Home Gel Manicure – Easy, Cute, Affordable, and Time-Saving

by Rhonda Wylie on November 2, 2015


Cute Polka Dot Gel Manicure
Ladies love a good mani and/or pedi, don’t they? I’m certainly no exception. I have very thin nails that tend to break. In spite of taking vitamins and putting all kinds of products on my nails to strengthen them, they just won’t grow and break easily. Let’s face it, they are just ugly!

I had tried many times through the years to polish my own nails, but A.) They looked like a 2-year-old painted them; and B.) They usually started to chip in two days. So, I finally thought I must resign myself to the fact that if I wanted cute nails that would last at least a week or more, I had to go to a salon and spend the time and money it would take to get them done.

After years of this, I started thinking there must be a better way. It might not be the way that works for everyone, but it works for me.  I personally don’t enjoy going to a nail salon; I go for the end result – not to be pampered. I’d rather spend my money buying a new blouse or purse, than spend it at a nail salon.

As I usually do, anytime I want to learn something new, I sat down at my handy computer and started researching. I found literally thousands of videos on YouTube about different ways to do your nails. I was so hopeful and excited, I couldn’t wait to get started.

While at the salon, I would normally get the white French tip acrylic nails for my hands and then just have them do a regular polish on my toes. Sometimes I would get one toenail with a hand painted design.

After researching, I found a product, Artisan Flexwrap Acrylic Dipping Powder Prothat I used to do the acrylic French tip manicure. I did try this and was amazed with the results, however, it is a product that is still harsh on your nails when trying to remove them. I only like them because they will last 2-3 weeks for me (since my nails grow slowly). So, while I will still occasionally do this, I wanted easier and less harsh alternatives for most days. Later, when I do the French tip nails again, I’ll share an article about how to do them and post pictures.

The next alternative to something that is more durable than a regular nail polish is the gel nail polish. After much trial and error, here’s what I found necessary for gel manicures:

  1. You have to have either an LED or UV light.
  2. LED lights are generally more expensive but dry the polish much faster.
  3. Not all brands will work with LED lights, but most brands work with UV light. There are exceptions to this rule, so find out which light is required by your chosen brand of polish before purchasing the polish and/or light.
  4. Not all gel polishes are created equal. Do your research and read reviews on the polishes that are the best. So far, I like OPI, Sally Hansen, CND and Candy Lovers.
  5. For best results, you have to put your nails into the UV or LED light between each layer of polish.
  6. For each manicure you will need one or two gel polishes, a top coat polish and a base coat polish.
  7. In addition to the polishes and LED or UV light, you will need to invest in good tools and supplies: cuticle oil, cuticle trimmer, files, buffers, acetone, tweezers, brushes (optional, for art), dotting pens (optional, for art), alcohol wipes, nail clippers, cuticle pusher, orange sticks, lint-free wipes for nails, pointed cotton swabs, and decorative jewels, decals, and nail glue (also optional).

First prepare your work area:

  1. Find an area to use that is a safe zone if you accidentally spill polish or acetone. I like to use a folding table that I bring out just for doing my nails.
  2. Place a cover over the table that protects it (if necessary), such as an old blanket or cheap table cloth.
  3. Place your LED or UV light in a place on the table or nearby to allow easy access.
  4. Poor a small amount of acetone into a container for easy dipping when necessary.
  5. Lay out your nail prep, base coat, 1 or 2 gel nail polishes, top coat, and cuticle oil on the table.
  6. Lay out all tools and accessories.

