#NakedNails – Week 1

This week Smoke & Mirrors is joining the movement promoting the beauty of natural nails! I decided it was time for a fresh start, and so cut my free edge away, down to the nail bed about a week ago. Here’s a photo of the growth so far.

S&M 20 March 2018

As you can see, my natural nails are healthy overall but dinged, even pitted, in a couple spots from filing enhancements. And, thanks to the resurgence of winter, my cuticles are dry and ragged this week.


I’ll be taking advantage of this re-growing time by reviewing a new-to-me line of products called Miracle Gel by Sally Hansen.


The Sally Hansen brand offers a ton of interesting products for home users that I would love to test, but I’m not made of money so I chose to test the product that I’ve heard the most buzz about amongst DIYers over the past year or two.  Sally Hansen calls this “life-proof polish”, a gel polish with “No UV lamp required.” They say it’s “The next best thing to a salon gel manicure that you can do at home.” I say, let’s find out! I’ll be comparing Miracle Gel to my tried-and-true Gelish, in an effort to help you decide which is the best bang for your buck.

There are several Miracle Gel reviews available online, but here at Smoke & Mirrors you’ll find different information – I’ll not only test the product application and results from the perspective of a professional nail tech, but also analyze how well the product will protect natural nails as they grow out. Because long, healthy natural nails are what we want, right?

I’d also like to answer any questions you have about this product. So please leave me a comment or a question you’d like answered!


Angling for a Kiss

S&M 3 March 2018

For this design I used colors from the most recent Holiday and Winter Gelish collections. The base color is Angling for a Kiss, a beautiful deep cranberry red polish, and the white lines are My Main Freeze.  Both are from the Thrill of the Chill winter collection. The mixture of tiny and chunky glitters is Silver in My Stocking” from the Little Miss Nutcracker collection.

After painting the lines on one nail, I decided they were too thick and wished I’d used acrylic paint instead. But the lines were cured already so I decided to roll with it.  Overall this is a super simple design to do as long as you have a nice striping brush!


Gelish Royal Temptations Collection for Spring 2018

Look at these beautiful swatches of the lovely Gelish Royal Temptations Collection!

S&M 3 March 2018 B

ICYMI this is the spring collection for 2018 for Gelish, released about a week ago. The colors are really pretty, and I’m amped about them all, as usual. I think the green Ruffle Those Feathers and purple All the Queen’s Bling are going to be really popular with clients.  Actually, Ruffle Those Feathers is the first color I used on myself!

(Please ignore the bubbling on the blue My Other Wig is a Tiara swatch… that was my fault. This is what happens when you apply layers of gel polish that are too thick!)

If you prefer to see live swatches, please check out the Smoke and Mirrors YouTube channel for swatches of the entire Royal Temptations collection!



Gelish Royal Temptations Swatches


Image Courtesy Gelish

For spring 2018, Gelish has introduced the Royal Temptations collection. “Inspired by the lavish life of Marie Antoinette, the collection includes six delicious shades. Opulent pastels of sea foam green, teal, purple, pink and coral help to convey the romantic fantasy we associate with being a queen. For an even sweeter nail look, add on Over-the-Top Pop, a special effect glitter that you can’t help but adore.”

Click below to see the Smoke & Mirrors live swatches of this beautiful collection, including the glitter topper.

video thumbnail royal temptations

Unique Ways to Use the Gigantic Stamper

S&M 3 December 2017 E

A couple weeks ago I posted a new video to the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel, unboxing the Born Pretty Store Gigantic Stamper. In this post, we’ll take a look at two unique and useful ways to use the gigantic stamper.

First, and most useful in a salon setting, is that you can use a large plate and the stamper to stamp multiple images at the same time. I recommend using abstract full-nail images, because if you take the time to line up single images on each nail the polish will likely dry before you have stamped all the nails.

In the below photo you can see I did 6 of 10 nails this way.

S&M 3 December 2017 F

Second, on 2 of the other 4 nails I applied a decal, which I made directly on the gigantic stamper. I stamped off the plate then allowed the polish to dry on the stamper before painting it with other colors. After that dried overnight, I carefully removed it from the stamper and used clear polish to apply it to the nail.

Check out the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel for a demo of these techniques.

Don’t Toy With My Heart

S&M 27 January 2018 A

For this design I used a technique that’s been around for awhile but I had not yet tried: the “smoosh” manicure.  Here are the colors of Gelish I used:

  • black – Black Shadow
  • red – Don’t Toy With My Heart (also used on full coverage nails)
  • gray – Fashion Week Chic
  •  nude/neutral – Taupe Model

I did one coat of Taupe Model as the base, cured it, then applied small drops of all the colors in various spots on the nails.  Next, I used my Morgan Taylor clear stamper to smoosh the drops around so they blended a little, but not so much that the colors became “muddy”. Finally, I cured the design for 1 minute.

Once the smooshing was done I thought it was a little boring so I stamped on top using a design from the Morgan Taylor Designer Plates Flirty Florals collection.  These are some great stamping plates that would do even better with a better stamping polish. (Next time I’ll try using polish from Clear Jelly Stamper.) Check out the macro shot!

S&M 27 January 2018 B

This ended up being super easy (and quick) to do, but got a lot of notice. I wore this manicure for over two weeks!

Have you tried the smoosh mani? Let me know how it turned out in the comments!

