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Nail Polish

Favorite Essie Polishes Right Now

September 13, 2019

Favorite Essie Polishes Sabrina The Beauty Look Book

Happy Friday! I hope you all had a great week. So many of you have loved the recent nail polish posts (especially my top 5 neutrals) I thought I’d do another roundup of some Essie shades I’ve hauled recently. I’ve actually been more of an OPI kind of girl when it comes to nail polishes for lasting power and color range, but I’ve been exploring more from Essie outside of my go-to Topless and Barefoot and found quite a few nice neutrals that aren’t nude. Ever since trying out the Speed Setter Top Coat I’ve now been able to make Essie polish last on my nails. I still want to try out the Gel Couture Top Coat but haven’t yet.

It can get a little overwhelming with all the options – so I’ve picked a small handful. Some look really similar in the bottles (almost identical) but there are variations in undertones so there’s a lot to pick from.

Essie nail polish favorites

Lighten The Mood is one I bought over the summer. It’s a really pretty off-white pale pink cream. Finish is not the most opaque so I need three coats.

Essie Lighten the Mood

Come Out To Clay is part of their Rocky Rose Collection for fall which is the perfect light peachy cream. I can get away with 2 coats, but sometimes apply 3.

Essie Come Out To Clay

Princess Charming is a Gel Couture formula with a wide brush and excellent coverage. It’s a medium neutral rose cream.

Essie Princess Charming

Into The A-Bliss is also from the Fall 2019 collection, it’s a medium cool-rose pink cream with mauve undertones. This applies more like a pink but dries down to a mauve.

Essie Into The A-Bliss

Eternal Optimist is also a pick I hauled earlier in the summer, it’s a pretty medium-neutral rose pink.

Essie Eternal Optimist

Stitch by Stitch is a soft baby pink that isn’t too pale or too blue in undertone. I think it’s a fun color to wear that isn’t too bubble-gum like if you’re looking for a more neutral pink.

Essie Stitch by Stitch

Essie Pink and Mauve Favorites

Essie Swatches Pink Neutral Mauves

In case you missed it, you can check out my tips and favorites in my Hand and Nail Care Routine post that I posted recently. It’s an updated list of my go-to products for a DIY manicure.

 

What are some of your favorite Essie nail polishes? Do you recommend any of their base or top coats? What should I try next?

Nail Polish Skincare

Hand + Nail Care Routine Tips and Favorites

August 27, 2019

Best Nail Care Products | The Beauty Look Book

I get so many questions about my hand and nail care routine I thought it was time for an updated post. Readers ask me on a weekly basis whether or not my nail polish is done at the salon or at home on my own. I do most of my nail polish and hand care on my own and I have for a couple years now. Most as in practically all – the last time I was at a salon was at least a couple years ago! When I lived in San Diego I had my go-to salons that I went to almost weekly. It was the best way for me to relax, unwind and unplug! However since moving to Florida I’ve never really found anything that comes close and with the frequency that I change my polish it is just easier, more affordable and saves time for me to care for them them on my own.

I did a complete roundup and tutorial a couple years ago. Most of my go-to staples are still the same although there have been a few changes as formulas become discontinued and brands change. I used to never be able to wear Essie polish without getting horrendous tip wear within 1 hour, but I finally found a way to make it work. This goes for most brands of polish, some take different steps and combinations of base/top to make it last.

I have a full list of what I use, some good runner ups and tips on how I maintain my hands and nails. I will say that it will all get better with practice. I used to not be able to paint my right hand well because my left hand was clumsy and shaky. It’s still not perfect but it does get better with time!

Cuticle Care

Cuticle Care Essentials Deborah Lippmann Tweezerman Revlon

Cuticles can be a pain to keep healthy, especially if they’re dry or peeling. I think keeping hands well moisturized is key. If you’re cuticles aren’t in the best shape and you don’t know how to trim them I would suggest going to the salon to have them trimmed professionally. Observe their methods and steps until you’re comfortable doing it yourself at home. Key products I use:

  • The Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover is my holy grail cuticle softener/remover of all time. I’ve tried a number of highly raved about brands but this is the best. This loosens and softens dead skin around the cuticle making it easier to push back to trim. For me this is essential.
  • Tweezerman Pushy and Nail Cleaner is also my holy grail (flat sided tip) for pushing back cuticles. Some prefer a rounded version but for me the flat tip gives more control. Often times the rounded end ones are too big for my fingers too. There’s a nail cleaner tip on the other end which is rounded (versus sharp) so it’s super gentle.
  • Revlon Cuticle Clippers have been a go-to for years, they have sharp tips to precisely cut away dead cuticles once they’re pushed back. They will cut well all the way so there’s no pulling the skin from partial trimming. These were actually my second choice because I needed a pair but couldn’t find my favorite Tweezerman Cuticle Nippers. The drugstore I went to only had ones from Revlon so I decided to give the a try. Both brands are really good.
  • Not shown but to cut and trip the tips I use a Revlon Deluxe Nail Clipper. I also like Tweezerman tools as well.

You can see a full step by step tutorial in this post here but I’ve reposted some of the steps below. Depending on how dry your hands are or how long it’s been since your last manicure you may want to soak, clean and moisturize your hands first.

