Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Updated French Tips - An "Interview" Manicure

Hi guys!  I've been job hunting like crazy since I moved to Tennessee, but it's been slow going... I've had two interviews for positions in my field (one was a disaster - all of the employees I spoke to, including my interviewers, couldn't stop talking about how little they were paid and how they couldn't wait to retire!), but since I don't know how long it will take to get a job in my field, I have applied to some other, "fun" jobs as well to fill the void in my bank account!
Yesterday, I had an interview with a popular women's clothing store that I won't name specifically (though it rhymes with Tan Sailor...).  Since interviews in my field always call for quite conservative looks, I wanted to do something a bit more modern and fashionable, but still classy and interview appropriate.  I settled on the classic french tip with a few modifications:
I apologize for the less than crisp photo; until I'm bringing in a paycheck
there's a moratorium on both polish (!!!) and lighting setup supplies :(
 First, I used OPI Don't Bossa-Nova Me Around, a pale pinky-neutral base, rather than a sheer.  I then applied skinny french tips that were thinner than my true nail line, which creates an illusion of longer fingers.  For the french tips I used Sally Hansen Chrome Nail Makeup in White Gold (There are quite a few near-dupes for this around; in case you can't get hold of this one online.  Essie Good as Gold is pretty close). 

Another note worth mentioning is the topcoat that I used - having run out of my go-to Salon Perfect top coat, I stopped at Walmart to pick some up only to find that they were out.  I ended up picking up some Revlon Diamond Gel Topcoat (non-UV-curing) to try out, because it seemed like it should be comparable.  A few minutes after my mani (around dinner time), the Revlon was dry to the touch and seemed cured... until I got up the next day with sheet marks :(  Not cool, Revlon.  Back to Salon Perfect, as soon as I can find it...

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hidden Neon Tribal Nail Art

Hey there!

I've been spending the last month or so working to finish up my Master's degree and moving from upstate New York to Knoxville, Tennessee.  It's been an extraordinarily stressful transition, but I'm finally beginning to settle in.  One of the first things I unpacked, naturally, was my nail polish and nail art supplies!  For this manicure, I wanted to do something summery, but unexpected, and I had an image in my head of a tribal pattern with a hidden pop of neon.  This is what I came up with:

If you're thinking, "Wow, your nails look really yellowed," nope!  Here's a different angle:

I was picturing a different take on the Louboutin manicure that was so popular about a year or so ago, but updated for the season.  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out! 

For this manicure, I stamped Konad Black over Red Carpet Manicure SOG in White Out.  The neon under the tips is China Glaze Sun Worshiper, courtesy of my lovely friend Mary!  I used the Cheeky Viva Mexico! plate for these designs.

Have you ever updated an old trend for summer?  Let me know in the comments! :^)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Dye your Hair with Henna - My Method!

So I know I usually do nail art posts, but I've been dyeing my hair with henna for almost ten years, and I wanted to share this important part of my personal beauty regimen.  Feel free to skip if you're not interested... more nail polish next time!  ^_^

 Growing up, I had light brown hair that was so mousy it was almost greenish-gray.  While this color is perfectly reasonable and downright flattering on some people, it did nothing for my pale, sunburn prone skin - my own natural hair color washes out my complexion.  Not cool, hair.

Long hurr, don't curr.
As a kid, I was too busy looking for frogs under rocks to notice this, but as a teenager and an adult, I was very self conscious about my skin, which was pasty and acne-prone.  Tanning wasn't something I was too interested in because of the potential health consequences, and I was terrified that I might further damage my hair with traditional box dyes or salon color after a disastrous perm in seventh grade.

Pictured:  Left, my mom - Gorgeous, and probably the kindest, most selfless person I know.  Right- the results of my disastrous seventh-grade perm.  Yikes...

As a high school student, I was very much a would-be hippie, so naturally, I looked into some "green" alternatives.  Enter, henna:  my hair holy grail.  After a engaging in a discussion about hair over on the fabulous Pointless Cafe, I wanted to share some of my experiences with this wonderful substance.  So in order to share the love, I thought I'd prepare this post so that you, too, can try your hand at henna - should you so choose!

