The Awkward Girl’s Guide to gel nails at home with a DIY gel nail kit
One of my Christmas presents from Terry this year was a DIY gel nail kit, which I’ve been getting plenty of use out of over the festive season – and beyond.
A gel nail kit is something I’d been considering for absolutely ages. As some of you may know, my nails – and particularly my cuticles – are the bane of my life, and I always feel a bit embarrassed by the state of them. A bit of polish makes them look much better, but it always chips so quickly on me, that even with a decent topcoat, I find myself having to remove it and re-do it more often than I can really be bothered with.
I have, however, had a few professional gel manicures, and have always loved the fact that they allow me to just completely forget about my nails for a couple of weeks (or more!) at a time, so when I opened up my own little gel nail kit, I was really exited to try it. Here’s how I got on…
CHOOSING YOUR KIT
Terry bought the various components of my gel nail kit separately, but there are tons of different ones available which provide you with everything you need to get started, and, as far as I can gather, they all seem to work in roughly the same way. If you’re buying everything separately, you’ll need:
My exact kit is now out of stock, but it’s similar to this one , and is uses LED lights rather than UV ones, which I’m happy about, because I’d have worried about putting my hands under UV light too often.
(These are often sold together, but you can also buy them separately.)
The fun bit! I’ve already amassed a small collection of these, and can’t seem to stop myself acquiring more! My favourite brands are Bluesky and OPI (Who do gel polishes as well as their regular line), but there are tons of brands out there, and most will work with a standard UV lamp (Do check first, though!). I buy most of my polishes from eBay or Amazon, but you’ll find them all over the place these days, so go wild!
Again, this is often sold along with the prep + wipe solution, and is essential for when you come to remove your polish!
06. ASSORTED OTHER ITEMS…
Most of these are things you’ll probably already have, but if you’re going to try doing gel nails at home you’ll probably want to stock up on items like lint-free pads, orange sticks, emery boards etc.
As I said, you can buy all of these items separately, or you can go for a gel nail kit starter pack, which will give you everything you need in one go: up to you!
HOW TO DO GEL NAILS AT HOME WITH A DIY GEL NAIL KIT
If you’ve ever had a professional gel manicure, the process of doing gel nails at home will probably be pretty familiar to you, but for those who haven’t, here’s how to do it…
STEP ONE | PREPARE THE NAILS
First things first: before getting started with your gel nail kit, you’ll want to prepare your nails by making sure they’re clean, free of any polish, and filed into the shape you want. (Please excuse the state of mine in these close-ups: I’m obviously not a professional, and have bad nails to start with, so my results are never going to be perfect!) Once you’ve done that, give each nail a quick wipe over with a lint-free pad soaked in the Prep+Wipe solution.
STEP TWO | APPLY THE BASE COAT
Once your nails are prepped, it’s time to apply the base coat. You’ll be applying quite a few coats of polish, so make the base coat as thin as possible, and try to paint all the way up to the tip of the nail, to help “seal” in the polish and make it harder to chip off. It’s also best to do one hand at a time, because as soon as you have that first coat done, you’ll be moving straight to step three…
STEP 3 | CURE THE BASE COAT UNDER THE LED LAMP
The most important step of the process, and the thing which makes gel manicures different (and longer lasting) than regular ones is the part when you “cure” the polish by placing your hand under your LED lamp. My lamp has three buttons on the top, allowing you to set the length of time it’ll remain switched on for. I give each coat two minutes to cure, and I’ll sometimes do my thumb separate from the rest of my fingers, purely because it’s a little easier to position it that way, but you can easily do all five fingers at once.
Once the lamp switches off, your polish will be almost dry, but will still feel slightly tacky to the touch, so it’s important that you don’t touch your nails, or rub them against anything. (This is also why your cotton pads should be lint-free: the last thing you want is “hairy” nails!)
STEP 4 | APPLY THE FIRST LAYER OF COLOUR THEN CURE FOR ANOTHER TWO MINUTES
Next up, apply your first coat of colour, again going for as thin a layer as you can. In these photos, I’m using a shade called ‘Wildfire’, which is a nice, classic bright red. Once you’ve painted each nail, it’s back under the LED lamp for another two minutes.
