Tried a New Workout: Walk 15® live class

I rarely post about fitness topics on this blog anymore, but in honor of new year’s resolution season I thought I’d let you know about a great new workout I tried recently. It’s called Walk 15®, and it’s the brainchild of Leslie Sansone, who you may know from her popular Walk At Home® workouts on VHS, DVD, and now YouTube.  The program started a couple years ago and you can now find classes in most states. (Group fitness instructors can find out more information about becoming an instructor on the W15 website.)

Walk 15 is a live indoor class in which you walk one mile in 15 minutes. The classes are run in 15 minute segments, and the one I took was about 50 minutes long. We aimed to walk about three miles with a few minutes to warm up and cool down added on.

I took these classes twice a week for six weeks. The classes included not only walking but also some band exercises for the arms and legs, and some standing ab exercises. Honestly, none of it was nearly as hard as my regular workouts, but it seems ideal for athletes who don’t want to take a day off from working out and need a lighter workout. (I also highly recommend restorative yoga for those “off” days!) There were women of all ages in my class, and people of all ability levels are welcome. My instructor was happy to show progressions and regressions for all the movements as needed.

If you are:

  • just starting out on your fitness journey
  • looking to add to your current fitness routine
  • bored of treadmill walks
  • searching for a simple, yet effective aerobic workout without a lot of choreography
  • in need of a fun way to workout indoors after dark or during the winter
  • an athlete looking for a light workout for your “rest day”
  • recovering from illness or injury

…then this class might be for you.

After the six weeks I dropped this class due some scheduling difficulties (the classes were only in the evening, as this is the most convenient time for a lot of people). However, I’d love to get back into it. In a perfect world I’d be doing this when it’s too cold or dark outside to get my steps. Ideally I’d do it at lunchtime, as a nice break from desk work, or at the end of the work day, to loosen up before going home for possibly more sitting.

Finally, let’s recognize that walking is the ultimate exercise. Athletes and weekend warriors are probably laughing at me for saying that, but think about it – walking is the foundation of our movements from the time we are one year old until we are elderly. Walking is great for everyone – young, old, fit (it’s a great restorative workout for an active rest day), unfit (what better place to start on your fitness journey than with this useful and time-efficient exercise?), men and women. It’s a natural motion that’s easier on the joints than running, and improves cardiovascular fitness almost as well. The AHA found that “…mile for mile, brisk walking lowers the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure as much as running does.

Courtesy of

Whatever you do, please walk more throughout your day. If you can’t make it to a Walk 15 live class, here are other FREE resources for getting your walk in at home:

  • Leslie Sansone walking videos on YouTube
  • Jessica Smith TV walking workout videos on YouTube
  • WalkingOnlineWorkouts is unique because they offer walking workouts with great music and cool scenery (you can sample parts of the workouts on their YouTube channel, or buy the full video on their website)
  • If the weather is nice and it’s safe to do so, there’s nothing better than a refreshing walk outside…
  • Or, just stand up and walk during your favorite TV shows. You’ll get in a half hour of walking that way!

And Leslie Sansone also has:

  • An app called Your Daily Walk, which is pretty cool because it has a calendar that dictates which of the walking workouts you should do each day
  • Miracle Miles walking workouts on DVD, for those who don’t want to use a streaming service

Have you tried any of the Leslie Sansone workouts? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!


Gelish (finally) answered my question!

A few years ago I participated in a Facebook Live chat with Danny Haile, founder of Hand & Nail Harmony. It was a Q&A session, and my question for him was something like “What enhancement or extension product would you recommend so that you’re able to remove the Gelish from enhancement, but not the enhancement itself?” (That’s as close as I can get… It’s been like 4 years so I really don’t remember my exact question.) At the time there was no product in their line-up that wasn’t affected by acetone, so he responded that they recommend Structure Gel.