Before you start, it's important to realize that dyeing your hair with henna is completely unlike conventional hair coloring methods, for several reasons.  Conventional dyes work by causing the cuticles on the hair strands to lift, and then tiny dye particles penetrate the hair shaft.  Some dyes are accompanied or preceded by lightening ingredients, which strip the hair of its natural color so that the color imparted by the dye is more visible. This is usually followed by a conditioning treatment that temporarily repairs the damage done by the harsher dye ingredients.  For this reason, conventional haircolor works very quickly and can achieve a very wide range of colors, but over repeated uses, will damage the hair.  Henna is derived from the leaves of the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis.  Henna colors hair by binding to the hair shaft, filling pores and smoothing the cuticle.  For gray ladies, this results in less frizz and thicker strands.  It's also fabulous for recovering from damage from perms, bleaching, etc.  The consequence is that any treatments applied to the hair within a month or so after henna-ing, such as chemical dyes and permanents, will not take or will have unpredictable results. The molecule that forms acts upon the keratin in the hair, lawsone, creates a translucent red tone on the hair surface (depending on the formula you use, the results can range from colorless(if the henna has little to no lawsone content) to golden (medium lawsone content) to rich orange-red (lots of lawsone), and even burgundy, dark brown or black if other vegetable dyes such as indigo, woad, walnut, or amla are added). This means that your original color will shine through, with a vibrant red tint.  In very dark hair, this red tint may only be visible in sunlight.  The result of henna dye is thicker, smoother hair.  Henna dye will fade and grow out like conventional dyes, but unlike conventional dyes, will not damage hair with repeated use.

For a more scientific, less hand-wavy description of how henna works, I recommend you read this article.  Yay chemistry!
Image Source:

While henna has many advantages over conventional haircolor, there are some tradeoffs that should be considered before taking the leap:
  • Henna is a time and labor intensive process that will take a couple of hours to prep, overnight to dye, and an hour to rinse.  I find it meditative and pampering, but some may not share this view.  Once it's on your hair you're committed to the removal process, so remember that before starting!
  • Henna will stain your skin and surfaces if not wiped off soon after - a bit of bleach will remove it from showers and counter tops though, and gentle exfoliation will fade stains on skin in a few days (in the mean time, concealer can fix any facial staining issues - though I must say, I have never had a problem with staining on my face or neck.  Hands, however, are another story: gloves are *highly* recommended). 
  • For about a week after dyeing, henna will lend your hair a distinctively herbal smell which some people may not like.  This goes away when it is dry.
  • Henna'd hair does bleed a bit when wet, especially during the first week, so either blow dry it before putting on your nice work clothes, or wash it at night and wear dark PJs.
  • Henna works by binding to the hair shaft, smoothing and filling in pores in the cuticle.  The protein that binds to the hair is red, so it colors the hair without penetrating it.  The result is that the hair shaft is thicker and smoother.  For gray ladies, this results in less frizz and thicker strands.  It's also fabulous for recovering from damage from perms, bleaching, etc.  The consequence is that any treatments applied to the hair within a month or so after henna-ing, such as chemical dyes and permanents, will not take or will have unpredictable results.
  • Henna's intensity does fade over about a month or two, but the red tones are permanent - it will not disappear completely unless you cut it off.  I dye about once every month or two, but you can get away with less if you wash it less frequently with a quality color preserving shampoo and conditioner (I highly recommend Ion Color Solutions, which I get at Sally's), apply henna glosses periodically, or have reasonably similar colored roots.

I use skin-quality henna, which is finer and has a more potent dye release, but hair-quality henna is fine as long as you make sure that it is 100% vegetable based- some products (almost always hair-grade henna) sold under the "henna" designation have chemical additives that will damage your hair and aren't too good to leave on your scalp.  These chemicals, such as para-phenylendiamine (PPD) are generally also present in conventional box dyes.  In conventional box dyes, this is fine, because they're only on your head for 10-15 minutes.  For good color, henna takes overnight- much, much too long for a sensitizing chemical to be in contact with your skin.  Fortunately, it's easy to tell if a henna product is a so-called "compound" henna (a henna that contains artificial additives).  First, any warnings on the box other than the general patch test recommendation should be a red flag, because vegetable henna is no more dangerous to put on your skin than, say, oregano.  Another tell-tale sign is the color and smell - vegetable henna should smell distinctly earthy and herbal, like compost.  It should be a shade of tan or green.  A sharp, chemical smell or purple-black color indicates the presence of non-vegetable components, which are not safe to apply to the skin for extended period.  These should either be returned to the seller or disposed of. So without further ado...


