DIY Gel Nails at Home


    If you find yourself getting frustrated about nail polish chipping as quickly as two to three days, you’re probably looking for an alternative. Gel nails are a great option because it’s a long-lasting manicure that can stay chip-free for weeks. However, going to the salon to gel manicure can get expensive if you plan to do it regularly. The alternative is to get your own gel manicure at home.

    What is a Gel Manicure?

    If you’re not familiar, a gel manicure is a type of manicure that uses a gel-based polish. Unlike a regular nail polish that you just let dry with air, a gel manicure uses a UV or LED light to cure the polish and lock it onto your nails. This makes it more durable. While regular polish can chip as quickly as two to three days (even earlier if you’re doing the dishes or washing your clothes by hand), a gel manicure can last for two weeks or even more, chip-free.

    In terms of appearance, gel manicures look just like regular manicure, but it feels sturdier and lasts longer. The beauty of it is that anyone can get one, whether your nails are super short or long.

    Are gel manicures worth it? Yes! If you’re getting manicures on the regular, gel is definitely worth the splurge and extra effort. It can last up to two weeks without any damage with proper nail preparation and at-home care, but if you’re more careful, it can last up to four weeks. If you have a bunch of events coming up, gels can be the perfect solution to make sure your nails are always picture-perfect.

    Buying your gel nail essentials so you can do it at home may need a higher upfront cost than a regular manicure, but if you use it a lot, you will get the most out of it.

    What to Know Before You Buy Gel Nail System

    Before you decide to invest in a gel manicure system so you can have DIY gel nails at home, here are a few things you need to know to help you consider if it’s really worth it for you:

    • A gel nail kit can be expensive as compared to having a couple of manicures. When you first start buying your LED or UV light, nail tools, and a variety of quality gel nail polishes, you may spend more than $100 for a basic setup.
    • Gel nails can’t be rushed. It’s time-consuming, and it requires your patience. If you can’t wait for an hour to an hour and a half for your first at-home gel manicure, then doing it DIY is not for you.
    • You cannot skip steps. If you don’t follow the instructions exactly, your nails will not turn out great. Read the entire tutorial thoroughly to make sure you understand each step clearly and have everything you need. There are no substitutions for any of the steps involved, so if you skip a step or an item, you will most likely ruin your manicure.
    • Applying gel nails should be uninterrupted. While you’re doing your nails, you can’t touch anything. No texting, no scrolling on your phone, talking on your phone, eating, etc. The nails are not completely set until the very last step. If anything touches the nails or contaminates the gel or nail before the last coating is applied, the nails won’t turn out correctly.
    • When applying gel nail polish, it’s best to paint all your nails by breaking them up into three sections. First, do the left four fingers. Paint and cure them of start to finish. Then, move along and do the same with your four fingers at the right hand. When all the eight nails are completely cured and done, do the thumbs last. Gel polish is sticky, so the stickiness can allow lint, dust, or hair to stick to it until the gel mani is completed. Doing it this way is the easiest way to do your own gel manicure.
    • Soaking gel nails off to remove it can be harmful to the nails. While your manicure stays firmly in place until you’re ready to take it off, removing it can be harsh to your nails. To remove gel nail manicures, you need to soak your nails in acetone-wrapped foil, and this process can leave your nails dried out and brittle post-mani. Once the foil comes off, properly cured gels detach easily with the acetone soak. If it’s improperly cured, you will need tools to manually remove them (causing more nail trauma), so it’s best to make sure that you applied and cured your nail gel polish properly in the first place.

    How to DIY Gel Nails at Home

    1. Gather your tools.

    When doing a gel manicure at home, you have two options. You can go for a long-wear polish set that comes with colored nail polish and a topcoat that is fade-resistant and long-wearing. But if you want the real deal, here are the tools you need:

    • A UV or LED nail lamp – This is the tool you need to cure the nail polish and secure it on your nails. LED nail lamps usually have a shorter curing time than UV nail lamps.
    • Gel base coat, gel color, and gel top coat – These are the three essential steps in a gel manicure.
    • Rubbing alcohol or cleanser – This is a must for sanitation purposes.
    • Lint-free nail wipes – Regular wipes or paper towels are not recommended when using a gel manicure, so make sure you have lint-free nail wipes.
    • Basic manicure tools – You will need a cuticle pusher, a nail file (or a 180 grit file), a nail buffer, an orangewood stick, and cuticle oil.
    • Sunscreen – You need to apply sunscreen on your fingers if you’re using a UV lamp to prevent skin discoloration. If you’re using LED, you can skip it.

