This month's writeup is sponsored by Rose of Battle.

March 2021 Writeup: Manaka Iwai Nail Set, aka: Watch Out, I'm Attempting Nail Art!

Hi, all! In some of my $3+ updates for the past couple months, I've mentioned that an unfortunate closure at the salon where I used to get my nails done led to my needing to figure out how to do it myself. This isn't sponsored by Big Nails, of course. It's just a method and product (dip powder) that works for me.

I used to do my nails before conventions by simply painting them. Base strengthener coat, color, and quick seal. But typically, I'd wait until the night or two before, and I'd be rushing to finish packing to the point where they almost always got messed up or chipped. Not to mention, some cosplays had associated nail colors that I'd attempt to change during the con. It got to be stressful and my nails weren't getting any less brittle.

Another route I tried for the color-switching nails in cosplay was making fake nails out of plastic extenders, which I filed and painted and stuck onto my strengthener-only nails with lacefront tape. That was okay, but having to hold a bag or pull a rolling bag tended to pop them off with ease.

Finally, before I attended my first official con as a "guest," I did some research on getting my nails done properly in a salon. But I knew plain gel wouldn't work, and I wasn't willing to commit to longer acrylic nails. I asked about their dip powder service and learned that it formed a hard shell over your nails. Welp, bingo. I didn't turn back! I went regularly and themed my nail sets based on beloved or upcoming cosplays. Until, that is, the pandemic began. The salon eventually closed and I had no choice but to gather supplies to start doing dip nails myself. (Or, y'know, risk finding another salon during said pandemic.)

Let's just say the first couple tries were... difficult. I've got sensitive cuticles and an aversion to files/buffers, but it's something I had to get used to doing if I wanted to have a canvas that would make the product last. I was also inexperienced with doing nails with my nondominant hand, and let me tell you, that leads to some interesting shapes! But I've learned a few things and I'd love to share the process with you.

Here's the way I generally set up my nails: take off the previous set (always difficult) with files and coincidentally, acetone (A-Set, you bet!); do the manicure part with cuticle remover and pushing and minimal trimming; buff until there's no shine on the natural nail; wash with water only; use step 1 of the dip lacquer to dehydrate and prep the nail; use step 2 of the dip lacquer to put on up to three layers of dip (first using only "natural" and only coating 3/4 of the nail, then the whole nail), sometimes using "clear" on top to seal in the color; use step 3 to seal protect, then when that's dry, file and finish shaping the nails, and then buff again; wash with water only; either finish with dip top coat or add gel (up to three layers), then gel top coat OR design (sometimes with structured gel), then gel top coat.

For my first "cosplay" nail set, I chose Manaka Iwai from AI: The Somnium Files as inspiration. The set includes all nails base-covered in dip with gel and/or designs on top. Design elements include rhinestones, stamps, encapsulated holographic leaves, and glitter.

Here's a full description: