Looking polished for weeks with a gel manicure

After two weeks! (ignore my dry hands, please!)

After two weeks! (ignore my dry hands, please!)

I realize that I’ve been writing a lot of beauty-related posts lately, but I’m trying to find products and services that make me look presentable, without spending a lot of time or money. Today’s service: gel (or shellac) nail polish.

Before I had kids, my nails always looked perfect. Unlike my hair, my nails are strong and don’t break easily, so I spent time every Thursday night (while watching TV) painting them. Friends warned me I wouldn’t have time to do it once I had kids, but I managed to maintain my routine when Clay was born. He was a great sleeper and in bed by 7:00, so it was fine. Then Avery came along. She was also a good sleeper, but with more laundry to fold and bills to pay on the rare nights I had time to watch TV, I ended up with clear nails for a while.

A friend introduced me to the gel polish craze about 18 months ago and in that time I’ve had it done probably eight times, usually around special occasions (vacations, weddings, etc.). Every time I do it, I love it because it lasts for three weeks. Even french manicures, which with a regular manicure last five days, if you’re lucky.

I don’t know about you, but I just feel more polished (no pun intended) when my nails are done. Gel manicures are not cheap (about $30), but if you do the math it works out to be $10 a week. I was spending about an hour a week doing them myself. My time is worth more than $10/hour and I know yours is, too.

I know there has been criticism that the gel polish damages your nails, but in my case since I only do it occasionally, my nails have been fine. You do need to use acetone to get it off, which the salon can do for you, or you can buy a bottle for $2 at Target and soak it off yourself (while watching TV?). Also, they do use ultraviolet light to set the polish, so put sunscreen on your hands before you go, just to be safe.

For those who really want to save money and not just time, there are home gel kits, which they sell at Ulta and other beauty supply stores. I’ve considered buying one, but I have to admit, I like the little break I get at the salon. I’d love to hear if anyone has tried one and liked it though!

Happy Easter, everyone! Maybe the Easter Bunny will bring you a gift card to the nail salon and you can enjoy a gel manicure!


Sample lots, buy once


If I ever win the lottery (which is unlikely since I don’t play often), my splurge would be to have my makeup and hair done by a professional every day. Like most moms, I rarely have the time to do either properly, so it’s a real treat when someone else does it for me. After a breakup years ago I decided I needed a new look, so in addition to growing my hair out (that boyfriend liked short hair), I went to the mall to get a makeover. I bought most of the makeup she used and decided I should do that every few years, so I have the tools to look good, in case I ever have the time.

To save time, I go get my makeup done on a day when I have plans for the night, so I don’t have to worry about doing makeup myself (I also schedule hair appointments strategically for the same reason). If I am spending money, I want to save time, too!

The last time I got my makeup done was for a wedding when Avery was a baby, so I decided to go last weekend before a friend’s 40th birthday party. I loved my makeup (go see Jessica D. at Sephora in UTC if you live in San Diego), but she also mentioned I should exfoliate my skin to help makeup stay on better. As much as I don’t want to spend money on another product or take the time to apply it, I knew she was right.

I didn’t buy any that day, wanting to survey my friends about products they like. And the survey tool for the 21st century? Facebook, of course. My friends suggested several products and in the past, I’ve just picked one randomly and purchased it. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. If I don’t, I’m wasting money and time, which you all know I hate.

When I was at Sephora last week, Jessica gave me samples of a few things, so I had an idea. I would take my list from Facebook to Sephora and ask them to sample the products my friends suggested. I also went to the Kiehl’s store next door. I don’t know why I never thought of this before. Before I spend $85 on Exfolikate, I should test it out first. So for the next week or two, I’ll be working from my little sampling station, trying to find the best product for my skin. It was free and even though I’ll have to spend some time buying the actual product, Sephora and BeautyBar.com offer free shipping on online orders over $50, so it will be quick and easy. And I know it won’t go into the trash unused a few months from now.

Time and money, saved! Now I’m off to buy a lottery ticket…

Little things I’m thankful for, day 4: BB cream

When I was rushing to get ready for our family holiday photos today, I confirmed what I would be writing about for day 4 of the little things I’m thankful for: BB cream.

A little over a year ago, I read about a new makeup product, BB cream. BB cream became popular in Asia years ago and has exploded in the U.S. recently. It is a type of foundation, but does so much more. Before I found BB cream, each day I would use a moisturizer with SPF, primer, concealer, foundation and a translucent powder. Now all I need is the concealer and BB cream and I’m out the door. BB cream saves time and money since this one product does it all! It has also allowed me to streamline my makeup bag, which is great for travel.

I use the Clinique BB cream because that was the first one I read about and it works well for me. It costs $38, which isn’t cheap, but it lasts for nearly six months. It feels great on my skin too, giving me just the right amount of coverage. Since BB creams have gotten so popular this year, nearly every brand now makes one and you can find them everywhere, from drugstores to high-end department stores.

For busy moms, any product that can make your complexion presentable in 30 seconds or less, is well worth the money. I’m thankful that I discovered BB cream!