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Monday, October 28, 2013

DIY Gel Nails

Hey all!  Happy Monday!  As promised, I'm sharing my gel nail tutorial today.

I used to wear acrylic nails for a long time.  They were durable and fairly inexpensive, but you had to get a fill every other week.  I feel like that was kind of a time suck, and I was ready to not pay money to have my nails done.  I had Sue (my favorite nail lady in the world) do gel nails one day.  IT'S SO EASY!

I have paper thin nails, so the gel isn't as durable as the acrylic, but the gel does make your nails significantly stronger.  Besides missing Sue, seriously it feels like we have broken up, doing my own nails has saved me a ton of time and money.

*Side note: One day when G and I were still dating, I was getting a pedicure on my disgusting hobgoblin ex-ballerina feet, and Sue told me, "You no marry doctor husband with these feet."  I admired her honesty, and we became BFFs.  I miss her so.

ANYWAYS, on to the gel nails.

Here's What You Need:

Light (Buy It Here)
Acetone (Buy It Here)
99% Isopropyl Alcohol (Buy It Here)
Paper Towel
Base Coat (Buy It Here)
Color (Buy It Here)
Top Coat (Buy It Here)
Glass Dish
Cuticle Cutter
Good TV shows on the DVR

*Please pardon the poor photography and the fact that my wedding ring is coated in hairspray

Step 1: Removing the old gel polish

First, take a coarse nail file and gently file the nail beds.  You want to take the shine off of the polish and just gently buff them.  This helps the acetone really soak in.

Next, pour a little acetone in a glass bowl.  Just enough to cover your fingernails when dipped in there. It will end up looking like this.

Keep your fingers in the bowl for about 5 minutes.  You will see the polish start to bubble up and flake off.  I take some cuticle cutters and gently scrape/peel the polish off.  You may need to repeat the process for stubborn pieces of polish.

Some people do the cotton and foil thing, but I'm not into it.  I feel that this is easier and takes less time.

Step 2: Prepping your nails

If you have nothing on your nails, start at this step.  Take a "zebra" nail file (I've tried others and this works the best), and file the last bits of the polish off.  

Purchased at Sally's
Before: You can see little bits of remaining polish, file that off.

Roughen up the entire surface of your nails.

After: This is what they should look like when you're done
I usually trim my cuticles at this point as well. Pushing them back and trimming them will help for applying the polishes.

Next, take a paper towel (cotton rounds shed) and get it wet with alcohol.  Rub the alcohol over each nail.  This removes dirt and oil from your nail beds and helps the foundation stick.

*Important* Don't touch anything after you put the alcohol on your nails.  You want them to stay as clean as possible.

Step 3: Putting on the foundation

Ok, this is where shiz gets real.  It's super important to take your time.  Being sloppy will cause your manicure to peel, so be careful.  Apply the base coat or gel foundation (whatever your brand calls it).  You want to paint your nails like regular, but DO NOT let it touch the sides of your nails.  Once you let it cure, it spreads out a tiny bit, and if it hits your cuticle, it will peel in a few days.

Keep an imaginary 1-2 mm border between polish and your nail.  After you have the base coat on, put your nails under the light for 2-3 minutes.  They will still be tacky when you take them out, but don't worry.

Step 4: Applying the color & top coat

Apply the color the same way you applied the foundation.  Let cure 2-3 minutes between each coat.  I always do two coats.


Next, apply the top coat, and you guessed it, stay away from the edges of your nails.  Let it cure for 2 minutes.

When you take your nails out from under the light, they will have a tacky coating on them.  Take a paper towel wet with alcohol and rub it over the surface of your nails.  This removes the stickiness and makes your nails super shiny.

That's it!  Enjoy!

Anyone else do their own gel nails?  Do anything differently?

Don't forget to link up with Kylie and I and let us know your favorite things for November! Link up on Nov. 1st


  1. Very cool! How does it last with all the harsh soaps and hand sanitizer at the hospital? It's why I never paint my nails bc as soon as I go to work it's chipped! And can we talk about how gorgeous your ring is?! Good lord it's huge!

  2. Love the color you used! They look so shiny. Mine always break so I should really try the gel polish!

  3. How long does it last? Does it chip?

  4. Nothing lasts on my nails!! I have tried several different trypes of gel with no luck! I may give this a wirl though!! Thanks for sharing. PS your ring is still beautiful with the hairspray on :)

  5. Love this!! So impressed that you do your own nails.. It's a lot harder to find time to get out of the house to get my nails done with a baby, so I might have to start trying this out!

  6. I paint my nails the night before with regular polish (not the gel). I don't use a base coat. The next morning I apply a two top coats of gel (same brand you use) and let the light do it's magic in between each coat. It works great and looks just like gel polish. It also allows you to use all the polish you currently have. Mine usually lasts at least a week and half.

  7. That UV light is legit, and with the cost of it you SAVE in the long run! I might have to get one!

  8. This is GREAT! I've been looking for a post just like this. Going out and buying the system asap!

  9. I have been wondering if I should bite the bullet and buy a kit! Thank you for the post. And holy WOW your ring is beautiful-even covered in hairspray ;)

  10. I'm going to have to try this out!!

  11. What I would give to be able to paint my own nails! I fully believe it's a natural born talent :-) ps- your ring is GORGEOUS!

  12. Just found your blog through Skinny Meg! I do my own gel nails too! It's expensive to get them done in the salon every two weeks, plus it's a pain to constantly have to make an appointment. I love doing them at home!

  13. And then I realized you linked up for our Taste of Tuesday.. I'm an idiot! I knew your blog looked familiar! :)

  14. I just tried to calculate how much I spend on getting my nails done and I really hope my calculation was wrong because it is a CRAZY amount of money!! Your nails came out sooo nice! I'm very tempted to purchase that machine and try it at home! Is it really hard to do? How long would you say it takes?! p.s LOVE your blog! :)

  15. Took me the same amount if time as regular polish. Actually less if you count that each layer dries in less than a minute under the LED light I have. I started with the Gelish starter kit. Cheap way to start and see if you really like it.

  16. talk about how you get the gel off! Um polish remover does have to have a nail drill to get it off..

  17. Preventing blood flow prevents diluting the phenol or sodium hydroxide solution and keeps the chemicals strong enough to adequately destroy the nail root/matrix.resources


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