Ruth Griffin: Ultimate party season makeover
To gel or not to gel? Your explanation for the world of manis and pedis
Is there a more relaxing, pampering treatment that is also quick and inexpensive (and makes you feel Olivia Palermo-level groomed) than a manicure?
Irish women have become obsessed in the last decade with all things nails - from Shellac and Gellish, to fish pedicures and paraffin wax manis!
I love the polished, groomed finish that a manicure gives me. However, I'm definitely guilty of not giving my nails enough care, and have learned to invest in a good-quality cuticle oil, as well as a base and top coat, and to scrimp on the actual polish itself. It's a good way to decrease my beauty budget while still keeping my nails en pointe.
Our hands will be kept busy this festive season - between the lugging around of shopping bags, endless wrapping, stuffing, packing and all the cooking and cleaning that comes hand-in-hand with Christmas - so it's no surprise that our hands and nails will need an extra dose of TLC in the next few weeks. That's where this, week three of my Ultimate Party Season guide, comes in.
Nail bars are proving unbelievably popular with Irish women and have popped up in every main street across the country. However, manicures are extremely easy to do yourself at home and you can get a professional-looking finish by using the new colours and formulas that I'm highlighting today - as well as lots of practise.
I might even be able to tempt those of you that are confident with their mani skills to try out some of the nail art techniques that were all over the autumn/winter catwalk shows (see trends, next page). In fact, as the coverage of this season's shows attested, such is the increasing interest in nails that they are fast becoming a stand-alone beauty section. Models stalked the ramp with nails bedecked with jewellery, precious stones, intricate artistic details, every colour polish under the sun - and even fur! We also saw the contour craze extending to manicures, with Tom Ford's models wearing a gold and black contoured nail on the runway.
While I appreciate the creativity that went into these nail looks, I have a suspicion that not a lot of them will translate easily from the ramp to reality (in fairness, how practical are chain necklaces hanging off your nails in the office in real life? Or fur nails for the new mum changing her kids' nappies?)
However, there is merit in distilling and diluting the catwalk looks and refining them for a polished but practical look this festive season.
5 of the best nail products
● Best budget polish
I rarely use expensive nail polishes as I seem to chip them no matter what, and I honestly can't see any major difference in colour or texture between budget lines and high-end options. My go-to budget nail polish brand is Catrice. I love the new, 1990s-inspired Brown Collection, €2.50, from Penneys and pharmacies nationwide.
● Best Base Coat
Lots of women have asked me if a base coat is really necessary - I would say it's vital if you're using dark colours on your nails, or have brittle nails. I have weak, soft, peeling nails and introducing a base coat (and nail oil) made a big difference to my nail strength. Try essie All-In-One Base Coat, €10.99, from pharmacies nationwide.
● Best luxury polish
The best high-end nail polishes I've tried are OPI, NAILS INC, CND, Leighton Denny, Dior, Chanel and YSL, but I have to give special mention to the beautifully-packaged and elegantly-shaded - if eye-wateringly expensive - Christian Louboutin Nail Lacquers, €50, from Brown Thomas. Fantastic dressing table decoration if nothing else!
● Best top Coat
If like me, you have zero patience waiting for nail polish to dry, your new beauty go-to goodie is a fast drying topcoat. Sally Hansen Insta Dry Top Coat, €7.99, from pharmacies nationwide, is a multi-tasker that will give your polish a gloss finish and make your mani dry quicker.
● Best Natural line
Some people are concerned about the possible harmful effects of chemicals that can be found in regular nail varnish: toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPHP and xylene. An increasingly popular choice, especially for pregnant and breast feeding mums, are '7 free' nail varnishes. Try Ella + Mila, €14.95, available in 120 shades. From Skinfull Affairs, Dublin 2, skinfullaffairs.ie
1 To create the perfect nail shape and length, always file in one direction, towards the centre of the nail. Crystal files last for years, any other files need to be discarded after a few months.
2 Use cuticle oil daily. If your cuticles are particularly tough, file them first then apply oil. A great product that will work on its own or through your polish is CND Solar Oil Drops, €13.95 (pictured below), from salons nationwide or lovecnd.com.
3 Use cuticle cutters only if you're experienced with them and not heavy handed. Trust me, I've done a LOT of damage to my nails with these!
4 If your nails are soft or brittle, use nail conditioner/hardener.
5 Sit in a chair at a table when doing your manicure - less chance of spillage this way!
6 Always use a base coat to prevent nail beds getting "dyed" and damaged by the polish. It also makes polish easier to remove.
7 Keep your polish in the fridge for an hour before applying to prevent 'bubbling'.
8 Wipe off any excess nail polish off the brush before applying.
9 If varnish is old and sticky, add a few drops of varnish thinner - available in supermarkets and pharmacies - to refresh your polish.
10 Apply two thin coats of polish rather than one thick one.
11 The chemicals in nail polish can take up to 14 hours to dry fully. A chemical drier is the quickest way to get a faster drying time. Alternatively, dip your hands in iced water.
12 Apply a top coat every second day to keep your mani fresh.
13 When removing nail polish, use acetone-free remover to be kinder to your nails.
14 When doing a pedi, do your big toe last to prevent smudging.
15 Nail buffers are brilliant for women who want to have a groomed mani without using polish.
6 weeks to Christmas: Jobs to tick off your list ...
● Start using a nail and cuticle oil now.
● Book your manicure/pedicure so you're ready for Christmas week.
● Start experimenting with nail colours at home.
● Use a foot/hand mask weekly.
Gel Manicure, Gellish, Gellac, Geleration
A gel nail is the generic term for nails done under a UV lamp. This gel-based manicure is a combination of both a polish and a gel, and is long-lasting (up to three weeks). Gellish, Gellac etc are brand name versions of this technique. Takes 30 to 45 minutes to apply.
Nail beds must be buffed before application and on removal, which is a major drawback for women with weak, soft or brittle nails.
No-Light Gel Nails
Most gel nails are cured under UV-light, but these are cured with a gel activator and do not require UV-light. They're a good option for those concerned by recent reports claiming that skin damage can arise from the lights used for this type of manicure. A DIY option is Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Colour and Top Coat, €19.50, from pharmacies nationwide.
A long-lasting manicure using hybrid polishes that are cured under UV lamps. It's named after the brand from CND that made gel manis mainstream. Lasts from two to four weeks, and there's no buffing of the natural nail bed required, so it may be a good option for weak nails. Removal should be done in salon and can take up to 20 minutes - please don't pick them off!
These are artificial nail tips, made of lightweight plastic plates, that are glued on the end of the natural nail for added length. Can be purely made from acrylic, or gel options are also available. Or you can choose a combination of both, which is then applied over the entire nail.
A long-lasting weekly polish from the CND brand (above) that doesn't need a base coat. From salons nationwide, see lovecnd.com