Despite what my earlier nail pics might suggest, I've actually been doing my own nails for years. I've always been one to change the color on my nails at least weekly, and have never had the money (or time!) for such frequent professional manicures. Also, my mom is also a polish hoarder, so I was exposed to an enormous variety of options from a very young age. Something that I've practiced for years, but have never quite mastered, is the classic French manicure.
You might be surprised to hear this, considering how simple the design really is. However, at least in my opinion, a successful French manicure requires a careful balance of several key components. I had never really figured out my ideal formula...until this weekend!
With all the frustration I've been feeling lately about my nail art abilities, this manicure was a totally necessary breath of fresh air. I found myself gazing at my nails more than usual, and got tons of compliments on them (mostly, "did you do those yourself?!" which is always my favorite question to get).
I started out with two thin coats of Revlon - Embody, a very sheer pale nude. In the past, I've made the mistake of choosing a base color that was too opaque, or compensating for a sheer formula by layering up the polish until it was thick and unappealing. I think practice with application and more experience with sheer formulas made me better this go round.
Another mistake I've made in the past is not allowing the base color to full dry before painting the tips. I don't trust my freehand to achieve a look this clean, so I use tip guides, and just like with tape or other sticky decals, they can pull up the polish base and ruin all your careful work. (This is another reason why 1-2 thin coats are ideal for the base!) I applied a single thin coat of HK Girl Topcoat and allowed my nails to dry for a full hour before prepping to do the tips. This prevented the base color from lifting, and allowed me to achieve a very clean line.
A word on tip guides: if you want to do French manis and don't have the patience for freehand, GET SOME! I bought a small pack with several hundred at CVS for maybe $3. I'm sure you can find them on Amazon and other online retailers as well. I've used regular tape in the past, and while that will get you a straight line, it most likely won't follow your actual nail line, making the outcome unnatural looking and severe.
Finally, I've discovered my ideal white for painting the tips, Essie - Blanc. While this is certainly not my go-to white for most purposes, (such as a base for neon polishes or nail art) the formula is the perfect consistency for applying a thin, opaque amount to the small tip area. You really want to avoid multiple coats on the tips for two reasons: one, you want to remove the tip guide while the polish is still wet, so you don't have time to allow for drying between coats; and two, you already have two coats of polish on your nails, plus top coat--your tip is going to start looking chunky really quickly if you're not careful. Blanc is a thin formula that makes for slightly streaky application on the entire nail, but is easily controllable when only painting the tip.
What do you think? Are French manis passe, or a standard staple in nail fashion? For me, this was just the palate cleanser I needed, and I have a feeling I'll be returning to my now-perfected formula in the future!