Q: How long does it take you to paint your nails?
A: 100 million years. Or half an hour. Or an hour. It depends entirely on the design I'm doing or how much prep (filing, buffing, etc.) I have to do beforehand. I'd say it takes about 45 minutes - 1 hour for most designs, but a lot of that is drying time between coats.

Q: How much nail polish do you have?
A: Not that much. Most nail bloggers have upwards of several hundred and sometimes twice that. I have over 100 bottles but I don't know the exact count.

Q: What are your must-have nail items?

  • 100% pure acetone for removing glitter and cleaning up brushes and my cuticles. You can find this at any drug store or beauty supply store for the same price as regular nail polish remover. I do not use pure acetone for removing non-glitter manicures because it's very drying and can damage your nails over time if you use it too frequently.
  • Dotting tools for polka dots, hearts, clouds, etc.
  • Nail art brushes for stripes, lettering, art, etc.
  • Medium-grit and fine-grit nail files for shaping and smoothing my nails. I just have some Sally Hansen files I got at Target.
  • Makeup sponges for gradients.
  • Concealer brush for cleaning up my cuticles. Some people prefer an angled eyeliner brush, but an oval shape works better for me.
  • Foil or wax paper to cover up my workspace.

Q: How do you get your nails long and healthy?
A: My nails are pretty strong mostly because I eat well and drink a lot of water. Just like your skin, hair, etc., your nails will suffer if you aren't getting enough vitamins. So eat some damn veggies already! I also don't use nail clippers, because they can cause peels and splits; instead I use a medium-grain file. And I swear by Burt's Bees cuticle cream; I carry a tin of it in my purse at all times and put it on at least once a day, to keep my cuticles moisturized. Also...no matter how fun it may be...do not pick at your nail polish. I used to be a chronic picker but when you rip the polish off your nail, you can be ripping up pieces of your nail as well, and that's no bueno.

Q: How do you take care of your cuticles?
A: To be honest, I've always had healthy, nearly-invisible cuticles, even when I didn't give the slightest care to my hands and nails. However, I started using Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover for my pedicures, and it's worked wonders. If you have problem cuticles, use that once a week, gently pushing back your cuticles with a clean orange stick or cuticle pusher. And don't forget...any extra redness or dryness can always be photoshopped out of your final photos!

Q: How do you photograph your nails?
A: I use a DSLR (Canon Rebel XSi) with an external flash and diffuser. If it's light outside, I close my blinds, and if it's nighttime I turn off almost all lights in the room. Then I take a black item of clothing out of my closet and use it as a backdrop.

I realize that most people don't have DSLRs and external flashes, but a similar effect can be achieved with any plain point-and-shoot and some good filtered sunlight. If you have a room with a skylight in your house, that will work great--it basically turns the whole room into a light box! If not, use indirect sunlight coming in through a window. Set up a black background and use the macro/closeup setting on your camera. You'll get a similar effect :) And honestly, as long as you have healthy hands and a non-distracting background, even an Instagram shot can look great--but no one wants to see raw, chapped cuticles or your unflushed toilet in the background.

Q: What base coat and top coat do you use?
A: What base coat you use really depends on your own nail chemistry. For example, my nails aren't ridged, so I don't need a ridge-filler, but those sort of top coats work best for my mom. I recently bought Orly Bonder, which is rubberized and helps your nail polish stay on like whoa. My job is super hands-on so my tips tend to chip quickly, but I can go three days without chips if I use Bonder! However, it isn't a therapeutic base coat, so if you have problems with peeling, cracking, etc. of your nail itself, Bonder might not be the best choice for you.
For top coat, I always use Seche Vite. It is meant to be applied to slightly wet (like, five - seven minutes air dried) polish, and it bonds all the way down to your base coat and dries in under ten minutes. It's also generally super shiny and awesome.

Q: How do you apply your polish so neatly?
A: Patience young grasshopper, patience. Seriously. When I first started painting my nails, there was polish allllll over my cuticles. But practice and a steady hand will help you out a lot. Some polishes are just hopelessly runny and will flood your cuticles no matter what you do. But if you follow this tutorial for applying polish, you should have some neater results. If you still have some messy edges, dip a small makeup brush in pure acetone and run it along your cuticle to clean up.

Q: How do you prevent chips?
A: Use base coat and top coat and make sure to wrap your tips. I realize this is hard if you have very short nails, but if you have very short nails your polish doesn't chip as easily anyway! Also, don't use your nails as tools--opening soda cans, picking off stickers, etc., and wear gloves while doing the dishes.

Q: What are your favorite brands?
A: I don't care so much about brand as I do price and color. Like, OPI and Essie are really nice, but I can rarely rationalize shelling out $8 bottle (all my OPIs were purchased at a discount beauty supply store, hooray!), so I'm a huge fan of drugstore brands like Wet n Wild, Sally Hansen, and Revlon. Yes, more expensive polishes are better quality, but when I'm only wearing a manicure for two days at a time, wear time isn't so much of an issue!

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