Want to give yourself fabulous gel nails at home – or are you just looking for a good gel manicure kit? Either way – I got you sister!
A gel manicure at home is not for perfectionists only – anyone can DIY gel nails and have them looking seriously beautiful. I am also sharing how I remove gel nail polish (scroll to the bottom for that).
Oh, and lets just address it – I am no hand model. These photos make me laugh because there was no possible way for me to show my nails without my hands looking all wrinkled and crooked. But the nails were still on point!
A Gel Nails At Home Tutorial… For Beginners
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Doing your own gel nails at home is a small investment up front that will pay for itself after just a few manicures.
So by all means- start out with the right supplies! This is not the place to look for a knock off brands. Lesser quality gels don’t stick as well and chip easily.
When I first googled how to do my own gel manicure, I was totally overwhelmed. What was ph bond? Foundation? Sounded complicated.
They actually sell kits with almost everything you need to get started if you feel overwhelmed!
It’s not hard at all – but it did take a few practices to get it perfected, but I promise – you can be a gel nails queen too! I’ve gotten so used to / good at doing my own nails now, I will rarely go back to the salon!
Scroll down for simple troubleshooting tips at the bottom, as well as how I like to remove gel nail polish.
Let’s get started!
I like the brands Gelish, Gellen and OPI.
- LED Lamp (the traditional UV lamps are fine but LED lamps are better. LED dries the polish faster and is safer on your skin! I researched the best reviewed lamp when I was shopping for one – this is the lamp I bought for myself and but I also liked this one
- Fantastic 4 Gel Nail Bag (Snag the mini kit with the 4 together) OR buy cuticle oil (optional), foundation coat (also known as a base coat), top coat, and ph bond (this is just rubbing alcohol)
- 100% acetone – the stronger the better
- Gel Nail Polish in the colors you like (this is the Gellen polish I have, OPI is also a great brand, obviously don’t use regular polish – it must say Gel!)
- course buffing block (I don’t recommend a nail file)
- angled eyeliner brush for cleaning polish off cuticles (a toothpick will work in a pinch; the brush is best)
OR… just start with an entire gel nails KIT!
- As an alternative to all I just listed, you can just buy your own gel nails kit – a brilliant little package with a light and almost everything else you need. I wanted to test out the brands of nail polish I liked first, so I was hesitant to go this route. If you do decide to go with the kit (hey, the reviews sound pretty great) you will just need a strong acetone, and rubbing alcohol.
Gel Nails At Home Instructions
I find it so, so much easier to finish one whole hand and have it dry before I start on the other! This process should take you about 30-40 minutes start to finish.
Think thin, thin, thin coats!
Step 1. Nail Prep – Do Not Skip!
We are assuming here that you are starting out with washed, cut and dried nails that are free of all lotions- oils causes gel polish to lift!
Buff the top layer of your nails to help the gel polish better adhere. Most importantly – push the cuticles on your nail bed back. Afterward, rinse your hands with water (not soap!) to remove any dead skin, and dry thoroughly.
You don’t want any polish touching your cuticles if you want it to stick a long time!
Step 2. Rubbing Alcohol Onto Nails
Using the PH Bond from the kit, apply to your nails and let it sit for at least 30 seconds. If you are using rubbing alcohol (it’s literally the same thing), use a lint-free cloth like a paper towel, soak it in alcohol and rub it across your nails. The purpose of rubbing alcohol is to dehydrate your nails.
Step 3. Base Coat
Apply a THIN COAT of foundation, the base coat. I repeat: use a THIN coat. Cure in your lamp twice. Follow your lamp’s directions for timing.
If the base coat is too thick your gel polish will lift faster – take it easy! Using the angled brush, dip it in acetone to clean any excess off your surrounding skin and cuticles. This will cause the polish to chip later.
Step 4. Polish Time!
Now apply your first THIN coat of gel polish to your nails. It is normal for the first coat to be streaky. Using the angled brush, dip it in acetone to clean any excess polish off your surrounding skin and cuticles. Once the polish looks perfect, cure in your lamp.
Apply the second thin coat of polish, clean cuticles if necessary, and cure.
Optional: If after the second coat the polish is still streaky or opaque, apply a third thin coat and repeat steps.
Step 5. Protect
The top coat should go on THIN again! Are you seeing a theme here? Top coat can be a little runny, and it is easy for the excess to drip off to the edges of the nail, so apply slowly. Make sure to clean up the edges and ends of your nails (and the cuticles) with the angled brush. Cure two times.
Again, keep it away from the edge and cuticle!
Step 6. Wipe off Sticky Residue
Don’t touch your nails yet – they are sticky. Wipe briefly with a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove the stickiness.
If you want, add a light swipe of cuticle oil to rehydrate the nail bed too, but that is optional (and it’s oily).
You officially gave yourself gel nails at home!
Here is the truth, Ruth. The very first time I tackled DIY gel nails they were chipping after a few days. I was so sad! I had to tackle it again – this time paying attention closely to cleaning up the sides each time before curing, and switching out my nail polish to these from Gellen.
If your polish is chipping too soon it likely has to do with one of four issues:
- too thick of a foundation coat
- allowing some of the liquids to drip onto the surrounding skin, cuticle or the edge of your nail (as your nail grows out, the skin pulls at the polish and lifts it)
- prep work: leaving oil on your nailbed that wasn’t properly cleaned off before, as well as skipping the buffing step. Buffing the top layer of your nail bed before helps the polish stick.
- not using high-quality products. OPI and Gelish are not the only good brands, but they are the ones I’ve had work for me
Is your polish still tacky?
Rub a wipe dipped in rubbing alcohol over it. Practice makes perfect but it’s not rocket science – just follow directions and use the right tools! This should last you about 2 weeks!
Gel nails on your piggies works too!
How I Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home
There are a few different ways you can do this, and they all take a little while. I haven’t found any sort of magic that will pop off your old nails in 3 minutes.
The easiest way takes me about 20 minutes. I started using these plastic nail clips after I saw all the reviews on Amazon. There is a liner inside you soak with acetone, then wrap up your nail and snap on the clips. Put on some Netflix because it takes about 15-20 minutes for the polish to soften. When you take it off, the polish will be soft and you can use the included scraper to remove the gel nail polish.
If it’s not coming off easily, just add more acetone and soak again. The stronger the acetone the better- if it’s weak acetone expect it to take longer.
Another option – my girl friend Val gives herself a DIY gel manicure with NO lamps (UV or LED)! I was surprised this could even be done- but she’s one of those people with lots of good hacks up her sleeve. You can read her DIY gel nails tutorial here!
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