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Fun Fingernails

Basic nail care is a necessary evil: you've go to break out the nail file, emery board, orangewood sticks, and the like once every week or so, or your beautiful nails just might end up going the way of the dodo. Ditto with the visit to your favorite professional manicurist every four to six weeks: if she's any good (and she'd better be), she'll be able to keep you on the straight-and-narrow as far as nail care goes. Of course, just because you've got to keep your nails in constant good shape doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with them too, if that's your style. Now, we're not talking about something as pedestrian as crafting a cool color for the latest office party, or painting your nails orange and black for Halloween. Those things are fun, but conservative; we're talking about going a tad wild here. Of course, all these ideas should be attempted only after you've gotten into the habit of handling your nail care essentials on a weekly basis. As the saying goes, you've got to crawl before you walk.

If you're feeling only a tiny bit daring and want to adopt a glamorous, Hollywood look, sweet-talk your manicurist into adding acrylic nail tips to your fingernails. They may not be as cheap as those press-on nails you see on TV, but for an extra $20-40 you can have shiny, long nails within an hour or so of stepping into the nail shop. They look great, but of course there are a few caveats to be aware of: tips like these require frequent fills (and thus trips to the manicurist) as the nails grow out, and they can both weaken and soften your nails. If this happens to you, you might want to consider taking biotin, a nail-strengthening vitamin found in health stores.

Speaking of cheap press-on nails, for temporary party-time fun you can take advantage of inexpensive decorative press-ons emblazoned with everything from glitter to polka dots to elaborate patterns. These are by no means intended to replace your nails or to enhance them -- they're only to look at. They're quick, too: if you want to radically change your look without spending an hour doing so, just press on these babies and off you go. Think of them as the fingernail equivalent of wearing those weird patterned contact lenses that have recently become popular. They're easy to remove at the end of the day, too, so no worries about hurting your real nails -- unless, of course, you were unwise enough to enhance their stickiness with superglue.

Then again, you can go with long-term patterns and decorations, if you've got the time and the artistic inclination. For example, you can paint your nails with a base-coat of a specific color, and then paint colorful little flowers on them. All you need is a No. 1 paintbrush (a very, very thin one) from the art supply store, the right colors of nail polish for your project, and a little patience. You needn't do this all at once, however, unless you have the patience of a saint; consider doing one hand a day, or even just a couple of nails at a time until you're done. Alternately, if time presses, just do your thumbnails or index nails. For many of us, flowers are the limit of our artistic abilities, but if you're talented enough you can add anything you like to your nails. You're sure to get plenty of compliments for your creativity, one way or another. You don't need to be a little girl to enjoy decorative nail art -- just a little girl at heart.

If that sounds like too much work, consider the possibility of fingernail stickers. There are commercial fun fingernail kits available for less than ten bucks that include fingernail decorations you can easily stick on. They can be as conventional as you like, or as groovy as you dare. These include decorative fingernail "tattoos" that can come in all kinds of cheerful designs. They'll come off easily at the end of the week when it's time to strip your nails and go through the whole nail care routine. In a similar vein, you can try applying metal film to your fingernails; you can bet most people have never seen anything like that before. Self-adhesive metal film (adapted from sign lettering, believe it or not) is just now becoming available for do-it-yourselfers, but otherwise you'll very likely need your professional manicurist to take care of this for you.

If you really want to go wild, try 3-D fingernail decorations. These decorative items stick onto your fingernails too, but they're not flat -- they're three-dimensional, in that they actually protrude from your fingernails a bit. You can even go for glittery rhinestones, if you like. Fair warning, though -- like nail tips, these items of nail art can soften and weaken your natural nails if improperly used.
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