gel nails at home feature
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I used to never be a nail girly—I loved treating myself to gel nails from time to time, but I just couldn’t keep up with the expensive salon trips to get them removed and put back on at the salon.

When I found out how easy & affordable it was to do my own gel nails at home, I was sold! I save so much time and money, and I still get to have beautiful, long lasting, healthy gel manicures all the time!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go through everything about DIYing your gel nails—. from the reasons why you should consider this beauty adventure to the essential supplies you’ll need and step-by-step instructions, we’ve got it all covered.

Say goodbye to chipped polish after a day and hello to a manicure that can last up to two weeks without breaking a sweat!

Why you should consider doing gel nails at home

If you’re not totally sold, allow me to introduce you to some of the ways gel polish is different (and better) than regular polish.

Gel nails vs regular polish

  • Gel nails last longer: The primary allure of gel nails lies in their longevity. Unlike traditional nail polish that can chip, smudge, or fade within days, gel nails can stay stunning for up to two weeks. That means you can flaunt those perfectly manicured fingers without the constant worry of touch-ups. Whether you have a busy schedule, love to travel, or simply prefer low-maintenance beauty routines, gel nails offer a solution that keeps up with your lifestyle.
  • Gel nails protect your nails: Beyond their durability, gel nails also boast an impressive protectively, shiny coating to your nails that is distinct from regular polish. This is one of my favorite parts of having gel nails— the hard gel coating protects my natural nails so I can grow them out long and strong. Regular nail polish provides a much thinner coating, so your nails are still prone to breaking.
  • Gel nails are smudge proof: Lastly, since there’s virtually no drying time with gel nails (outside of the UV lamp), long gone are the days of accidentally smudging your fresh manicure while it’s still wet.

Cost of doing gel nails at home

Salon visits can be delightful, but they can also put a dent in your wallet, especially when you consider the cost of regular touch-ups. By learning how to do gel nails at home, you not only save money but also gain the freedom to experiment with colors, designs, and styles without the hefty salon price tag.

DIYing your gel nails at home will take some initial investment in supplies, but it’s a small price to pay for the long-term savings and convenience it offers.

I’ll break down all the supplies you need, and the ones I personally use, a bit later in this article. For now, I’ll say that the total cost of supplies for me to start doing my gel nails at home was under $50 dollars.

Which is pretty comparable to the price of a single gel manicure at the salon!

How long do gel nails take at home?

Doing gel nails at home takes me about 45 minutes for both of my hands. This is more than double the amount of time a regular manicure used to take me, which I could do in about 20 minutes.

It takes a bit longer to do gel nails at home than regular polish because you the prep process is a bit more extensive, it requires more coats, and each coat has to set for 1-3 minutes under a UV light.

However, it’s a small price to pay for the perfect, shiny gel manicure that lasts over 2 weeks! Especially when compared to salon appointments that require travel time, waiting, and drying.

Personally, I just put on some Netflix or Youtube and my manicures are done within a single episode!

At home Gel Nails Supplies: Everything you need

To get started with your at-home gel nails, you’ll need the right supplies. You can get a full supply set including a UV lamp for under $50 on Amazon if you want to get everything at once.

Here’s a checklist of what you’ll require and my recommendations:

UV lamp: The most expensive thing you’ll have to invest in to do your gel nails at home is a UV LED lamp. There are different types of UV lamps you can get— regular and LED. Also, the higher the wattage, the more quickly your gel polish will cure.

Luckily, you can get gel polish lamps pretty affordably on Amazon.

I love this lamp because it’s LED, so it cures the gel polish faster. Not to mention, it’s got a built in timer for 30 and 60 seconds so I can easily make sure to leave my nails under for the right amount of time.

Nail file and buffer: Even if you’ve never used a nail buffer before, this is essential for prepping your nails for gel polish, so you’ll want to get some! I get sets of these for super cheap on Amazon

Amazon nail files

Cuticle pusher and trimmer: Trimming & pushing your cuticles helps prep your nails for gel polish, and also gives them an elongated effect.

Gel nail polish: Of course, you’ll need the gel polish of your choice. There are so many amazing options for individual polishes or sets, so this is part of the fun! Especially for glitter— you can get some colors that would be really hard to achieve with regular polish.