This is the way I henna my hair.  It is by no means the only way or necessarily the best way!  Do what you like, what's convenient, or what works best for you.  My feelings won't be hurt if you don't pick my way :^)

You will need:
  • ~1 cup henna powder (8 oz.) 
  • ~2 cups strong black tea or coffee
  • ~1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 10-15 drops tea tree oil
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup real mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
 I would recommend 4 oz. for every 8-10 inches of hair (stretched, if your hair is curly).  This recipe is for my length of hair, which is quite long.  You may need to adjust your recipe if your hair is shorter or longer.  To mix your henna, start by brewing some strong hot black tea or coffee and allow to cool.  The tannins in coffee and tea help the dye set, I believe- I have tried it with water, to disappointing results.  For lighter highlights, you can add chamomile tea or a tablespoon or two (per 4 oz. henna) of lemon juice, and for darker tones, use coffee.  While the coffee/tea cools, empty the henna packet into a large glass bowl.  To the dry henna, add the lemon juice, corn syrup, tea tree oil, and egg or mayonnaise.  The egg/mayo is a fantastic hair conditioner, and the tea tree oil facilitates dye release (and smells lovely). The only function of this is to make the mixture cohesive, so it will stick together (and to your hair) better.  You can use honey, but it is more expensive and I don't know if it would add any conditioning benefit.  Same story with molasses, but I suspect that molasses, especially blackstrap, would impart some color to the finished result (and also, save that for delicious cookies.  What were you thinking!?). If the vegetable smell of the henna turns you off, you can add 4-5 drops or a bit of your favorite essential oil, cinnamon, or ginger to tone it down.  Once these ingredients are mixed, add enough coffee/tea to make a dark green mixture with the consistency of thick brownie batter (you should be able to run your spoon through the mix, and it should leave a gap that very slowly fills in).  Cover it with saran wrap and set it in a warm place to let the dye release while you prep your hair.  Depending on the temperature, the henna mix should be left for between 2 (if warm) and 8 hours (if cold).

To prep your hair, comb it (however you usually do to remove tangles - I understand the process is a bit different for curly girls) until it is tangle free.  This will make your life easier both when applying the henna and when rinsing it out.  Wash your hair thoroughly with a clarifying shampoo to remove buildup, and DON'T condition.  Towel dry.  Check on the henna - if your henna is ready, it should have a dark brown skin on the top.  This is the dye release occurring at the surface:

To apply, wear some clothes you aren't too attached to, and wear gloves (I learned this the hard way, two days before a job interview no less.  Clearly I'm no planner). Scoop it from the bowl and massage into the part of your hair near the scalp. I like to do this over the sink, in the shower, or outside for easier cleanup.  Make a new part and massage more henna into your roots until your roots are covered completely, just as you would with box dye (except you don't need to avoid your scalp, as there is nothing hazardous or sensitizing to most people in henna).  Work more henna into the mid-length and ends of your hair.  When your hair is completely covered, twirl your hair into a bun on top of your head, and wrap your head (not including your face, of course haha) with lengths of saran wrap - you can use a shower cap, but I find that saran wrap works better.  Wrap around the nape of your neck, overlapping at your hairline on your forehead, and then add 1-2 foot lengths until everything is secure.  Use a cool, damp washcloth to wipe any henna from your skin, and then wrap up your saran-wrapped hair in a turbie-twist or the like to soak up any escaping henna.  I usually sleep on it, as it takes a good 8 hours for the best color, but 5 would probably be okay.  I put a garbage bag over my pillow and then layer a towel over it, and I've never had any problems!

Quack quack.
And seriously.  Wear gloves.
To remove the henna, use a (cheap) conditioner all over to rinse it out.  This will take some time - there are little specks of plant matter all up in your scalp's business, and it takes a bit of patience and a bit more conditioner.  Once it's 90% out, shampoo and condition with your regular products.  It should be all gone!  The color will set and intensify over the next 48 hours as the dye continues to develop, so don't wash it for at least 24 hours (48 is better).  You may notice your hair takes longer than usual to dry for a couple of weeks after henna-ing - this is normal, as the henna thickens the hair, protects from UV, and holds in moisture!  Enjoy all of the compliments you will soon receive!

Haha!  I totally forgot to put this in until after I published this post.  Womp womp.
I have to give props to the information sources I use, which I HIGHLY recommend you check out if you are interested in henna:
  • Henna for Hair - This is probably the most comprehensive website on henna in all its forms, and it's been around since I started dyeing my hair with henna almost ten years ago.  It was essentially my launch point, from which I developed my own way of doing things.  In particular, I recommend you check out this and this!
  • Cthuliz's Chemistry of Henna - related to her "How to Dye Your Hair Red with Henna" post here.  Cthuliz is a very cool, sciencey lady who posts on all sorts of fascinating topics that you should absolutely go check out now.  I actually just came across her site while writing this post, and it is chock-full of info that I didn't include here for the sake of brevity.