Q&A: Reader nail polish questions answered

A friend e-mailed me the other day to ask how to remove glitter nail polish. Then she suggested I add a Q&A feature to Below Freezing Beauty. So we rounded up a few questions I’ve received recently from friends (seriously! I swear I didn’t make these up myself) and I took a whack at answering them. If you’ve got a beauty question, e-mail it to me and I’ll answer it if I can — and if I can’t, I’ll scour the Internet to find you someone who can. Now, on to the questions…

Removing glitter nail polish

Dear Below Freezing Beauty,

How the hell do I get glittery nail polish off? My standard acetone remover isn’t doing the job.

Sincerely, Glittering in Glory

There are a ton of great glitters out right now, and I’ve actually been asked about this by a few people. I used to struggle with removing glitter polish, too, and then I learned this trick from some clever blogger somewhere (I don’t remember where, unfortunately… maybe from a commenter on All Lacquered Up?), and I have never feared a glitter polish again. And now neither will you.

I started with (left to right) two coats each of China Glaze Lorelai’s Tiara (from the Eye Candy collection) and Nicole by OPI Step 2 the Beat of My Heart (yes, yes, from the Justin Bieber line. Don’t hate), and three coats of OPI Rainbow Connection from the Muppets collection. These three polishes run the gamut from superfine to super chunky, and you’ll see that this process works with all of them. I let them dry and then wore them overnight so they’d be good and cured.

To get your glitter polish off you’ll need three things: Nail polish remover, small squares of aluminum foil, and cotton rounds cut into fourths.

Soak a cotton pad quarter in nail polish remover and put it on a fingernail/toenail.

Wrap a little square of aluminum foil around the tip of the finger/toe so it holds the cotton against the nail. Make it nice and tight like a little hat. (Maybe pretend your finger is afraid of radiation or alien mind probes.) Repeat for each glittered nail.

Wait about five minutes. Then press down against the surface of the nail and pull the aluminum foil and cotton pad off, wiping as you remove. (If I were a yoga instructor I’d say something about “one fluid motion.”)

Et voila! One swipe should get most of it, although you will probably have to go back and clean up a little. In the case of the Bieber polish, I had to flick off a couple of the hearts (which came off easily), and there’s a little bit of Lorelai’s Tiara left along the edge of my nail, but otherwise the bare nails above are the product of one clean swipe each.

You can achieve more or less the same effect with a couple of squares of toilet paper, soaked in remover and then wrapped around your fingertip so they stick to themselves. It’s slightly less effective than the cotton pad/aluminum foil method, but it feels less wasteful. 

Preventing (or fixing) stained cuticles

Dear BFB,

Certain nail polishes stain my cuticles when I try to remove them. How do I avoid this? It so damn annoying. Sub-question: Are all nail polish removers created equal?

Sincerely, Cranky About Stains on my Hands

I don’t have a foolproof method for this one, but I’m imagining (based on my own skin-staining experience) that they’re darker polishes that are just leaving behind more pigment. After you’ve removed all your nail polish, try going back over your cuticles with a clean cotton pad and nail polish remover, followed by a hand scrub or a good soap and nail brush and then hand cream. It might help to apply some hand cream or cuticle oil before you remove your nail polish, too, to keep the pigment from sticking.

And no, all removers are definitely not created equal. I use acetone when necessary for expedience/intensity, but usually I prefer the Sally Hansen moisturizing nail polish remover (pictured above). It’s not acetone-free, but it’s gentler than other acetone removers I’ve used (and even gentler than some non-acetone formulas). It requires a little more elbow grease, but it smells better and isn’t as hard on your hands.

Delivery mechanism matters, too. I don’t buy just any cotton pad. They have to be ones that are sealed around the edges (see photo below). The cheap ones leave cotton fuzz sticking to your nails. (Read more about my opinions on cotton rounds.)

Reusing and replacing nail polish brushes

Dear BFB,

I love the brush that comes with the Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure polishes. Seriously, love. Can brushes from one bottle be reused in a different bottle of polish? (I can imagine what the obvious answer to this question is but interesting all the same)

Sincerely, Brushed Off

First: The Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure brush is the absolute best brush in any nail polish anywhere, ever, and I wish all the other nail polish manufacturers would catch on. I know some people who have smaller nails say they don’t like it, but I’ve never had a problem painting my toenails with the Sally Hansen brush, and some of them are pretty small.

And the answer is: Yes, no, and if yes, it might be more trouble than it’s worth. Yes, you can use the brush with another nail polish if (a) it fits through the mouth of the bottle (a real concern with that wide SH brush) and (b) you are prepared to do a lot of cleaning. You’re going to have to clean all the original color out of/off your brush before you use it in the other polish, and then you’re going to have to clean it really well before you put it back in its own bottle (not to mention you’ve left an open bottle of nail polish sitting around while you use its brush, and I can guarantee you that I personally would find a way to knock that extra open bottle of nail polish over). I’d also recommend maybe pouring the nail polish you’re working with into another container (a little square of aluminum foil would work) so you don’t accidentally contaminate it in case you didn’t quite get all the original color off your brush. And I don’t know how great repeated cleansings with nail polish remover will be for the life of your brush (although it is designed to sit inside wet chemicals all the time, so who knows?).

Here’s an alternative: Go to the craft store. I stopped by my local Michaels yesterday and found these two Taklon-bristle brushes for $3.99 each.

Each bore a strong resemblance to that lovely flat, round-cornered Sally Hansen brush. These are just two examples from a selection of hundreds of different kinds of brushes starting at just a dollar or two. If you can’t find a flat brush with rounded corners, buy one with square corners and trim to your desired shape.

After you’ve used the brush, clean it thoroughly with nail polish remover to remove the polish, and then with soap or shampoo to remove the nail polish remover, and you should be able to reuse it until it falls apart. (The craft store is also a good source for inexpensive lip brushes.)

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