Tips, Tricks, and Trade Secrets

*work in progress, Please check back for updates and new information*

One of the things I love most about the blogging community, is being able to share information so easily with other addicts nail polish lovers. So I thought I would create a page where I can list all the tips and information that I thought might be helpful or useful. I do get a lot of questions, and I welcome that. If there is anything specific that I have not addressed, feel free to email me or leave a comment below, and I will do my best to answer your questions and add to this list. Please keep in mind that these are my own personal opinions, and while I am a hair stylist and nail technician, everyone has their own way of doing things. I hope you find some of these useful to you.


  • Hand and nail/cuticle care- This is one of the subjects most frequently asked about, and honestly the one with the most answers. Different things work for everyone. Obviously moisture is key. Especially in the winter months. How often should you moisturize? As often as  you think about it. I keep hand cream in just about every room in the house, beside all the sinks, in my nightstand, in the car, in my purse etc. During the day I moisturize with whatever I grab. At night, I apply a cuticle cream, and a heavier hand cream to my hands and feet. I rotate my cuticle cream, and often try new things. I like LUSH Lemony Flutter, Qtica, Paw-Paw ointment and Gena-The Healthy Hoof for my cuticles, and for my all over hand and foot cream I love Gold Bond Ultimate moisturizing skin therapy cream with Aloe. I am also trying out Eucerin Plus intensive body cream. In the summertime I often add Mango Mend or Burt's Bees Coconut foot Cream to the rotation, mostly out of love for the scent. I also love OPI Avoplex cuticle oil. It does wonders for really dry cuticles, and because the molecules are so tiny, they penetrate nail polish and even gel overlays, so you are also moisturizing your nail plate. 
  • Cuticles- Regular cuticle maintenance will go a long way in encouraging healthy nails, and in making the most of what you have. I gently push my cuticles back immediately after getting out of the shower, using my thumb nail and a towel or facecloth. This regular upkeep also makes cuticle removal an easier process.  I also use a cuticle remover once a week. I apply my cuticle remover of choice to my softened  cuticles (in the bath or other soaking)  and use an orangewood stick to gently scrape off the loosened cuticle. Then I moisturize, with an oil or a heavy cream.  At the moment the cuticle remover I use is Blue Cross from Sally's Beauty Supply, but there are a lot of others that come highly recommended and I hope to try them soon. On my list to try is Nfu-Oh, and Sally Hansen. If you do not have cuticle remover, you can use pure dish soap. I know, I know... but you know what? It works.  And I know more than a few nail techs that use that as their only cuticle remover when doing manicures. Just pour some into a nail polish bottle that you have cleaned out well with pure acetone, (and let dry overnight) and you have the perfect applicator. There is absolutely no need to traumatize your cuticles with rough removal, and please please do not be tempted to clip them. The occasional use of a cuticle nipper to get rid of a hangnail etc is ok, but if you are actually removing cuticle with them,  you are causing a cycle of excessive cuticle growth, and running the risk of a nasty infection. I know it's tempting, but if you get into a regular routine, you will not need to clip them.
  • Excessively dry feet? Not everyone is good at keeping up with regular pedicures, and if you are like me, and go barefoot a lot, or wear flip flops, your feet undoubtedly show the signs of neglect. One of the best and fastest ways to infuse some much needed moisture into dry cracked feet is Vaseline. Here is how you do it- At bed time, slather your feet with Vaseline, and I mean spackle that stuff on. Wrap your feet really well in cling wrap. (this prevents the vaseline from rubbing off on your sheets or socks, which does no good at all, and it leaves a lovely oily stain on your sheets.) Pop a pair of socks on over the cling wrap and go to bed. Do not try to walk around. Trust me on that. It feels a little funny, and the cling wrap will move around in your socks by morning but it does a great job of holding the moisture from the vaseline in, and keeping it on your feet for as long as possible. Some times I will apply a little cream first and then the Vaseline. I also use a foot sander about once or twice a week, fresh out of the shower. If you do this regularly it is a lot less work. If you have waited too long and have a lot of excess skin and calluses to sand off, and need to use a more coarse file, be sure to finish off with a finer grit file. If you don't you will end up with rough patches and little hooks of dry skin on your feet in no time. You know the ones- they make that terrible scratching sound when you slide your feet against the sheets, or they catch on a carpet. Yeah, those ones. Not good.
  • Speaking of feet- Toe nail fungus. Ew, I know. But- it happens. And it can be very difficult to get rid of. There are lots of over the counter creams and powders and ointments and sprays. All are effective to a certain degree. But there is always that person who is resistant to those treatments. I will let you in on a little secret. Vicks Vapo rub. I know, it sounds weird, and I would not believe it myself if I didn't see it with my own eyes. My husband Some one I know had fungus on his big toenail for years, and tried every spray/powder/cream and even the pills. Nothing worked. His mom suggested he try Vicks Vapo rub. I am a skeptic when it comes to these types of things, but he was desperate, and we had some in the cabinet, so why not? Well, I am pleased to report that within a week of beginning a nightly application of VVR to his big toenail with a Q-tip, it started to show signs of going away. He is now a few months into 'treatment' and it is almost completely gone. After some googling of this miracle treatment, I find it is quite common on long term care facilities to use VVR for toenail fungus.
