Mind the V-Gap Manicure

My first try looked like "Star Trek: The Next Generation," in a bad way.

Apr 12, 2012 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

After the flocked manicure  (OMG, check it out on refinery29, y’all!) and the caviar manicure, it seemed like a good time to do something a little more low key with my nails. Mostly because I can only say “Yes, you can pick your nose but it feels weird,” so many times before I start to think I’m making bad life choices.

But I’ve spoiled myself with textured manis -- I couldn’t just slap some color on and call it good. This doesn’t bode well for my free time, but these are the sacrifices I make. (Picture me, swooning back on a sofa with my hand to my forehead.)

I was actually looking up pictures of the reverse French manicure (which I’ll get around to trying, honest, Lesley, I really will!) when I found the V-gap manicure from Sophy Robson, a London-based nail artist (now blogging on Tumblr).

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First try, with glossy topcoat. I'm not in love.

The V-gap is designed to make your nails look longer. The half-moon at the base of your nails becomes an angular v shape. The long thin line down the center draws your eye down the length.

It's a really simple and, I think, effective trick -- but I've always been self-conscious about the length of my nails. Or, rather, the shortness. This is mostly because I used to bite the hell out of them but also because my nails don't have the hand-model shape and curvature that we see in pictures of fingernails. In fact, if you look at my photos, you can see that my pinky nail actually kind of curves... up.

This has long-since ceased to really BOTHER me, but there's still little echoes of "my nails are so weird" in the back of my brain sometimes.

When I Google-image searched for pictures of the V-gap, I got a pretty wide variety of results. People have taken the basic concept and done a lot of different stuff with it, which is one of the great things about doing your nails -- you can totally customize a lot of this stuff to your own preferences. All the variations did make it hard to find a cohesive tutorial, so I kind of made things up as I went along.

And, really, that's my favorite way to do things anyway.

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Matte makes it 1987. Kind of Do Want but also Do Not Want.

Based on some pictures, I decided to layer two colors. I chose a chartreuse for the color in the gap and then a grey over the top. Because I love grey and chartreuese together.

First, I polished my nails with the chartreuse. Then I grabbed a small and pointy paintbrush. I used it to paint guidelines on for the grey top layer. I started at the outer corners of my nails and just drew a line up to an imaginary centerpoint. Then I used the regular nail polish brush to fill in the grey. It took two coats to smooth out and look like it was on purpose.

Even as I was painting on the grey, I wasn't entirely pleased with the results. You can tape your nails and do this with something resembling a stencil, but I was actually more interested in the organic curves that happen with freehanding. I decided I'd give it a day.

But after putting on top coat... I still wasn't satisfied. I added a matte top coat to see what happened. What happened is that my nails looked vaguely like they belonged in the first season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." And while I love Next Gen, the first season did not speak to super high production values. Plus, who wants their fingernails to look like 1987 in a bad way?

I did live with it for a day. It was late, and I needed to go to bed rather than start all over.

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Two base coats, a color, and a top coat - this is how I polish.

The next night, though, I took it back to the original V-gap manicure. I knew what color I wanted to use and how I wanted to treat my nails since the gap essentially leaves them bare.

First, I meticulously removed all my old polish. One of the magical things about base coat is that it helps prevent staining, so I didn't have stains on my nail beds to worry about -- but I wanted all my old polish to be gone gone gone. Then I applied a ridge-filling base coat. The ridges on my nails aren't hardcore but sometimes it's nice to have a completely smooth canvas. Then I applied a SECOND base coat! That's right, it's base coats gone wild. The second base coat is named Growth Spurt. Which is unfortunate the way anything involving the word "spurt" is unfortunate. With my nails prepped and shiny, I grabbed my color.

Blue Satin from Chanel is the most expensive nail polish I own. I paid $25 for this bottle of nail polish -- and I don't regret it at all. Well, okay, sometimes I look at it and boggle that I managed to justify that kind of expenditure for nail polish, but that's not the same as regret. I wanted to use Blue Satin for this V-gap because I knew it would cover well in one coat. Some polishes look streaky with one coat of color, but this is the good stuff.

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You can see the polish on the sides of my nails.

I completely freehanded this. I started with the brush in the corner of my nail. Then I dragged it in a gentle curve up the length of my nail. I repeated the same motion on the other side, being careful to leave a slight gap. This means that I did, in fact, get nail polish all over the sides of my fingers. I knew that was going to happen and was totally okay with it because nail polish comes off of skin. Trying to do this WITHOUT that angle would have been a whole lot harder.

Once I got the motion down, this was such an easy manicure. And since it only involved one coat of color, it didn't even take very long to do.

I did let it dry for about 10 minutes because I was worried about streaking. I applied a protective top coat, and that was that.

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I freaking love this.

The light shines through the tiny gap on my longest nails. I tried to take a photo of it but my camera freaked out at the strange lighting. It's a weird effect, but it's also kind of fascinating, especically when I'm driving home in the afternoon sun.

Now that I've been wearing this for a couple of days, I'm even more in love with it than I was when it was a concept. I think it's surprisingly elegant. And I love that there are glimpses of your bare nail (well, bare other than the two different base coats). It feels kind of scandalous the way bare ankles used to be scandalous.

Which is entirely good, in my opinion.

While the variations on the V-gap are all lovely in their own way, I think I'm going to stick with the original -- I can't wait to try it in this really rich blood red color that I have. What do you think?

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Gratuitous tentacle picture!

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