How to create Insta nails at home, without the toxic ingredients


Nailed it.

Over the past few years, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with getting my nails done. Call me superficial, but there’s something uplifting about getting a fresh set of nails and the beauty ritual is my preferred form of self-care.

But the downside of getting my nails done month after month has been the wear and tear on my poor (paper-thin) nails underneath the blanket of harsh chemicals used in dip powders or acrylics. I’ve always willingly ignored it – too blinded by my love of looking down at my manicured hands to ask too many questions about what they’re made of.

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So it’s understandable that it was only when fellow “mani-pedi lover” and Pax Polish founder Emma Paxton was pregnant that she really noticed the toxic ingredients in most nail polishes. “It made me really look at the products that I was consuming or using on my body,” she tells me.

“There were a lot of nasties in nail polishes that you shouldn’t use, whether you’re pregnant or not. So I went on the hunt for something more natural, something that enhanced nail health and still delivered superior performance.”

Christina wears Audrey (gold), Katharine (orange), Amelia (pastel pink) and Malala (sheer pink), all by Pax Polish

But she found that what she wanted didn’t exist. After a year and a half of perfecting a clean and green formula, she launched her own eco-luxe alternative in Pax. The brand offers an Australian-made colour and treatment with a plant-based formula that’s free from the petrochemicals found in traditional nail products.

I’m still an amateur compared to the artistry of my local nail techs, but in Melbourne’s lockdown last year – with way too much time on my hands – I picked up a thing or two about how to DIY some of those fun, Insta-worthy nail art trends.

Don’t skip the prep

“The base and top coat are super important,” Emma says, having created her own ones for Pax.

“The base smooths the nail surface, blurring flaws, for a more uniform colour application, and the top coat is crucial for locking in brilliance and shine. If you reapply your top coat every few days, it will really extend the longevity of your manicure.”

In addition to investing in a top coat, don’t underestimate the impact of spending the time to perfect your nail shape. I’ll often put on a movie or TV show while I do my nails to pass the time, especially during my extensive filing with swift movements, and it’s become quite meditative.

Let the polish do the work

A rookie error we’re all guilty of is adding another coat before the first one is dry, or trying to immediately cover any gaps in the paint. But Emma says to let the paint “settle” into your nails first. She suggests waiting about five minutes before going back in. I took her advice and can confirm, the Pax formula spread evenly into a solid colour, without having to do a thing.

In a cute detail, all of the brand’s colours are also named after inspiring women from the past and present. A Hollywood gold glitter pays homage to Audrey Hepburn, a nude pink base is named after Malala Yousafzai and a pastel pink is in honour of Amelia Earhart.

Creating the nail art

When it comes to figuring out who’s responsible for the latest wave of elaborate and expressive nail art, I’m going to point my brightly manicured finger at social media. Long gone are the days of plain white French tips or solid colours, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“In the past, a lot of people thought you had to have your fingernails and toenails the same colour, but I think that’s a little bit boring, they shouldn’t match but also, they shouldn’t clash,” Emma notes.

The most life-changing nail tip I’ve picked up is from Sydney-based nail artist Victoria Houllis of Mannequin Hands, in this IGTV tutorial last year that’s helped me master the multi-coloured French tip.

All you have to do is simply paint along the outer edge of your bare, prepped nail. It doesn’t matter if it’s messy or uneven or gets on your finger. The trick is to use a smaller brush dipped in nail polish remover to carve out the perfect line, clean up any smudges, and voila.

There’s plenty of brushes available online, but I just repurposed a trusty old lip liner brush. Keep wiping off the excess as you go and be prepared to start over a few times, but practice makes perfect. I used the same process to create the half-moon trend that’s been popping up on my Instagram feed too. Once you’ve got that technique down, you can apply it to swirls, negative space details, checkered designs – the sky is the limit.

Pax polishes have a long, pointy wand “designed to be an extension of your hand” and a round brush that helps you create precise, smooth strokes. The eco-luxe formula’s use of botanical ingredients like celery seed extract, pomegranate seed oil, plus vitamin B and C help create a clever all-in-one colour and treatment. “The formula is 10 Free and vegan and cruelty-free. It’s also breathable and water permeable,” she explains.

“I wanted to create something for health and eco-conscious women that didn’t compromise on performance. I was determined to create a healthier alternative, a product that not only makes you feel confident but enhances nail health at the same time. I’ve always loved getting a manicure and painting your nails is a fun thing you can do to take time for yourself – it’s mood-boosting.”

And with the looming threat of ongoing lockdowns around the country, there’s no time like the present to break up with the commitment of going to the salon and do it yourself. It’s easier than you might think, if you’ve got a little bit of patience and the right polishes. I promise.

You can browse Pax’s range here.

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