About two months ago I got a fascinating email about nails from Sandra Lopes. It came at an opportune moment because I was once again drooling at the thought of sexier nails. But, as I wrote in my previous nail article, due to the size of my hands and other issues, big, sexy nails felt like dreaming the impossible dream. So even as I drooled at the thought of better nails, I didn't want to waste my time on an impossible task. But Sandra's comments on her own nail experiences gave me some hope that, with the right products, I had a shot at better nails. As you will see in this article, thanks to her inspiration, I did make some great nail progress and I owe it all to Sandra's generous email message.
Incidentally, Sandra has her own blog, Rantings From a Crossdresser, which is really interesting to read. She focuses more on deep psychological issues and the motivations behind all forms of gender fluidity than I do. I don't ever worry about that, since I'm all about just having fun, but I think it's interesting to read about. I've learned a lot from her about the current psychological theories of gender and gender fluidity. Those of you who have written me asking for help with your gender issues and are not satisfied with my "don't worry, just be happy" philosophy of life would probably find a lot to like on her blog. She's also quite a beauty and has a few practical articles there as well, so there's a lot to learn from Sandra!
Sandra's first suggestion was to try imPRESS Nails. This is a product of the KISS company, whose glue-on nails I was already familiar with (and wrote a bit about in my last article). KISS products are always high quality and the imPRESS nails look beautiful. These are gorgeous "gel" nails and like their other nail products, they come in many different colors and designs Each box also includes a few "accent" nails, something which I love.
The big innovation here is a double-sided adhesive which is attached to the nail body. Application is incredibly easy and you are minutes away from a full-blown manicure with these things. To apply:
- You'll want to clean your nails. KISS provides a nail wipe, or you can just use alcohol. This is important so the nails adhere properly.
- First pick the sizes to fit your fingers, and lay them out on the table in front of you so you know which one will go on each finger. These nails have little tabs showing that cover the sticky adhesive. The tab also marks the bottom (cuticle) side of the nail, so that's what you want to match up with your own fingernail.
- Pick up a nail, pull off the tab, and place it carefully on your nail. Press on the middle and then on either side. That's it.
KISS says it takes about an hour for the adhesive to reach its full strength, so be a little careful with them for a while after you first put them on. I have used them several times now and I think they look just beautiful. And they are Dom de Luxury approved, which is always a plus. While they are not that difficult to remove (I just use nail polish remover and the stick that comes with the nails) I have never lost one or had it just come off.
Problems with imPRESS Nails
There are a few problems. They are pricey. List price is $7.99 USD but you can usually find them for less, sometimes as little as $5.35 USD. They come with 30 nails, but those are different sizes, so many of those nails won't fit your fingers. If you have smaller hands, you might be able to get two manicures from one box, but I have only been able to get one and one-half. Two imPRESS boxes at list price will cost you more than most bottles of OPI, my current fave nail polish and of course, you are going to get way more than two manicures from an OPI bottle. If you are in the fortunate position of being able to wear your nails for extended periods, this won't be such an issue for you. The imPRESS nails have been known to last for up to two-weeks!
If like me, you have big hands, you will have some extra problems. None of the nails in the imPRESS boxes fit my thumb. You can sometimes "fit" a nail which is too small by centering it on a larger nail and it will look OK, with just a tiny bit of natural nail showing. But not on my thumbs. I "solved" this with a coat of nail polish for each thumb that was a close match for the color of the imPRESS nails that I used. I have been in touch with KISS and they seem interested in solving this problem, so perhaps we will be getting some imPRESS nails in larger sizes! That would be great!
I love the accent nails, but in all the boxes I tried, they only fit on my little finger. While that's better than nothing, that would never be my first choice for an accent finger. I wish they would put some of the accents on the larger sizes of nail.
I also wish they would offer "blank" nails, for those moments when you have your own creative urges to make your own nails. You could probably add polish and other things to the current nails, but they look so beautiful already, it would be a shame!
