Pump dispensers that actually work!

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S&M PANA bottles

After delaying for years too long, I finally did some research and purchased new pump dispensers for two chemicals that sit on the table at my nail station – pure acetone and isopropyl rubbing alcohol.

I chose these because they’re intended for use with chemicals, which means the plastic will be chemical-resistant. And they come with a label. As I mention in my YouTube video about these bottles, it’s required that flammable chemicals be labeled and stored properly. Here’s a quote from my state’s regulations, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, Board for Barbers and Cosmetology, Standards of Practice, 18 VAC 41-20-270. Sanitation and Safety Standards for Shops, Salons, and Schools:

E. Chemical storage and emergency information.

3. Flammable chemicals shall be labeled and stored in a nonflammable storage cabinet or a properly ventilated room…”

These bottles were just a few dollars each. I’ll add a link below to the bottles that I bought, but they do come in various other colors so you can probably find something to match your salon’s decor.

video thumbnail demo PANA bottles

Most importantly, these bottles work consistently.  The old bottle I had didn’t actually pump out any liquid half the time, and other times it sprayed it up into the air and made a mess. 

Check out my demo video on the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel!

Link to the clear acetone bottle, available from Beauticom on eBay;

Link to the white alcohol bottle, also available from Beauticom on eBay.

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Everyday Nail Art #3: Real Silver Glitter

S&M 24 by RGI A

Before we head into spring colors and designs, I wanted to share with you one of my manicures using this beautiful, rich shimmer polish from the Gelish Marilyn Monroe Forever Fabulous collection. The polish is called I Prefer Millionaires, and it’s one of my favorites in the collection.

For the design I tried out a new product that I read about in Nails Magazine awhile ago; It’s genuine sterling silver glitter from 24byRGI.com. You can buy one gram for $12.95 with free shipping. To create a block of glitter, I taped off the area before applying the glitter using Top It Off (I wanted to be able to soak it off later), and then used a striping brush to hand-paint the lines around it with Arctic Freeze by Gelish.

S&M 24 by RGI BThis design turned out really well…very striking in person.

The polish applied beautifully and worked well with the glitter.  I really liked the glitter, too, and will probably buy more products from 24byRGI.com. I love being able to buy real metal glitter, and they also offer their glitter in 24K gold. They also have a 24K gold nail polish, which is their signature product and namesake. The loose glitters must be suspended in a top coat or adhered during application, and there are probably a few methods for doing so. I’ll post a short video soon to the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel explaining the method I used for this design, so stay tuned!

 

Salon Manicure Choices – What’s the Difference? Some Final Thoughts

There are so many wonderful nail treatments available now in salons and for home use. In this series we’ve reviewed the professional manicure systems for use on natural nails, and with this post we conclude the series on selecting the best system for your needs, wrapping up with a comparison of some available systems.

When deciding which system is right for you or a client there a few lifestyle aspects to consider, such as how long you like wearing a nail color or design, your preferred nail length, product removal time, or how long the manicure needs to last.natural nail manicure product spectrum

sm-31-december-2016

The graphic above (© Smoke &Mirrors) details what you can expect from the systems we reviewed in the last four posts in terms of wear time.

So, if you love changing your nail color frequently, you’ll probably want to focus on products to the left side of the scale, like traditional or hybrid nail polishes.  On the other hand, if you’re super busy (who isn’t?!?!) and don’t have time for frequent color changes, you may want to try a gel polish or even dip powder nails.SM dip family

The time you’ll spend removing the product also increases as you move right on the scale. Fittingly, the longer the wear time of the product generally, the longer a removal time it will require.  However, if long wear time is your priority, you’ll likely find the increased removal time to be worth it!

So, what are your thoughts on these systems? Do you alternate between systems depending on the season? Does your salon offer all these options? Have you had better results with any particular system? Leave a comment or question below!

Salon Manicure Choices – What’s the Difference? Gel Nail Polish

There are so many amazing nail treatments available now! In this series we’ll review the professional manicure systems for use on natural nails on the market today. Here we continue our series on selecting the perfect natural nail manicure system for your needs, exploring the pros and cons of gel nail polish.Make a Splash collection beauty shot

Gel Nail Polish

But first – did you know that gel nail enhancements have been around since the 1980’s, but just didn’t have the break out success back then that they were in the early 2000’s?

