This Manicure Has Layers, Just Like A Parfait

I love changing my nails every day or so –- layering polish is the perfect way to accomplish this without using up all of my free time on any given evening. Imagine me laughing when I say free time.

May 30, 2012 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

When I was little, back when I was still biting my nails, I was kind of obsessed with my mom’s fingernails. They were long and rarely polished. They had an oval shape, with naturally bright white tips. I’m sure she suffered broken nails just like the rest of us, but all I remember was how strong they were.

(My mom still has these nails, of course. It isn’t like they fell off or anything.)

As has been noted by a few commenters, my nails don’t have a very regular shape. That’s largely because they don’t follow a regular downward curve -- my weird little nails do what they want. It’s a good thing I never had any sort of ambition to become a hand model, right? I’ve pretty much made peace with my nails -- but I’ve kept them short over the years just as much out of self-consciousness as practicality.

Well, that and I haven’t ever actually been able to grow my nails out very long. I’d get a little length on and then something would happen. I’d say it was tragic but, I mean, we are only talking about fingernails. It’s emotionally true when I say it was tragic though.

Lately, I’ve hit on the right combo of products and not doing things to screw up my nails and I’ve managed to grow them out quite long. I’m more into square tips than ovals, but for the first time in my life, my nails were as long as my mom’s were, back when I thought they were, no lie, the prettiest nails in the world.

Which is why I just surprised the hell out of myself and cut them all off.

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Newly trimmed and tidy - and purple.

My fingers do look a little stubby now that I’ve gotten used to the long nail look, but I figure I’ll adjust soon enough. Either that or I’ll grow them back out again. Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, growing my nails shouldn’t seem like such a big deal.

That theory seems sound; we’ll see what happens in practice.

In the meantime, I am just happy to type again without my nails getting in the way. And I’m also playing with colors that I like better on shorter nails. There are rules -- there are always rules -- about the colors you are supposed to wear on long nails versus short nails and I generally ignore them. But every now and then I realize that, yeah, I really do love dark colors on short nails.

I also love changing my nails every day or so -- layering polish is the perfect way to accomplish this without using up all of my free time on any given evening. Imagine me laughing when I say free time. I started out with a really simple manicure -- two coats of Grape Juice by China Glaze, finished with a matte topcoat.

Tip: Apply a regular quick dry topcoat and let that dry before you apply a matte topcoat. The matte finish tends to be a little delicate, so if you start with a regular topcoat, you’ll prolong the life of your manicure.

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Purple and green gradient

Then I decided that I needed something more -- I did a gradient, just by sponging the two colors on, using a green and a purple. It came out a little darker than I originally thought it would. I think this is a feature rather than a bug.

And so I was happy. For just about an entire day. Then I figured I needed just a little more. So I added these flat nail head studs. And I was happy.

Layering polish is a great way to change your manicure without having to actually change your manicure. It’s kind of a cheap trick, because you’re really just throwing on a cardigan and calling it a whole new outfit. But that actually works and I don’t generally argue with success.

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I think I'm going to be obsessed with these nail studs for a little while.

The key to successfully layering polishes is to keep your coats thin. It’s way too easy to build up so many layers of polish that your nails look kind of thick and plasticky. Which is not actually a good look unless you’re trying to achieve it on purpose. A few weeks ago, I started out with white polish that went on goopy -- I never should have tried to layer it, but the next day I slapped on some yellow polish. And then I tipped it in copper. And then I added glitter. And at the end of the week, my nails were so thick my fingers felt heavier than usual.

Don’t be like me. At least not in that case.

This time around, my layering worked a lot better. I kept the coats smooth and even. Goopy polish be gone.

The studs are a recent find -- got them at Walgreens, so you should be able to find them at your local drug store. They work just like any other shiny thing you can put on your nail. You slide a stud off the plastic backing, you stick it on your nail, and then you seal it all with top coat. It’s possible to order larger amounts of these studs from a couple places on the internet. But if you’re just looking to experiment, this pack of studs is a good bet.

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It really is about as easy as the instructions make it seem.

I opted for a restrained single stud on each nail. But I’m considering covering a few nails with studs just to go balls out metal. In as much as one can go balls out metal with, you know, nail polish.

There is a little bit of a bump where each stud sits on the nail. These aren’t quite as flat as some of the rhinestones you can get. If you’re a picker at things that stick up, this whole stud adventure might need to be a miss.

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Who needs more than one stud? Maybe me.

As short as they are now, I’m happy with my nails again, in a way that I wasn’t when they were growing out. Long nails are pretty. I’ll always admire my mom’s nails. And I’m especially glad that I seem to be over being bothered by how my nails aren’t all shaped the same.

It’s just that my hands are my hands -- and I need to be able to use my hands without being constantly afraid of breaking a nail. The old Lee Press-On Nails commercials would call what I have now Active Length.

I am actively OK with that.

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In conclusion: Metal. That is all.