  • Filing- Ah, the tedious job of filing ones nails. I have found that filing with polish on is easier for a few reasons. It makes the shape if the nail easier to see, and it adds a little bit of sturdiness to thin nails. You definitely do not want to file back and forth in a see-saw motion. This really shreds the edge of the nail and makes it more prone to peeling and breakage. It can be tedious to file in all one direction but after a while you get good at it. You can use a fine sanding block to seal the edge of the nail plate when you are done shaping your nails, by running the filing block gently over the tip of the nail from the top and over the tip in a downward motion. It only takes a few swipes to seal the edge of the nail. In terms of shaping the nail, I file mine in a square shape, but I slightly round off the corners.
  • Polishing-  First of all- go to the washroom. Nothing burns my butt more than a beautiful manicure ruined by an impatient bladder. Make sure you have everything you need, so you don't have to go digging around in a drawer for things with wet nails. I used a large craft mat to do my nails on (if I am not doing them at my manicure table which is glass topped) with a sheet of paper towel on top. This prevents any damage to the table due to acetone soaked cotton balls, or slight acetone spillage. It also gives you a surface to wipe off the polish brush if you need to. After filing and removing old polish, wash and dry your hands. This will help remove any polish residue and filing dust, and if you haven't pushed back your cuticles lately, now is a good time to do that. It creates a smoother surface for the polish to cling to, and it's easier to get a clean line by the cuticle with the polish.  After washing and drying, give each nail a swipe with  some rubbing alcohol. I cut up a paper towel into little squares for this purpose, so I don't run the risk of leaving any cotton fibers on my nails and messing up the polish. This ensures that the nail plate is free of all oils and soap residue, and creates a better adhesion of polish. I recommend always using a base coat and top coat. A base coat creates better adhesion of the polish, and will help prevent staining in some cases. If you are using a treatment of some kind, this goes on first, and then the base coat. A great treatment, -if you can find it- is Sally Hansen Nail Quencher. Look for it on Amazon or e-Bay. Base coats I like are, CND Sticky, ORLY Bonder, and China Glaze Strong Adhesion. Base coats don't take long to dry, so you can usually go ahead and apply your first coat of colour right away. You can gently roll the polish in between your palms if you feel you need to, but I do not recommend shaking it. Some, but not all, polishes will get air bubbles trapped in the polish if you shake it, and that doesn't look great on the nail. If a polish is really separated and you feel you need to shake it, I would do it at least 10 minutes ahead of time. What you want to do is apply thin even coats to the nail, to prevent bubbling and chipping/peeling. I often polish my right hand first because I am right handed, and awkward with my left hand, I figure awkward AND wet nails is a double whammy. Sometimes I will even polish one hand start to finish before I do the next one. Start by making sure there is not too much polish on the brush and that most of it is on the bottom bit of the bristles. With your hand resting on a sturdy surface like a table, place a dab of polish in the center of your nail, not directly at the cuticle, but just a little above it. Without lifting the brush, push a little of that dab a little closer to the cuticle.(but not right up to or touching it)  This will create a nice smooth rounded shape right next to the cuticle. Now drag the brush, without lifting, toward the tip of the nail straight down the center. Now go back to the original center dab, and swipe the brush over, toward the side of the nail creating a smooth rounded edge, and again drag it toward the tip of the nail. Repeat on the other side, and touch up as needed. Immediately after  the surface of the nail is covered, swipe the edge of the brush, along the edge of the nail tip. What this does is help prevent chipping, and it will also help prevent shrinkage, which I will explain later. Wait a few minutes in between each coat of polish. This will help prevent dragging the colour ( especially with glitters and holos) and it helps prevent bubbles and chipping. Go ahead and apply your second coat the same way you applied your first coat. Let that dry for a few minutes, but not too long, especially if you are using a quick dry top coat. Quick dry top coats like Seche Vite and Posche, are complete lifesavers for me. For YEARS I would paint my nails before bed, and wake up with sheet marks on my nails. I highly HIGHLY recommend them, and never do a mani or a pedi with out them. Quick dry top coats are meant to go on tacky, semi dry nails. Not dry nails. And, you definitely want to wrap the tips with a QD top coat to prevent shrinkage, as mentioned above.  Shrinkage is when you look at your fresh mani a few hours after you did it, and it seems like all the polish on the tips of your nails is gone. Almost like it wore down, but it's only been a few hours. It's basically because the QD top coat dries so fast, it essentially shrinks and can drag some of the polish with it. This is completely preventable by wrapping your tips (covering the end portion of the nail) with both the polish and the top coat. Quick dry top coat is also thick. VERY thick. Don't let this turn you off, and don't try to apply it thin. It is so thick that you might think, oh this will never dry. But it does, and fast. It also dries fast in the bottle and can get thick and goopy in the bottle in a matter of weeks, or less. The simple solution is to have some polish thinner on hand, and add a few drops to the bottle each time to use it, after you notice it getting thick. This does not affect the performance of the product, but makes it much easier to use. I use Seche Restore, or the Beauty Secrets thinner sold at Sally's. Just do NOT use acetone or polish remover. This goes for thinning polish as well. You do not need any other drying device/lamp/fan/blowing on it or waving your hands frantically in the air. To be honest, this does nothing. In fact, blowing on it, or holding it by a fan can cause bubbling in the polish. And quick dry top coat dries so quickly that by the time you cleanup, it's dry.
