For some time now Dom de Luxury has wanted me to do an article about nails. I resisted. I had my reasons. Good reasons. I am pretty good at doing my nails but there are people out there who are nail geniuses! I'll provide some links to them at the end of this article. Compared to them, I didn't think I had anything unique to contribute.
So why am I writing this? Well, have you ever tried to resist anything Dom de Luxury wanted you to do? It is impossible. It can not be done. No one can resist that woman. If she wants you to do something, you will end up doing it. I have discovered a really cool way to do a gradient that I haven't seen before, so I do have something unique to offer. But I would have written this anyway because what Dom de Luxury wants, she gets.
The Practical Side of Nails.
For some reason, some people get upset when they see painted nails on a man. This is strange but it is true. You can wear earrings in public and it is generally tolerated. Painted nails? Not so much. Or such is my experience. Yours may differ. For this reason, most of us will paint our nails only for our sessions with Dom or fetish parties or the like.
Nails take a lot of time to do. Even a simple one color nail look can take an hour or more. Dom de Luxury is able to do this in less time, but I can't. And it is irritating because you have to wait for the damn stuff to dry. If you do three coats, and each coat takes 15 minutes to dry, that's 45 minutes just sitting around waiting for them to dry! And new nail applications are fragile. You can't really do anything while they are drying, and you have to be careful after they dry until they harden. More complicated looks can take even longer. There is some new nail technology (such as gels) that make nail application much quicker and harden instantly. The problem with these is that they are also very much harder to remove. This is a great advance for biological women who wear their nails for weeks at a time. What women in her right mind wants to do her nails every day? They want them to look beautiful and last. So this is great for them, but for people like us, not so much. So here are ways to deal with all of this:
- Since nails take time, try to do them the night before your session if at all possible. This will also help to harden them.
- Acetone nail polish removers are the most effective, but they destroy your nails. Since we remove nail polish more often than women, using acetone is even more of an issue for gender fluids. Try to use only non-acetone nail polish remover.
- Some of the beautiful new technology (such as gels) that looks amazing and fun is almost impossible to remove, so we have to avoid that for now.
- Really complicated nail looks take 10 times as long and you don't get to show them off much. I find them impossible to resist, so plan ahead if you are going to do one of these.
An alternative to painted nails are false nails. I tried these, but they didn't really work for me. One problem with false nails is that if you have large hands, as I do, you will not be able to find nails that will fit all of your fingers. Typically the thumbs can't be covered, and that just looks silly. Another problem is that they fall off very easily. There are adhesives that will make them stay on longer, but these are reportedly incredibly hard on nails if you need to remove them, so I have never tried them. Without these special adhesives, I found that the false nails did not last even for one session with Dom. But they look beautiful and I loved having long fingernails. I truly regret that they are not practical for me. You might give them a try. If you find a brand that works for you, please let me know about it.
Doing Your Nails
That's enough of the real world, thank you very much. Let's get to the fun stuff.
What You Need to do Your Nails
You don't need much. Here's the basic list:
- Cotton balls
- Base coat. A common type of base coat is a ridge filler. More on that in a moment.
- Orange stick, for cuticles.
- Nail polish, in a color you love.
- Top coat
- Nail polish remover. I use both Acetone and non-Acetone polish remover.
That's not so much stuff, right? But if this is more than you can handle, try the minimal list:
- Nail polish, in a color you love.
- Non-acetone nail polish remover.
You'll need paper towels or tissue too, to help you remove the nail polish, but everyone has those around. Depending on what polish you buy, you could do this for under $10. Even with expensive polish, you will probably pay less than $15 or $20. You will save money with the minimal list, but you might not be that happy with the results.
The full list will cost you a bit more, maybe around $25-$30. But this is a one-time cost and will last you for many nail applications. But it's all up to you, of course.
What Brand of Polish Should I Buy.?
Good question. I wish I had a good answer. I'm still looking for "my brand". Here are some of the ones I've tried:
Essie This might be the most well known one. I see it everywhere. This is the first one I tried. I have several colors. My experience with Essie has been mixed. The colors are really nice, some are gorgeous. My problem with Essie is that many of the colors don't go on evenly, they go on in streaks. Several coats will solve this, but it still bugs me. I dream of a nail polish that goes on in one, smooth layer. Admit it, that sounds beautiful, right? You generally won't get that with Essie. Some colors work great "out of the bottle", but there's no way to predict which ones.
OPI This is my current fave. They have gorgeous colors and they generally go on more evenly than Essie. Even with OPI, I find some of the colors "thin" and streaky, but none of them are as bad as Essie. OPI is usually a bit more expensive than Essie, but not substantially so.
