19 June 2013

How to get a shellac manicure without traipsing to the salon

There's a reason shellac manicures are everywhere right now, and it's because they are AWESOME.  In general, the shellac, which is what the polish is called, stays on the nail, chip-free for up to three weeks, and at that point, in my experience, the polish doesn't chip, but since your nail is growing, there's a gap between the cuticle and the polish that requires either removal or a new paint job.  

Even though shellac manicures have more staying power than a regular-polish manicure, a once-every-two (or three)-weeks visit to the salon can be more time-consuming and cost-prohibitive than many of us would like. 

Enter the at-home shellac manicure.  

I purchased a Sally Hansen kit for about $60 at Target, which is where I find everything I don't need, and it contains everything you need to get going.  My kit came with only one color (I chose a ballet pink since it's nice and neutral, but there are lots of options), so if you want to add variety, you may want to purchase additional colors separately.  

To start, you'll want to remove whatever (if any) polish is on your nails.  I had a shellac on my nails, and needed to remove it, so I soaked cut-in-half cotton balls in acetone  (make sure you get acetone!) polish remover, and set them on my nails, then secured them with long strips of tin foil (the stuff you've got in your kitchen, cut in strips with scissors works great).  The remover needs to sit for about 10-15 minutes, and this method didn't give me the heebie jeebies like soaking my nails in remover, so I highly recommend it.  If you are a freak like me and need to check your phone, I recommend bending your finger and using your knuckle.  Just a tip from one freak to another.

Once the nails are bare, I typically buff them a bit with a nail buffer (one of those foamy kind of little brick nail files).  I don't think this is required, but it seems like it helps the polish adhere a little better to the nails.  Once you're good and buffed, make sure there are no lingering nail filings, then go ahead and apply the Step 1 polish, which is a clear base coat.  After each coat, you'll go under the lamp, which is on a timer and should automatically turn off once each cycle is done.  Depending how impatient I am, sometimes I let the light go two cycles between each coat for good measure.

Follow the same procedure for both Step 2 and Step 3 polish. Step 2 will be the color, and Step 3 will be the shiny top coat.  If you want more color depth or better coverage with your color, use the light in between coats.  Shellac acts pretty different than regular polish, and it's not a good idea to glob it on to speed up the process. Just speaking from experience over here.  

After you've completed the light session(s) after Step 3, grab a little alcohol swab or wipe (which come in the kit and when you run out find them at your local drugstore) and gently wipe off the sticky layer that remains.  Here's a tip: if you're used to traditional manicures, this is going to feel wholly counterintuitive. Trust me, though, if you used the lamp… your polish has hardened, and the best way to finish off the polish job is to wipe off that sticky layer.

In summary, follow the instructions in the kit, and add these few #protips:
  • Thick coats of shellac polish are not going to turn out how you think. You'll likely end up with bubbles, and then tears, because it will force you to go back to the removal phase. Not fun. Again with the speaking from experience thing.
  • When you're applying the polish, be careful to remove any bits that have snuck onto your cuticles before going under the light. That polish is going to dry hard, and it's not going to come off your skin cleanly after it's hardened.
  • It's going to take some getting used to, but once your nails have hardened, they are hard. Go back to washing dishes or shuffling playing cards or typing furiously on your MacBook.  They're going to be just fine, and this is when you'll fall in love. No more pre-bed manicures followed by willing yourself to sleep in a position involving fingernails not touching anything for untold hours of REM sleep.  
  • The polish really will look nice for two weeks (and three if you push it).  I recommend choosing a color you're willing to keep on for that long, or it's not real
Isn't it a miracle?  

Have you tried the shellac?  Are you up for trying it? I'd love to know!