Next, prepare your nails:

  1. Clip nails to desired length.
  2. Using rubber cuticle pusher or orange stick, push cuticles down.
  3. Using orange stick, scrape white rough areas left on nail after pushing the cuticles down.
  4. File and buff nails until they are smooth. Use coarser files to help even out the tips of the nails. Use buffers to smooth tips and buff out ridges on nails.
  5. Wash hands and nails thoroughly with soap and water. Dry nails completely.
  6. Apply nail prep solution and wipe off. This step is necessary to make sure base coat adheres to nail.
  7. Working with one hand at a time, apply base coat being careful not to touch cuticles. All polish should only be on the nail bed.
  8. Using pointed cotton swabs dipped in acetone, clean around edges or cuticles where base coat went past the nail bed. This is very important with gel base coat, because once it’s cured by the light, you will not be able to get it off and it will feel like glue.
  9. Place hand into the light and let it dry the recommended time by the light manufacturer or polish. I usually go for 3 minutes. A good base coat will still be sticky when finished.
  10. Apply first coat of gel color and repeat step 8, making sure all excess polish is cleaned up before curing.
  11. Cure first coat of gel color in the LED or UV light.
  12. Apply second coat of gel color. Again, repeat step 8, making sure all excess polish is cleaned up before curing.
  13. Before curing in the light, decide if you will apply any jewels.
  14. With the second coat of gel color still wet, using tweezers, apply any desired jewels to nails. If necessary, you can place a tiny dot of nail glue on the nail first.
  15. Place hand into light and cure the second coat of color and any decorative jewels that have been applied to the nail.
  16. If you want to put any decals onto the nail, now would be the time to do it (nails should feel dry).
  17. Once all designs (if any) are placed onto the nails, it’s time for the top coat.
  18. Apply the top coat. Again, repeat step 8, making sure all excess polish is cleaned up before curing.
  19. Cure top coat in the LED or UV light. I go extra time for this step (5 minutes in UV light).
  20. Rub nails with lint-free alcohol wipes. Nails will feel sticky before doing this step and will feel smooth and dry after this step.
  21. Put cuticle oil on the cuticles and rub it in. Wipe off excess cuticle oil.
  22. Voila, you’re all done…well almost, because that’s just one hand. LOL. You can certainly do both hands with each step, but I found it easier to do one hand at a time, because then you have a completely dry hand to work with when painting the other hand. Also, if you paint any decoration, you have your other hand for comparison.

Nail Removal:

To remove nails soak them in acetone for about 15 or 20 minutes and then lift them off with the orange stick. Do not scrape, because this can damage your nail. Continue soaking until the gel polish comes off easily. Finish clean up by wiping nails with acetone soaked wipe. I like the Onyx Proffessional Soak Off for removal. 

For the nails I’m showing here, I did all of the steps shown above, but after the 2nd coat of color was cured, I then used a different color of gel polish and applied the dots by using a dotting pen. I then had to, of course, cure this layer in the light, as well. WARNING: Make sure your first color is completely dry before applying a second color, because the two colors will run together, if you don’t. Then I applied the top coat to the newly decorated nail. All the polish was by the brand, Candy Lovers.
Candy Lover Brand 6 pcs Nail Gel Polish 10ml Soak Off UV Gel Nails #25

One more bit of information I wanted to tell you is that it is going to take some time to get used to doing this. Allow plenty of time to do this. I like to sit on a Sunday afternoon and watch movies as I do this. It is sort of forced “me” time that I, would not normally allow myself to enjoy. I also love that I am saving money in the long run, even though it will cost you initially to buy all your necessary polish, supplies and tools.

I hope this helps to give you the courage to start doing your own manicures.  Please also check out YouTube.com to find all sorts of pretty patterns and unique techniques. There are tons of decals, jewels and other accessories available on Amazon.com.

If you have any questions please leave a comment. I also welcome all tips, because I am still a newbie at this.

Written by Rhonda Wylie

Rhonda Wylie

Rhonda is a self-taught entrepreneur, blogger, and aspiring freelance writer, who is always eager to take on new challenges. She is on a self-improvement mission of cleaning out the negative clutter of her own life so she can become a happier, healthier, and more productive individual. Her hope is to inspire each person to eliminate the negative clutter that’s weighing them down, so we can all live our best life EVER!

Love Yourself as Much as You Want to Be Loved
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