How to do your own gel nail manicure at home!
I am not one of those gals who always has perfect nails. I tend to chip a classic manicure within 10 minutes of leaving the salon. And I am absolutely terrible at painting my nails at home. Once I took a long time to paint all 10 nails a dark shade but it looked so sloppy that I immediately took it all off and just went nail naked.
Earlier this year I had my first gel manicure. I could not believe for how long my nails looked great and that I could carry on with regular life without treating my nails like they were breakable glass. But gel manis are expensive – $45 with tip at my favorite salon – and that’s not something I can justify spending on a regular basis long term. A friend of mine had an at-home kit and did my nails for me once, and it worked quite well! Not quite as long-lasting as the salon, but pretty darn close. I researched what it would cost to buy my own, and I got everything for about $125. Therefore, DIY gel nails would pay for themselves in three manicures.
I bought the essentials on Amazon and have been SO happy with the results!! Here are all the details of my DIY gel nails.
Disclaimer: I am not a nail expert, and this is all just based on my experience doing this for a few months, so if I am inaccurate in any way, feel free to politely chime in to the comments : )
Where To Buy Polish and A LED Light
You only need a few things to get started. These are the ones that I bought on Amazon. What’s in stock and the prices have shifted around a bit. I bought OPI because I knew it was good based on my salon experiences but I might try some other brands when these run out.
(Note: I paid $29 for this set which is no longer available. Now they are sold separately.)
2. Gel nail color.
I have found that OPI gel color is pretty hard to locate. I checked at ULTA, Sephora, OPI’s site, and Sally Beauty and there seems to be a shortage of it. Amazon seemed to have the best selection! Ce-less-tial Is More is the color I fell in love with at my local salon. It’s from the 2015 holiday collection, so I think it’s going to be sold out soon. In fact I think it probably already is on Amazon. This one is similar, and it’s in my cart to buy next. I haven’t found anything I like quite as much as Ce-less-tial Is More, as the sparkles are so forgiving and the rosy tint is so pretty, but I bought this silver shade and like it too.
3. An LED light.
This is the one I bought, but of course it’s no longer available (ugh – what is with nail things going offline?!) There are lots of other cute ones, but I can’t speak to how well they work. I have read that LED is a lot better than UV. Some of you might be concerned about the LED effects on your hands over time, and to be honest I am a little bit too. I am taking a little risk though, based off of reading this article about a independent study that deemed UV lights safe enough for weekly manicures for 250 years. And that was using UV – I think LED is even lower risk. If they come out with another study that warms people not to use LED lights for nails at all I will immediately stop using it. I also use the minimum light for the curing process and the polish seems to dry just fine. If you really don’t want to use a light, I have read that this product acts the same as light to cure, but I haven’t tried it.
Here are the steps to DIY gel nails:
- Clean nails with rubbing alcohol to remove any lotions or soaps
- Use a file to buff nails a bit.
- Apply base coat and cure each hand under the LED for 30 seconds. I use the bare minimum of light to be on the safer side, and it seems to work fine.
- Apply color and cure for 30 seconds. If you’re using a saturated color you probably want to do two coats, but to save polish, time, and money I just do one coat of my sparkly polish.
- Apply top coat and cure for 30 seconds.
That’s it!! It only takes me about 10 minutes. I’d say the polish lasts a good week looking great, and then days 7-10 it starts to wear down, chip a little or peel up a little. By day 14 I definitely need to re-do my nails.
I think this photo is around day seven:
How To Remove Gel Nails
So what about taking the DIY gel nails off? Doesn’t it ruin your nails? Not at all! I will say that manis done at the salon are harder to get off than mine (which is why they last a few extra days!) but taking the polish off is very easy. Here’s my little system.
1.Cut five slips of tin foil.
(I re-use them for the second hand which saves time and foil!)
2. Soak a cotton round in some strong nail polish remover and then wrap it on the nail.
3. Wrap the foil around the cotton pad and squeeze to secure. They do make re-usable nail covers for this, but I think this is just as easy.
4. Wait 5-10 minutes. The longer you wait the easier it will be. And I do just one hand at a time so I can re-use the foil and have a free hand to do things with in the meantime.
5. At this point remove the foils by sliding them off (so you can re-use them on the other hand!) and use a cuticle pusher to gently scrape the gel off. It should have curled up and sometimes the whole gel piece slides off with the foil! If it’s not coming off easily, give the nail a little more soaking.
6. Repeat on hand two and you’re nails are naked again!
I usually wait a day or two to let my nails breathe before repainting the DIY gel nails again.
So there you have it! Sparkle, sparkle.