  • Cleanup- Another frequently asked question is how do you cleanup mistakes and messy edges. some people are fine with slopping the polish all over the cuticles, and maybe picking it off later, in the shower. In real life, you can sometimes get away with that. But for the purposes of macro pictures, there is little room for error. A lot of people ask me abut 'the gap' The gap being the space between the polish and the cuticle. This is achieved in a few ways, but I assure you, in real life it is not nearly as noticeable as it is in macro shots. Depending on the consistency and colour of the polish, I clean up in a few different ways. One being the classic- run the thumbnail of the other hand down the side of the freshly polished nail' trick. This works well until your get to the second hand and you no longer have an unpolished thumbnail to do this with. For a quick, easy, not too messy cleanup, I will often use an orange wood stick, sometimes dipped in acetone, or with a tiny bit of fibers from cotton wound around the tip then dipped in acetone.  For a messier mani, or really precise cleanup, I use a tiny, thin, stiff brush dipped in acetone. My favourite is from Joe Fresh, and I think it's likely an eyeliner brush. The eco tools angles eyeliner brush works well too. I dip it in acetone, dab it on the paper towel and run it along the edge of the cuticle. It works wonders. After this, I often apply cuticle oil.
  • Special uses for base coat or top coat- In my experience, a holo nail polish applies much better and with out dragging and leaving bald spots, if you use a matte top coat as a base coat. The polish seems to stick better to it, and the holo pops. Try it! Sure you could shell out lots of $$ for Nfu-Oh's Aqua base or something similar, but in my experience, a matte top coat works just as well.  Some glitters are known for drying with a rough, matte texture, and often referred to as 'eating the top coat'. This means that the top coat appears to sink into the glitter, and it doesn't leave is smooth and shiny. My favourite way to deal with this, is after the glitter, apply a layer or Gelous ( found at Sally Beauty Supply. Yes it is intended as a base coat, but it sucks as a base coat-Too thick and causes peelies) and then a Quick Dry top coat, like Seche Vite. This smooths out the hungriest of glitters. Holo's are also notoriously chippy. You can get more wear out of your gorgeous holo's if you do what is called a top coat sandwich. You layer your polish with a layer of top coat in the middle, giving extended life to the wear and tear of the thin holo's It stacks like this- treatment, base coat, colour, top coat, another layer of colour, final  top coat.
  • Removing Glitter- Glitter famously difficult to remove. So much so, that lots of girls avoid wearing glitter, like the plague. We are talking, get out the jackhammer, tough to remove. A big pain in the rumpuss.  The perfect fix for that is, the FOIL method, and if you didn't already know about this, you will LOVE ME for it. Tear apart some cotton balls, or cut up some cotton pads into pieces that will just cover your nail. Soak it in acetone, place it on the top of your nail, and wrap the tip of your finger, and the cotton, in tin foil. Do all 5 fingers on one hand, and leave for about 3-5 minutes. When its time to remove it, apply slight pressure to the nail, and wiggling it a tiny bit, pull it off your finger maintaining slight pressure on the nail, and if  you have waited long enough, ALL the glitter polish comes off in one swoop. You *might have some little glitter bits in your cuticles etc, but nothing a quick swipe with some more cotton and remover won't fix. Wash your hands and apply moisturizer after this. You are Welcome ♥ Felt is also really helpful when removing glitter, or any polish for that matter. It's a little more abrasive, and does a good job with textured polishes, abd helps exfoliate the cuticles a little as well. Cheap dollar store felt is just fine for this. I have used both white and black felt. You might want to stay away from red, as it might bleed. 
  • Dried up, too thick, or separated polish? No need to panic. Nail polish thinner is your friend. Even the most dried up crusty looking nail polish can be resurrected with some thinner, and patience. For polish that is just a little goopy or thick, just a few drops will do. I use both Seche Restore, and Beauty Secrets thinner with great results. Add a few drops, roll the bottle around, perhaps tip it right upside down for a few minutes, or if you are not wearing it immediately go ahead and shake it up. Test the consistency and add more as needed. Some polishes, like Crackles and Seche Vite or Poche will need a few drops added every time you use it. If you happen to add too much, just leave the bottle open for a few minutes and test again. Thinner is simply the chemicals that have evaporated. Over time, some nail polishes will evaporate and thicken, even if you never open them. The chemicals still leach out even if you have the tops on tight. If you have ever stored your polish in a plastic bin with a snap on lid, you have undoubtedly noticed the distinct smell of polish fumes when you open the lid. Those are the chemicals that are evaporating. Just please do not used acetone or nail polish remover. This is the quickest way to turn your beauties into unusable muddy messes. If you have a polish that is separated, just shake it up. No need to toss it. If you have a polish that is completely dried up and hard, it can be revived. Add a decent amount of thinner, and let it sit over night. Give it a shake in the morning to see how it is doing, and if it's still a clump at the bottom, use a toothpick or a chopstick to poke the polish and allow the thinner to seep into it. The surface of the dried up polish will have softened enough over night to allow you to manually mix it up a bit, then add more thinner as needed and repeat. When you hear the glorious clinking of the steel balls against the sides of the bottle, then you know you are likely very close to, if not at, a usable consistency. Do keep in mind that Seche Vite is not a B3Free polish, and neither is their thinner. If you are adding Seche Restore to a B3F polish, it is no longer B3F. 
