eventually she settled on China Glaze's Purple Panic, a super-awesome neon pinky purple that needs two coats to reach full opacity. These polishes are my FAVOURITE neon formulas, and they dry really quickly, so this was a good choice.

I started by shaping her nails. Cait’s natural nails are strong, but a couple of the corners had cracked. I filed them into a slightly more rounded shape that concealed where breaks had happened.

Next, base coat. Cait’s nails are naturally as tough as acrylics (lucky her, right?), but that doesn’t mean we skip the base! Base coats not only give strength to nails, they also prevent polish staining and lengthen the life of a manicure. And if I’m spending an hour on her nails, I want them to look awesome for as long as possible! I love NutraNail Strengthener with Green Tea, because it makes my flimsy nails super-strong and has never once let a stain ruin my fingernails. That’s what I used on Cait, too.

Once the base coat was completely dry--and nail polish is completely dry when you can touch it to your lip without it feeling wet, sticky, or cold--I applied two coats of Purple Panic, letting each one fully dry before adding the next.

Now the fun began.

I have a big problem with nail glue, in that I hate it. I hate the smell, I hate how it gets all over everything and sticks your fingers together, I hate how you can’t take it off easily and it leaves a gross mess behind. So there is NO NAIL GLUE in this look. Instead, I used nail polish’s natural tackiness to hold these very lightweight decorations in place.

“BUT ALLE!” I hear you saying. “YOU JUST TOLD US TO LET EACH COAT OF POLISH DRY COMPLETELY BEFORE APPLYING THE NEXT, SO MY NAILS ARE DRY NOW, WTF.” And you are correct! I found that racing against time to place every stud on every nail before the last coat of colour dried led to mistakes, so instead I brought back my base coat. On each nail I was working on, I applied a thin layer of base coat and then began adhereing the studs to the nail.

To adhere the studs: empty a few out of the vial. More will pop out than you expect; this is part of the experience, so go with it. Roll them over so that the gold side faces up, then pick them up, one at a time, with the pad of your finger.

Next, position the studs by gently pressing them onto the polish. You can use the positioning tool to “push” them around and straighten them a little if you set one down wonkily. This tool was also really handy for pressing the studs down without leaving fingerprints in the polish.

This polka-dot pattern lent itself to a 3-2-3 structure: a line of three studs, then a line of two, then another line of three. Cait doesn’t like stuff too close to the free edge of her nail, so I kept these mostly toward the center.

I continued applying the base coat and then the studs until both her hands were done. This seems like it would be really laborious, but once I got into it, it took next to no time. Applying studs to both hands took around 10 minutes, including stopping for pictures.

Of course, you have to finish any nail look with an awesome top coat. Sally Hansen’s Insta-Dri, aka The Red Bottle, is my ride or die top coat forever; it really sealed down the studs without getting globby or too thick.

And then Cait’s nails were done! I think they look awesome, but of course HER opinion is most important.

“I love them!” she said, gazing lovingly at her fingernails. “They’re so not appropriate for work, but they’re really appropriate for life!”

The best part? Because these studs are rounded, they aren’t annoyingly textured. And because they’re just set with nail polish rather than glue, they’ll come off with nail polish remover. It’s a miracle!

So now Cait has awesome studded nails for her well-earned two-week break, and I got to spend an hour with my friend. Awesome times all around.

So what do you guys think? Do you love these nails as much as I do? What's your go-to manicure for vacation time and life?