Other Brands I have only very limited experience with other brands. Sugarpill, which is one of my favorite cosmetic companies, has started making nail polish. I was so excited to try these! Unfortunately, they didn't work for me. The colors are too transparent for my taste, and I gave the ones I bought away. I will say that they make an amazing nail glitter they call "Space Junk" which I love.
I bought some magnetic nail polish in a close-out sale which was made by Sally Hansen. People sneer at the Sally Hansen brand because it is mostly in drugstores, but I have to say these magnetic polishes are really good. I am truly sorry that you can't buy them anymore.
Base Coat, Top Coat, Nail Polish Removers
For this other stuff, I have even less specific brand recommendations. Let's briefly talk about each one:
Base Coat You might be able to dispense with this. However, a lot of people have "ridges" running along their nails from the base to the tip. This is perfectly normal and they tend to become more prominent with age. (If you have ridges that run across the nail, this is not so good and you should visit a doctor.) There are some "nail guru's" that recommend filing down these ridges. I tried this and I can tell you that this is terrible advice! Yes, it makes the nails delightfully smooth and the polish goes on nicely. The problem is that it also weakens the nails! After I did this, my nails cracked and split for a month or two until new ones grew in. This also affected future polish applications, so it just isn't worth it for one nice experience.
Instead of filing down the ridges, I now use a Ridge Filling Base Coat. I really recommend this. Most nail polish manufacturers seem to make one. I have tried both Essie's and OPI's. Both worked well.
If you don't have ridges, then you might not need a base coat. Try one and see if you like it. There is one special type of base coat called a Peel Off Base Coat that is worth mentioning. With this stuff, you don't need nail polish remover. When you are done with your nails, you just peel off the nail polish. I tried one made by Sally Hansen, and it works well. It peels off beautifully when you want it to. The problem with this stuff is that it also peels off when you don't want it to. So I use this base coat only when I am doing nail experiments, for which it is incredibly useful. But if you want something that will last through an evening with Dom, I don't recommend this.
Top Coat I do recommend a top coat. This might seem strange, because the main purpose of a top coat is to preserve and protect the nail polish so it lasts for a couple of weeks, and I only wear mine for a day or so at most. But top coats do two things that I really love:
- They give a totally delicious gleamy shine to the finished nail.
- You can buy "quick dry" top coats. These really do work and speed up the drying process dramatically. So use this after your last coat and finish sooner. I use the one from Sally Hansen at the moment.
Nail Polish Removers Acetone nail polish removers are very hard on nails. You want to minimize your nails exposure to these as much as possible. This is especially important for gender fluid people because we take off our nail polish more frequently than biological women. Consider that if you have two sessions a week with Dom, you would remove your nail polish twice. This gives you the same acetone exposure in less than a week that a bio-woman would have in four or five weeks! Even bio-women are told to avoid acetone, so it becomes even more important to us. I use non-acetone remover on my nails exclusively. It doesn't work as well as acetone, but a little patience combined with some soaking and scrubbing will get you there. I recommend you read the actual ingredients on the label carefully. Some nail polish removers may look acetone-free, but actually include it.
I do use acetone for cleaning up around the nail, but only on the skin area.
Prepping Your Nails
One nice thing you can do for yourself is to shape your cuticles. And UPDATE! The day after publishing this article, I got inspired to try cuticle remover. I have used it precisely one time, but I am a believer. I really recommend this stuff! This doesn't actually remove your cuticle, what it does is remove the dead cells that cover it up. I used Sally Hansen's Cuticle Remover and since this was my first time, I don't have anything to compare it to. But it really looks so much nicer!
You only need to deal with your cuticles once a week. It really is much nicer when you do! Use cuticle remover and something called an "orange stick" to push back the cuticle. This is a pointed stick made of orange wood. There's a pointed side and a sort of flat, oval side, cut on the bias. The bias side is what you use most. Here are the steps:
- Do this after a shower, or soak your nails for 5-10 minutes in warm water to soften the cuticle.
- Dry your fingers, then spread cuticle remover gel around the edges of your nails. Don't worry if it gets on the skin. Leave it for a couple of minutes. You aren't supposed to exceed 8-10 minutes. I guess it will dissolve your fingers if you do that? Anyway, don't do that. Something bad will happen. They don't say what.
- With the gell still on your fingers, use the orange stick to gently push the cuticles towards the base of your nails, a little bit at a time. Don't push too hard or scrape your nails. You can move it in little circles, that seemed to help remove some of the dead cuticle. By the way, you never want to cut or tear your cuticles. They are there to protect your fingers from infection.