  • Acetone vs. Non-Acetone remover- I have, and use both. For the most part, I use an acetone remover, which is not as harsh as pure acetone, but far more effective than a non-acetone remover. It basically contains both non-acetone remover and some acetone, and sometimes water or other ingredients like fragrance, and proteins, vitamins, gelatin, etc  that claim to strengthen your nails. (in my opinion, they do not strengthen your nails, just dilute the strength of the acetone, making it less harsh) Of course non- acetone is the most gentle of all, but it takes forever and a day to remove most polishes. The only time you really need non acetone remover is if you have acrylics, or soak off gels. Sometimes I add some pure acetone to my acetone remover to bump up the effectiveness a bit. I do this especially in the winter, when I am using darker polishes more often. You can get pure acetone at a hardware store, or a home improvement store, and it is usually a lot less expensive there, than at a beauty supply. It is the same thing.  If you have used pure acetone, you will have noticed that it turns the skin around the nail white. This is essentially moisture being sucked out of the skin. Yes acetone is harsh, and drying. But it has it's place- like in glitter removal. To combat the white skin, and make it a little more gentle without sacrificing it's strength, you can add a little pure glycerin to your acetone. I would estimate about a water bottle cap full of glycerin to 8 ounces of acetone is about right. Be sure and mix it up well, because it will sink to the bottom of you just dump it in. If you enhance your pure acetone with glycerin, you need to remember that if you are wiping your stamping plates with that acetone, it will leave a little residue  of glycerin that will sometimes affect how well the stamper picks up the image. I suggest wiping the plates with rubbing alcohol after cleaning the polish off with enhanced acetone. Same thing applies for your nails. You will want to wipe your nail bed with some rubbing alcohol before polishing to remove all traces of oils, and additives. (this should be done after using any remover except pure, un-enhanced acetone.) I do use pure acetone when cleaning up after polishing, and for cleaning out empty polish bottles, for frankening, or testing new Girly Bits creations.
  • Franken-polish, or Frankening- This is something that I have been doing as long as I can remember, and it wasn't until a few years ago that I found out there is a name for it. It is essentially the process of mixing polishes together to create a new and original colour, or adding glitter to an existing polish. The name comes from Frankenstein, who was created using bits and pieces of other things. You can do this using an empty polish bottle that has been cleaned out with pure acetone, or by adding one polish to another if there is room in the bottle. It was my love of frankening that led me to developing my own line of nail polish. *which, for the record is not made by mixing other nail polishes together. I buy brand new, raw ingredients, and create my polish from scratch* But, you can have a lot of fun mixing your existing polishes together, and coming up with some really pretty, and unique colours for next to nothing. When using glitters, it's trial and error. Some glitters will have a tendency to bleed or melt, so I suggest testing a little before you waste an entire bottle. You can also make a cream polish into a jelly but adding a fair bit of clear polish. Be cautious when adding dark colours, as some are really pigmented and it only takes a few drops. I would add dark colours to light colours, not the other way around. Same thing applies to glitter or flakie polishes. Add other colours to them rather than adding them to colours. You might find you need a lot of the flakie or glitter polish in comparison to the cream, or other colour. If you are using a craft glitter of some sort, you will need to use a suspension base, other wise the glitter will sink to the bottom (which is fine if you don't mind shaking the bajezzus outta the polish every time you use it) and it will be more likely to bleed. Any clear or really light sheer polish with glitter in it, is a suspension base. Wet n Wild has a few that are great to use and affordable. One is called Kaleidoscope, and I believe the other one is call Hallucinate. They have light enough glitters in them that it leaves you with a lot of leeway in terms of the colours you can use with out being affected by the existing glitters. It's also a good idea to try just a little bit on a plastic plate or palette before mixing up an entire bottle of polish that may not be the colour you were going for. If  you have any old polish that you know you will never wear, and they are light colours, sometimes those make good bases for frankenpolish, or dump them out and save the balls in there for other frankens. You can also purchase stainless steel balls, or BB's for this purpose. Just be sure to use stainless steel, NOT zinc coated balls.  Zinc coated balls often rust and ruin your precious creations. Balls help with mixing, especially when using glitter. Be sure to not fill the bottle all the way to the top, either. If there is no airspace, it is next to impossible to mix it well, and you also run the risk of an exploding bottle. I have seen it happen.  Go ahead, try it! It's fun and addicting.  Show me what you come up with! And make sure to give it a cool, one of a kind name.

