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Nail Art for the Masses!

Wish me luck for the Nails Magazine Next Top Nail Artist Competition 2014!

By beautopia · June 7, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

I haven't been blogging much lately; I've been taking the easy way out and Instagramming everything. But I know that this is a great way to communicate with lots of you without texting up the joint over on Insta. I am going to make more of an effort to blog more frequently, but I must go look for a wireless keyboard for my tablet. My laptop is oooold, and it is overheating as we speak. You see why I don't blog much lately? Anyway, so things are happening in Beautopia Land...

I am so stoked to tell you, if you aren't sick of seeing my hashtag abuse on my social media sites, that I'm one of the 24 semi-finalists for this year's Next Top Nail Artist over at Nails Magazine! This year it's sponsored by my favorite nail company; CND. I just need to say this... I really hope I make it to the Top 12, but if I don't, I am so happy to be a semi-finalist. No joke. Some of my nail heroes competed last year, and other nail goddesses I worship are competing this year. I won't feel so sore if I don't make it far if one of my favorites wins... 

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My Obsession with AG Hair Cosmetics - A Love Story

By beautopia · February 24, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Over the last year or so, I've been on a whirlwind adventure with hair products. Up until I started working in a salon, I often looked at my hair as a nuisance that must be tamed into a ponytail and washed every 18-24 hours to avoid looking like a wet rat. Every stylist who has ever done my hair has told me how lucky I was to have so much thick hair. A dubious honor, to be sure. It was just more to dry, and more to tuck into my elastic. In the last couple years, all that has changed dramatically. Now, my hair is my pride and joy, and my favorite attribute. </p>

Me, all AG'd up at home with Bigwigg, Repair Serum and Frizzproof


I have purchased over a hundred hair products from a couple dozen brands in the last two years, and was given many more as employee samples from the beauty supply I worked at for a few months over the summer. Of all the brands and products I have used, none have impressed me more than AG Hair Cosmetics. It seems like every product of theirs that I try is the best I've ever tried from each category. I learned a lot about AG from my co-workers at the salon, and from my boss and co-workers at the beauty supply. I was even lucky enough to be able to grill an AG rep about several products in the line. Every new thing I learned about this company and their products impressed me more and more. Gluten-free, cruelty-free, salt and paraben-free and without paba or DEA, these products are more healthy for your hair than a lot of products out there. Add to that the fact that through Women Leading Change, the company helps to build schools in Africa, and this is already a no-brainer "buy this product" situation. But how do the products perform? I already said I was impressed by everything I've tried, which is over a dozen products at this point, but let me tell you about some of my favorites. 


Bigwigg Root Volumizer ($20) is the very first AG product I ever tried. Even when the salon I worked at started converting all their products from a mishmash of brands to one single brands, the owner said, "I have to keep Bigwigg or else I'll have a riot on my hands." Not an exaggeration, either. Shake this product well and spray it directly on to your roots and massage it in. Even after a rough blow dry, I notice serious volume. Since my hair is so oily, I am always wary of putting any product directly on my roots, as it usually makes it even oilier and weighs it down, but Bigwigg has some sort of ingredient in it that seems to absorb oil, and I actually get more time between washes when I use it, even by itself. Bigwigg is honestly impressive. It gives results so dramatic that my husband even notices when I use it. 

fastFWD>> Dry Shampoo ($22) is the best dry shampoo I've ever used. Dry shampoo is my one mainstay product and I have tried about 13 over the years. My second favorite is Bed Head Rockaholic Dirty Secret, but I find I can't use it more than once between shampoos. fastFWD has a light, lovely orange scent and doesn't make my hair look or feel chalky. I can also use it two days in a row and my hair doesn't feel funky and it looks as good the second time I use it as the first. The only rub is that it's a fairly small can and it's pricier than just about any of the other dry shampoos I've tried, but in this case it's worth it to me. The rice powder in it is so effective and I use much less than with every other brand as well. 

Foam Weightless Volumizer ($20) is a great volumizing product, and as it's best used for fine to medium textured hair, I usually like to use this on my daughter. She has a lot of hair, but it's of a medium-texture, and a little Foam applied to damp hair and then blow dried, this makes her look like Barbarella. It's so easy to use, and really effective. 

Fast Food Leave-in Conditioner ($20) This is a wonderful first product for an AG virgin. It's a really simple leave-in that makes an immediate difference. It makes it a breeze to brush my post-shower hair with my Wet Brush, and whether I'm air drying or blow drying, the difference in the softness in my hair is so dramatic. It doesn't weigh my hair down at all and doesn't leave a built-up, tacky feeling. 

