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

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!

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.

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?