“At the time, the manufacturers of gel lights and the gel itself had not joined forces, not yet recognizing the need to precisely match the intensity of the light to the photoinitiators in the gel… ­using the wrong light or applying too much gel caused a burning sensation on the client’s fingertips. ­Additionally, education on gel application was limited, leaving nail techs in the dark about the product, and home-use ­systems were introduced around the same time, damaging the reputation of salon-use systems by ­association. By the end of the ‘80s, many companies had pulled their gel products from the market.”

S&M African Safari collection bottles

Then, in the late 1990’s and early 2000s, the gels that we think of today, with improved formulas over what was available in the previous decade, began to emerge. About 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine a nail services menu without gel services on the list. According to the 2018-2019 Nail Big Book, 90% of salons responding to the survey offered gel polish services. The only other service offered as frequently among respondents was manicuring, also at 90%.

Some of my most enjoyable moments as a nail tech have come from seeing the amazement on clients’ faces when they pull their hands out of the lamp for the first time, and I begin wiping the inhibition layer from their fully cured gel polish manicure. With big eyes, they usually ask something like “Are they already dry?” and I tell them that they are free to do whatever they need to do. They can hardly believe that it’s OK to reach for their keys and walk out of the salon without sitting for awhile to let their manicure finish drying.

NOTW33A

Besides this revolutionary speed in finishing a manicure, I love how long gel polish stays on clients’ nails. Even clients who are really hard on their hands typically get more than a week out of their manicure.  Personally, my nails have grown out to the point that it’s bothersome before my nails begin to chip or peel.

Unfortunately, gel polish’s greatest strengths are also a cause for it’s greatest weakness (in some clients’ eyes): the soak off process for removal. And, since it takes so long to remove, clients who get tired of their polish color in less than a week might find the wear time and soak-off to be a negative.

While gel polish might not be for everyone, it certainly fills a need for many people. Ready to try for yourself?

Some professional brands to find in the salon are:

S&M Just For You 3 collection bottles

  • Gelish – If you’re a regular reader, you already know I highly recommend Gelish brand products. I’ve been using these products in the salon and personally for almost a decade now with nearly flawless results.
  • OPI Gel Color – Many techs love this gel polish from a trusted brand.
  • CND Shellac – this may be the quintessential gel polish now due to genericization, though gel polish should be called by the correct name and brand used should be obvious to clients.  Using inferior products can lead to service breakdown and, if it happens frequently enough, a downgrading of the professional service.

Easy-to-find beauty store brands are:

  • Gelish Mini – the same great formula as the full-size Gelish, but in smaller amounts for personal use (fewer manicures)
  • China Glaze Gelaze – to make things even easier, this brand requires no base coat; only top coat.
  • FingerPaints – this is the Sally Beauty house brand, and has been around for several years.

You can also find one-step, no-cleanse gel polishes (no base or top coats required), and the latest development in gel polish systems – peelable base coat. I can’t vouch for any of these products personally yet, though I would be willing to test them out:

  • Gelish UNO – By Gelish MINI, this is a is a DIY, instant manicure. Brush on polish and cure – no basecoat, topcoat or cleansing is required.
  • Maniology Peelable Gel Base Coat – intended to be a temporary, peel-off coating for natural nails, to be painted on and removed easily later.

I personally love gel polish.  It’s one of the greatest inventions ever, in my opinion. What about you? Leave a comment below! Is this your favorite natural nail manicure product?

 

Salon Manicure Choices – What’s the Difference? Traditional Nail Polish

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On this blog I post a lot about gel polish and occasionally about traditional polish, but did you know there are other systems available that may meet your natural nails manicure needs and fit your lifestyle? There’s also the latest craze – dipped nails, which isn’t nail polish like we usually think about it.  There are so many amazing treatments out there! In this series we’ll review the professional manicure systems for use on natural nails in the market today.

Traditional Nail Polish

Traditional nail polish is also sometimes called lacquer. This is the system that most people are familiar with, as it has been around for decades, can be found at most department or drug stores, and is easy to apply (but surprisingly difficult to apply well).

Image from Amazon.com

 

The technology that traditional nail polish uses typically includes nitrocellulose, film-forming agents, resins, solvents, and, of course, colorants. Professional systems usually include at least a base and top coat formulated to work with their lacquer colors, as well as other nail treatments such as strengtheners, finishers and drying agents.
One of the most-trusted (and my personal favorite) traditional polish brands is OPI. I also recommend Morgan Taylor.

Is traditional nail polish for you?