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11 comments:

  1. I love the part when giving tips on nail polish-- where you said first thing is to use the restroom! That made me giggle :) Thank you for all the great information.

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  2. Thank you! I have bookmarked this entry for future reference!

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  3. You are very welcome. I will be adding to this on a semi-regular basis.

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  4. This was a very interesting and informative read! Thank you very much! :D

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  5. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your tips in such detail! It was a really good read, and makes me feel like perfection is not that unattainable :)

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  6. I am fairly new to this nail polish obsession of mine. I have always "liked" polishing my nails, but if I did it, fine, if not, still fine. I had a few colors to choose from, but that was it! NOW...as I'm finding more and more blogs to read, wonderful colors that I can't live without, I feel like a whole new wonderful, fashionable world is out there waiting for me!! I'm most thankful for all the "pros" that share tips with those of us "newbies" that really don't know, for the most part, how to do things right!
    I am ***IN LOVE*** with your polish and have been stalking Llarowe's site waiting for your polish to show up since I live in the U.S. ( in the middle of no-where, small-town Iowa, to be exact!) My list of "gotta haves" is growing and growing! However, I'm waiting for the day when Pam's Girly Bits shows up on her site so I can order my favs!!!
    Thanks so much for your time in explaining things AND thanks for expanding into selling your polishes in the U.S. through Llarowe's site!!
    Donna Smith

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  7. Absolutely love your site! I cannot believe I just found it. Can't wait til your shop is back open, because I need one of everything! Thanks for the great tips and you are right I do love you for the tip on removing glitter. Taking off The Fresh Frog of Bel Aire almost make me slit my wrists.

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  8. I am bookmarking this page!! Its a really helpful post for all the nitty-gritty details!!! Thanks!

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  9. Hi, no i have never tried anything like this seems to much work for me. I appreciate them on other people but im a plain nail Jane on my fingers i do like a bit of clear gloss on them from time to time

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  10. This is informative and helpful.Thanks!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment, it really means a lot. I read every comment. If you have any questions or want me to check out your blog, please email me at info@girlybitspolish.com