Gel Manicure At Home | Tips & Tricks You Need to Know

I’ve been doing my own gel manicures for almost five years. The convenience and ease of a do it yourself gel manicure at home can’t be beat in my opinion.

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Sharing a step by step guide for how to do your own gel manicure at home and make them look professional. Read on for tips and tricks on how to do gel nails at home.

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Everything You Need for At Home Gel Manicure

  1. UV LED Gel Nail Lamp—This is the one I have and I absolutely love it. I also purchased it for my mom, since she started doing her own gel nails at home, too.
  2. Gel Removal Manicure Kit — The nail polish clips, and the tools in this kit make it easy to prepare your nail for gel application, as well as help you remove your gel manicure.
  3. 100 % Acetone—I found this professional grade acetone works a lot better than the typical acetones you’ll find in the beauty aisle,
  4. Cuticle Removal Kit— Pushing back your cuticles, trimming them and also using lots of cuticle oil is what will make your gel manicure look professional, and last longer. This kit also includes a glass nail file which I highly recommend.
  5. Gel Nail Polish Base and Top Coat— I’ve purchased this combo three times and will continue to buy it. I absolutely love the ease of application and that you don’t have to wipe your top coat with alcohol.
  6. Gel Nail Polish —These were my most recent purchase, I love the variety of color combination.
  7. My favorite “milky white” nail polish.

Shop all of these products via my Amazon Storefront.

How to Apply Gel Polish at Home

Like anything in life, applying gel nail polish at home takes practice, but with the tips below I am confident even a beginner can apply a gel manicure at home using these methods.

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Prep Your Nails

I am a firm believer that a good nail prep will yield professional results. I like to shape, push my cuticles back and gently buff my nails before applying gel.

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Apply The Base Coat

Unlike regular polish, for gel polish to hold well on your nail, your nail needs to be completely dry, not oily and most importantly not too smooth.

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I like to file my nail bed gently to create a slightly rough surface for the gel to bond well with my nails.

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If you find that your nails are generally oily, I would suggest first applying a PH bonder.

Then apply a very thin coat of the base to your nails. There is no need to cure your nails between PH bonder and the base.

Tip: Make sure to avoid touching skin or cuticle when applying the gel base to your nails. If you cure it with the liquid touching your skin your gel manicure will lift.

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To correct any mistakes or lift off the base liquid from your cuticle or skin use a toothpick with a tiny cotton ball and acetone.

Cure your nails for 120 seconds.

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Apply Gel Nail Polish

The trick here is same as applying your base coat. Apply a very thin layer of gel nail polish.

Remember when you go to a salon, the manicurist usually does 1-3 very thin coats. Same here. Very thin, barely there coat for the first layer of the polish.

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Cure again for 120 seconds.

Apply another very thin coat of your gel polish and cure again. Do not be tempted to go thicker for the second coat, instead cure and apply a third thin coat of the polish. Trust the process.

Again, don’t forget to wipe off any excess polish from skin and cuticle before curing or your gel manicure will lift.

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Seal Your Gel Manicure

Once you are happy with your polish application time to seal the manicure with the top coat. How are you going to do it? A very thin coat. Yes. Thin coat of the top coat. Removing excess polish from skin and then curing for the final time.

Additional Tips for Perfect at Home Gel Nails

There are a few reasons why your own DIY gel manicure isn’t lasting as long as the salons:

  1. You didn’t prep your nails correctly. Gel base adheres best when nails are completely dry and have a little roughness on them. Gently file the bed of your nails so that the base has something to grip to, and don’t wash your hands or apply lotion prior to applying gel polish.
  2. Your polish coats were too thick. Gel mani at home works best when you apply very thin layers of polish instead of one thick coat. If your polish lifts right up chances are your application is to blame.
  3. Your top coat or base or polish seeped through to your cuticles or skin. If you cured your top coat and it touched skin your gel many won’t set properly. Instead make sure to wipe around the nail bed to ensure there is no residue before curing.
  4. After much trial and error I realized it’s important to keep the same name brand across all of your products. I’ve updated this post to reflect this. I now use Gaoy base, gel polish and top coat.

How to Remove Gel Nails at Home without Damage

One of the best things you can do to avoid damaging your nails is to never pick your manicure off. If you notice it’s starting to chip or lift, don’t pull it.

When you peel your gel nail polish from your nails this action also lifts off the top layer of your nail bed, leaving you with thin, flimsy nails.

Instead, as soon as you notice that your nails are chipping or lifting. Cut the lifting with a small scissor or cuticle trimmer and then begin the process of removing gel nail polish at home.

First, you’ll need to buff away the top “shiny” layer of your gel manicure. You cannot take the gel polish off without first removing the top coat which acts as a sealant.

To remove the top coat gently buff your nails until all shine is gone. I like using these nail files for this project. I find they are very efficient and inexpensive.

Next we are going to soak a cotton ball in our 100% acetone and place the soaked cotton ball on our nail.

You can wrap your nail in foil to hold the cotton ball in place, or you can use these clips. Personally, I find the clips are easier to manage.

Wait for about 10 minutes and then check if your nail polish has lifted. If you find some spots are still sealed I would suggest soaking your polish a little longer.

One all of your gel nail polish has soaked off, use this tool to gently scrape any leftover polish.

Note: if you find yourself scaping hard to get the polish off I would suggest soaking the nail in acetone again instead of damaging your nail.

After your nail polish is off, I recommend soaking your nails in a nourishing cuticle oil.

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