STEP 5| REPEAT STEP 4
Now do it all over again, adding a second coat of colour, and once again curing it under your lamp for two minutes. Don’t worry, we’re almost done…
STEP 6 | APPLY THE TOPCOAT AND CURE
You’ll probably be an old hand (boom boom!) at this by the time you reach this stage, so all I’ll add here is that when I’m applying the clear topcoat, I try to make sure I paint the very edge of the nail too, to seal in the colour and stop it from wearing around the tips. As with all of the stages, you also want to avoid making any of the coats too thick or lumpy, or you’ll be left with super-chunky nails, which will look (and feel a bit strange). Once the topcoat is on, there’s one final two-minute session under the lamp, before the final stage…
STEP 7 | WIPE THE NAILS WITH THE PREP + WIPE SOLUTION
When you remove your hand from under the lamp for the final time, your nails will still feel a little bit sticky. Don’t panic, you haven’t done anything wrong – you just need to do one final step, which involves getting out your lint-free pads again, and gently wiping each nail with the Prep + Wipe solution. If you’re not used to gel nails, rubbing your freshly-painted nails with a cotton pad feels all kinds of wrong the first time you do it, but the polish won’t budge, and once you’ve completed this step, you’ll be left with shiny, polished nails, which will be dry to the touch, and which – most importantly – will not chip. Yay!
SO, IS IT WORTH GETTING A GEL NAIL KIT?
I’ve had my gel nail kit for a few weeks now (Terry gave me it before Christmas, so I could use it for my Christmas day manicure!), and I absolutely love it. It takes me around 30 minutes to do both hands, which I don’t think is too bad, especially considering I can do it in front of the TV if I want to (and I usually do). Previously, I’d probably devote at least 30 minutes per week to doing my nails anyway, but the big difference with this is that it lasts so long that you only need to do it every two or three weeks.
I get well over 2 weeks out of each manicure: by the end of that time I’ll be starting to see some wear at the very tips of the nails, and occasionally will notice a tiny chip in the polish – that could easily be patched up if you wanted to get more wear out of it, but I’ll also normally have some regrowth at the base of the nail by then, too, so I prefer just to remove it and start again.
My toes, meanwhile, were painted before Christmas, and because my toenails seem to grow much more slowly than my fingernails do (is that just me?), I’ll get even more wear out of it: they’re going on for three weeks now, and still look perfect. They’re also still perfectly shiny, which is another big benefit of a gel nail kit: while I find that most regular polishes will start to look dull after a few days (especially on my toes), this stuff remains shiny, and still looks freshly applied, weeks after you put in on.
I’m really aware here that my application isn’t perfect, and that some of you might think the gel nail kit is to blame: it really isn’t, I promise! I’ve never been very good at painting my nails, and I’m also pretty bad at shaping them, so the fault is all mine here. Although I’m not great with nails, I’m probably never going to be the kind of person who starts paying for salon manicures every couple of weeks, though, so in my case, this gel nail kit isn’t competing with “professional” manicures, as such – it’s simply competing with what I’d be able to do at home, with regular polish.
In that respect, the gel nail kit is WAY better: it doesn’t take significantly longer to use, and the results last for much, much longer, so it’s been well worth it for me. With that said, if you’re good with nails, you can expect to get significantly better results than I do!
REMOVING GEL NAIL POLISH
Removing gel polish, however, is a different story altogether, and you’ll find a separate post about that here . Suffice to say, though, that it’s a lot more time-consuming than removing regular polish, and can be a bit of a pain. The fact that you only need to do it every few weeks, of course, helps balance that out, although if you’re the type of person who likes to change your nail colour every few days, I’d guess this system probably isn’t for you!
In my case, I’m not particularly adventurous with my nails, and tend to stick to the same colours all the time, so I’m unlikely to get bored, or to find the removal process too much of an issue. With that said, I’m finding it such a novelty to have painted nails which don’t chip constantly that I’ve become much more interested in nail polish all of a sudden, and have bought a few different colours which I’m looking forward to trying out. I’m unlikely to become obsessed with nail art or anything like that, because I just don’t have the skill/patience to do it well, but I’m loving this little DIY gel nail kit, and am so pleased Terry got it for me, so I can highly recommend trying it out if you’re a fan of a long-lasting polish!
One small note of caution: I know gel polish can be quite hard on the nails if you use it too often, so I’ll be giving my nails a rest in between treatments, and doing my best to keep them healthy. I haven’t had any issues s far, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re considering buying a gel nail kit of your own.