I have never been one to regularly attend salons. Most often I feel they are a waste of money and time, when I could be achieving a similar effect at home, not only saving a few dollars, but also getting a great sense of satisfaction from successfully doing something myself. My nails, trimming my fringe, hair removal and brow maintenance are all things I do at home. Not only can I do them myself, but somehow relinquishing control over them is a real challenge, as I feel that someone else’s artistic ideas may not always align with mine. Nails especially are a task I get a lot of pleasure out of, finding it quite calm and relaxing, so I have invested in a gel nail kit that has dramatically increased the longevity of my at home manicures. Today I want to show you how I achieve a simple gel manicure that lasts around two weeks without any chipping.

What You Will Need

The best way to get started with gel manicures is to purchase a starter kit. These are much cheaper than purchasing everything individually and will also include a lamp. I purchased a kit from Sensationail on sale that included an LED Lamp, a gel base/top coat, a gel primer, some fuzz free cotton pads, a gel cleanser and two mini shades (a nude and a red) for only AU$54.

I have now run out of my initial gel top coat and nude shade, so have repurchased a clear coat and two shades, Taupe Tulips and Blue Yonder. I will be using Taupe Tulips for an understated minimal manicure today.

Shape and Buff

I like leaving my nails with quite a natural rounded square shape which I achieve by using standard nail clippers centred, followed by lightly filing away the corners. To clean up my cuticles I use a cuticle pusher, followed by lightly buffing the whole surface of the nail, including around the cuticles, very gently, to remove any leftover skin on the nail surface. Once evenly buffed, you can use either the gel cleanser provided with the nail kit or just nail polish remover to get rid of any moisture, oils or residue on the nail surface. You should be left with an even, matte base ready for product.

Prime

Once you have your nails ready to go, it is time to prime. I like to work with one hand at a time, with the thumbs separately, as it can get tricky when we get to later stages. Nail primer is one of the most important steps, affecting the longevity of your gel manicure by removing grease and changing the pH of the nail which increases the adherence of the product. It also prevents air bubbles and decreases the likelihood of lifting around the edge of the nail. You can either apply this all over the nail, or simply around the edges, allowing to sit for 30 seconds before moving on. I also like to apply the primer along the tip of the underneath of the nail for when we will be wrapping the product underneath.

Apply The Base

After your nails have been primed, apply a thin coat of clear gel polish making sure to cap the nail by running the polish over the free edge of the nail, decreasing the likelihood of shrinkage and lifting. If you have never used gel polish before, do keep in mind it is much thinner than standard polish and will easily migrate into your cuticles if too much product is used. Remove as much product as possible from the applicator and use very thin coats. The benefit of gel is that until you pop it under the lamp, it will not cure, giving you an opportunity to rectify any mistakes. Once you are happy with the base coat, cure with an LED lamp for 30 seconds, or a UV lamp for 1 minute. Avoid touching the nails between coats as there will be a sticky layer that will catch everything. This is why I like working through one hand at a time.

Apply The Colour

Once you have your base down, start applying the colour. Work with very thin layers to avoid any bleeding into the cuticles, curing for 60 seconds for each layer. The great thing about gel polish is there is virtually no drying time, so applying two or three very thin coats in order to achieve opacity is most likely to give you the cleanest results. Today I applied two thin coats of Taupe Tulips, curing for 60 seconds each time with the thumb completed before moving on to the rest of my fingers.

Finish Off With The Top Coat

To finish off the manicure, top it all off with a thin coat of the clear gel making sure to cap the nail by once again running the clear coat over the free edge of the nails and cure for a further 30 seconds. When that is done, apply the gel cleanser to a cotton pad and wipe over the nails. This will remove the sticky layer on the surface of the manicure.

Finesse The Final Result

Once everything is done, I follow up with a precise nail file, removing any product that may have bled out over the sides of near my cuticles. If you do this step be very careful and gentle as we do not want to damage the area. I had a little bit of product bleed into my cuticles at my middle and index fingers.

Finish it Off

To finish everything off and maintain, apply a cuticle oil and keep nails nourished. One of the biggest reasons for manicures chipping and coming off prematurely are dry, stiff nails prone to cracking and peeling. I used the Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail and Cuticle Oil. It’s nothing special, just use any oil you like or even a basic jojoba or coconut oil will do the trick.

The End Result

So here we are. How I do a gel manicure at home. It is quite easy, however just make sure to set aside around an hour of your time to achieve it, as working slowly and patiently, with precise, thin coats will give you the best result. I am really enjoying the Sensational Kit and find it very convenient. The manicures last around two weeks before they start chipping and need to be redone.

If you want to experiment with more colours and want that gel finish without the investment that gel colours are, I also use regular polish. If you want to use regular polish with your gel manicure, follow all stages until it comes to applying colour, then apply the regular polish as you normally do. You will need to wait for the polish to fully dry before adding the gel top coat, as otherwise it will start bubbling. When I decide to use one of my regular polishes, I will typically apply the colour at night and let cure overnight. Regular polish can take up to 12 hours to fully dry. I then follow up with the gel top coat in the morning to finish it off and have that glossy end result.

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