- Wash off the cuticle remover in warm, soapy water then use cuticle oil or vaseline to moisturize your nails. You are done!
Before you polish your nails, clean them. It works so much better! You need to remove any oils or dirt that might have found their way to your nails. If you skip this step the polish will not adhere as well. Probably the main cause of nail polish cracking or chipping is not cleaning the nails first. Chipped nail polish is definitely not cute and Dom de Luxury will hate it. To clean my nails I use isopropyl alcohol, but vinegar or even lemon juice will do the job. If you use lemon juice, make a solution of it with some water, and soak your fingernails in it for 10-15 minutes, then dry them off. If you use vinegar or alcohol, saturate a cotton ball with your cleaner of choice, wipe the fingers, then dry if needed.
The traditional technique for applying nail polish is to take a drop of it and place it in the middle of your nail with the brush from the bottle. Then use the brush to push it left, right and forward. Voila, you are done. Such is the claim.
I could never get that to work. I tried and failed. So what I do is to pull the brush out of the bottle, brushing off the excess polish from one side of the brush. Then place the brush with the polish side against the nail and just above the base. Then push the color against the end of the nail, and similarly on each side. This is much more reliable than trying to land perfectly on the end of the nail from the air. Doing it this way really helps me to "color inside the lines", always the goal with nails.
One hand will always be easier to do than the other one. If you are right handed like me, your left hand is going to look much better than your right. People suggest that when you do your right hand, you can try holding the brush steady in your left hand, and moving your right hand along the brush, instead of moving the brush. I think this is good advice, but I never followed it. I just kept practicing until I got pretty good with both hands.
You need to "mix" the polish before you use it. The recommended method is to roll the polish between your hands as if you were shaping a sausage. This is supposed to prevent air bubbles. I tried this and found it to be a pain. Shaking it works fine and I have seen no air bubbles in my polish. And before you tell me that the reason I get streaks is because I shake my polish, just let me say I got streaks no matter how I mixed it.
So let's apply some polish, step by step:
- Clean Nails
- Mix and apply the base coat (if using) and let it dry. These usually dry pretty fast, but do let it dry completely. Use the method described above for applying polish.
- Mix and apply the first coat of polish. Multiple thin coats are better than one thick one. I have tried both ways, so you can trust me. Really you can. The thick coats take 10 times longer to dry, so you really aren't saving any time. Also, they are much more fragile, cracking and chipping much more easily. Here's a tip if you have shakey hands: Rest them on something! You can use a rolled up dish towel or washcloth.
- Let it dry. This can take up to 15 minutes or more. (Tap the nails of your little fingers together to test for dryness. They shouldn't be sticky at all.)
- If needed, apply a second coat, mixing gently first. I almost always do this. If it looks good, then go on to the top coat. Otherwise, let it dry.
- If needed, apply a third (and usually final) coat.
- Mix and apply the top coat. If you are using a quick-dry top coat, you usually want to wait a couple of minutes before applying. If you are using a regular top coat, wait until the nails are completely dry.
- Using the acetone and a q-tip or a small brush, remove any nail polish that went outside of the nail.
- A final, optional step but one I highly recommend: Put some ice water into a bowl and soak your newly polished fingernails in it for a few minutes. This really helps to harden the nails.
To try to help you with all this, I've included a small video at the end of this article. It's not much, but it does show how I do a basic nail application as well as a gradient nail, and how to remove your polish.
After you do your nails, even with the ice water treatment, they will be delicate. They get harder with time but be careful with them. It's a dangerous world for newly done nails. Anything can damage them, so be careful!
Beyond the Basics
Nail polish is nice just by itself, but there are other fun things that you can do with nails. Here are a few ideas:
Glitter is always a good idea. And for nails, it can hide a multitude of flaws. You can buy glitters in a bottle, pre-mixed with an adhesive. OPI sells them as does Essie. You just mix and apply with a brush. One of my favorites has become Sugarpill's "Space Junk". I really love, love, love Space Junk. There are also some wonderful holographic glitters that look gorgeous. Feel free to go over the same nail as many times as you want to get the density of glitter that looks good to you.
You can also use Dom de Luxury's trick: Apply your top coat, then dip the fingernail immediately in some loose glitter. I would suggest putting another layer of top coat on top of it to hold it and make it gleam.
Glitter is easy to apply and looks great, but it is not that easy to remove. Do not panic! It will come off. I find it very helpful to really soak the cotton ball with remover, and then leave it on the nail for a minute or so. This helps loosen the glitter.