Frizzproof Argan Anti-humidity Spray - ($24) This may be the most impressive AG product I've used. It is literally the only anti-frizz product I've ever used that actually does what it's supposed to. I've used creams, serums, sprays... you name it, but this shocked me. I spray it on after I'm finished styling and no matter how much humidity is in the air, my hair never frizzes up. It's insane. This is currently my favorite AG product! 

The Oil Extra Virgin Argan Miracle Smoothing Oil - ($8-$18) There are lots of Argan oils and serums out there, and I've tried several from brands like Wella, Moroccan Oil and Matrix, and AG's The Oil is as good as any of them. The reason I prefer this one is that it's clear, so it doesn't disturb your color, especially if it's light. Another reason is, that even though Argan oil is supposed to smooth the hair, I don't like how so many actually end up making my hair feel dry. The Oil doesn't at all. 

Beach Bomb Tousled Texture ($22) I love Beach Bomb for Spring and Summer days when I want to let my naturally wavy hair air dry. Just a little bit helps to define the waves and control frizz. I usually hit my hair with a little Frizzproof after my hair has fully dried. The two products really work well together. The curl enhancement is the thing that really sets this apart from other similar hair cremes for me. 

Texture Spray Defining and Finishing Spray - ($24) I love to use this to give my freshly washed and dried hair a little definition. That's what it's meant for, after all. But one of my other uses for it is as a second-day partner-in-crime with fastFWD>> Dry Shampoo. I hit the roots with the dry shampoo and the ends with Texture Spray and it almost looks like first day hair. It also has sunflower seed extract which helps to protect your precious color!

Sterling Silver Toning Shampoo and Conditioner - ($16 each) This shampoo and conditioner are wonderful for those with blonde or silver hair. They are extremely purple and really help to remove the brassiness from the hair. I use them once a week and see visible results. The reason this one stands out, is that it's by AG and their shampoos and conditioners do just what they say they will. I feel like my hair is cleaner with their shampoos than with other brands and their conditioners really make a massive and immediate difference in my hair's smoothness and texture. The formulas are so nicely balanced, they just make hair feel like it's best self. 

Renew Clarifying Shampoo - ($16) This is my favorite clarifying shampoo! I've used so many by brands like Paul Mitchell, Matrix, and Malibu, but like all the AG shampoos I've tried, this one just does it better. The smell is some sort of fruity smell I can't place, but it really lathers up well, and removes all traces of buildup and really just leaves my hair feeling so clean and light and bouncy without making it feel squeaky, dry or stripped. 

Reconstruct Intense Anti-Breakage Mask - ($30) Reconstruct contains keratin and shea butter among other things, and is a great weekly treatment for anyone who colors their hair and/or heat styles on a regular basis. You notice an immediate difference in the softness and luster of my hair. It's an amazing treat for the hair,  and for the senses as it smells exactly like cream cheese icing. 

AG Repair Serum Keratin Anti-Breakage Serum - ($24) Repair Serum is a wonderful keratin-filled leave-in serum that makes my hair so glossy and strong. I try not to use it too much because a wise hair stylist told me that there's definitely such a thing as too much keratin, and it can make your hair brittle. However, I use this about three times a week on damp hair and it makes my hair feel so soft and wonderful. I have used it when both air-drying and blow-drying and it works so well no matter which I choose. Like Reconstruct, the Keratin Repair product above, it smells like cream cheese icing. I feel like that's a nice bonus. 

Overall, as I said, I'm a complete AG convert. I recently purchased a couple new products and so far I love them, and I look forward to reviewing those also. The philosophy behind this Canadian company is so wonderful, and their commitment to great products, not flashy packaging and marketing, really appeals to me. Their packaging is so simple and clean and the color-coding makes it so easy to find products within the different lines. They really just seem to be dedicated to making simple and effective hair products that do exactly what they say. I may just be a manicurist with an obsession with her hair, but I know quite a few hair stylists who are as obsessed as I am. 

Have you ever tried AG Hair Cosmetics? What are your favorite products or which are you most interested in trying? 


