Sunday, October 04, 2009

My long-lasting Blobar manicure secret revealed

By now you probably know that I <3 manicures and enjoy getting together with some of my girlfriends for mani-pedis. I often feel naked if I’m not wearing earrings or have my fingernails well groomed when I leave the house.

Keeping my nails neat and tidy takes a lot of effort. It’s tough going for weekly manicures – spending an hour getting my nails done and another half hour waiting for my nails to dry. Then praying they don’t chip or show wear and tear for several days between appointments.

So, you can imagine my delight when I saw the sign outside Blobar last August announcing a gel manicure service that lasts 3-4 weeks. Of course I walked inside to see if this was for real – it is. It’s a Axxium Gel System by OPI (I understand other companies offer a similar product). Maybe you’re thinking this isn’t anything new because you’ve been wearing gel nails for years. Well, actually it is because I am wearing my own nails. Both processes require the use of UV lamp. I did find evidence of Axxium dating back to 2008 but I hadn’t heard of it before and neither had all the women who complimented me on my lovely manicured nails from Toronto to Chicago and back.

A few weeks later, I had my first appointment with Jessica-Marie Ellison, “Canadian Nail Artist of the Year” champion several years running. I was getting ready to take a vacation and I needed to have pretty party nails one week later. I wanted bright red nails to match my party dress. I was skeptical but I took the plunge. I was’t disappointed. Beautiful shape, finish colour and... no drying time! Once the process was complete, my nails were done. No sitting around watching the clock waiting for my nails to dry.

My nails looked picture-perfect the night of the party. In fact, my nails looked pretty darn good for the next two weeks. I’ve had many manicures by many nail techs and I love Pema who has been doing my nails frequently at Cozy but I’ve never met anyone as gifted at shaping and finishing them as Jessica.

I went four weeks between manicures. By the time I saw Jessica for my touch-up, I had two chips in the polish. My nails still were beautifully shaped. The main reason I needed the appointment was because my nails had grown so much and my unpolished nail beds were becoming quite prominent.

My second visit was a bit confusing. I knew the polish had to be soaked off and the process takes longer than regular polish. What I didn’t realize was that it required a longer appointment and unless I specified I wanted to change colours when booking, a follow-up manicure meant full service as far as filing, shaping, cuticles and hand massage goes but as for the polish, I settled for a touch up. (Lesson learned: brush up on industry lingo and a bit of drying time is needed for a touch up appointment.) So now, five weeks later, I’m still wearing bright Big Apple Red (but I did break a tiny bit of corner or my thumb nail trying to change a battery.)

For my third visit, I’ve booked an extra 15 minutes so I can change colours. I’m going to try a gel French manicure the next time around. I’ll let you know how it goes.

As for the cost, a regular manicure sets me back $15-$20 plus tip and at least an hour and a half. It lasts me up to a week but with chips, nicks and splits. Gel manicures are about $45 for an initial application and a bit less for a touch up. Cozy Nails will be bringing them in too – I still love them when it comes to service but I think Jessica wins hands-down (pardon the pun) when it comes to the end result. She’ll also share some of her wealth of knowledge regarding industry news and products.

Keep an eye out on Blobar. Other services include blow dries, hair extensions, spray-on tans, false eyelashes and make-up applications and several other esthetic services. It’s run by instructors from George Brown who are planning some interesting events like “How to know your salon has proper hygiene practices” and “How to get the most out of the products in your cosmetic bag”.
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  1. Hi Bargainista: I see you are out of Toronto. Have you tried :10 Minute Manicure at the airport? Our polish can last 1-2 weeks (my current manicure is over two weeks and no chips) and is only $20. Check us out when you fly through Toronto.

    Lorraine O'Neil CEO

  2. I can't help but admire those blings, Eden! :)

  3. Hi Lorraine and Sumaya,
    Thanks for your comments.

    Lorraine, I have tried :10 Minute Manicure - To be honest, it didn't last long at all as you'll see in my post but I liked the convenience of being able to get a manicure while I was waiting for my flight.


  4. Interesting post, I just recently heard about gel nails but I'm little old fashioned and therefore still support going "au naturel" with the regular polish and dry time - I've never had fake nails because I can't bare the thought of ruining my real nails.

    Question: does the gel ruin the actual nail/nail bed?

  5. Hi Kimberly,
    Thanks for your comment. I've never had fake nails either but I was spending a crazy amount of time having my nails done and I got tired of the chipping so I decided to try this technique.

    I asked the same question about the nails/nail beds. I was told no but only time will tell. I'll see in two weeks when I have the polish removed and replaced.


  6. Hi Eden,

    I've heard about this and appreciate the review from someone I trust. I've kind of given up on the weekly manicure. I don't know if I'm really hard on my nails but I find it only lasts two or three days. My new strategy is to get a manicure a few hours before big events or presentations and then remove it myself in a couple of days and go bare until the next big event. Perhaps the gel manicure model is a solution for me.

  7. Hi Louise,
    Thanks for the compliment! I really hope people trust what I write - I do my best to give fair and honest accounts of my experiences with products and services I review, whether organically or as a result of outreach.

    As for the manicure, I was telling Jess last night that the first application was the best. The touch up didn't look quite as nice (it was a little clumpy in the end). It started chipping after two weeks, which is still pretty good for a dark coloured polish.

    Tomorrow I have a tentative appointment and if things work out, I'm going to try out a French manicure - gel polish style.


  8. Hi Eden, I HAVE to try this out, nothing makes me nuttier than dinging a fresh mani! And I LOVE Big Apple Red as a colour, but have you tried Kennebunk-port? It's a little deeper red and perfect for Fall transition into Winter....


    Thanks for the girl-talk break, putting my tech hat back on ;-)

  9. Hi Jayne,

    ~waving back~

    I wore Big Apple Red because it matched my party dress - black, white and a red sash. You're right about it not really being a fall colour but I ended up wearing it for seven weeks due to my experience with gel polish. I'll have to check out Kennebunk-port.

    Yesterday, my appointment with Jessica got messed up because. I had booked three weeks in advance. On Thursday I got a call asking me to choose between rescheduling for later on Saturday or sticking with my original appointment with another nail tech.

    I booked for 5 p.m. Saturday and then had to cancel. When I called to rebook, the time was no longer available. So... I thought it would be a good time to test out the process at Cozy.

    I got an appointment with Jenny, the owner. The plan was for her to do the gel (she's starting to offer the process too). She had a look at my nails and was concerned that they were becoming weak.

    Jenny suggested I skip the gel this time and have a regular polish. I opted for a clean, almost no-colour polish. Jenny also advised I start using a nail hardener until my nails get stronger.

    I'm not sure if this is typical or because I peeled the polish off most of my nails on Friday. It started falling off and I didn't like the look of having a mix of bright red and two unpolished nails. I may have peeled a layer or two off in the process.

    For now, I'll save the gel for special occasions and make sure to remove it on time before it has a chance to peel and/or fall off.

    I'm interested in hearing about your experience should you decide to try it out.



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