Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nail School Week 3: Things Are Gettin' Fancier

I'm back with another nail school update! While the first two weeks of nail school covered basic services and upgrades to those services, week three brought some slightly more advanced techniques. It was a whirlwind of demos! I really enjoyed trying out some new nail services that I've never had a chance to work with before.

Here's a breakdown of what we learned in week three.

Spa pedicure: Like the spa manicure, this is an upgraded version of our basic pedicure. The spa pedi involves an exfoliating scrub, a protective masque, and a thick, hydrating lotion.

Tip blending: Some of you may be familiar with plastic nail tips -- this week we learned how to attach them to our practice (mannequin) hand using brush on resin adhesive. The tips need to be seamlessly blended to work with the natural nail, so we practiced our application and filing techniques at the area where the tip meets the nail bed.

Fiber wraps: If you've ever done a DIY tea bag repair on a broken nail, you've done a basic fiber wrap! This technique involves using resin and fabric (fiberglass or silk in our case) to add strength to the natural nail. This has only recently been removed from the Arizona State Board exams, as apparently they aren't really done in salons much anymore. Still a great technique to have in the arsenal.

L: fiberglass wraps over blended tips, R: continuing to practice polishing red

Gel polish: Gels are my FAVORITE, so I was really excited to get started on them at school. This week, we learned how to properly prep the nail for soak off gel application and how to apply it perfectly. We also watched a demo on how to remove them quickly and efficiently to save time in a salon environment.

Nail foils: Yes, this week we got a glimpse at some nail art! Our instructor was able to incorporate some nail foils into her gel polish demo (similar to the style I tried here) so it was a two-for-one.

We also began a new chapter in our textbook: chemistry! The chemistry chapter is all about the products that nail techs use and how they react together to form things like acrylic enhancements and gels. Learning the science behind the products allows us to work with them safely without endangering the client or ourselves.

Phew! Besides all these new goodies, we also continued to practice the services that we learned in weeks one and two. Our manicure/pedicure evaluation was at the beginning of week four, so we had to get those skills down PAT! Here's another pedi photo you can check out if you're so inclined.

This week (week four) we've been out on the client floor. I've got lots to talk about in the next update, so I hope to see you there!

Friday, January 23, 2015

TUTORIAL: Easy Sideswipe Nail Art with Negative Space

Easy Sideswipe Nail Art Tutorial by @chalkboardnails
Who's up for a super quick and easy nail art tutorial? This look is a variation on the distressed nail art tutorial that you may have seen around these parts before. I changed the direction, added a bit of negative space, and made it matte. Easy, easy, easy. Perfect for the gal on the go. Hit the jump to check out the tutorial and see this technique in action.

Easy Sideswipe Nail Art Tutorial by @chalkboardnails

For this look, I used:
Color Club - Je Ne Sais Quoi
Essie - Too Taboo
Julie G - Cabana Boy
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat
Essie - Matte About You Topcoat
Kolinsky 777 French/round brush
Pure acetone

If you don't have a round brush, give it a go with whatever clean up brush you have handy! Of course, if you'd rather, you can always go for the classic hole-punch-reinforcement-as-half-moon-stencil method, too.

Easy Sideswipe Nail Art Tutorial by @chalkboardnails

Mix things up by grabbing different color combinations, skipping the matte topcoat, or using a nail vinyl as your negative space stencil. The possibilities! Share your versions with me on Instagram by tagging @chalkboardnails and hashtagging #hellochalkboardnails.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nail School Weeks 1 & 2: Begin with the Basics

I'm back with more tales from nail school! Today's recap covers the first two weeks of class. We learned a lot of the basics like manicuring, polishing, French manicures, and pedicures, plus some add-on services like paraffin treatments and spa manicures. If you missed my first nail school post, be sure to check it out!

Getting to know my school
The school that I chose offers rolling starts for their programs. That means that there is a large group of "seniors" that have already met the requirements for working with clients, and spend most of their time on the client floor, plus a small group of "freshmen" that are still learning the techniques and practicing on each other. Freshmen are graduated to the floor after a certain amount of classroom hours.