Unboxing the Born Pretty Gigantic Stamper

S&M 3 December 2017 EBefore the holidays here in the U.S. I ordered the Gigantic Stamper from the Born Pretty Store (BPS) on Amazon.com.  Within a month I had received the package. It included:

  • The stamper, which is 12 x 5 x 1.5 cm, approximately the same size as most XL stamping plates, and weighs about 120 grams
  • 4 thin scraper cards

The stamper was only about $8 through Amazon.com (though the price has increased to about $15 now, it is still only $8 if you buy from BPS). It’s a squishy stamper, and works very well with no priming needed. The great thing is that it’s clear, so you can see through it to line up your nails and stamp multiple nails at one time.

To see it in action, please visit the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel for my unboxing video. I immediately tried a couple different stamping methods with it, and was impressed with how well it picked up the images from the plates. Since then I have used it in a couple different manicures with no problem. While other BPS stampers have given me trouble in the past because they were not squishy enough, this one felt very comfortable to stamp with.

Note that this is NOT a paid review. I bought this product to try out on myself before possibly using it in salon, so you’re seeing my real initial testing and reactions to the product.


Gelish brings us Royal Temptations for Spring 2018

Source: Cosmoprof

Gelish debuted their Spring 2018 collection in the February issue of Nails Magazine, and I’m as excited as ever to see the ads. Actually, I probably get more excited when the spring collection is released because I’m ready for some bright cheerful colors after a long winter.  And this year Gelish certainly gives us something to look forward to!

The collection is called Royal Temptations, and the color names call to mind famous royal figures in 18th century France: “Beauty Marks the Spot” reminds us that in the 18th century royal court, beauty marks were all the rage to the point that false ones were applied to certain places on one’s face, depending on the message you wanted to convey to the beholder… remember Madame Du Barry, King Louis XV’s infamous mistress? And what queen’s wig could be more famous than Marie Antoinette’s, who loved all things fashionable and sumptuous? Yep, Gelish nailed it with the names for these polishes!

Image Source: Makitu



I think clients are going to love these. The seafoam green/blue color seems to have been really popular the last couple years, and shows no signs of fading popularity, so Ruffle Those Feathers will probably be a hit.  The traditionalists will love Curls & Pearls and Beauty Marks the Spot. And, if you’re like me you’re always looking for a pretty lilac (light purples seem to be a rarity for Gelish thus far)… and All the Queen’s Bling seems like it will fit the bill!

Which color are you looking forward to wearing? Leave a comment below!

Tips for working with Gelish PolyGEL

After working with Gelish PolyGEL™ off and on over the last few months, I certainly am not an expert, but I do have some tips for you! Here are some ideas to your PolyGEL experience better right out of the box, and some answers to common questions I have seen online.

  1. Use the key! Provided in the trial kit there is a PolyGEL Tube Key. dsc_0374__23430-1507229688-370-700Put it over the sealed end of the Tube and, with the lid on the tube, push it down so that it moved the product down towards the opening of the tube.  I noticed that people are having issues with the back of the tube coming apart when they squeeze the tube, OR having trouble squeezing the product out of the tube. I believe the key is solution to both these issues. PolyGEL is a hard product, and if you squeeze at the middle of the tube you will pressurize the tube towards both ends, eventually forcing the PolyGEL into the back end of the tube. You want the tube to be squeezed on the back end by the key so that you can use the force of the squeeze to get it out at the tip.
  2. Roll the PolyGEL onto the cuticle area, then move it towards the tip with your brush.  This might be personal preference, but I’ve found it easier to apply PolyGEL near the cuticle and try to get it flush at the cuticle first, then work on the stress area and tip next. This is similar to the one ball method when working with traditional acrylics.
  3. If you must apply more PolyGEL, do it before curing. If you didn’t apply enough product on your first slice, try adding a bit more while you’re still sculpting and before curing. If you add it after curing, you may get some white lines or spots in the finished product.
  4. PolyGEL will move a tiny bit on the nail. I know the promo videos from Gelish emphasize that PolyGEL stays in place after you roll it on but, until it is cured, it can move a little bit over a few minutes if the nail is not horizontal.  For instance, if you apply PolyGEL to all the nails of one hand and then rest the hand in a neutral position (with the thumb nail at approximately a 90 degree angle), the PolyGEL will move slightly on the thumb nail over time. This product does not defy gravity for more than a few minutes. It’s simple physics. Please don’t expect it to be frozen on the nail from the moment you roll it on (obviously this could not be the case, because then you wouldn’t be able to shape it on the nail!). It does stay in place long enough for you to sculpt a set, without having to chase it around the nail; it’s not going to run off onto the cuticle or sidewall areas while you’re working on the other nails.

Practice helps! The more you work with this product, the more you will be come comfortable with it. Before you buy the full-size products, I recommend picking up the trial kit.

nail show loot 1

Have you tried PolyGEL? What are some of your tips? Let me know in the comments!

Just Tutu much!

S&M 31 December 2017

For this design I used Gelish colors from the holiday and winter 2017 collections:

  • Plum-Thing Magical
  • Just Tutu Much
  • Ice Cold Gold

On the purple nails I stamped a scroll design using Clear Jelly Stamper plate CJS-13, then topped with the Ice Cold Gold glitter.

I’m loving my new Clear Jelly Stamper! I have tried many stampers over the years, and this one is by far the most comfortable and easiest to stamp with.  If you haven’t already heard about this stamper, check out my Clear Jelly Stamper unboxing video on the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel to see some of the items you can purchase.