Cuticle Care Steps Trimming Tutorial

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Nail Polish Remover and Filing Tools

Best Nail Polish Remover Zoya

Finding a good gentle remover is essential, especially if you have sensitive nails or fingers. You don’t want to dry out the hands or use something too harsh. Unfortunately the best ones aren’t always easily accessible for me so I’m always ordering online.

  • Zoya 3-in-1 Formula Remove Nail Polish Remover is one of my top two holy grails. It comes in a few different sizes and this one has a pump dispenser which is super handy. It’s gentle and effective and works on all polish brands that I use. It removes polish, preps and conditions the nails.
  • Deborah Lippmann The Stripper (not shown) is the other in my top two. She often has bundles available which makes it more affordable. This is also an excellent non-drying version (if I had to pick one this would be my top pick). She also has these in packet forms called Stripper To Go. They’re packaged in a very small packet but the pads are well soaked and the are really convenient for travel or if you need to change polish on-the-go, there’s no need to worry about a bottle leaking or exploding. One individual packet has enough to remove polish for all my fingers.
    • With these 2 removers I find I don’t need to use a nail cleaner to clean the residue/oils off.
  • For filing, buffing and cleaning excess paint I’ve always used what I could find at the grocery or drug store. Olive and June launched a line of polish and nail care products that are super convenient and well made. They sent some of their products to try and I am completely obsessed with The Tool Box. I use it to store most of my nail care tools and basics in one place. I think you can find alternatives for less at Ulta or Target, but for me I really like the Buffer Cube and Clean Up Brush. You can buy the Clean Up Brush individually and for me it’s perfect to clean the edges where polish may have transferred or look a little messy.

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My Favorite Base and Top Coats

Best Base and Top Coats Essie, Smoth Cult, Chanel and OPI

My favorite base and top coats often rotate as I use things up or formulas become discontinued. What I have in rotation right now is listed below (for regular nail polish, I don’t use gel):

  • OPI Natural Nail Base Coat is a good gentle but effective base coat that works with all of my polish formulas. It works well to prevent nails from yellowing from polish.
  • Smith and Cult Basis of Everything is another favorite for Base Coats and Above it All is an amazing top coat to make tips ultra shiny and manicures last.
  • Chanel Le Gel Coat is not really a gel coat, but it is a long-wear top coat that will give the nails an ultra glossy gel-like shine and effect. This works best with Chanel polishes and I’ve gone through many bottles.
  • Essie Speed Setter is the best fast-setting top coat that won’t cause major shrinkage.
  • Others I’ve tried and liked are Nails Inc (but my favorites have been discontinued), CND Sticky Base, CND Super Shiny Top Coats. The Christian Louboutin Loubi Kit is probably the best one I’ve tried and it’s been on my list to repurchase.
    • With the Chanel, Essie or Smith and Cult Top Coats I usually get at least a week of wear without chipping or tip wear. At the day 2 or 3 mark I recommend reapplying a layer of top coat to help protect the color and extend wear.

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Hand Creams and Moisturizers

Best Hand and Cuticle Treatments

I’m the biggest hand cream junkie! I’ve tried so many and have a lot in rotation at any given moment. I did a massive purge right before our move in June and gifted a lot of my products away. These are the ones I have in rotation right now. I apply hand cream daily, I use a scrub once a week, cuticle oils are used as needed.

  • Chanel La Creme Main is the best lightweight hand cream with a velvety soft dry down. I like this because it doesn’t leave any sticky residue. If you have ultra dry hands this is not the one for you though in which case I’d recommend you try La Creme Main Texture Riche or Le Lift (new). Both are better for dry skin and I love the packaging! I keep at least one of these in my purse. The new Le Lift does the best job at smoothing the skin. I’ve only used it for about a week now but I’m completely in love.
  • Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is the best unscented option for ultra dry hands. I like this in the winter or when my hands are super dry. The fact that it’s unscented is a huge plus, especially if you work in an environment that needs to be fragrance or perfume free. Or if you’re just sensitive to added fragrance. (Comes in different sizes.)
  • La Mer Rejuvenating Hand Serum is one of the most expensive hand splurges I’ve tried. It’s also one of the most luxurious treatments I’ve owned. It is heavily fragranced with the signature La Mer scent but is really soothing and does indeed work to smooth and soften the hands. I’m still not over the sticker shock but I think it is quite amazing.
  • For cuticle oils I’ve tried so many. There are a lot of great options out there whether you want a thick cream, shea butter, oil, etc. I prefer oils because they absorb easily and aren’t goopy. My two favorites are the Dior Huile Abricot Daily Nutritive System and L’Occitane Shea Nail and Cuticle Oil. They come with a brush tip applicator so it’s less messy than the dropper or bottle/brush style packaging. For the dropper style the Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil was the best one I tried.
  • L’Occitane Shea Butter One-Minute Hand Scrub is amazing. This is my second tube and it makes such a huge difference in the texture and smoothness of your hands. I often neglect exfoliation on the hands but getting rid of the dead skin cells with a gentle scrub makes a world of difference. This is hydrating without having any residue and it’s very very gentle.
  • Other loves include Molton Brown, the Kiehl’s Scented Hand Creams, Aesop, L’Occitane Hand Creams (for winter). For one with SPF the Supergoop! Hand Cream is amazing (I’m all out, I often run out of this one). Moroccanoil is also great.