Base coat & Top Coat: A good base & top coat is essential (not optional) for your gel manicure. This set from Amazon is salon quality and affordable!

Acetone and cotton balls: Not only will you need acetone to remove gel polish, you’ll also use it to remove any excess oils & debris from your nails so the gel polish lasts a long time.

How to Do your Gel Nails at Home in 4 Simple Steps

Now, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of achieving salon-quality gel nails at home.

Step 1: Prep your Nails

Start by prepping your natural nails. This is a bit more involved than prep for a regular manicure, but it’s a crucial step that sets the foundation for a flawless gel manicure.

  1. Remove Excess Cuticle Skin: Gently trim any excess cuticle skin to create a clean canvas.
  2. Trim Your Nails: Use nail clippers to trim your nails to your desired length.
  3. File & Shape Your Nails: Shape your nails using a file. You can opt for square, round, or almond-shaped nails, depending on your preference.
  4. Push Back Cuticles: Use a cuticle pusher to gently push back your cuticles, creating a neat nail bed. This will also help your nails appear longer.
  5. Buff Your Nails: Buff the surface of your nails lightly to remove any shine and create a slightly textured surface. This will allow the gel polish to adhere to your nails and stay on longer. (Do not skip this step!) I know many people are hesitant to buff their nails to avoid damaging them, but as long as you are gentle this is completely safe for your nails and will only help your manicure last longer
  6. Rub with Acetone: Clean your nails with acetone to remove any oils or residue.

Step 2: Base Coat

gel nails at home- base coat

Apply a thin layer of the base coat to each nail. Ensure you cover the entire nail surface, but avoid getting the product on your skin.

Cure your nails under the UV lamp. The amount of time you should cure your nails for depends on your base coat and type of lamp. If you are using the base coat I recommend and an LED lamp, you should cure them for 60-90 seconds.

For a base coat, your nails should be slightly tacky & not completely dry once cured.

Step 3: Color & Designs

gel nails at home- color

This is where you can get creative! Apply your chosen gel nail polish in thin, even coats. Again, avoid getting the polish on your skin. You can experiment with different colors and nail art designs.

After each layer, cure your nails for the amount of time suggested on the specific gel polish you are using. This will vary with different polishes, so it’s important to check!

You can use as many or as few coats as you’d like– each will give a slightly different effect. Try to stick to 1-3 ish coats.

Step 4: Top Coat

Finish your gel manicure with a top coat to seal and protect your nails. Cure one final time under the UV lamp, and you’re done! Your nails will be dry and ready for action.

gel nails at home- led lamp

Again, check the bottle for the amount of time to cure your top coat & any other instructions. For the top coat I recommend under an LED lamp, cure for 90-120 seconds.

gel nails at home result

Mistakes to avoid

Achieving perfect gel nails at home may take a little practice, and along the way, it’s essential to steer clear of common mistakes that can affect your manicure’s quality and longevity. Let’s explore some key blunders to avoid:

Applying too thick layers of gel polish

One of the most common mistakes is applying overly thick layers of gel polish. Thick layers not only take longer to cure properly but are also more prone to chipping and peeling. Remember that the beauty of gel nails lies in their thin, even application. It might be tempting to speed up the process by piling on the polish, but patience is your friend here.

Getting gel polish on your skin on the sides of your nails:

when you get extra gel polish on your cuticles, they’re going to be significantly more prone to early peeling. Gel polish will not cure to your skin the same way it will to your nails, so they’ll start peeling at the edges. If you get polish on your skin, try cleaning it off with a bit of acetone and a brush BEFORE you cure.

Curing for the wrong amount of time:

Curing for too short a time can result in underdeveloped, soft nails that are prone to chipping. On the other hand, over cured gel nails can lead to excessive drying and potential damage. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for curing times, which can vary depending on the brand and product you’re using. Timed correctly, curing ensures a long-lasting and resilient gel manicure.

FAQs & Troubleshooting

Gel nails are a fantastic way to achieve long-lasting, salon-quality manicures at home. However, it’s not uncommon to encounter a few hiccups along the way. Let’s address some frequently asked questions and common troubleshooting tips:

Why do my gel nails peel off after a day?

