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· Desert Island: Manicure

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Desert Island: Manicure
by Dain

The tools.

Why even bother to apply polish onto ragged, ill-groomed nails? A good nail comes down to the manicure itself. These tools, lackluster and unshiny though they may be, are more important than any color, no matter how complex, how brilliant.

First, I file my nails: a gently pointed oval shape flatters my hand best, as my nail bed is quite curved. I file with an old manicure still on; it is easier to gauge the shape that way. The OPI Nail File is gentle (why on earth did I use that crappy metal file for so long?) on the nail, its smooth edge less prone to splitting, yet highly efficient at taking down length. Compared to most glass files, the OPI is thinner, more fragile, so it's easier to get the side edge, just keep it in the original plastic tube. On rare occasion, I buff, using the softest fabric on my thin nails.

For removal, I prefer pure acetone, using a cotton that does not shred, like Delon+ from Costco, the most cost-effective option I've found in the US. It's drying, but I do not like the residue left behind by removers laced with glycerin. Pure acetone is also more efficient at cleaning up the edges with a synthetic brush—mine's from ELF. My cuticle work isn't as meticulous as a manicurist's, but the Blue Cross Cuticle Remover, decanted into an empty squeeze bottle for ease of use, dissolves dry, tough cuticle in seconds. It's so effective, better by miles than Sally Hansen, which I tired of endlessly repurchasing, I've had to make some readjustments and try out other, less aggressive cuticle groomers. This one from Trans Design (highly recommended if buying nail supplies in bulk) has a fine edge, so it's easier to push under dead cuticle than my blunted old Revlon. If you like to nip, I strongly advise not using Blue Cross on freshly trimmed skin; it will burn.

Once my nail bed is clean, my favorite base coat is a strengthening and conditioning treatment, Nail Tek II, which after some experimentation is the best on my thin, soft, easily shattered nails. Sometimes, I also use the corresponding Foundation, though it's not necessary. For a topcoat, I love Creative Nail Design Super Shiney. It's glassy and plush, quick to dry, and sinks through layers of polish, evening out any bumps or ridges.

To maintain my cuticles in good nick, I usually drop some plain jojoba oil, decanted into a mini dropper, post manicure. Jojoba absorbs most readily into my skin, freeing my hands all the quicker. If they're extremely dry, Dior Crème d'Abricot, a thick, emollient blend of mineral oil and lanolin, softens them overnight. In general, I opt for cheapest products when it comes to the manicure, loathe to spend $30 on a topcoat that I need to replace three months later, but Crème d'Abricot cannot be bettered for an intensive cuticle cream.

Now the colors: top ten.

Probably my favorite nailpolish of them all. The softness of Chanel Golden Sand is sort of an expensive take on nude.

Essie Borrowed & Blue may look greener here in full afternoon sun, but is actually a slightly greyed blue creme, in Essie's smooth pastel formula. Surprisingly, it is my favorite pedicure shade. I favor pastels (rarely brights or darks). Though Candy Apple Mint is a close second, this blue pleases me best.

Because it is slightly sheer, Sephora Sin-cerely Violet wears more like a soft lilac-pink with gold pearl, better balanced on my skin tone than the many pinks and roses I've bought.

Glittery topcoats tend to take over the manicure (e.g. Across The Universe), but OPI Pirouette My Whistle is quite delicate and subdued, with slightly translucent, satin-matte sequins scattered into a fine silver and black glitters.

There must be a dozen sheer milky pinks out there, but for a pure, clean nail I reach for Chanel Ballerina. It's the ultimate palate cleanser.

Etude House BL009 is unapologetic bad taste: a sapphire base that fades to ultraviolet depths, with an intense teal shimmer that picks up more green when it catches the light. Not quite a holo, but nearly as dimensional.

Lippmann's thicker, gel-like formula provides the ideal suspension for her imaginative glitters. Ray of Light is definitely a statement manicure (roughly equivalent to like wearing a wild print in a simple cut), and the formula is more trouble to work with, but the results are worth it: this rich blue-violet gelly is so exquisite, like a deconstructed Clarins 230.

The orange-leaning coral of Chanel Orange Fizz somehow manages to be punchy yet muted at the same time.

I hemmed and hawed for a long time over my favorite red, but Orly Haute Red won out. It's a bright cherry creme, slightly warm, particularly crisp on the nail, unlike the darker, cooler Chanel Dragon, another great red.

I often feel like vampy nails wear me instead of the other way around, but I wear OPI Royal Ruby Rajah all the time, year round. It's a black cherry—properly moody, satisfyingly rich, but still classic in feel—velvety chocolate depths spiced up by brighter red shimmer.

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5/31/2012 [2]

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