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Application Tips

Nail Polish Application Tips from Sabrina The Beauty Look Book

For application I will say practice makes perfect. I think the biggest mistake people make with application is getting the brush too close to the cuticles. Wet lacquer will move a little when it’s wet, so to prevent bleeding leave a tiny little gap between the brush and cuticle. For me I start a little farther from the cuticle than I think I should and it prevents the polish from moving/bleeding into the nail beds. Sometimes it is impossible to not get excess polish on the skin so I clean it up with a brush or my thumb nail in which case sometimes it’s best to paint the thumbs the last. Different formulas have different textures, some are ultra fluid, while others are thicker so your mileage may vary with application.

I recommend applying thin coats. Sometimes I’ll have to apply 3 depending on how sheer the formula is. As long as your coats are thin and even it should still dry relatively fast. I let mine air dry and try to do them before I think I’ll be typing for a long time or hands free while watching TV.

Applying on a flat surface is the best way to apply polish. The Olive and June Tool Box comes with a handy coated thick sheet to protect your surface. I also just use paper towels at home. Anytime I think I can just do my polish on my desk, on the couch or on the floor I end up spilling product. I dropped a bottle on a concrete floor once and it was SUCH a mess to clean up as the entire bottle shattered.

How to Paint your Nails

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Closer look at the Olive and June Tool Box (you can customize your picks online):

My own nail care selects, I use the box to store my tools:

Best Nail Care Products | The Beauty Look Book

I hope this updated roundup gives you some tips and ideas on how to do a DIY manicure at home! With things like cotton pads, nail files or buffer, I pretty much use what I can find at my local CVS or drugstore. I wish there was a complete one brand kit that I could find that has everything in a convenient box or pouch but I’ve found no single brand has everything I need. My top essentials for my routine include the Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover, Tweezerman Pushy Stick and the Revlon or Tweezerman Cuticle Trimmers.

So many of you ask what my favorite polish brand is and I don’t have one. I love trying all kinds of brands! High and low. The three I wear the most these days are Chanel, OPI and Essie. I still really like Louboutin polishes but the packaging isn’t convenient so I find myself reaching for other brands more.

On storage, I used to have a lot of nail polish wall racks I found on Amazon where I stored my polishes. I got rid of them when we moved from San Diego to Tampa – we had to edit what we kept/tossed. These days I just keep them in drawers.

For the toes I also do them on my own, although I prefer salon treatments to get rid of callouses etc. I haven’t been to the salon in a while though – I broke a toe a year and a half ago and was so hesitant to let anyone touch my feet even after it healed. Let me know if you have any questions or if you have any hand/nail care holy grails! I’d love to hear about your favorites.

 

 

Olive and June Kit provided for review. All other products purchased and repurchased by me.

Chanel Lips Nail Polish

Top 10 Chanel Le Vernis Nail Shades + Lip Colors to Match

August 19, 2019

Best Chanel Nail Polishes Top 10 via The Beauty Look Book

I’ve been a long time fan of the Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colors through numerous reformulations and used to collect all the new colors religiously! They revamped the formula back in 2016 and while I was really sad so many great shades were discontinued I was really happy to find the formula was improved. I’ve reviewed many new colors / formula over the past few years. You can see the original posts here and here. A number of you have asked for an updated Chanel polish roundup so I have one today with my Top 10! Colors that you can still find today although a few of these are limited-edition. I’ve also included a fun twist and added my favorite matching Chanel lips to go with each of the 10 colors. I don’t always match nails and lips, but sometimes I think it’s fun to have coordinating colors!

I really love the formula of Chanel Le Vernis. They’re always smooth and glossy on my tips and toes and last a long time on my hands. I do think proper application is key – I recommend pairing it with a good base and top coat. If you’re finding it chips or you get tip wear I suspect it’s either the application or the top coat you’re using. As much as I love fast drying top coats, many of them shrink when drying and slowly pulls back the color underneath. Not all top coats are compatible with all nail polish formulas. This leads to early tip wear and chipping in my experience. I love the Chanel Le Gel Top Coat, but also find that the Essie Speed Setter or Smith and Cult Top Coat work well.

My top 10 favorite colors right now, all nail polish swatches have 2 coats:

Le Vernis in Organdi 504 + Rouge Coco Flash in Boy 54 (lip swatches here) + Le Rouge Double in Merry Rose

Chanel Le Vernis Organdi

Chanel Le Vernis Organdi and Rouge Coco Flash in Boy

Le Vernis in Bleached Mauve 646 + Rouge Coco Gloss in Caramel 716* (lip swatches here)

Chanel Le Vernis Bleached Mauve

Chanel Le Vernis Bleached Mauve Rouge Coco Gloss Caramel

Le Vernis Perle de Corail 695* + Rouge Coco Glosses in Subtil 744 and Physical 166*

Chanel Le Vernis Perle de Corail

Chanel Le Vernis Perle de Corail + Rouge Coco Gloss Subtil and Physical

Le Vernis in Joyau 699* + Rouge Coco Gloss in Tendresse 172 (lip swatches here)