Peeling gel nails can be frustrating, but there are several common reasons behind this issue. One primary culprit is improper nail preparation. If your nails weren’t thoroughly cleaned, buffed, and free from oils before applying the gel, it can lead to poor adhesion. Additionally, applying too thick a layer of gel polish or skipping the base coat can contribute to premature peeling. To avoid this, ensure your nails are properly prepped, apply thin layers, and always use a base coat for better adhesion.

Why are my gel nails sticky?

Sticky or tacky gel nails can occur due to under-curing, which means they haven’t been exposed to the UV lamp for the appropriate amount of time. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for curing times. If your nails remain sticky after curing, it could be due to using an old or expired gel polish. Consider investing in fresh, high-quality products to prevent this issue.

How can I cure gel nails without uv light?

If you don’t have access to a UV lamp, you can still achieve gel-like results with certain products labeled as “no-light” or “gel-like” nail polishes. These polishes are designed to mimic the longevity and shine of gel nails without the need for UV curing. Keep in mind that the results may not be as long-lasting as traditional gel nails, but they provide a convenient alternative for those without UV lamps.

What are the dangers of gel nails?

The main danger you will hear about when it comes to gel nails is the usage of UV lamps.

Many people, especially in recent years, have raised concerns about potential health risks, including the risk of skin cancer due to UV exposure. It’s important to differentiate between traditional UV lamps and LED UV lamps:

  1. Traditional UV Lamps: Traditional UV nail lamps use UV-A and UV-B radiation to cure gel nail polish. Prolonged and repeated exposure to these lamps without proper protection can potentially increase the risk of skin damage, including skin cancer, over time.
  2. LED UV Lamps: LED UV lamps, on the other hand, primarily emit UV-A light, which is considered less harmful than UV-B. LED lamps also tend to cure nails faster, reducing the exposure time. While LED UV lamps are generally considered safer than traditional UV lamps, they are not completely without risk.

Generally, it’s been found that the amount of time your skin is exposed to UV lamps for the occasional gel manicure is not enough to be harmful. However, if you have concerns about UV exposure, consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional for personalized advice.

How to Remove Gel Nails at Home

Your fabulous gel manicure has had its time in the spotlight, and now it’s time for a change or a fresh start. Removing gel nails at home is a straightforward process that requires a bit of patience and the right tools. Here’s how to do it safely and effectively:

Step 1: Prep Your Nails

Start by gently filing the top layer of your gel nails. This step helps break the gel’s seal, making it easier for the acetone to penetrate and remove the polish.

Step 2: Soak Cotton Balls in Acetone

Take small pieces of cotton balls and soak them in 100% pure acetone. You want enough cotton to cover each nail completely.

Step 3: Place Cotton Balls on Your Nails

Place the soaked cotton balls on top of each nail. Make sure they cover the entire nail surface, including the gel polish. To keep them in place, you can wrap small pieces of aluminum foil around your fingertips.

Step 4: Wait Patiently

Now, it’s time to relax while the acetone works its magic. Leave the cotton balls and foil wraps on your nails for about 15-20 minutes. This allows the acetone to break down the gel polish effectively.

Step 5: Remove Gel Polish

After the waiting period, gently press down on the foil-wrapped cotton balls and slide them off your nails. You’ll notice that the gel polish should come off easily, either as a whole or in pieces. If there are any stubborn spots, use an orange stick or a wooden cuticle stick to gently push the remaining gel off. Avoid scraping too hard to prevent damage to your natural nails.

Step 6: Clean and Moisturize

Once you’ve removed all the gel polish, wash your hands thoroughly to remove any residual acetone. Apply a moisturizing nail and cuticle oil to nourish your nails, as acetone can be drying.

Step 7: Buff and Shape (Optional)

If needed, you can lightly buff your nails to smooth out any ridges or unevenness. Be gentle to avoid over-buffing, which can weaken your nails.

Step 8: Give Your Nails Some Love

After the gel polish is gone, it’s an excellent opportunity to give your nails some extra care. Apply a strengthening base coat and let your nails breathe before applying a new coat of polish or leaving them natural.

And there you have it – your passport to stunning DIY gel nails right at home! We’ve explored the reasons why gel nails are a game-changer, delved into the must-have supplies, and walked you through each step of the process.

With a bit of practice, patience, and the knowledge gained from this guide, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your very own nail artist. No more salon visits for touch-ups, no more worrying about chips and fades. Just beautiful, long-lasting nails that you can flaunt with confidence.