Same Gorgeous Nails at a Fraction of the Cost!
Recently, I shared a poll on Instagram asking if anyone would be interested in learning how to get a beautiful gel mani while saving some money in the long run, and the response was an overwhelming YES! So, today I am going to share with you how I do my gel manicures at home, how I came to find this alternative, and the equipment I use!
First, a little bit about how I got to this point! I actually didn’t find this alternative on my own, and I owe it to my best friend, Kailey (hi, Kails), who showed me how she did her own gel nails, and the rest was history for me! I have always LOVED painting my nails. It used to be my Sunday night routine in high school, I would find some new design to paint on my nails or follow some new trend, and then I would be set for the week. The following Sunday, I’d start all over again. You name it, I had probably tried it on my nails. I used to do water marble nails (a mess, I might add), I had these stencil/stamp things, I would try to draw designs- it was a whole phase! It was really a stress reliever for me too, which is why I kept up with it as often as I did.
Of course, as I got older and started going to proms and formals, it was the “social norm” to go and get your nails done. I never had acrylics, I was too afraid they would ruin my natural nails, so I always stuck with gel manicures. And to be honest, I was rarely ever happy with them. Not to anyone else’s fault, but when the nails weren’t turning out the way I had envisioned, I was too afraid to speak up and ask for them to be fixed/changed. But I always felt like I still HAD to go get my nails done for big events like that rather than do them on my own because I had to stay on top of the trends/be in line with what every other high school girl was doing…
Then I got to college and carving out time to do my own nails was not as easy as it had once been, and I found myself finding a free hour I had on a weekend, getting my girl friends together, and going to get our nails done. At that point, I had found a place I loved to get them done, I thought they looked nicer, and they lasted longer which meant I wouldn’t have to find another free hour in my life for at least a few weeks! But my wallet was hurting. The salon I loved did a great job, but they were a little pricier than salons at home had been. Yet, I still found myself spending money I didn’t really have on trips to get my nails done.
So, last summer I decided to start my research and invest in the tools to do my gel nails myself! First, I had bought a mini gel “lamp” that was on the clearance rack at Francesca’s for $5. I was so excited. It was such a flop! I wish I still had it so I could include a picture of me trying use it, it was hilarious. It just wasn’t quality, the lamp didn’t cure the polish well at all, and most of the time, the time I spent trying to do my nails just ended up being time wasted. I also bought a starter kit that came with a mini bonder, gel base coat, gel top coat, and a polish. Up until last month, I was using the base and top coats from that kit, so a little goes a long way!
I started purchasing other gel polishes, but really what I needed was a quality lamp that I didn’t have to try and squeeze my hands and feet into to be able to use it. Once I got the one that currently use, I never looked back! I think the last time I went and got a gel mani in a salon was last September, so it’s been almost a year since I cut those salon expenses out of my spending. I will say, making the switch and rounding up all the products that you need to start doing your nails at home is a little bit of an investment. But when you compare, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in how much you’ll save! Let me tell you about some the products you’ll want to invest in if you’re interested in diy gel manis!
UV/LED Gel Lamp
A quality gel lamp is really the most important piece of the puzzle! You’re going to want to get a lamp that is a bit larger, big enough that you can put your whole hand in (or toes if you’re doing a pedicure). You’ll also want to make sure that the lamp you get has bulbs around the entire inside, rather than just on the top. This will ensure that every part of the nail is getting hit by blue light and all polish on the nail is being cured. That little one I mentioned I had only had light hitting the nail from the top, and the sides of the polish would often not cure and would wipe right off when I went over them with the acetone when I had finished the paint job! Pictured above is the lamp that I bought, and it’s only $19.99 on Amazon! You can find LOTS of other affordable options on Amazon. Click here to check mine out!
