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I promise I’m not becoming an ‘as seen on TikTok’ writer. I’m not. But I can’t help but fall prey to visual advertisements. I was a child raised on Saturday morning cartoons, broken up by commercials advertising Barbie Dreamhouses and HotWheels race tracks. My brain is hardwired to respond to pretty videos featuring pretty things. 

However, I recently saw a ‘mani-stamper’ while scrolling through ye olde TikTok that made doing your own french manicure look like a breeze. As someone who always does their nails at home but can’t seem to keep from painting polish down to her elbow, my attention was won.

If asked to describe my personal style, I wouldn’t know how to respond. A question I like to ask myself when I’m scavenging my favorite boutiques, thrift shops or sewing magazines is “would my fashion godparent wear it?”

Quite simply, this means I look at a garment and try to visualize one of my fashion icons in it. Would Nikki Sixx rock this? How about Audrey Hepburn? Stevie Nicks? Jackie O? No? Then back on the rack it goes. 

As you may be able to infer, none of my style icons would be caught in acrylic nails. 

But God, are they pretty! 

Walking works of art, truly made as a status symbol that screams ‘I don’t HAVE to work.’ As pretty as they look, I know they don’t fit my lifestyle, budget, or aesthetic. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to participate in the regular mani-pamper session that so many of my friends partake in. 

But $25 for a gel manicure seems like a drunk-me type of move. I could treat my boyfriend to a three-course Chili’s feast with that. I could buy 24 things from the dollar tree. I could give my beloved corolla a full tank of premium gas!

But the feminine urge to have nice nails burns within me. 

My cheap, unsteady hands jumped to order the (you guessed it) most inexpensive stamper I found after my TikTok binge, selected free shipping, and waited 3 months for it to get to me. You can get yours at Shein for $2,  Amazon for $5, and Urban Outfitters for $7. If you’re not in the mood to feed money into fast fashion or big corporations, I’ve also seen this trend done with make-up sponges. 

Upon opening my package, I was confused to see what looked like a baby rattle, then laughed when I saw I was holding the stamper upside-down. 

The silicone/jelly center almost felt oily to touch, yet sticky to let go off. I prayed I didn’t have cancer-causing chemicals on my hands, then ran to grab my supplies. 

First and foremost, I cleaned the sickening Christmas red off my nails. Then I filed them to the best of my (small) ability. 

These are the polishes I use, all around $3. 

I did one coat of the light pink shade, ‘Together Forever,’ wanting to keep things looking sheer and dainty. Once dry, it was time to try the stamper.

Following what I’d seen on the internet, I painted some white nail polish onto the stamper. The polish began to cluster together, and it reminded me of how the poison on the poison apple the evil stepmother prepares for Snow White crawls across the apple, almost like the liquid was repelled by the surface. No matter. I found a healthy clump, and strategically dipped my nail in. 

It took a few tries to get it right, but I finally succeeded in getting straight, clean white lines from my stamper. I’d seen people creating perfect semi-circles online, but I barely had the skill to keep my finger straight, let alone create a curve. No, I was satisfied with the world’s most simple French manicure. However, I still managed to get nail polish everywhere it shouldn’t be. 

The final step in my process was to add two coats of a strengthening top coat and scrape all the excess nail polish from my hands. At last, I was ready to admire the final product. 

I mean, I’m not mad about it. 

If anything, they’re way better than anything I’ve managed to do free-hand. 

If you’re cheap but still like to look nice, I highly recommend getting one of these stampers. They’re so affordable, it’s worth getting one just to see if you like it or not. A professional could certainly do a way better job than I, but I’ve done better than I’ve ever done on my own, and that’s enough for me. 

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