Nail-Biter Boot Camp Special at Beautopia Nails

By beautopia · November 20, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

Every manicure client expects their nails to look flawless when they leave the salon. An expertly applied coat of polish is one of the easiest ways to lift your spirits, but a lot of women shy away from the salon, or even from applying polish themselves because they think their nails are damaged beyond repair. You would probably be surprised how many women try to hide their hands from me once they find out I'm a manicurist. They look at my nails and say things like, "I couldn't get my nails to grow like that." Funnily enough, I was once a nail biter, then a habitual acrylic wearer. I don't have naturally perfect nails. I just take care of them. But the cycle of damage and self-sabotage has to end at some point if you want to grow out your nails.

There are myriad reasons nails won't grow long. For some, it's naturally weak, peeling nails. For others it's years of acrylics that have left their nails and nail beds ravaged. Still more sheepishly admit they are habitual nail biters. To these people I invariably say the same thing: "You should really try Shellac."

It gives the nail physical strength and holds everything together in a way. This allows the nail to start growing out. So CND Shellac, along with a regimen of 2x daily Solar Oil use and regular professional manicures can rehab the gnarliest nails. Hence, Nail-Biter Boot Camp, the new promo that I'm running for the Holidays. It makes a great gift for the biter in your life or you can buy the approximately 5-week service for yourself for a New Years' Resolution. 

So, while this isn't by any means an original idea, it's one that has worked for other manicurists and their clients when it comes to really getting your natural nails growing and into shape. 

The 5-week "camp" includes:

  • Consultation
  • 4 CND Shellac manicures (approximately: Day 1, Day 8, Day 18, Day 32, appts can vary by availability)
  • Bottle of Solar Oil (for your "homework")

Book before the end of November and receive 40% off any retail purchase in the shop, perhaps a really great hand cream. 

<p>You can book online at the link near the top right of this page, or on my Facebook page. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email (beautopianails@gmail.com), Facebook, or call or text me at 304-435-5115. 

Giant Stash Sale!

By beautopia · November 19, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

Getting rid of a lot of lovelies that I haven't given the love they deserve! There are some pretty awesome finds in here, in my opinion, but since opening my own small salon this month, where I use mostly CND Shellac and Vinylux on clients, there isn't a realistic expectation that I'll be using even a fraction of these polishes. I've saved a ton of favorites, but the rest are here up for grabs. Nothing is over retail, but there are many I've seen on ebay for disgusting prices, so enjoy looking through my list! </p> <p>Visit the sale here!

CND Brisa Lite Client Education

By beautopia · October 23, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

Brisa Lite is a new range from CND that works well with both Shellac and Vinylux, which are the systems I use in she shop. It's an enhancement, but lite! When you think of an enhancement, you think of acrylics, and maybe hard gels. The inconvenient truth here is that enhancements are really desirable because they make your nails look perfect, but the downside is that they can be damaging and it's hard to break the cycle even when you realize you'd rather just have your own natural nails. I have really been loving Brisa Lite with Shellac, Vinylux and traditional polish clients alike. The reason is that it gives them the needed strength and reinforcement that they need to grow out their natural nails and keep them in great shape. </p>

Brisa Lite is like Shellac and hard gel or acrylic had a baby. It applies like an enhancement, but instead of having to "drill" or file it off, it soaks off just like Shellac.

There are two kinds:
Smoothing, which will add a layer of smooth protection and added reinforcement to your nail before applying Shellac, Vinylux or traditional polish. And.

Sculpting which can be used to add length. You can actually backfill Brisa Lite Sculpting just like acrylic, or you can soak them off after a couple weeks once you get some length to your underlying natural nail. It's also really good for special occasions where you want length but don't want to commit to acrylics. 

Currently, I am only offering Brisa Lite Smoothing. It is clear and can be used alone or under your favorite Shellac or Vinylux shade or the nail color of your choice, and it actually enhances wear of all of the above! 

<p>Brisa Lite Smoothing Gel is for you if:
  • You want Shellac-like smoothness and strength but want to change your nail color more than once in two weeks
  • You have damaged nails that you want to grow out post-acrylic
  • Your nails are weak, peeling or prone to breakage
  • You'd like your nail color to last longer

If you've gotten Brisa Lite Smoothing Gel with Vinylux or traditional polish on top, you can use acetone-free nail polish remover to remove the color at home without disturbing the Brisa Lite underneath. You will start to get some lifting if you change your polish more than twice, or if you're pretty liberal with the remover. 

Manicure with Brisa Lite Smoothing Gel - $35
Vinylux Manicure with Brisa Lite Smoothing Gel - $40
Shellac Manicure with Brisa Lite Smoothing Gel - $45

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