Gel Base/Top Coats and Gel Polish
Obviously, you’re going to need some polish to do your own gel manicure, but regular polish won’t do. You’ll need to get special gel polish that will cure (dry) under a UV/LED lamp, just like in the salon. Typically, you’ll know the difference between regular nail polish and gel polish because gel polish will not come in a clear or see-through bottle. The bottle will wither be black or white, and you’ll have to open up the bottle in order to take a look at the actual color. To start, you’ll need a gel base/top coat! There are two different type of top coat: wipe off and non-wipe off. I’ve used both, but personally, I like the non-wipe off better! With wipe off, even after you cure the top coat, there will still be a bit of a film and you’ll have to wipe the nails off with acetone as your final step. I haven’t seen much of a difference in the two type, wipe off is just an extra step. I’m currently using base and top coats from the brand Beetles, which you can find here on Amazon! Only $7.99 for two big bottles (and they WILL last a long time)!
As far as polishes go, you can find lots of different brands in lots of different places! The top places I would recommend looking for gel polish would be Amazon, Sally Beauty Supply, Ulta, and honestly, scour your local T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s! I have found lots of random gel polishes in the last two, it’s usually hit or miss. The majority of the gels that I currently have are from Amazon, and they are the brand Gellen. What I love about this brand is that the gels come in packs of 6 smaller bottles, so you’re really getting the best bang for your buck. The 6 packs range in price from $15.99-17.99, or they have larger packs of 16 colors for $29.99. There are so many different color sets on Amazon, (Amazon has been the only place I’ve been able to find the brand) so there is something for everyone! I’ll link a set here!
Other Manicure Equipment
- Nail files
- Cuticle clippers
- Nail clippers
- Buff brush (if you’d like)
- Wooden nail sticks
All of the above are just your manicure basics and can be found at your local drug store, or even cheap in a T.J. Maxx/Marshall’s. Those wooden nail sticks will be great because one end can be used to push back cuticles, and the other end is helpful in doing designs if you are into that. Trust me, you CAN give yourself a manicure at home!
- Soak your nails in some warm water to soften up your cuticles
- Push your cuticles back
- Clip cuticles
- Clip nails (if necessary)
- File nails
- Apply base coat, cure under lamp for 60 seconds
- Apply 1st coat of gel polish, cure under lamp for 30-60 seconds
- Apply 2nd coat of gel polish, cure under lamp for 30-60 seconds
- Apply top coat, cure under lamp for 90 seconds
- *If using a wipe off top coat, dab acetone on a cotton ball and wipe the nails clean
- BOOM. You did it.
It is THAT simple!!!
Let’s do the math. Say you go to get your nails done in a salon once a month, that’s about $30 dollars you’d shell out a month, so $360 a year. If you purchase a lamp, base/top coat, and one 6 pack of polishes, it comes to about $45. You spend $45 dollars one time. That’s like ONE pedicure! I mean come on; you CANNOT beat that!
Some other tips/ things you should know:
- When you are getting ready to paint, make sure your nails are clean and dry! I’ve had better luck with the length of time the polish stays on that way!
- It’s better to keep your nails on the shorter/medium length side. Here’s why (and it’s pretty silly): scratching. Weird, right? If you’re anything like me, you scratch a little itch with your pointer finger, and doing this over time with longer nails always leads to my polish peeling sooner than I’d like.
- The odds are good it may not last as long as your typical salon manicure, just to be honest! But sometimes it’s just a game of chance; sometimes my nails have lasted 2-3 weeks and sometimes they start peeling and chipping in a few days. But I think you always run that risk with gel!
- Unlike salon gel, these gels I’ve suggested you use tend to peel right off in one piece with no problem! Sometimes salon gel starts to peel, but then won’t be ready in some spots, so when you peel it up it almost takes a layer of your nail with it. That has not happened to me at all! Your nails will be a little dry, so I would suggest letting them breathe a little bit between paintings (or don’t a keep them painted, whatever makes you feel fab).
- Do your own gel pedicure while you’re at it!
There you have it, my tips and tricks for your diy gel mani! It’s such an easy and affordable change to make in your self-care routine for the long run! PLUS you can save your other friends and family some money too, or convince them to make the switch themselves! If you have any other questions or want to talk more mani/pedi’s, feel free to message me any time! AND if you start doing your own nails at home, I’d love to see how they turn out!