My freshman class is 7 people (including me) of all different ages, nationalities, genders, and walks of life. If you add us to the group of seniors, it brings the total number of students to somewhere around 20-25 people. We all wear black scrubs embroidered with the school logo to class as our uniforms. We spend an hour in theory every morning, studying subjects like anatomy and chemistry, and then get to work on practicing our current techniques.

Week one
The first day of class included taking care of administrative duties and meeting our classmates. This was also the day we got our kits! *cue angels singing* Your nail school kit should include everything you need to be a professional nail tech, and getting mine was like Christmas. I'm definitely planning a separate post on the kit, so keep an eye out.

Later that week, we also learned how to:
  • Perform a basic manicure: This includes tasks like trimming and shaping nails, pushing back the cuticle, nipping when necessary, and buffing.
  • Polish red and French: Though I have a lot of experience polishing my own nails, doing someone else's is a whole different animal. We had to learn the proper bracing techniques to steady our hands, and used red polish because you have to be very precise in its application. We also learned how to perform a basic French manicure.
  • Massage: I don't know about you guys but whenever I get a professional manicure, the massage is always the best part. Learning the proper movements and techniques will really help me customize my own hand and arm massage routine!
We also began studying the anatomy/physiology of the human body as well as the parts of the nail.

Week two
In our second week, we continued to practice the skills we learned in week one. We also added more services to our repertoire:
  • Spa manicure: This is similar to a basic manicure, but with added steps like scrubs and moisturizing hand masks. It's extra pampering for the gal that needs a bit more relaxation.
  • Paraffin treatment: Some of you may have done an at-home paraffin wax treatment before, and we learned how to perform it on clients. A paraffin treatment uses warm, oil-based wax to soften the skin and provide relief to sore joints. 
  • Buffing to a high shine: This is a great option for a client that comes in and wants to get a manicure without getting polish. Buffing to a high shine makes the natural nail smooth and shiny.
  • Prepping our practice hand: Part of our practice includes working on a creepy mannequin hand. However, she doesn't come with nail beds! So we learned how to use acrylic to attach nail tips to our practice hands so we can work on them as if they were real nails.
  • Basic pedicure: This is honestly the part that I dreaded the most, because feet and I totally do not get along. But our instructors told us to treat them the same way as we would a hand in a basic manicure, which helped me get past my nervousness. I know many of you don't like feet either, so if you'd like to check out my first pedicure, you can click here.
We were also tested on anatomy. I did really well on the exam, which felt awesome!

Here's a cool story, too! As I was performing my very first pedicure, a prospective student came in to tour the school. One of the senior students walked her through our classroom, and we all turned around to wave hello. As it turned out, Callie had recognized me from my segments on Nail'd It! We snapped a picture together and she posted it on her Instagram, @callienails. I hope to see her around the school soon!

This week, I think we are going to start learning gels. I have a bit of experience there, but again, it's mostly on myself! I'm looking forward to practicing further on my classmates.

Stay tuned for more recaps, plus details on what was included in my kit!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Nail School: Taking the Leap

Nail School: Taking the Leap by @chalkboardnails
Friday marked the end of my second official week of nail school. I know I was curious about the process of becoming licensed before I started out, so I wanted to start up a series about what I'm experiencing and learning at my school. I hope this helps make the process a little less mysterious for some of you!

Today I want to talk a little bit about the process of deciding to go and some questions you may have about attending. Please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them!

Before we start
Know that not all nail schools will do things exactly like mine does, but the general process should be similar. Note the requirements in your particular state; in Arizona, getting your license requires a 600 hour program, though other states may require less.

Another thing to know: not all beauty schools offer nail-only programs. Many of them instead focus on cosmetology, which will include some nail education, but also covers hair, skin, makeup, and more. Cosmetology programs take longer to complete and cost more. For me, a nail-only school was the way to go.

Getting funded, and how you can too
Last year when I attended Cosmoprof, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Jan Arnold, the Style Director at CND. We got to talking about how I wanted to go to nail school to become licensed. She suggested I check out the CND & Tippi Hedren scholarship through Beauty Changes Lives, which covers 100% of the tuition costs for nail school (up to $5,000).