If you enjoy self-care time for getting weekly nail services and love trying new, on-trend colors, then traditional polish might be perfect for you. Traditional polish is a quick treatment that is perfect for combining with other pampering salon services.

Is this your polish of choice? What do you love about it? Leave us a comment!

Unboxing the MelodySusie 12W Nail Lamp

video thumbnail unboxing MelodieSusie 12W lamp

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A couple months ago I was in the market for a new LED lamp, and thought I’d share with you some information about the one that I decided to purchase. Also be sure to check out the unboxing video on the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel to see what you’d get if you were to purchase this item.

Several years ago (I think maybe in 2014) I moved away from generally using UV lamps to cure gel polish and towards LED lamps.  The LED lamps cure gels more quickly, which is a benefit at home or the salon.  A friend recommended a MelodySusie lamp, so I decided to give it a try.  Fast forward about 4 years and MANY manis, pedis and swatches later, and the buttons on that lamp finally gave up the ghost.  It was time for a new lamp, and I’d had such a good experience with the first that I purchased a second one.

Here’s why I love it:

  • Easy to set up and use. Watch the video to see just how easy it is!
  • Not too many frills – just pick your time setting.
  • Wide opening fits one hand or foot.
  • Lightweight and travels easily.
  • Mirrored interior for an even cure. If you’ve had lamps without this in the past, you know how important this feature is!
  • Excellent ROI – Since it lasted me so long, I spent about $8/year to have this lamp.
  • Compatible with any type of LED-cure nail product I’ve tried so far!

Other things you need to know:

  • This isn’t rated for heavy salon use. If you’re curing gels A LOT, it’s worth it to invest in the Gelish 18G lamp or similar.
  • The cord is 3 feet long, so be aware when planning your space to do nails.
  • There is also a 36W UV lamp and a 48W LED lamp available by MelodySusie.

Protecting your hands… and your clients’!

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This post won’t go into either side of the argument on whether UV gel lamps are causing long term damage to our skin – harmful or not harmful for regular long term use – but instead accepts that each has valid points: With normal usage a client may not get too much additional UV-A exposure, but may be concerned about the exposure due genetic factors, medications, or other personal reasons; Nail techs oftentimes use UV-cured products to do their own nails, test UV-cured products on themselves, and are incidentally exposed to UV-A rays while doing clients’ nails. Here we’ll discuss several ways to mediate these concerns with some inexpensive and easy solutions.

First, for clients who are interested in protecting their skin for cosmetic reasons, the easiest solution may be a hand lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF), preferably of at least 30, to be applied about 15 minutes before their hands will go in the lamp. While this should not create too much additional work for the nail tech, it may require a shift in the sequence of product application so that the lotion is applied earlier in the service. This will allow ample time for it to soak into the skin.  A word of caution: the nail tech should take extra care to be sure the nail plate is properly cleansed and dehydrated before starting the application of product, to prevent service breakdown.

Aside from the UV protection, which may or may not be necessary, I’m moisturizing my skin with the lotion! This is the solution I’ve chosen for myself because it’s the easiest.

For now I’m starting with a sunscreen lotion developed by Neutrogena for use on the face. It seems to be less greasy than other sunscreens I’ve tried, which is a benefit during a nail service.

Second, and possibly an easier solution, is to wear UV protective gloves during the application and curing of the product. There are reusable and disposable versions of these gloves available. (Alternatively, you could simply place a washable towel over the hand during the curing part of the service, but this seems more cumbersome and time-consuming than using anti-UV gloves.)

A combination of the first two solutions may be ideal for a client that is sensitive to UV rays due to a medical condition or a medication they are taking.

S&M pink comparisonThe final solution is for fellow nail techs testing products. Rather than test products on yourself, why not use a practice hand or nail more often? While wear testing has to be done personally, simple application practice can be done on nailtrainer® practice hand, plastic practice fingers, and swatch sticks (I buy mine in large quantities from eBay and they’ve been great so far!).

This question has been raised to me by only one client in the last year, but I feel like I need to be ready to accommodate if a client comes into the salon with this concern.  And, perhaps more urgently, I need to protect my own skin, as it is perhaps exposed to chemicals and UV rays at a higher rate than the average user. And, if the additional UV ray exposure is not in fact not harmful, then we have been overly cautious with easy solutions – no harm done!