Magnetic Nail Polish
This is cool stuff. It is polish mixed with some magnetic material. You apply it twice: First a thin coat, letting this dry. Then a second thicker coat and you must immediately take a magnet (provided with the polish) and hold it right above the polish. This will cause a design to form in the polish. The design depends on the shape of the magnet. I love this stuff and it looks great. I suggest trying to mix in some glitter with your magnetic polish looks.
If you are using quick-dry top coat, wait a bit longer than usual to apply it, otherwise you may smear the design.
3-D Decorations, Rhinestones and Designs
You can buy collections of little jewels, rhinestones and paste on designs to snazz up your nails. These are available in most drugstores and beauty shops and are a lot of fun.
There is something called a dotting tool, which is sort of hard to describe. It's rounded metal point in a plastic handle. They come in different sizes. You use this to put dots of polish on your nail. It is surprising how nice this can look.
One of the most beautiful things you can do with your nails is to apply a gradient. Gradients use two or three shades of nail polish, and blends them from light to dark. The traditional way of applying a gradient is to use a makeup sponge: You place three dabs of different colored polishes next to each other on the sponge, and then roll it across your nail. This works well, but it is incredibly messy. It gets all over your finger and the clean-up job is time consuming. You can use liquid latex or an Elmer's glue stick to protect the skin, but this is also a pain.
I have discovered a neater way to do a gradient. I've only tried it with two colors so far, but it should work well with three.
Take a piece of non-absorbent paper, or a nail mat. I use baking parchment, which is silicon impregnated paper. Anything that won't absorb your nail polish will work. Put two generous dabs of color next to each other, and then take a medium brush and draw it along the colors, to make a gradient. Immediately apply it to your nail. You can easily control the direction of the gradient, and if you need to touch up any side of the color, that is easily done with the brush as well. I've included an example of this in the video at the end of this article. I'm pretty proud of this discovery.
To clean the brush, use acetone. You will not be able to use this brush for makeup any more, but if you clean it well you can use it for more nail gradients.
As with magnetic nail polish, if you are using quick-dry top coat, wait a bit longer than normal so you don't risk smearing your design.
Nail artists are amazingly creative! Here are three of my favorites. I have spent countless hours drooling in envy at their skills. Many of these use techniques (such as gel or acrylic nails) that aren't that practical for a one day nail look, but you will find plenty of things that you can do and much inspiration.
- Sveta Sanders is the most amazing nail artist I have found. Her skill and creativity are just incredible. She is Russian and speaks absolutely no English, so it is all learning by demonstration. I can't recommend Sveta highly enough! You can find her on youtube.
- Yagala S is also an amazing nail artist. Perhaps not quite as creative or prolific as Sveta, she is still incredible. She is also Russian and does not speak English, but her videos usually include English subtitles and are very educational. I recommend her highly. You can find her on youtube.
- Simply Nailoglical The main reason to watch this is because Cristine is incredibly funny. She also does product reviews and is incredibly generous with recommendations. It is via Cristine that I discovered Sveta and Yagala. Highly recommended if you want to learn about nails or just need a good laugh. You can find her on youtube.
I would be remiss if I did not discuss painting your toes. You should do this. One nice thing about painting your toes is that you can leave the paint on for weeks. Just wear shoes and socks if you need to hide it. As with the other little tasks that Dom de Luxury gives us, painting our toes reminds us of who we are, and to whom we really belong.
Most people find painting their toes to be a pain. I'm right there with them. Unless you are a yogi and can twist yourself into a pretzel, it is going to be uncomfortable. But it is doable. Also, toes have a way of overlapping each other which causes the polish to get smeared everywhere. To prevent this, you can use wadded up paper towels or tissues, placing them between your toes. A much better way is to use toe separators. These are little sponges that fit between your toes and keep them apart. They are incredibly cheap and almost any beauty store will carry them. They look like this:
Apply the polish to your toes just as you do to your fingernails. Some people find it easier to sit on a chair and lean over. Some people just sprawl all over the floor. I do both. Other than recommending you put down a few sheets of newspaper to protect your floor, I don't really have any amazing advice to offer. It does get easier with practice.
Here's a short video I made to illustrate the points in this article. I have to admit that this is far from my best video. It is not so easy to get good lighting and angles for a fingernail video. On the plus side, this one doesn't require a password. I hope you find it helpful:
Thanks for reading!
I hope this has been helpful. I'm always happy to get good suggestions and nice comments. If you have some, feel free to message me on Twitter