Fast forward to 2017. I’m still using Gelish gel polish, dealing with the consequences of soaking it off each time I need to do a fill. And now Gelish introduces Polygel. It’s unlike any other product we’ve seen before. People are experimenting with it and finding some great uses for it. But what I want to know is: Can I soak Gelish off Polgyel without destroying the enhancement underneath?


The answer is yes. You can soak off the Gelish gel polish, leaving the the Polygel behind, ready for a fill. How great is that?  Check out the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel for a demo of how this is done!



Sweater nail fail… but a technique win!

S&M 22 December 2017

In preparation for winter solstice I decided it was time to finally try sweater nails. It isn’t too hard, right? Just sprinkle some clear acrylic powder into the uncured gel polish design, then cure…

Nope. This was a fail in my book. I guess you can kinda see the design in the photo, but IRL it just looks like a gray nail.

For this design I used two colors of Gelish: the green sparkly polish is You Crack Me Up from the Little Miss Nutcracker holiday 2017 collection, and the gray creme is Let’s Hit the Bunny Slopes from the winter 2013 The Snow Escape collection.

Before I painted these nails, I trimmed my natural nails and capped them with Gelish Dip in Simple Sheer (not that it matters, because you can’t see it). In the past I’ve had problems with Gelish peeling off of my dipped nails. So this time I did not apply the Dip top coat, but instead just filed to shape and finish buffed. Then I applied Gelish with no Foundation, only Top It Off.

This left the finish a little more rough, and it worked! The Gelish stayed on for about two weeks, no problem. The above photo was taken at about the one week mark.

When I first reviewed Gelish Dip a couple months ago, I got some comments and questions about what to do for this issue and, at the time, I did not know the answer. But now, here it is! I had good results, but please try it and let me know if it works for you, too!

YsNails Dual Forms review

A couple years ago I wrote a post explaining dual forms vs. inverted nail moulds. Now I’m back with review of another brand of dual forms (also called reverse forms)! (Note that I bought all the items mentioned in this post, and the opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post.)

Dual forms gained infamy when nail technician Amy Becker used them in a competition in 2013 to sculpt a full set in less than 8 minutes. She now holds the World’s Record for fastest set of sculptured pink and white acrylic nails thanks to her innovative use of this product. Many nail techs still think using dual forms is “cheating”, but I find that they are simply a quicker way of producing beautifully shaped enhancements on the natural nails. They cannot replace paper forms or nail tips, but are another viable option for nail techs and home users.

I have been using ASP Form-A-Nail dual forms on myself off-and-on for the past couple years. Recently I watched a video review on YsNails dual forms from another nail tech, Denise John, on YouTube, and decided to give them a try. I bought the YsNails dual forms on Ebay.  They came in a plastic bag inside a bubble wrap mailer, with some brief instructions.  If you don’t know how to use these there are a hundred videos online that can help!

S&M 3 December 2017 D

Overall I like these dual forms. It’s convenient to have a length guide on the form, though this isn’t a deal-breaker because I measure the length of my nails while finish filing, to make sure they’re all even, anyway. These dual forms built a nice nail for me (I usually prefer squoval), and I didn’t feel bad about re-shaping the form for my thumb nail because the package came with so many forms… more on that below.  However, the plastic did seem a bit thinner than the other dual forms I’ve used, making them feel flimsier overall. Here are the nails I built with them, using Gelish Hard Gel:

S&M 1 October 2017

If you’re looking to buy dual forms, buying them online or at Sally Beauty is probably the fastest and easiest way to get your hands on some. Comparing the two brands I personally have used…

ASP Form-A-Nail – around $8 for 24 forms in 12 unique sizes

  • work consistently well (I’ve tried them with hard gel, acrylic and Polygel)
  • have tabs on the side to hold so you can more easily rock the dual form until it pops off the nail
  • no length indicator
  • shape of the forms fits well to the typical nail bed
  • form a decent nail shape, perhaps a little flatter than I would like

YsNails dual forms – $9 for 120 forms in 12 unique sizes

  • worked just as well as the more expensive versions
  • have length indicators – very helpful!
  • seem to be a thinner plastic than other brands
  • you get more in the pack than with other brands
  • have a very rounded cuticle area; my thumb nail cuticle area is very flat, so I filed the edge of the dual form to match

