I’m all about saving money. I live with the mentality that if I can do something well myself, why would I pay someone else to do it for me? Then again, I’m the girl who still gets her Mum to cut her hair and frequently self-dyes. I really would do almost anything to save a buck.
I have been painting my nails since I was 8 years old. I love being able to change colour quickly and easily, but I’m tough on my nails and have never been able to find a great polish that lasts more than two days. I absolutely without a doubt cannot stand a chipped manicure, so longevity and quality of product is very important to me. My kit is filled to the brim with Essie, Revlon, Quo and OPI colours and products.
When Shellac and Gel polish technology began to edge its way into the nail market a couple years ago, I was really excited but also very skeptical. The kits aren’t cheap for a girl on a budget, but getting routine manicures are simply out of the question for me. This fall I received Nailene Sensationail Gel Polish Starter kit (89.99$MSRP*) as a gift and finally got to see what all the fuss was about. (Thanks, Chris!)
The process itself is very straight forward, but if you’ve never had a gel manicure the steps could seem overwhelming. Read on below to find out more about the process, my thoughts and what products I recommend for the perfect at home manicure!
How to DIY your own Gel Nails
Tips & Tricks:
To begin (READ YOUR INSTRUCTIONS,) file nails to desired length, push back your cuticles using a manicure stick and apply cuticle treatment. Wait 30-60 seconds, gently push back cuticles one more time and remove. Finish preparing by smoothing and buffing your nails. For these steps I used Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover, Quo Cuticle Trimmer, Quo 4-Sided Nail Buffer Block and a Revlon Emery Board. All products are pictured above and can found at a local Drug Store for under 5$.
Using a gel cleanser and lint free cloth (included in kit) clean any residue off your nails. Apply a light coat of your gel primer and let air dry. If you’re super sun (smart) conscious, you can apply a UV filter around your nails prior to using the gel cleanser.
Next you want to apply a thin layer of the gel base/top coat and cure under the UV light for 30 seconds. I do pinky-pointer fingers together on my left hand, cure my thumbs together next and then move onto my right hand.
Apply two coats of a gel polish of your choice, curing for 60 seconds each layer. I have colours from both Nailene and Quo (10.99-16.99$MSRP) Both brands in light and dark shades were opaque after two coats and wore beautifully.
Once your polish is set, apply your gel base/top coat, cure for 30 seconds and give your nails another swipe with the gel cleanser and lint free cloths. That’s it! That’s all! You have a shiny, UV cured, at home gel manicure!
When curing gel under a UV light it is important not to get product on your skin around the nail. This can be a hard mess to clean and can compromise the integrity of your manicure. Because I’m no nail tech, I keep a q-tip near (with the cotton snipped off) for quick fixes. Another very important step in your DIY manicure is capping the tip of the nail to ensure the polish is sealed. This is the #1 way to prevent chipping! I cap my nails during the first layer of colour and the application of the top coat. This step can be tricky if you wear your nails short, so make sure you have that q-tip or a manicure stick handy!
My DIY gel manicures last me for an average of 7-10 days, with fresh looking shine everyday. I’m very impressed with the kit and every time I use it I get more professional looking and longer lasting results. Is it worth the buy? Absolutely.
As for removing these bad boys, keep in mind that at home kits used properly can provide a salon quality manicure. This makes changing colours a little more difficult compared to regular polish. After shamefully picking off my first manicure, I went out and bought Quo Remover for Gel Nail Polish, Quo Pocket Gel Removers and Nailene Gel Remover Tool (Quo 4.50$MSRP Nalene 8.99$MSRP.) Buff your nails, add gel remover to the pocket, let soak and push off the polish for easy removal. I find 10 minutes is usually enough but for a richer pigment colour such as red it can take up to 15. Soaking keeps the layers of your nail in tact and although it can be drying, it’s worth the extra effort!
What additional products do I recommend for a long lasting manicure?
I try to give my nails a rest every few weeks and I find Revlon Post Trauma Nail Treatment (7.99$MSRP) a great addition to my routine. This is a light pink, matte finish treatment that can be worn alone or as a top coat to help conceal damage, fill ridges and nourish the nail. Plus its DBP, Toluene and Formaldehyde free! Another great complementary product to any good manicure is a non-greasy, moisturizing hand cream. One of my top picks is Biotherm Biomains Complete Hand & Nail Treatment (29.50$MSRP.) Not only does Biomains absorb quickly and leave a light pleasant scent, it also helps tackle dry cuticle and nail problems!
While the last product I’m going to discuss today is not to be used with gel polish, I cannot say enough good things about it! OPI Drying Drops (10.99$MSRP) were recommended to me by a friend last year after I had posted a tweet wishing all nail polish brands were instadry. I purchased my most recent bottle in November and it took me until TODAY to use it to completion. I estimated it lasted me well over 50 manicures.
Simply apply a drop or two to wet polish, 60 seconds after application. Wait 1 minute and nails are dry with a glossy finish. No more smudging fresh polish! No more purchasing colours on the basis that they’re fast drying! This product doesn’t replace your top coat, but sure does it improve it and save your time. A must have in any girls nail kit!
*Merchant Suggested Retail Price