    2. Find a comfortable place and make yourself comfortable.

    Once your gear is all ready, make sure you have a place with plenty of room to do your nails. You’re going to be spending at least an hour, so make sure you have plenty of room to stretch, relax, and put all your tools on. An ample space would prevent you from knocking over or spilling any of your products.

    When doing gel nails, remember that it’s imperative not to touch anything. Dirt and oils are everywhere, and these are the things that can contaminate the nails during application.

    Before you start, go to the bathroom, take a snack, grab a drink, pull your hair back, put on a headband, put your phone away, and gather everything you need. Make sure you won’t use your hands in any way regardless of how careful you think you can be. You should also not touch your hair and face while your gel nail application is ongoing.

    3. Prepare the nails.

    This is the most important part to do if you want to get a clean and long-lasting manicure. The leading reason why most artificial nails fail to stay on properly is that the nail is not prepped correctly.

    To prepare the nails, follow these steps:

    • Trim or file your nails to the desired length and shape with your 180 grit file.
    • Using your cuticle pusher, gently push the cuticles back. You also want to push back any dry or dead skin that may be on the surface of the nail. If there is any skin left on the nail, the gel will not stick.
    • Use your buffer to take the shine off the nail gently. You want to pay careful attention to the cuticles and try to get as close to them as possible. Inspect each nail from every angle to make sure you buffed the entire surface. If you see any shiny spots, lightly buff them away, or the gel will not adhere to the nail.
    • Remove any dust and dehydrate the nail using an alcohol-soaked lint-free wipe. This will help remove the surface oils – which must be removed to make sure the gel polish sticks to the nails beautifully.
    • After doing these things, you are now ready to apply the nail gel product. If you need to take a break to do anything, now is the time to do it. Once you start painting, you cannot stop until the very last step is complete.

    4. Apply a base coat to four fingers on one hand.

    Once your nails are prepped and ready, grab your gel base coat. Apply a very thin layer of the base coat to the nails of your four fingers (either left or right hand – whatever you prefer to do first). You want to get as close to the cuticles as possible without actually touching them. Be careful not to get it on the skin, but use an orange stick right away to clean it up if it happens.

    5. Flash cure the base coat.

    Turn on your LED or UV lamp to harden the gel polish and adhere it to your nails. Place the four painted fingers under the lamp and cure it to a time according to your lamp instructions. Curing time lasts for 30-45 seconds.

    6. Apply color nail polish and cure.

    Apply a very thin layer of gel color nail polish over the entire nail, staying close to the cuticle. Cure the color layer for a time according to your lamp instructions. Depending on how your color covers, you may need to apply two to three coats of gel color. Make sure you cure each coat.

    7. Apply top coat and cure.

    Be careful when applying the topcoat – make sure you cover the entire nail surface. Anything that isn’t covered by the topcoat is not protected and will not stick as expected. Cure that layer for 30-45 seconds, according to your lamp instructions.

    8. Clean and hydrate.

    Even after the nail polish is completely dry, you may still find a slightly tacky texture. To make it smooth and shiny, cleanse each nail with a lint-free pad soaked in alcohol.

    9. Repeat steps 4-8 for the other four fingers and thumbs.

    Once you’re done with the first four fingers, repeat all steps on the next four fingers. Once they are done, do the same for your two thumbs.

    10. Remove properly.

    Once you start to see any chipping or lifting, avoid the temptation of picking it out or pulling it off. Proper gel polish removal is essential to keep your natural nails healthy. Tearing off gel polish by force can be very damaging. To remove, file off the topcoat, then soak your nails in acetone for 10-15 minutes. Gently push off the gel nail polish using a cuticle pusher. If you don’t want to remove your nail polish just yet and want to refresh, read here to know-how


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