Jan and the rest of the team at CND are very passionate about supporting and advocating for professional techs, and I took her suggestion very seriously. I applied for the next round of scholarships, and ended up being selected as one of the ten recipients by the panel of independent judges. I plan to do a whole post about BCL and the application process very soon, but in the meantime, you can read more about the scholarship on their website.

There are other scholarship and financial aid programs out there too, so do your research! Most nail-only programs have an average cost of $3,000-$5,000, which can be made even more manageable with assistance.

Nail School: Taking the Leap by @chalkboardnails

Making the decision
Once I learned that I had been selected as a scholarship recipient, I was faced with a decision: do I attend school part time and continue at my job, or do I quit to focus on nails? It was truly a difficult decision, but I ended up making the choice to go full time. At my school, full time means 9:00am-5:00pm, Tuesday through Friday. Part timers come in the evenings plus all day on Saturdays.

For me, it came down to wanting to focus on the experience and get as much out of it as I could. I wanted to fully embrace the opportunity, and thankfully had the capability to do so.

Starting a new chapter
Making the choice to quit my job and go to nail school full time was pretty intimidating. But I felt like it was time to take the chance! It's something I'm really passionate about, and this is the next stepping stone in my journey. I don't know what I want to do after I graduate, but I look forward to finding out what it is.

If this is something you've wanted to do as well, I encourage you to pursue it. Don't listen to the voice that says you can't or you shouldn't. You can and you should.

Stay tuned for my recap of weeks one and two tomorrow!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dragon Scale Nail Art with Chloe & Bella

Freehand dragon scale nail art by @chalkboardnails
There are some new polishes on the block and they are gor-geous! You may have tried ultrachrome flakies, but you haven't lived till you've tried them infused with platinum-silver reflective flakes. Indie brand Chloe & Bella has two variations on this formula, inspired by Dragon's Skin Ammolite and Dragon's Breath Opals. I've created some nail art with both lacquers, as well as swatched them individually for your viewing pleasure.

Freehand dragon scale nail art by @chalkboardnails

Seeing as both lacquers were inspired by dragon-related gems, it was only natural that I created a dragon scale pattern for my nail art!

I began by creating a full coverage gradient as my base. I've got Dragon's Skin closest to my cuticles, and Dragon's Breath on my free edge.

Then, I grabbed Chloe & Bella's black nail polish, Black Out. I painted black dragon scales, one by one, beginning at the cuticle and working my way to the tips.

Freehand dragon scale nail art by @chalkboardnails

While I'll never say no to nail art, these polishes can definitely stand on their own, as well.

Here is three coats of Dragon's Breath. You an see the ultra chrome flakies shift from pink to purple to gold to olive, while the silver flakes shine throughout. This polish is completely smooth and sits flat on the nail (I'm not even wearing topcoat here)!

Chloe & Bella - Dragon's Breath via @chalkboardnails

Dragon's Skin tells the same tale: three easy, smooth coats. This one shifts from copper to gold to green.

Chloe & Bella - Dragon's Skin via @chalkboardnails

So, I'm dying to know - are these your jam? Cause I sure enjoyed playing with them! Dragon's Breath has particularly captivated me. Swoon city.

These two shades are available from Chloe & Bella for $11.95 per polish. You can also keep up with the brand on Facebook and Instagram for more information.

P.S. If you are into bottle porn, be sure to check out the Chloe & Bella website, and if you wanna see more, check out additional swatches via Allie's Blog.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Chloe & Bella. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

WrapArtist Nail Decals Make Cool Girl Nails Easy

Metallic gold nail art decals via @chalkboardnails
Nail decals aren't a new thing, but when I first saw them, WrapArtist's water decals immediately stood out to me. The designs are awesome. They just totally get it, you know? The decals are chic, cool, and trendy, not to mention fully opaque, sometimes metallic, and really simple to use. I put together this look in just a few minutes, and it feels like something that could have come out of a New York nail art salon!