Chanel Le Vernis Joyau and Rouge Coco Gloss Tendresse

Chanel Le Vernis Joyau and Rouge Coco Gloss Tendresse

Le Vernis in Camelia 506* + Rouge Allure Ink in Euphorie 170*

Chanel Le Vernis Camelia Rouge Allure Ink Euphorie

Chanel Le Vernis Camelia Rouge Allure Ink Euphorie swatches

Le Vernis in Coralium 564 + Rouge Coco Gloss True 782

Chanel Le Vernis Coralium and Rouge Coco Gloss True

Chanel Le Vernis Coralium and Rouge Coco Gloss True swatches

Le Vernis in Jaspe 693* + Rouge Allure Ink in Cornaline 198* (lip swatches here)

Chanel Le Vernis Jaspe and Rouge Allure Ink Cornaline

Chanel Le Vernis Jaspe and Rouge Allure Ink Cornaline

Le Vernis in Gitane 510* + Rouge Coco Gloss in Bitter Orange 752* (lip swatches here)

Chanel Rouge Coco Gloss Bitter Orange and Le Vernis Gitane

Chanel Rouge Coco Gloss Bitter Orange and Le Vernis Gitane

Le Vernis in Vamp 18 + Rouge Coco Blush in Burning Berry 420* (lip swatches here)

Chanel Le Vernis Vamp and Rouge Coco Blush in Burning Berry

Chanel Le Vernis Vamp and Rouge Coco Blush in Burning Berry

Le Vernis in Rouge Noir 18 + Rouge Coco Flash in Noir Moderne 102 or Temper 104

Chanel Le Vernis in Rouge Noir and Rouge Coco Flash Noir Moderne

Chanel Le Vernis in Rouge Noir and Rouge Coco Flash Noir Moderne

P.S. I am still really obsessed with their La Creme Main and La Creme Main Texture Riche. They just launched a new Le Lift La Creme Main which is more expensive than the other two formulas but has the Le Lift skincare ingredients to smooth the skin. If you follow me on Instagram you may have caught my sneak preview on stories over the weekend. I ordered it the day it launched and will have a review soon, but first impressions are that I really like it.

Also for those who’ve been asking and emailing me – nails are DIY, I do them on my own. How I keep them manicured in this post here. Will try to do an updated one soon as a few of my old staples have been discontinued.

You can find all the colors available now at Chanel.com. Also available at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and all Chanel counters.

Do you have any favorite Chanel colors?

Press samples indicated with a *. All others purchased by me.

Beauty Favorites Nail Polish

Top 5 Best Nude Nail Polishes

February 15, 2019

Top 5 Best Nude Neutral Nail Polishes

By popular request I’m sharing my top five most worn neutral nail polishes. I’ve done a few rounds of my favorite neutrals in past years and these days I feel like it’s all I want to wear on my fingers. I’m constantly asked for neutral polish recommendations every single week! There are so many different definitions and variations of “nude” for polish. When someone asks me for a good everyday nude polish they can mean so many different things. Some think of a pale off white neutral, others a pink neutral, some envision a camel beige, neutral beige, pink beige, brown pink, mauve nude etc. What neutral looks like also depends on skin tone and how well the color matches or contrasts with your skin tone.

I like something that is lighter or a lot lighter than my skin tone. Something that matches exactly ends up looking like mannequin hands which is not a good look on me. These are my current top five nude nail polishes I wear the most and also always get compliments or questions on.

Top 5 Neutral Nail Polishes for Sabrina

Top Five Neutral Nail Polishes for Spring

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Smith and Cult Peaceful Paranoia is a neutral creamy neutral cool beige-pink that flashes iridescent pink. It is one that matches my skin tone fairly close but has enough contrast to give a polished look. Marc Jacobs Flourescent Beige is similar but something about the mauve-grey base didn’t go well with my skintone. More swatches of Peaceful Paranoia here.

Smith and Cult Peaceful Paranoia swatch, neutral nail polish

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OPI Machu Peach-U is the most perfect neutral nude peach ever made. I’m so sad it appears to be limited-edition. If you can locate it buy it immediately. It’s part of the Peru Collection and I think it should be made permanent! I was able to find some at my local Ulta even though it’s not online. You can still find it on Amazon.

OPI Machu Peach-U Peru Collection Swatch

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OPI Tiramisu for Two has been a go-to neutral beige pink for years. I love that it has full smooth coverage and doesn’t turn or look yellowish on the hands. It has a tiny bit of pink/cool undertone to prevent it from looking too beige. It’s the perfect everyday neutral. OPI has so many great neutrals but a lot of them are sheer. This one is opaque which makes it a winner in my book.

OPI Tiramisu for Two best opaque neutral polish

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OPI Samoan Sand is one of the sheer ones but it’s not as sheer as Bubble Bath. I still need 3 coats for full coverage but for a beige it’s really so perfect I don’t mind. Finding a good beige nude is hard because of the yellow undertone in so many. It ends up making my skin look sallow. This has enough peachy undertone to make for the perfect sheer beige nude.

OPI Samoan Sand Nail Polish swatch, best nude polish

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Chanel Le Vernis in Organdi is the most complimented nail polish I own (as listed in this post here). It’s neutral and pink and just perfect for any season or occasion. It applies perfectly with just two coats. The Le Gel Top Coat is the best one to make Chanel polish last.

