Galaxy Nails Throwdown; Two Manicures Enter, One Manicure Leaves

This story begins with a nail polish challenge. Also, I am sure Avril Lavigne is a lovely person.

Apr 18, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

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Nail polish challenge issued!

This story begins with a nail polish challenge.

No, actually, it begins with some nail stickers. I bought them after getting our taxes done, as a little congratulations-for-being-an-adult reward.

I was torn about these nail stickers -- Sally Hansen, yeah, but part of the Avril Lavigne collection. Is she even still relevant? I had to consider that for a while. But I bought the nail stickers anyway because I don’t care whose name is on it, metallic blue with black stars is cool.

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I'm sure Avril Lavigne is a lovely person.

So I had these nail stickers on and I was pondering how much more I'd dig them if they were part of, like, a Katy Perry collection or something. It wasn't like I was going to take them off because of Avril Lavigne. That would be silly. But it was way more distracting than I thought it would be.

Then I saw a tweet from my friend Julia.

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I'm trying to protect names, here.

Julia is one of my favorite people. Also, she is trouble.

This is how I wound up involved in talking terrible trash about galaxy nail manicures on Twitter. I don't mean we got vicious -- I mean I'm actually really terrible at talking trash about manicures on Twitter. My trash-talking abilities apparently only really encompass busting on people's skills at fighting games.

Even so, the gauntlet had been thrown and it's pretty well established that I do what Twitter tells me to. So I made plans to take off my nail stickers of questionable association and give galaxy nails a shot. Julia gave me the perfect excuse.

But things got interesting when I went to remove my nail stickers. The blue came off... but the stars remained. And that was pretty freaking cool. I've been thinking about manicures that incorporate bare nails since I did the V-gap manicure (which I still love).

I slapped some top coat over the remains of my nail stickers (secure in the confident knowledge that Avril Lavigne probably didn't intend them to be worn like this) and called it good. The same effect could probably be achieved with an all-over star print Konad-type stamp. But stars are hard to freehand so there's no way I'd try it without at least a stencil of some kind.

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Bob Ross would call this a happy accident.

After a little while, though, Julia's challenge ate away at my pride. My psyche. My resistance. I was worn down. I had to recommit to taking her up on it.

Also, seriously, galaxy nails are awesome! It was a challenge right up my alley.

First I gathered my materials. I felt a minor twinge of "Is this really a good idea?" but kept pushing forward. I was safe on my couch -- what could go wrong?

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My god, it's full of nail polish.

Nothing went wrong per se... But after watching 30 minutes worth of YouTube tutorials, I was feeling less certain. There's a lot of sponging involved in galaxy nails.

Here's the basic process: You apply a dark base color, a light color to form the base of your nebulae, and then various colors to make up the clouds of space dust. You finish with glitter and clear, shiny topcoat.

That sounds simple enough, especially if you've done any sponge painting before.

And you can use tweezers to hold onto your sponge so the small scale of fingernails as opposed to a canvas or wall isn't even really a barrier.

I started out weak, alas. I couldn't decide if my basecoat should be black or dark blue. I compromised -- black tends to be quite sheer with only one coat, so I first applied a very dark blue creme and then black over it. I wound up with... blue black. Creative, right?

After some trial and error, I then applied a glitter coat. None of my glitters were sheer enough to use over the galaxies, so I decided to put galaxies over glitter.

That was a strong decision. I was feeling good.

Then I start sponging. And kept sponging. And realized I was into my fourth episode of How It's Made on Netflix and I was still sponging. This is not a quick manicure by any means. In fact, this manicure is anti-quick. It's a giant time suck of gigantic sucky proportions.

Ooooh, don't I sound bitter? It's because I am. Just a little.

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Look at those clouds of star dust.

I sponged on white. Then I sponged on pink. Then I sponged on green. Then I sponged on a blue purple (burple, one might say). And by the time I was through sponging, not only had the sponging taken forever, my nails took forever to dry because there were so many layers of wet polish.

Thank goodness for quick dry topcoat.

Well, sort of. Quick dry topcoat dries the top of your nail polish. But underneath, if you have a lot of layers, you've got a sort of molten core that is seething and writing around, shifting continents and spewing out hot lava. Wait, that's the actual center of the earth. No magma is actually involved in this manicure. I promise.

But you will still, even with the application of quick dry topcoat, have to be careful because you can wrinkle your polish or otherwise smudge it and screw it all up.

At which point you will yell a lot of curse words and possibly frighten the dog. The cats will be used to this behavior, so they'll just glare balefully at you. Or me. Whoever.

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Galaxies in the morning light - a lovely sight.

Galaxy nails are fascinating to me. Mostly because I love space. This manicure is layered and colorful and I honestly do love it. But I can't see myself doing it often enough to get really good at creating other worlds on my nails because it does take such a long time. In fact, if Julia hadn't challenged me to it, I'm not sure I'd ever have gotten around to it.

Still, there's something meditative about it -- and you definitely need an appreciation for the ephemeral. I'm not actually going to go around comparing galaxy nails to Tibetan sand mandalas but it's a tempting comparison: a whole lot of effort for a beautiful and beautifully temporary result.

I took off my galaxy manicure last night, thinking I'd try again with different colors, make another go at it. Instead I stopped after the glitter polish because I really did need to go to bed at some point.

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My god, it's full of stars.

That's when I realized what the best part of the galaxy manicure actually was.

It was telling Julia, with a great degree of satisfaction, to suck it. In a totally friendly way, of course. Now I just need to work on my trash talk for next time she challenges me.