Are you a nail tech with other solutions for this issue? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Two NEW Gelish Mini Colors

After a bit of a drought, except for new collections, Gelish has introduced two new colors to the core Mini lineup. Note that, as far as I know, these polishes are available in Mini only*.

mini bottles

The names are Creme De La Femme (left above) and French Kiss and Tell (right above).  These colors are great foundation colors for french manicures and other nail art, and make excellent neutrals for times when you don’t want flashy nails.

*By chance I discovered that Creme De La Femme seemed very close in color (though not formulation) to the new Gelish Structure Gel in Cover Pink.

S&M Gelish Structure B

Comparing new Gelish brush-on Structure gel to the previous formulation in a pot.

This happened because around the time I bought these 2 new Minis from Sally Beauty, I was wearing plain nails overlaid with PolyGel and then capped with Structure Gel in Cover Pink.  I compared the two and immediately noticed how similar they are.  When looking at French Kiss and Tell, I noticed that the color seemed very close the the shade of Structure Gel in Translucent Pink.  My theory is that Gelish used the pigmentation they had created for the Structure Gels to produce two new colors for the Mini lineup.

Whether or not that’s the case, these are 2 beautiful and useful colors to add to your offerings. I wore the Cover Pink color for a couple weeks and got good reviews on it. The nails looked simple and clean, and the color stayed true for those two weeks.

Check out the live swatches and my comparison in the new video on the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel, and let me know what you think!

Plagiarism of Smoke & Mirrors content (Updated!)

Dear readers, I’m posting to warn you about two sites that recently plagiarized Smoke & Mirrors content.

  1. Update: The first company I had previously mentioned replied to my inquiry very quickly and gave me credit for the work, so I am removing their information from this post. A big thank you to them for resolving the situation reasonably and quickly!
  2. Universal Nail Supplies swiped my photo of the Gelish Royal Temptations Collection for their recent email campaign.  I have shopped there before and receive their regular emails… Well, imagine my surprise when I received an email containing the image that my photographer and graphic designer had created for my YouTube Channel!  Universal Nail Supplies had simply copied the image and cropped off the top part containing my logo:

video thumbnail royal temptations

Plagiarism:

“an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author”  

Definition from Dictionary. com

Plagiarism sucks. But it is exactly what these two companies did with Smoke & Mirrors content.

As a blogger or content creator, you take the time, effort, energy, and funds to craft your website content, only to have it stolen for someone else to make money from. Perhaps you’re not even making money from it yourself! (The owner of Smoke & Mirrors nail blog is not compensated for any content. We do not make money from this blog.)

If you have had this happen to you or can imagine it, I am sure you are a little outraged, too.  However, this is a common problem in creative circles.  Nail techs are inspired by others’ nail art all the time, right?!?

Here’s a simple solution: GIVE CREDIT.

Did you do your own take on someone else’s design and post a photo? Give them some credit! Link to their site or blog or Insta or Tumblr or whatever. Let the viewer know who the awesome artist is that inspired you.

If you like someone’s photo or their product review, LINK TO THEIR SITE. Don’t be that crappy person who STOLE someone else’s content.

I’m too busy working full-time for a living, while creating original content and forming my own opinions for my blog in my personal time, to regularly search for other sites that may have stolen my work. Know that I did not go out looking for plagiarism of my site’s content. In the first instance I stumbled upon the stolen content during a Google search, and in the second the company actually emailed me.

At the time of this posting, Universal Nail Supplies has yet to respond to my email asking for credit, which was as follows (personal info redacted):

email to Universal

 

I ask that you do not support the thieves at these companies by shopping there.  And fellow nail bloggers, please be on the lookout for these companies!

I’d also like to know – has this ever happened to you? How did you handle the situation?

Beauty Marks the Spot!

S&M 8 May 2018.jpg

This design was done with two coats of Gelish Beauty Marks the Spot, from the Royal Temptations Spring 2018 collection, with some stamped nail art using Clear Jelly Stamper polishes and plate CjS-04.

This polish was wonderful! It went on very evenly in just two coats, as you can see. And, though Gelish pinks and corals have had fading issues in the past, this one shows no signs of such issues after almost one week of wear. And I’m just loving the color! I’m not even tired of it yet!  Here I’ve applied it over a layer of Gelish Dip, and have had no adhesion issues after a quick buff with a 100 grit buffer prior to applying the gel polish.

The more I use Clear Jelly Stamper plates and polishes, the more impressed I am with them.  The plates are perfect for the salon because they allow you to quickly layer images to create designs as unique as each client. And they’re easy to use with just a little practice. I recommend using the plates and the polishes together – they’re worth the investment!

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