After I have removed my polish, used my cuticle remover, and scrubbed with my nail brush, I am ready to use a base coat.
Now I have to say, I have TONS and TONS of base coats and nail treatments, but these are the ones I used the most (thought I don't know why I included that OPI, as I don't use it...lol). From L to R, Julep's Nail Therapy, OPI Original Nail Envy, Nail Life Nail Revitalizer, Color Club's Vitabase and OPI Natural Nail Base Coat.
Now I have to say, one of the things I look for in a good treatment, is how well it works as a base coat that anchors my polish. Out of the 5 I have pictured here, only 2 of them I currently use on a daily basis. The Vitabase was my go to base coat, I had never known that I could get polish to last more than a day without chipping, till I picked this baby up. I've gone through 3 bottles already.
I had heard excellent things about Nail Envy, so I decided to bite the bullet and buy it (it's not cheap at $16.99). And I have to say I love it. I've been using it for about a month now, and it works excellent as a base coat. Now I have some time before I see if it's made a difference to my nails, but so far, it does leave a my nails nice and strengthened when I have this one.
Another reason I use these two products the most is they dry super fast, which is a plus for me as I just want to get on with my polish!
These are kind of a miscellaneous treatments. Nail-Aid's 3 Minute Artificials and Gelous Advanced Nail Gel Coat. Both of these products leave your nails super hard (that's what she said, lol!! couldn't help myself) after applying. I don't think these have any benefit to the actual nail itself, so I don't use these anymore as base coats. Though as many nail lady knows, these work very well as a coat over gritty glitter polish, to smooth everything out. That's basically what I use them for now.
And then of course comes the topcoats. These are the ones I currently use. The most important aspect to me with a topcoat is how quickly it dries.
Now out of all of these products shown, Seche Vite is my go-to. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with it. I dropped it for a while there as I was sick of the shrinkage. BUT I started wrapping my tips with not only polish, but a bit of SV, and I no longer have the shrinkage at the tips that drove me insane. I still get shrinkage at the cuticles, but I try to make sure my SV coat overlaps my polish at the cuticles.
From L to R: Sally Hansen's Diamond Strength Diamond Shine Base and Top Coat (I kid you not, that's the name on the label!), Julep's Fast Dry Topcoat, INM Out The Door, SV, Color Club's Vivid Color Intensifying Top Coat and Color Club's 0-60 Speedy Top Coat.
The Sally Hansen top coat I was able to find super cheap at a Grocery Outlet by my house for $2, I bought two of them. I actually quite like this topcoat, I was glad to find it cheap.
The Julep topcoat came with one of my Julep Maven boxes. It's an ok top coat, nothing special about it, and definitely won't repurchase at the price Julep has set for it.
Out The Door topcoat is nice. I like it, but it doesn't leave a glossy finish like SV does.
Seche Vite, the holy grail topcoat for many. This stuff dries at lightning speed, and leaves a super shinny, glossy finish. If you can get past the drawbacks of this polish (shrinkage, smell (I happen to love the smell of it....), and thickness of the product), you will be in for a treat. This is the reason I started polishing my nails everyday.
Vivid Color topcoat, this was my go-to topcoat after I quite SV for a while. This stuff dries polish ALMOST as fast as SV, with the shine to boot. I didn't find it intensifies nail polish like it states though.
And lastly, 0-60 Speedy Top coat. While I like this, and it does dry quick, I get the shrinkage that SV gave me, without the glossy finish.
AFTER I paint my nails and make sure they are dry, I treat them with cuticle oil. L to R: Nailtique Oil Therapy, Nubar Cuticle Care Oil in Passion Fruit, OPI Avoplex Nail and Cuticle Replenishing Oil and Julep Essential Cuticle Oil.
Now this right here is probably the biggest help to my cuticles, and I LOVE cuticle oil. Of the 4 here, the OPI Avoplex is my favorite. It really feels like it penetrates my dry skin and moisturizes it. I can't say the same about the Nubar oil. I feel like it just sits on top of my skin, smelling nice. But I still use it.
I also really love the Julep oil. It has a rollarball applicator that makes it super easy to use on the run. I keep it in my purse (OPI's Avoplex also makes a portable one that I use as well....thought I can't find it). I can't say I will repurchase this product, as Julep products are not cheap.
Cuticle creams are very important to me as well. I use these mainly at night since they are a little on the greasier side.
L to R : Lush's Lemony Flutter, Burt Bee's Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme, Hoofer's Choice and Lush's Ultrabalm.
Now, Lemony Flutter is my go-to heavy cuticle cream of choice. I *TRY* to remember to slap this on before going to bed. I have to say, I have 2 pots of this right now, and if any of you are familiar with Lush, they have short expiration's dates (since they are handmade products, and they try to stay away from a lot of preservatives) and both of my pots are expired *blushes*. The only problem I find with this, is the smell has changed.
I really do like my Burt Bee's creme, and usually always have one in my purse. It's not as greasy as Lemony Flutter, so that's a plus when carrying it on the go.
Hoofers Choice I picked up on a whim at Sally's. I'm not a huge fan of it, but I will use it up. Since it was originally used on horses, it does smell like a hoof treatment I use to use on my horses back in the day...thought I don't remember what that product was.
Lush's Ultrabalm is a wonderfully versatile product as well. I use it on my cuticles, lips, and any dry skin.
Now to go along with cuticle oils and creams, hand creams are very important too.
Clockwise: Bath and Body Works Shea Cashmere Hand Creme, BBW Shea Cashmere Hand Creme in Dark Kiss, Julep's Glow On, Soap and Glory's Hand Food, EOS Hand Lotion and Lush's Smitten.
I have hand creme EVERYWHERE! It's crazy! I find them in random purses, drawers, my car....I literally have tons of these everywhere. These were just some I found near my computer....lol! So I won't talk about each of these, but my go-to heavy duty one is Lush's Smitten. It's heavy duty and greasy, so I only apply it when I know that I will have greasy hands for a while. Unfortunately Smitten has gone retro, so you can only purchase it online. And a plus, it smells like Lush's iconic Snowcake!
Ahh....nail files. Such a hot debate in the nail world! Anna from Loodie Loodie Loodie has absolutely AWESOME post's on nail files. After reading her posts, I stopped using my glass file to do all my filing.
I will say that yes, I buff my nails. I don't like having ridgy nails, so I buff them smooth. Now I will say I ONLY file the base of my nail to smooth the ridges out. The only exception to this rule is if I have really bad staining, then yes, I will buff my whole nail.
I love buffing blocks, yet I still purchase the file form of buffers too. Make sure if you get these, to read what each color does. My favorite files are the ones you see here by Tropical Shine that I get at Sally's. You also want to make sure you replace them after time, they lose some of their grittiness (though I haven't had that problem with the Tropical Shine ones).
And for the love of God, don't use metal nail files, and stay away from really gritty nail files, that shit will eff up your nails! Again, read Anna's post's above about nail files and grit numbers!