Some other brands:

  • Pronails Poppits– these seem to be the original. They have a tab at the tip to help with removal.
  • Bio-Swift system – like a couple other techniques that pro and home users have been using for years (such as stamping nail art and acrylic dip systems), it seems that dual forms are gaining attention in 2017 from professional brands. BioSeaweed Gel introduced this reverse forms kit recently
  • ASP Form-A-Nail – I mentioned these above and in my previous post about dual forms, but I’m listing them again here to supply the link

Be aware that whether you use gel or acrylic, this is a two-handed process. You’ll need to use one hand to hold the form in position on the nail of the other hand until the acrylic dries or while the gel is cured enough (about 20 seconds) for the form to stay in place during the full curing process. I have never used these on clients because I don’t have a lamp that will cure gel while I am holding the dual form on the nail with my two hands. You’d probably need an overhead lamp or a flashlight-style LED lamp.

Also be aware that it’s easy to push the dual form down on to the nail using too much pressure, resulting in a precariously thin enhancement and a vulnerable nail-to-extension transition (meaning the area where the natural nail abuts the gel nail). This can lead to easy breakage and shorter wear time. I also prefer my extensions to be a bit thicker, after finding that the super thin extensions just don’t hold up to the rigors of everyday life as well as those that are a little thicker.

Reverse or dual forms are easy to use but, just like any other product, they still require practice.  Have you tried any of these brands of dual forms? What do you think about them? Please leave a comment below!

Acrylic Dip Systems: Part 2 – Professional systems

There has been a spate of professional acrylic dip systems released in the last year or so, perhaps due to the sudden increase in client interest and demand.  There’s no question that acrylic dip systems have made a comeback, and received a bit of an update in the process. Years ago, we did not have all these beautiful colors to choose from!

I love this enhancement service and highly recommend trying it if you have not already.  My recommendation for professional users is the Gelish Dip system. Check out my recent results with this system:

S&M 2 November 2017 D

I trimmed my nails a few weeks ago, and used Gelish Dip to protect them as they grew out again.  When I was at the Nail Tech Event of the Smokies over the summer, the Gelish rep suggested that I try using Simple Sheer (instead of the Clear As Day powder I had used previously) for wearing on long natural nails with no polish.  So I finally purchased some and applied it, and I think the results look very natural.

While I recommend Gelish Dip, there are other professional options to hit the market in 2016 and 2017. Recently Nails Magazine Readers voted for their favorite dip system for 2017, and the top three were:

  1. Young Nails SlickPour
  2. Gelish Dip
  3. OPI Powder Perfection

Notice that SNS Nails is not on the list!

Home and pro users can find a couple different options at Sally Beauty:

I haven’t tried any of these except for the Gelish Dip system. If you have, please let me know your thoughts! Also, check out Part 1 of this series, explaining what SNS Nails  really are… and what they aren’t!


Prepare for the Thrill of the Chill!

S&M 3 December 2017 AFor Winter 2017 Gelish has introduced the Thrill of the Chill collection, with four dark plus one light wintry colors, and a glitter topper.  I’ve purchased the entire collection, and swatched them for you!

S&M 3 December 2017 C

They are, according to Nails Magazine, “Angling for a Kiss, a deep red cream; Let’s Kiss and Warm Up, a plum cream; Don’t Let the Frost Bite, a grape cream; Caviar On Ice, a taupe cream; My Main Freeze, a pale nude cream; and Ice Cold Gold”, the special effect shade.

If you prefer to see live swatches, please go to the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube Channel to see my swatching video and first impressions of this lovely new collection!

S&M 3 December 2017 B

So far I’m most excited about Don’t Let the Frost Bite. But I’m currently wearing My Main Freeze. What about you?

Acrylic dip systems: Part 1 – What are SNS nails?