Metallic gold nail art decals via @chalkboardnails

Each set of water decals comes on a small sheet like this. To use a decal, you just cut it out of the sheet, soak it in water for a ~20 seconds, and then slide the decal off of the white backing paper. Position the decal on your dry nail and dab it on a paper towel to remove any excess water, then finish with a topcoat.

One thing I really appreciated about these decals is that the clear part of the decals around the designs are already trimmed. You don't have to cut super close around the design to avoid excess clear around the edges...the work is done for you! Just slide it and stick it.

You can also use them in gel to get a lot of mileage out of your WrapArtist manicure.

Metallic gold nail art decals via @chalkboardnails

For this look, I started with a base of Deborah Lippmann Like Dreamers Do from the new spring collection (swatches soon). The glitter accent nail is Nicole by OPI Get Carrie'd Away.

I added decals from two WrapArtist sets: Being Negative and Say What. The Say What set is especially awesome for those of you that like to get a little saucy, as it includes profanity & other buzzwords.

Metallic gold nail art decals via @chalkboardnails

If you are interested at all in these decals, I highly recommend browsing the Wrap Artist site. There are lots of killer sets, and I've only given you a taste of the awesomeness here. I'm already scoping out some additional sheets to grab for myself.

WrapArtist decals are available at Decals range from $5-6 per sheet.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cirque Colors Metropolis Collection Swatches: November & December

Cirque's Metropolis collection, a series of creme nail polishes inspired by New York City, continues to grow! There are new polishes added to the line every month, and today's swatches cover the November and December releases. You can check out the September and October releases in my previous post.

Kickerbocker is a deep chocolate brown creme. It's very dark, almost black. Two coats.
Cirque Colors Knickerbocker via @chalkboardnails

Tavern On the Teal is a dark teal shade. It's slightly more green than my swatch shows here. Two coats.
Cirque Colors Tavern On the Teal via @chalkboardnails

The Devil Wears Cirque is a rich red creme. I love the name on this one so much. Two coats.
Cirque Colors The Devil Wears Cirque via @chalkboardnails

I don't have any complaints about the formula on these; they were all easy to apply, smooth, and glossy. The shades do feel very New York chic, though maybe I'm projecting a little too because of the collection name. "NYFW" does still reign supreme as my favorite Metropolis shade, though I do love the richness of Tavern on the Teal now, too.

The Metropolis collection is available now on, where each shade retails for $13.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Think Posh Would Rock This Nails Inc. Victoria, Victoria Beckham Color Blocking

Color blocked nail art by @chalkboardnails

There's a new collaboration in the nail world, and it is fantastic. Victoria Beckham teamed up with Nails Inc. to release two new shades that draw inspiration from her Victoria, Victoria Beckham SS15 collection: Judo Red and Bamboo White. They don't come cheap, but I think they are worth your consideration. Let's talk why.

Nails Inc x Victoria Beckham via @chalkboardnails

The first selling point? The bottles are AMAZING. If you are a sucker for packaging like I am, you will go bananas over these bottles. The matte black and matte white finishes feel soft to the touch. The bottles are incredibly weighty and feel like they are of a very high quality. The design features a removable overcap with a smaller round brush underneath, and the brush itself is very wide (which I personally love in a brush).

And, lest you're worried about not seeing the polish color, they've cut out a handy window on the sides of the bottles for peeking.

Color blocked nail art by @chalkboardnails

Okay, so the bottles are nice. But what about the formula?

It's totally, really great.

For this blocked nail art, I started out with a base of Bamboo White. As I applied my first coat, I actually gasped in happiness. It goes on remarkably smoothly and evenly, and covers perfectly in just two coats. It's really shiny too, for those of you (crazy people) that don't use topcoat.

Color blocked nail art by @chalkboardnails

Judo Red tells the same tale. Here it is alone at two coats, no topcoat. It leans heavily towards orange, without being unflattering.

Nails Inc Judo Red via @chalkboardnails

As I said, the only downside to these is the price. At $25 per polish or $45 for the duo, they are expensive (especially for shades that you might already have dupes for in your collection). However, the amazing formula and quality bottle design make these worth a second look for the avid collector or luxury lover.

US residents can pick these up from Nails Inc. and Sephora. UK residents can shop via Selfridges.