But I do love the look of these nails and I intend to keep using them. I have been keeping a couple of boxes around for those times when you have a last-minute date and don't have time to spend waiting for your nails to dry. And if you have smaller hands, I believe you will be completely satisfied with them.
If you like them, you should know that KISS has a special website for imPRESS nails: Impress Manicure Website. You can join their imPRESSManicure VIP club for free, and they have been offering nice discount deals if you do. They also have a bigger selection of nails than I have seen in stores. They offer free shipping on orders over $30.
Rolling Your Own
Sandra also had some great suggestions for rolling your own. She recommended two products, both of which I ordered, from AliExpress. I've heard about AliExpress of course but never used them before this. It took a while for the stuff to come, but it got here just fine and the price was very reasonable.
Sandra recommended Rolabling Nailart Store which offers 500 nails in assorted sizes for $4.73, a price I find completely amazing. Of course, many of these sizes will not be usable, but this is still an amazing price. Unfortunately, these nails did not work at all for me. I don't know if I got a bad batch, but all of the nails were excessively curved. The nails were wide enough to fit my nail, but due to the curvature, only the edges of the nail were in contact with the nail bed. I did test these nails on a few friends, including a couple of Asian women (the nails are from China, of course) with smaller hands. The nails were too curved even for them, so I tend to think I got a bad bunch of nails. Here's a photo so you can see the problem (sorry that it's a bit out of focus):
I was disappointed, but still determined, so my next step was ordering some from Walmart. As we all know, Walmart gets most of its stuff from China and the stuff they sent me was also too curved to sit properly on my nails! I have read that people have had good luck with Walmart nails, but I think you have to actually go to the store to pick out the ones that will work for you. I don't recommend mail ordering these.
I was a gurl with a mission so I was not about to let some crazy Chinese fingernail manufacturer defeat me. The next product I tried was "Precision Fit Plus Size Natural Nail Tips" from the "Terrific Tips" company. I am now officially in Nail Heaven. These nails fit me perfectly and the price is reasonable. I got mine from Sally Beauty (here's the link), 100-tips for $6.69 plus shipping costs. And they are 'blank, white" nails, you can decorate! And, of course, Terrific Tip has "normal" sized tips if your hands are smaller than mine.
Shaping and Decorating
You'll want to have two pieces of wide duck tape (or another sticky tape) to put the nails on. One piece will hold all the nails for your left hand, the other will hold the ones for your right hand. Fold over the ends so that you can handle them easily and make sure each piece of tape is long enough to hold 5 nails.
You can shape and decorate the nails before you put them on. This is a huge convenience, obviously. The Terrific Tips come in a squarish shape and I wanted what they call "stiletto" nails. These are the long, sharp, pointy, dangerous shapes. After picking the size that fit my finger, I just used a pair of scissors to shape them. I didn't make any guide marks on the nails, I just noted where they fingertip ended on the nail and shaped them above that point. There was no need to use a nail file. As each one is shaped, I put it in "finger order" on the duck tape.
The duck tape will hold the nails steady as you put polish on them, but not so tightly that they are hard to remove. Decide on the color of polish you want and go at it. Don't worry about getting polish on the duck tape. Use as many coats as you need and when you are done, I recommend adding a top coat to help them last and really shine.
I also added Rhinestones to my nails, something I love. Since the nails were longer, I could go crazy with this. To attach them to the nails, I used an adhesive called "Gem-Tac". I chose this because it dries clear and it doesn't have noxious fumes. There is another glue, E6000 which reviewers say is stronger, but also has an obnoxious and unhealthy odor and fumes. The Gem-Tac worked great for me.
You'll also need something to pick up the rhinestones. I used a "Crystal Katana". I've avoided buying this because I think it is over-priced (it's around $26-$28 USD). I've tried other, less expensive solutions and they simply don't work well. This does a great job, I am forced to admit. Tweezers are really hard to use and other solutions (such as wax pencils) leave a coating on the rhinestone that dulls the shine.
