The Beginners Guide to Gel Nails

After getting my first gel manicure done for my my best girls wedding back in November I fell in love and became obsessed! So shiny, so pretty and so long lasting. But I did not fall in love with the price tag! About $45 every two weeks? 

No thank you. 

So for Christmas my family got me everything I needed to do gel nails myself. Yay! It is a bit time consuming and there is a learning curve, so I figured I would share what I have learned over the past couple months and help ease you into doing gel nails at home. 

Granted I am not a professional, this is just what I have found that works for me. If you have any tips you wish to share, please do!

I did lots and lots and lots and lots of reading up on gel nail kits and tips before deciding what to get. You can get kits including everything you need from Walmart, Amazon, even Sephora has their own brand, all ranging from $50 to $150. I ended getting some SentatioNail , some Sally Hansen and some Gelish products. My plans are to buy a little from each brand so I can do a post on what I like the best, so keep an eye out for that post in the future! From the ones I have used so far I really don't feel like there is that much of a difference from each one. 

There were tons of different blog posts that I read on what tips to follow - this blog post from Lulu & Sweet Pea and this blog post from Beautezine were the most helpful to me. Feel free to jump over there and read what those girls had to share as well!

So let's get started. This will be a bit of a lengthy post, so get settled in! 

Here is everything you need;

Lotion with SPF - Sorry, forgot to include that in the pictures! Needed only if you are using a UV lamp.
Nail clippers
Nail buff and file
Cuticle pusher  - You can get bulk orange wood sticks from Amazon for cheap!
Cuticle clipper
Nail cleanser - or just 99% isopropyl alcohol which you can get for super cheap at any drugstore
Lint Free nail wipes - pictured below which I bought for cheap at Sally Beauty Supply, MUST BE LINT FREE
Dual Tipped applicators - (optional) I'll show below what I use these for
Gel base and top coat
Gel nail polish (duh!)
(and for down the road) Gel remover - again you can buy in bulk for cheap from any drugstore 

And from trying out all the techniques I learned, this is what has been working for me;

1. Starting with clean nails - clip nails and cuticles - It's important to make sure your cuticles are pushed down and clipped out of the way to ensure you don't get the gel on your skin. If I skip this and just tell myself, "Oh I can be careful and avoid getting it on the cuticles." I end up with the gel peeling up from my cuticles within a few days. Boo!

2. Buff nails - To help make sure your gel adheres nicely to your nails, it helps to have smooth nails. No need to spend forever doing this, just enough to smooth out any lines or bumps. Plus, this helps buff off any possible remaining nail polish from your last manicure to ensure you are working with a clean surface.

3. Cleanse nail - I bought some Sally Hansen nail cleansing wipes, but went through them pretty fast. So I bought 99% isopropyl alcohol and lint free wipes which work perfectly and end up being cheaper then buying cleansing wipes. This will get rid of the dust from buffing your nails, as well as make sure you have no oils or anything else that would prevent the gel from adhering properly.

- At this point, some people use a nail primer. I have a nail primer from SentatioNail, but I don't feel like it makes any difference if I use it or not, so that's up to you! -

4. Apply a thin layer of gel base coat - Be careful to not do too much as it can pool at the edges of your nail and not cure nicely. Also, be sure to thoroughly coat the tip of the nail, "sealing" it as they say, to ensure it does not peel up from the tip. I also use an orange stick around the edge of the nail to wipe away any gel I may have gotten on the skin. 

5. Cure nail(s) under lamp - I only need to do it 45 seconds, but the time needed will depend on your lamp.

- I start with both thumbs, and then do the remaining nails, one hand at a time. -

6. Apply gel nail polish and cure nail, again for another 45 seconds, depending on your lamp. I then repeat this, doing a second layer, third, and sometimes a forth layer, curing after each layer. Some people do a clear layer between each color polish layer but I haven't found that this makes my manicure last any longer.

-Before curing the color polish I will take a remover soaked dual tipped applicator to remove the polish that I got on the skin-

7. Add gel top coat, again, being careful to not do it too thick to avoid pooling, and thoroughly coating the tip of the nail to "seal" it. And cure for one final time.

8. Remove tacky layer - And finally, you are almost done, but you will find your nails to be a bit sticky, or "tacky". To remove this stickiness, clean nail with alcohol soaked lint free wipe. The wipes must be lint free for this step to avoid leaving lint behind. After this you should have smooth, shiny, lovely nails!

At this point I rub on a little cuticle oil and that's it! You are done! Congrats! If done right gel nails should last up to two weeks. 

And make sure to soak off that polish! Don't peel it off ladies! I am telling you from personal experience, this will seriously damage your nails. It's called soak off for a reason. All you need to do is take a cotton ball soaked in gel remover, place that on your nail, and wrap your finger in tin foil, soaking for 15-20 minutes. 

Clearly this is a bit of a time consuming process, but don't let that scare you off! Once you get the hang of it it will become a pretty easy process. 

And don't throw out all your old nail polishes just yet! Next up I will be sharing how to use your standard nail polishes for gel nails!

Good luck and enjoy! 

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