Chanel Organdi nail polish swatch, best nude pink polish color

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I wanted to add one more swatch for you since so many of you sent me Direct Messages about the spring colors from Chanel. I was pretty let down by the offerings this season (and last season too) so I only bought 2 of the spring nail polishes. Neither made my heart sing even though I really tried to love them. This Instagram post I did about the Bleached Mauve Le Vernis was one of my most liked posts on Instagram this year though which means it might be right up your alley! It matches two of their Rouge Coco Glosses which I love in 714 and 716 so I thought it would be perfect, but I’m sad to report that it did not work for me. It’s too brown/warm but maybe my skintone isn’t the right shade to go well with this. I feel like OPI’s Dulce de Leche is close but has a tiny bit more pink to make it more wearable. I do think the new Pierres de Lumiere polish colors look absolutely stunning based on stock photos. The entire collection just launched online.

Chanel Bleached Mauve Le Vernis

Runner ups for color:

Other recommendations:

I’ve accumulated quite a few polishes over the years. My 2017 favorites linked here. I’ve since found myself wearing the same neutrals more often on the fingers. Recent pink polish colors have been from the OPI Tokyo Collection which I’ll review soon (Rice Rice Baby and Another Ramen-Tic Evening are perfect!). On the toes I often do nudes or bright corals. I don’t have any go-to rule about mixing or matching nails on tips and toes, I feel like you can really do anything your mood calls for!

Hope you found this helpful for my top 5 most-worn neutrals! Would love to hear about yours and what your definition of nude polish is!

 

Have a great weekend!

Nail Polish

Smith and Cult Nail Polishes for Spring

May 21, 2018

Smith and Cult Nail Polishes Peaceful Paranoia, Powder Posse, A Short Reprise, Mail Order Bride, Forever Fades Fast, 5th Ave Fortress

There have been some new launches from Smith and Cult and I had three from earlier in the spring that I’ve been meaning to review so today I have a roundup of six new colors. I’ve used the nail polishes from Smith and Cult for a few years now and love the formula and lasting power. Their Basis of Everything Base Coat and Above It All Top Coat are also in my favorites for how they keep my nails looking healthy and shiny. If you’ve been reading my blog since the early days you know I used to review new nail polishes almost weekly. For the past year I feel like I’ve been in a nail rut sticking with the same basic go-to’s mainly OPI Be There in a Prosecco, Chanel Camelia, Chanel Sea Whip and Chanel Resplendissant. These new Smith and Cult shades have been among the few launches that have me excited about nail color again. Smith and Cult nail polishes for spring that I hauled this year from Nordstrom and Beautylish:

  • Peaceful Paranoia is a sheer pink beige that flashes iridescent pink, this one requires three coats for full coverage
  • Powder Posse is a pale lilac pink with grey/beige tones, I had high hopes this would be a dupe for Dior Lady that was discontinued years ago, it’s not, this one is more grey/lilac, coverage is full/opaque
  • A Short Reprise is a purple creme, it has sheer-medium coverage with a slight transparent finish so three coats are needed
  • Mail Order Bride is an opaque pale baby pink, it’s not too pale that it looks white, coverage is opaque
  • Forever Fades Fast is a perfect medium peach, coverage is sheer-medium, two coats works, but I prefer three
  • 5th Ave Fortress is a metallic silvery purple, on my olive skin it looks more silvery than what I see in the bottle, it has full opaque coverage and is relatively brush-stroke-free

A quick look at the bottles, the silver caps pop off and there’s a twist off applicator. The brushes are flat and short. For me these are really easy to apply on the fingers.

Smith and Cult Nail Polishes

First a look at the three shades that launched earlier in the spring several months back:

Smith and Cult Nail Polishes Peaceful Paranoia, Powder Posse, A Short Reprise swatches

Shown below: Peaceful Paranoia, a pink-beige base with flashes of iridescent pink, this one was sheer, shown applied with 3 coats

Smith and Cult Nail Polish Peaceful Paranoia

Shown Below: Powder Posse, two coats

Smith and Cult Powder Posse

Shown below: A Short Reprise, three coats

Smith and Cult Nail Polish A Short Reprise

Newest launches for spring-to-summer:

Smith and Cult Mail Order Bride

Shown below: Mail Order Bride, two coats, this is more pink and not quite as pale/white as Chanel Nuvola Rosa

Smith and Cult Mail Order Bride

Forever Fades Fast is the perfect peachy color, it’s not too orange or beige or yellow, two coats

Smith and Cult Forever Fades Fast

Shown below: 5th Ave Fortress, two coats, it shows minimal brush strokes for a metallic

Smith and Cult 5th Ave Fortress

For those who frequently ask about my favorite base and top coats, I’m always trying to test new things, but these are what I have in rotation right now:

My full hand and nail care routine in this post here. Staples, DIY tips and favorites all listed.

Favorite Base and Top Coats

 

Bottom line I love all the six newest shades from Smith and Cult. Forever Fades Fast is my favorite of the launches. I was pleasantly surprised by Powder Posse even though it didn’t turn out to be a dupe for Dior Lady. The application is smooth and easy to apply, lasting power is up to a week if I’m not swimming in the pool or ocean (the water here is rough!). I ordered all of these sight unseen and was thrilled that all the colors ended up working with my medium tan olive skintone.

You can find Smith and Cult Nail Polishes at Beautylish, Dermstore, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Space NK and Net-A-Porter.