Have you heard about “SNS nails” a lot lately? For the past year or so it has seemed like a lot of ladies in my area were trying “SNS nails”, and really liked the service.  I have one friend that has been getting “SNS nails” done for 3 or 4 years now. Let’s talk a little about what that actually means.

First – “SNS” is the brand name, not the treatment name. SNS stands for Signature Nail Systems and you can check out their website here. Second – the treatment is nothing new. It’s actually just a standard acrylic dip service, and acrylic dip systems have been around since the 1980’s.

All acrylic dip systems are all basically the same, made of two main components – a finely ground acrylic powder and a cyanoacrylate-based adhesive.  To use the system you apply the adhesive, then dip in the acrylic powder. Let dry, then repeat one or two more times, as desired, on each nail. Then file, buff, and polish as desired.

There are a few advantages to the dip method over the traditional sculpted acrylic method.

  • Since there is no monomer used in this service, salon odor is reduced.
  • Whether overlaying the natural nail or a tip, the service is faster, allowing techs to work quickly and efficiently.
  • Fewer tools are required for a dip service – gel or acrylic brushes, lamps, fans, etc. not required.
  • Dipped nails can be thinner and lighter weight than traditionally sculpted acrylic or even gel enhancements. Depending on the number of layers applied, they can feel very natural.

However, you should be aware that dipped acrylic nails can actually be more brittle than traditional acrylic or gel nails.

The SNS website may lead one to believe this is a new or healthier product, but now you know that the dip acrylic method is time-tested for the last 30 years! We also know that nutrients are provided to the matrix from within, via the circulatory system of the body. So the claims that SNS powders contain vitamins and calcium, while a nice thought, are actually of little consequence.

Don’t get me wrong – the SNS dip system may be a fine product (I haven’t tested it myself!). Just keep all this in mind the next time you visit the salon and they try to up-sell you on this new and exciting product!  It’s actually a very common service and not any better for your nails (or your general health) than other services.

Come back to the Smoke & Mirrors nail blog soon for Part 2 of this series, where I have an acrylic dip system that I have personally tested multiple times to recommend to you!

Further reading:


Unboxing: XL Clear Jelly Stamper, plates, and stamping polish

A couple weeks ago I ordered the Big Bling XL stamper and some stamping plates and polishes from I had heard about the original clear jelly stamper before, but finally decided to give it a try after I saw Suzie from Nail Career Education interview the inventor of the clear jelly stamper, Debbie, and try the products in this video. I had never seen layered stamping for nails before, and really wanted to try it out!

S&M clear jelly stamper kitClear Jelly Stamper (CJS) offers an array of products for stampers of all levels. I already knew what stamped looks I wanted to create, and so I ordered:

For a peek at what I got, please watch my CJS unboxing video at the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel. Then, stay tuned for my demo video coming soon!

Have you tried CJS products yet? If so, please leave me a comment and let me know how they worked for you!

Don’t Break My Corazon

S&M 12 November 2017

This design was done with two coats of Gelish Don’t Break My Corazón from the Fall 2017 Matadora collection. This is a stunning red in person, and it is the type of red that goes with everything.

On the middle nails I taped off the inner section before applying the Don’t Break My Corazón. After the polish cured I removed the tape and glued on some 3D net embellishments from Born Pretty Store. This stuff is basically a lot of strings all laid in a random pattern and glue together. It comes to you in a small sheet, and you can cut a strip whatever size you need from it.  It is a flat sheet of it, however, and only slightly flexible. And it is not self-adhesive, so I used nail glue to adhere it to the curves of my nail. It stayed on very well, and I had to soak it off with acetone when it was time for removal.

I’m not sure if this design is really my style, but the product worked well and I got a lot of questions and compliments on it!

Gelish Holiday 2017 Collection Swatches

Little Miss Nutcracker

Here are swatches from the new Gelish Holiday Collection for 2017, called Little Miss Nutcracker.
S&M 2 November 2017 A

If you’d like to see these colors swatched live, please head over to the Smoke and Mirrors YouTube channel  for the swatching video!