* Prices may differ from that shown
As I've probably mentioned, I've been paying a little more attention to my nails lately, in an attempt for my hands to look vaguely feminine. I've grown them to a decent length, and have been introduced to the art of filing nails by a friend, and so my next step was to experiment with some nail varnish. I decided to try a French manicure kit, because I thought if I can get to grips with it, I can make my nails look half decent for my forthcoming wedding. Who knows, I thought, if I get on well with it, it might even become part of my regular beauty routine.
Well, I think it's safe to say that's not going to happen. I don't think it's a reflection on this particular French manicure kit, but I find this process to be mind-numbingly tedious, it takes forever, and I'm never quite satisfied with the final results. It's always going to be the same whatever product you use, because it's like trying to curl the back of your hair, it's so much easier to do on someone else other than youself. However, if I was attending a special event, or making a special effort, I would use this kit again.
**What's in the kit?**
Anyway, onto the product in question. The set is by a company called "Beauty UK", which I've never seen in the shops before, but I chose because it was the cheapest option. I didn't want to spend a lot in case it was a disaster and I only used it once. I bought mine from Superdrug, and can't remember the exact price but according to the official Beauty UK website the RRP is £2.99, and for that you get everything you need to perform a French manicure. The kit contains a pink nail varnish which is your base coat, a top coat, the white tip varnish, and some nail tip stick-on guides. The back of the box gives you a very brief step-by-step process to guide you through the process.
Although it sounds obvious, it's been a while since I've tried a French manicure so I found the guide on the back useful for confirming I was doing things in the right order. The guide states the following steps should be taken:
1 Apply base coat
2 Use nail guides to apply white tip
3 Apply top coat
The "base coat" they talk of is actually just called "Pink" in the set, but the white tip and top coat have the same names so it's obvious which is which.
**My Experience of Applying**
Before I begin, I have to tell you that it took me AN HOUR to apply this French manicure. I don't think this is any reflection of this particular product, but it's a very time consuming process so I was hoping the final result would be worth it by (a) looking fabulous, and (b) lasting a decent length of time.
Firstly, the bottles were very hard to open, to the extent that when I asked my other half to open the final one because my nails were already wet, he struggled to get into it as well. But once I was in, I started off with the base coat which is pink. This was really easy to apply, it just took a couple of strokes on each nail and the nail was covered. The brush is a good size to get decent coverage, but not too big that you end up catching the skin by your nails which really annoys me. It feels nice and soft and gives good smooth coverage. The colour is lovely and natural, not at all like it looks in the photo, it's not brassy or obvious it just gives a nice pearly shine to the nail without looking overly pink or coloured.
This was the easiest part. Once the base layer was on, I got a bit ahead of myself and thought I'd be done in no time. I waited for it to dry before moving on to the next stage, and was pleased that it didn't take long at all to dry, just a couple of minutes.
The next stage was to apply the white tip. The box contains ten strips which are placed under the white tip to help get a straight edge. I wasn't too sure whether there were ten for a reason, i.e. are you supposed to put one on each nail and use all ten? Anyway, after using the first one, I realised it was VERY sticky (to the extent it hurt a bit to remove it), and so I decided if it was still sticky, I'd try to recycle it by using it for a few more nails until the stickiness wore off. This worked for three to four nails at a time, so I managed to save some for next time (which is ironic really, because I'm not sure there will actually be a next time!). I'm not sure if they sell the nail guides separately anywhere, because otherwise once you've used these, you're a bit stuck.
I wasn't so keen on the white tip application. It caused the most hassle (and swearing) out of all the stages. The white tip varnish seemed quite thick, so it was difficult to get the application right. When I wiped the excess on the neck of the bottle before applying, it was too weak to cover the tip of my nail, and then when I did a second coat it started to blob and go all gooey meaning I had to start again. I then tried starting off with more varnish on the brush, but this just seemed to cause the same issue and it clumped into gooey lumps looking like a pigeon had done his business on my nail. I also found it quite difficult to get a straight edge on the tip, even by using the guides. It seemed like the guides are designed for a set nail shape, and mine didn't fall into this category. Eventually, with a bit of practise (and some re-applying), I got the tips looking "ok". They didn't look professional or like I'd want to show them up close to anyone, but at a distance they were passable. The white tips took quite a while to dry, so I waited before applying the top coat because I didn't want to undo all my hard work.
Finally, once the trauma of the white tip was over, the top coat was applied and this stage was perfectly easy, a breeze compared to the previous stage. Overall, they looked ok for a first attempt, from a distance they looked quite nice and since nobody tends to inspect my nails close up I thought I'd give them a try and see how I got on with them. My fiance liked them, obviously having observation skills which are so typical of the male fraternity, he didn't notice the jagged white edges and the odd blob of white here and there. Although I can't be too harsh, as he was on tea duty all evening whilst I was waving my nails round waiting for them to dry!
**My Experience of Wearing and Durability**
After the trauma of spending an hour of my evening applying this French manicure, and being vaguely impressed with the results, I was interested (and slightly apprehensive) to see how long the results would last for. I became incredibly aware that whenever I did anything, and I mean ANYTHING, it caused the white tips on my nails to chip or blob. It was almost like the white bit never actually dried properly, so was susceptible to being ruined whenever I used my hands, which lets face it, happens quite a lot in an average day.
I finished my French manicure at around 9pm one evening, and by the time I'd gone to bed I felt my nails were already looking a bit tatty. I'd caught them in between the keys on my keyboard, which started destroying the white tip, and also when doing normal everyday things like scratching my head, or trying to get my credit card out of my purse. That said, they still looked ok from a distance, so I insisted on leaving them as long as possible before I had to undo all my hard work.
One thing I noticed about this kit, was that the white tip part felt thicker than the rest of my nail, which seemed to make it easier for things to cause chips in them. Having said that, I think unless you are a complete lady of leisure, it's unlikely that a French manicure would remain in the same condition for days on end. I work in finance so am handling money daily, and using a computer, along with the usual household tasks, so it was inevitable that after a few days my nails would look a bit worse for wear. I would say it took about a week for them to look so bad the nail varnish needed removing, which isn't bad considering the usage my nails get.
I did receive a lot of compliments after using this kit. I think because I rarely ever do anything with my nails, people noticed a lot more, and lots of people in work commented on how good they looked. When I told them the story of how long it took, and that they aren't the neatest job, the general opinion was that they looked good from a distance, and nobody looks that closely at your nails. Overall, it was thumbs up to my nails.
**Would I recommend?**
At first, after it taking so long to apply this French manicure, I was convinced I'd probably never bother again. However, after a week's worth of nails which attracted many compliments, I think I would use this again, but only for special occasions. It depends really how much time you've got on your hands (no pun intended!). If you can spare an hour a week to reapply this manicure kit, I can recommend it as it will last a week at a time. I would also recommend it for special occasions such as weddings or parties when you want to make a bit of extra special effort. You'll certainly feel more feminine after using this kit, even my fiance liked my nails and he doesn't really go for anything girly or fake usually. It also brightened up my day in work as I stare at my hands a lot when I'm using the computer.
As a side note, I think I will probably get more use out of the base coat, which is a lovely pale pink. This is a nice pearly shine which makes your nails look shiny and healthy, and doesn't take long at all to apply and dry. Unless I have a particular reason to do the full French manicure, I'll probably just stick to using the pink on a regular basis. Either way, I will get some use out of it. But I'll probably get a friend with a steady hand to apply it for me for my wedding day!
Beauty UK / French manicure set