Have you tried anything from Smith and Cult yet?

 

 

Beauty Favorites Nail Polish Skincare

How to Maintain Hands for Healthy Looking Nails + My Personal DIY Manicure Tips

February 7, 2017

Hand and Nail Care Essentials | The Beauty Look Book

The most frequently asked questions I receive from readers relate to hand and nail care. For my nail polish posts I feature a mix of DIY and salon manicures. Finding a good salon and a reliable manicurist can take some time, then maintaining the nails with professional care can take up to 1 hour for a regular manicure so that requires additional time. Because I did so many polish reviews and swatches over the past years I could not afford to get regular manicures with the frequency of reviewing polish – both with the cost and time. I had to learn how to do it on my own so I observed the techniques of my favorite manicurists and practiced on my own. I will say that regular salon manicures and pedicures are 100% worth the splurge. Often times during high-stress periods in my life I found it impossible to shut off my mind and de-stress, even after work hours. Manicures kind of helped me stay sane because when someone is working on your hands you’re pretty much stuck doing nothing except for fun brainless tasks like reading magazines or listening to music or watching YouTube videos on your phone. It helped my brain go into hibernate mode so to speak. Also there’s something refreshing about having freshly groomed fingers or toes that makes you feel instantly alive and more put together.

For hand and nail care I typically stick to a few tried and true items and it has been the case for several years. I did my Nail and Hand Care Essentials back in 2014 (wow time flies!) but many of you have asked for an updated post with a tutorial. I finally have one to share with you today and if you compare the posts you’ll see that not much has changed. A few notes for newbies. If your nails are not in the best state I would highly recommend getting them cleaned, cuticles trimmed and polished professionally. Doing something like a manicure once a month or every other week for a little while can help improve the look and health of your nails. I think they can work miracles! If you have any cracks, chipped nails, or problem areas, a manicurist can help smooth everything out nicely. Once they’re in a better state you can do touch ups or manicures at home in between professional manis.

Up first are the tools then a DIY manicure tutorial of how I maintain and paint my fingers. Note that even after all this time of practice I can’t give myself a pedicure without it looking like I gooped a bunch of finger paint on my toes.

Tools of the Trade

Nail Files, Trimmers, Tools | The Beauty Look Book

I wish there was one brand or store where I could find all the best tools, unfortunately there is not. If you’re going to use my list as a shopping list for yourself, you will have to do a bit of shopping around. Most of the items I’ve bought can be found at Sephora, Ulta and Nordstrom (my 3 favorite beauty stores). Many of the items can also be found online at Amazon. If you’re shopping in store – check the online store locators to check inventory first. Often times I’ve gone to Ulta and found they were sold out of all the items on my list. They do restock frequently but to save time it’s best to research online and make a list first if you’re going to go out to multiple stores. As usual I’ve linked all the products to where I’ve bought the items in the past.

  • Revlon Nail Clippers – these are an older style, I can’t remember how long ago I bought these, the current versions have an embossed pattern on the surface, to clip nails I recommend clipping about 1/2 to 1/4 of what you think you need to trim. It’s better to do it in stages and then clip more. My biggest challenge was over-clipping.
  • Nail files – I usually accumulate cheap ones here and there, I’m not brand loyal to any particular type.
  • Ulta Beauty Crystal Nail File is no longer available online but you can find one from the Sephora Collection that is only $10. These are great for those with sensitive nails, there’s no grit texture like with traditional files so it’s more gentle on the nails.
  • Deborah Lippman Cuticle Remover is what I call my secret weapon for nails. It softens the cuticle area so you can push back any excess skin to trim them. This is an essential in my routine. I don’t know if she changed the packaging – I’ve seen a few in stores with a brush applicator instead of the dropper.
  • Tweezerman Cuticle Nipper is what I use to trim cuticles, it fits well in the hands and does the job well, mine has lasted since 2014, I do need to replace it soon though.
  • Face It Pro Salon Nail Pusher is something I bought at a local Korean Supermarket (Zion Marketplace in San Diego), I have super tiny fingers so this one is a bit large for my hands but still works, I like the shape of the tools and quality.
  • Tweezerman Pushy Nail and Cuticle Cleaner has been my go-to tool to push back the cuticle area and keep fingers looking groomed. Also available at Amazon for a cheaper price.
  • Not shown above, but there was a limited-edition Zwilling Manicure Set my husband uses and loves, this has been discontinued but he likes the quality of their tools if you’re looking for items for your man.

Base and Top Coats

Base and Top Coat Favorites for a DIY Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

My absolute favorite base and top coats have now been discontinued (Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat, Formula X Base Coat, Chanel Brilliance Top Coat and all the items from Rescue Beauty Lounge). I have still found some others that I really like.

