Remember the early 2010s when nail art was absolutely everywhere, and then by 2014, the pendulum swung back the other way and everyone renounced nail art, opting for natural nails? We’ve finally reached a balance where, though Instagram and Pintrest may not be overwrought with chevron patterns and water marbling, nail art has finally being appreciated in the beauty space for exactly what it is: art.
And why not? Nail art is cool. Whether you’re DIYing it or are going to one of the many skilled professionals across the country, nails are a great way to accessorize your daily life. Now that we’ve passed its heyday, nail art isn’t so much “trending” as it is existing; it’s just part of the beauty conversation, take it or leave it.
There is one nail situation that has been catching my eye lately as it’s been populating more and more of my timeline. Velvet nails have been popping up everywhere, and it’s easy to see why. With the rich, textural finish, you can’t look away.
Velvet nails are an effect from a type of polish that gives the nail a very unique, dimensional look, almost like an ultra-sumptuous, shimmery velvet has been applied to the nail and then encapsulated with a top coat. The effect shifts as light travels across the nail for a look unlike anything I’ve ever seen to date.
The magic of it all isn’t a powder or an acrylic texture—it’s simply a magnetic gel polish. I’ve used magnetic polishes before, but not nearly to the same end result.
The only trouble is, this effect was only achievable in salons using gel polish. This isn’t a problem, per se, but I prefer to do my nails at home. While I have no problem treating myself to a gel manicure, especially for an effect as unique as this, I don’t trust myself to remove the gel polish gently and safely when the manicure is on its last leg.
Or, it WAS only achievable in salons, I should say. Recently, Hao, a friend of mine who is an expert in all things beauty, was rocking a velvet nail look that she did at home that looked exactly like effect achieved in a salon. Cue my obsession.
She told me it was actually a magnetic polish from a brand called Live Love Polish. I had to do some investigating.
First, how do magnetic polishes actually work? Simply put, the nail polishes have a base color, and are filled with shimmery magnetic particles which can be moved through the polish while it’s still wet using a magnet. Swipe the polish onto the nail, hold a magnet over it, and the shimmery magnetic particles gather together in the highest concentration right under the magnet. This creates a dimensional shimmery effect in the nail polish which almost looks like a tiger’s eye stone. Typically, magnetic polishes consist of a deep base color and a shimmer that’s few shades lighter, like grey on black, lavender on purple, gold on bronze, and so on.
What makes velvet nails special is that the base shade is lighter: champagne, rose, or jade, and the shimmer is almost pure silver. This pure shimmer on a light base creates the illusion of velvet.
Live Love Polish actually has tons of magnetic polishes to help you achieve a dimensional nail look, depending on what you’re going for. Dark polishes with lighter shimmer, jewel tones with bright, fiery shimmer to almost give you a galaxy effect, and the new Mystical Echoes collection, the lightest shades, to give you that velvet nails effect.
I wanted to really see how the different polishes gave me that velvet nails look, so I did one hand with the lighter shade, and the other hand with the dark.
We’ll start with the light, I used Crystal Rose for the true velvet effect. It’s just like applying normal nail polish, except for the fact that you have to hold the magnetic wand (available on the site for $1) over the nail for at least ten seconds.
Okay but like check out the dimension of the lighter shade. I tried to get two photos in the same position illustrate how the light really shifts on the nail, seemingly in the polish.
It’s important hold the magnet over the polish when it is as wet as possible, so do this one nail at a time. Paint one nail, hold the magnet, then go on to the next finger. So, yes, this is going to take you a little longer than a regular manicure, but the end result is worth it, trust me.
The longer you can hold the magnet over the nail, the better the polish is going to look. I did about 10 seconds and there was a definite line of intense shimmer across the nail right under where the magnet had been. When you remove the magnet, the shimmer does disperse a bit in the tacky polish, but, the dimensional shimmer is absolutely still there when the nails are finally dry. Even if the effect isn’t quite as strong as it was when you removed the magnet, don’t worry, when the light hits the nail, you will definitely still get that velvet effect.
For the darker shade I used above, Continuum, you definitely need to start with a dark base shade on the nail. It’s one more step, but believe me, it is one worth taking because this sets the velvet/galaxy effect into overdrive. I did one layer of black polish—it doesn’t have to be even or perfect since you’re going to be covering it with the magnetic polish anyway. Apply the magnetic polish the same way, swipe on, hold the magnet above each nail for ten seconds, then repeat with a second coat.
Hao said that she had good luck when she used quick dry drops on the nails, which makes perfect sense as it seems like it would dry the polish before giving the magnetic particles time to disperse, but I must have used the wrong drops because when I tried this method, I found that the drops dulled the dimension of the polish and muted the effect altogether. I’ve used this magnetic polish three times, once with the dry drops, twice without, and I was very happy both times I omitted the dry drops (the polish doesn’t even take all that long to dry.)
Can you stand it? I'm obsessed. The nails are gorgeous. A lot of times, when there is a DIY version of a salon product, whether it’s for hair, skin, nails, whatever, it’s rarely as good as the original. This is every bit as good as all of the photos and videos of velvet nails from salon gel polishes. I’m so happy! It’s everything I hoped it would be and really just have no negative feedback. The only bad thing is that now I spent a lot of time mesmerized by my nails, watching them shift in the light. But hey, that was the point, wasn’t it?