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STUCK ON DO-IT-YOURSELF MANIS

Perfectly polished nails, with not a hint of lacquer out of place. Judging from nail blogs like All Lacquered Up and Chalkboard Nails, there are in fact normal women who have mastered the mani. I'm not quite there yet, but pre-patterned polish that simply gets stuck on nails? That I can do.

Thankfully the beauty gods have bestowed upon us a bevy of DIY manis that are applied to nails somewhat like stickers, meaning no steady hand needed. Plus, none of these strips require drying time, and even though they are crafted from real nail polish, there is no liquid, making them ideal for traveling. Naturally, I took several for a spin. Here's what I'm stuck on this week...

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First and foremost

Sally Hansen's Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips were the first nail decals to catch my attention a few years back. Sold for less than $10 at local drugstores and super stores, these DIY strips are made of real nail polish and are available in both a range of patterns and solids. To apply, simply remove the strip, apply to natural, clean nails. Application is fairly straightforward but, after tons of practice, following a few simple steps will make the process truly doable. First, warm the strips slightly by rubbing them between your palms of your hands. Don't tear the strips, rather use an emery board to remove any excess product that goes beyond the edge of your nail. A more complicated but of the moment option is the brand spanking new Salon Insta-Gel Strips from Sally Hansen. Similar in concept to Nail Polish Strips, these Insta-Gel Strips serve up a two step gel manicure that is fast, easy and fuss proof. A tip: Don't forget to buy the starter kit and not just the strips, as the gel strips require the use of an LED light to set. The starter kit is sold for about $28 at Target stores.

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Moving on up

Never to be outdone in the nail product department, OPI created their own collection of polish strips which, admittedly, comes off a bit more high end than the drugstore variety. OPI's Pure Lacquer Nail Apps include a range of prints, think leather and metallic zebra, that are simply stunning. Compared to Sally Hansen, the OPI Pure Lacquer Nail Apps are a tad easier to apply as the strips themselves are more pliant (no need to warm them in your hands before application). Sold for about $12 per pack; head to OPI.com to find a retailer near you.

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Latest and greatest

Revlon's recently launched StyleStrips are the latest nail art decals on the market, and mass market at that, available at most local drugstores. Sold for about $10, these real nail polish strips are promoted as manicures that last 10 days and come off easily, just remove with nail polish remover like any normal mani. And while 10 days of wear is a lofty goal for most of these DIY strips, I've found that an application of top coat - typically not recommended by the nail decal manufacturers - does actually extend the life of the polish. Making your funky new mani, the life of the party even longer.

Carolyn Brundage is the founder of tampabay.prettycity.com, a guide to the best in local beauty. Need beauty advice? Tweet up with Carolyn at @tampabaypretty.

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