  • Nails Inc. 45 Second Top Coat with Kensington Caviar is a great top coat that doesn’t have any shrinkage with polishes like Chanel, Dior or Tom Ford. Mine lasted about 2.5 years before it got thick and I had to throw it out. It lasted me so long because I rotate top coat brands. This one does dry within 45 seconds – just make sure your polish coats have properly dried first before applying. This gives the nails a super glossy cushiony look.
  • Nails Inc. base coats I’ve tired include the Nailkale Superfood Base Coat and the Base Coat with Kensington Caviar. I prefer the Nailkale Superfood Base Coat because it’s nourishing and doesn’t tint the nails. It has kale to strengthen the nails and keratin to help harden and stimulate growth. This is what I attribute to having healthy looking nails. With base coats I think it’s important to not apply too much – if it’s too thick it doesn’t dry properly and then polish on top just sits there. The Base Coat with Kensington Caviar has been a long-time go-to as well, but it can get a bit thick with age and it also can tint the nails pink.
  • Formula X Base Coat has been my favorite for a long time. Unfortunately it looks like the line has been pulled from Sephora. If you visit your store you may see a bunch of items on clearance. So stock up if you see any favorites there.
  • CND has been a long-time favorite. One of my salons used both the Stickey Base Coat and Super Shiny top Coat. They’re reliable staples and I highly recommend both.
  • Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat has never really been a favorite because it has major shrinkage with brands like Chanel, Dior, Tom Ford, YSL and pretty much all the brands I use. It does work well with OPI, Essie and Louboutin though and since it dries quickly I like the way it works and looks. Your mileage may vary depending on what polish you use. If you find that Chanel or Dior gets really quick tip wear on you, check what top coat you’re using. Some formulas are not compatible with 5 free formulas and cause shrinkage which pulls back the polish from the ends like tips or cuticles.
  • Chanel Le Gel Coat is a newer top coat that Chanel launched. It wears really well and gives the nails a cushiony shine. I love this with Chanel polishes and it also works well with Dior.
  • Louboutin Loubi Primer and Loubi Gloss is one of the best nail care duos I’ve used. The price point is high and this comes as a duo. The primer keeps nails from yellowing and helps to hydrate them well. The top coat gives one of the best high-gloss shines I’ve ever seen and keeps polish lasting long for up to 7 days for me. It’s not the fastest drying duo but well worth the extra time it takes.

Extras

Best Hand and Nail Care Essentials | The Beauty Look Book

The extras that make a huge difference in hand care rounded up below:

  • L’Occitane makes some of my favorite hand creams, they’re great for dry skin and I love the fun packaging. For those with sensitive noses the Shea Butter is the best and most gentle. It has a very natural smelling scent that is soothing.
  • Molton Brown makes my favorite scented hand creams, they have a lightweight texture so they’re not greasy and I love their scents. Pink Pepperpod and Coco Sandalwood are my favorites but really all the options are great.
  • Kiehl’s introduced scented hand creams in a Limited-Edition Trio this year, you can buy them separately in a larger size, but the minis are exclusive to Neiman Marcus (while supplies last). The Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is the unscented version and I also really like it. I don’t have one at the moment because my husband uses it as well and we go through them frequently.
  • Molton Brown Alba White Truffle Hand Treatment and Scrub are amazing for a hand cream and scrub. I’ve written about this duo before and absolutely love it. I’ve never done a hand scrub before trying this. Over the holidays a year ago many of you mentioned you do regular hand scrubs and that it works wonders on your hands.
  • Deborah Lippman Cuticle Oil has been my go-to for years. I’ve gone through several bottles and love it.
  • Dior Huile Abricot was interesting to me because it seemed to be less messy and easier to apply compared to most oils. It’s a great touch up for the cuticles and is super hydrating without getting messy. I really like it.
  • Two polish removers I swear by are Deborah Lippmann The Stripper and Zoya Remove +. If you find your nails peel it may be because you’re using harsh polish removers. Both of these are super gentle and good for sensitive nails. Amy from Cafe Makeup recommended the Zoya remover to me years ago and as her nails always look pristine I took her advice and am forever grateful for this discovery.
  • Chanel Le Coton is one of my favorite facial cottons, it’s bit spendy to use for polish remover but it soaks up a lot so you can use one square for one hand for lighter polishes. Facial Cotton review and comparison here.
  • Sephora Collection Cotton Rounds are great because they’re cheap and don’t leave fibers behind which can be super annoying when you need to get the nail surface completely clean. Love these and have have lost count of how many times I’ve ordered these.

The DIY Manicure

Step 1

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 2 is optional, let the fingers soak with warm water and bit of hand soap to soften the cuticles. I absolutely love the Molton Brown Hand Washes – they smell amazing, don’t dry out the skin and I love the packaging.

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 3

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look BookDIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 4

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 5

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 6

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 7

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 8

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 9

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 10 – Color is OPI Be There in a Prosecco

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 11

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 12

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

A few personal notes on nail care. I’m not a manicurist or nail professional but based on my experience I think the only way to avoid breakage is to keep nails on the shorter side. I do believe there are a lot of nail strengtheners and sometimes nail hardness depends on diet and health, but no matter what I do I can’t avoid breakage when they get long. For me playing frisbee always breaks my nails. On tip wear your mileage will vary depending on hand activity and nail length. The longer the nails the easier it is for the tips to come in contact with things like a keyboard or anything else you touch and therefore they get more wear than shorter nails. If you have broken chips, hang nails, cuts or any issue I highly recommend that you try to get them fixed by a professional manicurist – the few visits to get them to a healthy state is well worth the splurge. Also depending on hand or foot activities a salon can work wonders. I did ballet from the time I was 7 years old until 18 and my feet were badly calloused for years. I didn’t think there was anything I could do to get them fixed to a normal state. I did not get my first mani or pedi until I was 21 and was amazed at how much it improved my feet. It took about a year of regular pedicures every other week or so to get them into a presentable state.