And you'll need rhinestones. I bought some Aurora-Borealis (AB) rhinestones from Amazon for around $10. There are plenty of choices there and probably also at your local craft store. The AB rhinestones give off a rainbow of colors, which is nice.
To put the rhinestones on the nail, just squeeze a very small amount of glue where you want it, then put the rhinestone there with your preferred tool. Let it dry for 24 hours before you try to wear it.
This is where I ran into a spot of trouble. Sandra also recommended some double-sided sticky tape, intended to fasten false nails on. She suggested the Allmedure Store, also on AliExpress.com. She buys them in bulk since they are a popular item and tend to disappear fast. I bought several.
To use this, Sandra recommends placing them on your nail first, and letting them warm up (most adhesives work better when they are a bit warm), then pulling off the cover and attaching the nail, holding it down for a bit to make sure it works.
The first problem I had was that, due to my inexperience in wearing nails, I made all the nails too long. As I attached more nails, I found it increasingly difficult to do so. Once I finished one hand, I couldn't manage to get any on my other hand at all! I am trying to come up with a solution for this (if any of you have one, please send it to me, I will give you credit!). I know that some women leave the nails on one hand shorter. Perhaps using shorter nails for the thumb and index finger of my right hand would work, since those are the only ones I need to attach the adhesive and nails.
The other problem was also related to the length of the nails. Typing is very hard with them on and, sadly, the nail attachment did not survive this test. So it might be that really long nails are simply not in my future (sob). However, I was in a rush to attach and use them and I may not have given the adhesive a fair shot. Next time I will give the adhesive longer to set and bond and see how they perform. So the jury is still out on these adhesive pads. I notice there are some other adhesive products available for nails, so if these Chinese pads don't work, I can always try some other ones.
I filmed my efforts so you can see how I did it. Please remember this is my first time, so the skill level here is not high. The video is decent, and I think it should give you an idea of how this sort of thing can be done. The hard part is finding the right nails, the rest was pretty easy. I hope you find it helpful:
UPDATE: Problems Solved!
Since writing the above I have discovered solutions for all the problems. Here they are:
The best adhesive: Nailene Ultra Adhesive Tabs. These are much stronger than the stuff I got from AliExpress, and also substantially more expensive. However, they really held the nails on fantastically well. I paid about $20 USD on Amazon for a pack of 4, each pack has 24 sticky tabs in it. You'll use 1/2 pack on both hands, so that's $1.25 a hand. Not that awful, but not that great. Here's a link to the product on Amazon.com They held remarkably well, and were not much of a problem to remove.
Attaching really long nails: To deal with the problem of attaching really long nails, I made the nails for the thumb and first finger of my left hand shorter. I was then able to successfully attach all the nails!
The Procedure: Make the nails as I described above, remembering to make the nails for the thumb and index fingers of one hand a length that you can operate with. I chose the left hand, since I am right handed, because I would tend to use the left hand less, and so it would be less visible. Then clean your nails and the underside of the false nails with alcohol (I used 99% isopropyl). Let dry. Really. Let it dry. Then continue as follows:
- Place adhesive tabs on all your fingernails, leaving the top protective cover on the tab.
- Place nails on 5th (little finger), 4th and 3rd fingers of both hands. Just pull off the protective cover, then press the nail onto the sticky tab in the middle, then on each side of the nail.
- Place the shortened nails on the index finger and thumb of the target hand. For me, that is the left hand.
- Use those two fingers to finish the other hand.
I loved the way these looked, and so did Dom. The longer nails have a beautiful way of making your boy hands look more graceful and feminine, it's really fantastic. I think the short nails on those fingers were not especially noticable. I have to say, wearing these nails is tough! It is hard to do just about anything in them, from typing to picking things up. But Dom tells me this will get easier with practice. I think it is similar to wearing heels, which were very hard for me at first, but now I don't even think about it any more. I really recommend these procedures and products to those of you who are wanting to up your nail game!