For about the price of a salon gel manicure, you can do your own gel manicures at home with a simple kit. While a steady hand and dexterity are key to a perfect manicure, an at-home gel manicure is actually more forgiving since you control when the polish “dries” by placing your hand under the LED lamp. Also, if you have ever feared the UV exposure to your nailbeds that comes from traditional salon gel manicure lamps, the kit I use has an LED lamp which is not only safer, but also cures gels much faster. While there are plenty of upsides to a gel manicure (shinier finish that lasts, extreme chip resistance and longevity to name a few), the removal process may be the only detractor but not enough to deter me. Simply soak a bit of cotton with acetone, place on nail and wrap with a square of aluminum foil. After about 15 minutes, use a manicure tool to gently remove the softened polish. Here’s how I give myself the perfect at-home gel manicure.
1. Prep your hands by scrubbing under your nails and washing your hands with soap. File and lightly buff your nails, trim hangnails and moisturize your hands. I keep this manicure kit stocked for regular maintenance and prep.
2. Set up your gel station on a clean surface. I swipe a lint-free pad soaked in acetone across each of my nails to remove oils from my moisturizer. With a new lint-free pad, swipe each nail with a bit of the gel cleanser and allow to dry. Next apply a very thin coat of the gel primer in a halo-shape around the nail so that all of the edges are covered and cap the tips. Let the primer dry for about 30 seconds. Neither of these steps require curing under the lamp.
3. Now that your nails are prepped, apply the combo base & top coat in a thin layer. Thin layers, just like in a regular manicure, are the key to a great application. I also work on my left four fingers first, cure, then my right and then thumbs last. Before placing your nails under the lamp, tidy up any polish with a bamboo stick. Cure under the lamp for 30 seconds ( this SensatioNail lamp blinks after 15 seconds and has an auto shut-off after 30 seconds).
4. Now to apply the color, gently shake the gel polish bottle. You can use any brand of gel polish that is cured under LED or UV light. I keep in my kit just a few colors that I always gravitate towards: pale pink, bright red and deep burgundy are my favorites. In thin coats, repeat the same process as the base coat making sure to cure between each layer for 30 seconds, and tidy up before curing. I apply 3 layers when I’m using pale colors and 2 layers if dark. Be careful not to touch your nails in-between these layers, even after curing because they are sticky which helps with adhesion for the next layer. To finish, apply one thin coat of combo base & top coat and cure for 60 seconds.
5. Now for the last and scary part: when your top coat cure is complete, soak a new lint-free cloth in gel cleanser and swipe over each nail. You are wiping the “sticky” layer off to reveal fully cured, glossy nails!