Also a note on gel nails, I’ve never had my nails with gels so I can’t give any advice or input on those.

Best Hand and Nail Care Essentials for a DIY Manicure

An extra step that I just started doing is masking my hands. I used on a few occasions the Glamglow Thirsty Mud Mask and SK-II Facial Treatment Mask on hands and afterwards it was like years had been lifted. I don’t know that I have the patience to do this on a regular basis but on super dry skin days with the dry weather this helped a lot.

I hope you found this roundup helpful! With nail care there are so many options to try – the fancy packaging and pretty bottles are always so tempting at the store. I get overwhelmed at Ulta and whip out my phone to look for online reviews, realize it’s going to take too much time to research and end up sticking with what I’ve tried and loved.

If you have any favorites, tips or tricks please share in the comments! My advice is practice makes perfect! It does take time and there were many times in the beginning I just gave up and ended up going to my salon because it would be faster and more efficient for them to take 40 minutes to an hour to do them rather than try to finish myself. I gave up many many times. Eventually I got better and can do both hands easily at home on my own. I still get professional manicures when time allows. I would say over the past year for reference that the vast majority of the nail polish reviews I did were done on my own. Ballpark figure is over 80% of the nail swatches were done on my own.

Press samples include the Molton Brown Alba White Truffle duo and Louboutin Loubi Nail Kit.

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Christian Louboutin Nail Polish

Christian Louboutin Loubichrome Mini Nail Colours

January 27, 2017

Louboutin Loubichrome Nail Polishes | The Beauty Look Book

Earlier this month Christian Louboutin launched mini nail polishes called Loubichrome Nail Colours ($30 each, 6 ml/0.2 fl oz). There are three colors in this launch with new limited-edition packaging where the tops have rainbow chrome-like tints. The colors are all shimmery with light-reflecting particles described as having a chrome finish. When it comes to metallics or chromes for the nails I’m super hesitant to try many brands mainly because of the streaking you can see with noticeable brush strokes. With the Loubichromes there is no streaking whatsoever – the shimmer is smooth and colors are  easy to apply. Pigment is excellent with two coats. Right now the Loubichromes are the most exciting thing in nail polish for me with colors that are fun, unique and cheerful.

This is the first time Louboutin has launched the minis individually. (Minis versus full-size shown in this post here.) These run at a lower $30 price point which is easier to justify compared to the $50 price tag of the original/regular sizes. Still at $30 each these are very expensive – but quality-wise these are excellent. Packaging is a work of art. With Louboutin nail polishes I find they wear extremely well and last around 5-7 days without any signs of tip wear or chipping. I use several different top coats, a few favorites include the CND Super Shiney, Louboutin Loubi Nail Gloss (c/o), or the Nails Inc. 45 Second Top Coat.

Louboutin Loubichrome Nail Polishes | The Beauty Look Book

The colors in the Loubichrome launch include:

  • Loubichrome I is described as an energetic yellow infused with lime green
  • Loubichrome II is described as a fiery rosy red
  • Loubichrome III is described as a glistening violet

Loubichrome I is the most edgy color, I rarely ever wear yellows or greens on the nails. This one is very much outside my comfort zone but I think it could be a fun shade for the summertime. Performance is perfect in terms of application and pigment. Swatched with two coats.

Louboutin Loubichrome I Nail Polish | The Beauty Look Book

Louboutin Loubichrome I Nail Polish | The Beauty Look Book

Loubichrome II is my favorite. It’s a metallic warm red rose color. I don’t own many shimmery soft reds, I have quite a few metallic pinks and fuchsia colors. This one has a pretty warmth to it and it’s a color I think I could wear year round. Swatched with two coats.

Louboutin Loubichrome II Nail Polish | The Beauty Look Book

Louboutin Loubichrome II Nail Polish | The Beauty Look Book

Loubichrome III is a really pretty iridescent violet. It flashes purple, pink, violet and has the most amazing metallic sheen to it. It’s definitely not a conservative color but it’s still very wearable. Swatched with two coats.

Louboutin Loubichrome III Nail Polish | The Beauty Look Book
Louboutin Loubichrome III Nail Polish | The Beauty Look Book

Louboutin Loubichrome Nail Polish | The Beauty Look Book

Bottom line: well made, beautiful but spendy. My favorite is the red one Loubichrome II, but all three shades are fun with a summery vibe. Loubichrome I is the most trendy color and I’ve tried yellow polishes in the past but don’t think I’m the type that can pull it off. I can definitely see myself getting regular use out of the purple one in the summer. I’m wearing it right now on the fingers and think it’s really pretty. It’s a nice change from the nudes and light pinks I’ve been wearing lately. I’ve been asked numerous times if these are worth the high price tag. My answer and thoughts discussed in this post here. Personal thoughts and feelings are still the same.

The Louboutin Loubichromes retail for $30 each, all limited-edition. You can find them at Nordstrom, Sephora, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Net-A-Porter and Christian Louboutin. Have you tried these? What did you think? If not, what are you loving for the nails right now?

Loubichromes sent courtesy of Christian Louboutin for review.

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