Few things make me happier than a fresh mani, yes I really am that shallow! For whatever reason, I LOVE painting my nails and always have. Though I am a cosmetologist by trade, I have had very little nail-tech training and I’m certain ANYONE can do an at-home gel manicure. Getting started can be a bit pricey, but if you are anything like me, the initial expense will quickly pay for itself and end up saving you a small fortune on professional manicures.
I am a bit of a polish snob and initially refused to use anything but CND (Shellac). However, over the years I have branched out and tried almost every gel brand I am aware of. My favorite is still Shellac, but Gelish is a close second. Since Gelish is available to anyone and everyone (no license needed) that is my recommendation. It is the fairly inexpensive, has plenty of color options, and holds up just as well as any other brand I’ve tried (in some cases even better). They also offer a mini size, which is perfect if you like to try new colors frequently.
So let’s get started. First up, you’ll need to go shopping…*You will also need a UV or LED Gel Lamp. I use the CND professional UV lamp, which is not available to purchase without a professional license. Good news, I actually am not going to recommend that lamp as the newer LED gel lamps are a safer option. They also typically have a quicker cure time. Keep in mind, some gel polishes will only cure with a UV lamp. So do some research before purchasing your lamp. Decide on what type of gel polish you will be using and make sure it is compatible. If my lamp broke tomorrow, THIS is the lamp I would buy. If you already own or end up purchasing a UV lamp (like me), there are PROTECTIVE GLOVES you can wear, or simply slather your hands with sunscreen before starting your mani.
*You will also need alcohol and an orange stick.
Before you get started, it’s always a good idea to give yourself a basic manicure: Trim/file nails to desired shape and length, push back cuticles, trim hangnails, etc.
You will be working on one hand at a time. Go through each of the following steps and then start over and repeat on the other hand. You will get better and better at working with your “bad hand” the more you practice. Keep in mind, your manicure will not be done until the final step. You cannot stop midway or pick up a child or run an errand as they will not be set until after curing the top coat. Give yourself a good 30 minutes of uninterrupted time.Before applying gel polish you will need to remove any oils from your nails. This is done by buffing the nails with a block buffer. For years I filed the top of my nails (as this is what they do in the salon) but I have discovered it is completely unnecessary and also destroys your nails. Simply remove any shine you see by lightly buffing the entire nail surface.After buffing, wash your hands with soap and water. Next, using a lint-free cloth, soaked with alcohol, wipe each nail thoroughly. Finally, apply PH bond to your nails. Apply a coat of Gelish Foundation (or other base coat). Cure the base coat in your LED or UV lamp. Your cure time will differentiate depending on what type/strength of lamp you have. Refer to the instructions that come with your lamp.
TIPS FOR APPLYING GEL POLISH
*Always apply the thinnest layer possible. Whether you are using the base, color, or top coat, you never want a thick layer. It is better to apply 5 light coats than 1 heavy coat. If you apply too much polish, it will not cure properly and leave you with gummy nails that certainly won’t last long. I tap and wipe the nail applicator brush along the inside of the polish bottle multiply times (removing almost ALL of the polish) before painting.
*Make sure to paint the free edge of your nail (the tip edge) as this will really help prevent chipping or lifting. A lot of tutorials will tell you to paint your nail surface first and then paint along the free edge. In my experience, this leaves a pool of paint behind. When painting my nails I pinch my fingers together to pull the skin away from the free edge (image 1 below) before running the brush along the edge.
*Paint a wide strip down the center of your nail (image 2 below) and then paint on either side. I press my finger into the surface I’m working on and slightly roll to one side, pull the skin away from the nail bed (image 3 below).
*You are bound to get polish on your skin, especially along the top when you pain the free edge (image 4 above). Any polish that has not been cured will easily wipe away. If you allow the polish on your skin or cuticles to harden (cure) it will likely cause the polish to peel or chip. Before each cure time, I simply clean off any mistakes with an orange stick dipped in alcohol.
Now back to the tutorial!Apply a thin layer of your polish color and cure (again, refer to your lamp instructions for time). Apply a second layer of color and cure once more. I typically only do two coats of color. You can add additional layers of color or glitter to spice things up, as long as you cure between each coat. For example, I wasn’t totally loving how orange the above color looked (I was hoping for coral) so for my second layer I used a light shimmery pink to tone it down.At this point, you can add any nail art your heart desires or none at all (I painted a thin silver line around my cuticles). Next, add a thin layer of top coat and cure for the recommended time. Now remove the tackiness by wiping your nails off with alcohol and you are good to go! Please let me know if you have any questions at all. A post on how to remove gel polish at home is coming soon!