How to Use Gel Nail Polish, for Beautiful Nails at Home
Updated: Feb 24
All the steps on how to use gel nail polish with an UV light. Lots of pictures!
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**Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge
Lets start with......My natural nails are truly awful. In really wish I was exaggerating. I've had nail techs do the gritted front teeth 'EEEE' when I set my sad little mits on the table in front of them. So sad.
When I was younger I tried all kinds of products to strengthen them, and nothing worked. As they grew they bent and tore. They are just sad sad little nubbins. Because of their awfulness, any polish I (terribly) put on wouldn't last more than a day or two.
I decided to go with acrylic nails, and I've never looked back.
I used to get my nails done at the salon twice a month. But after years with the same nail tech, and then trying a few others, I got frustrated.
Don't get me wrong, they had the skills. But I didn't love sitting in the salon forever. I'm incredibly hard on my nails and more often then not, I'd lose one after a week or so, and I'd have to wait until I could get in to be able to have it fixed. Most of all, I got frustrated about the cost. I want to be super clear. I 100% know that you are not only paying for the products, but you are paying for their knowledge and their skills, and their training. I totally get that. But when I decided to be a stay at home mom, paying (at the time) $45.00 for a full set, extra for any designs, plus tips, plus childcare (if I went during the week) and then kind of hating that my time out was spent just sitting there feeling forced to talk......where are my introverts at!?.... I just wondered if I could do it myself.
For less than two full sets of nails, I got my drill and everything I needed. I'd seen this done on my for years, I knew I could do it. My first set was rough, and it took me FOREVER. Maybe the salon wasn't so bad...but I gave it time. The more I did it, the better I got. I learned. I struggled. I got there.
I dove into super simple nail art a little after that. And now I get excited to try new nail shapes and art and designs. If you really want to get good at something, you can. I don't generally have patience for everything, but I've learned to love this process and the satisfaction I get from it.
Fast forward a few years, and now, nail polish is my homie, and I am incredibly comfortable with it. So I was very uninterested in gel nail polish. Not for me. I'm uninterested in learning anything new.....But man I hate feeling trapped with painted fingers.... and trying to put on running shoes and working out with freshy painted toes!? Are you insane!? So I put on my big girl pants, and went for it. Just like before, there's a learning curve, but the reward far outweighs the work!!!! Lucky for you and I have made all the mistakes and asked all the questions so you don't have to!
So here's what you need to get started!
I've included links for my favorites below!
•Nail Polish Remover (I use non acetone for prep, but you'll need acetone to remove gel polish)
•2 in 1 dehydrating and cleansing wipe
•Gel polish in the color of your choice
•Top Coat (regular or matte)
•UV LED nail lamp
You can choose to paint your natural nails, or if you'd like you can get press on nails. I like THESE. Press on nails are nice because they are long and give you a smooth surface with less prep than your natural nail.
Once you have your nails chosen, start by cleaning your nails. Even if you've washed your hands, your nail beds still have oils that will keep your polish from staying like it should.
I use nail polish remover on a cotton pad, and I just give each nails a good rub to get them all clean.
Next I use a buffing block. Buffing blocks have a really fine grit. They rough up the surface of the nail so it will hold you color better, but the fine grit also helps give your nail a really fine smooth surface. Buff all sides, including the tip of your nail.
Now that your nails are smooth, use the 2 in 1 dehydrator and cleansing wipe in the same way you used the nail polish remover. This will get off any other debris and oil.
We are now ready for the gel nail steps!
You're going to take the Bonder, labeled in this set as Step 2. Brush some over every nail and allow to air dry.
The next is labeled as Step 3 in this set, the Base Coat. In gel polish you really really want thin layers. Gel polish is very forgiving, but go thin. With that in mind, brush a thin layer of base coat all over every nail including the tip.
You are now going to cure your base coat. With my UV lamp (Linked above) it takes 30 seconds. You'll want to double check what your lamp says for curing your base coat.
******I want to give you a tip here. When I put my nails in, my thumbs are kind of on their sides. I noticed that my layers on my thumbs had some dripping- for the lack of a better word. To get around this, I polished and cured the other four fingers on each hand first, then went back and polished and cured my thumbs separately so they could sit flat in the lamp.
Now we polish! Remember, thin layers, get the tip as well. Polish four nails besides your thumb if you notice dripping on your thumbs.
Once you have your thin layer of color, BEFORE you cure, dip your brush in the 2 in 1 dehydrator, and clean up any polish that's not where you want it. Once you cure the polish you wont be able to get it off otherwise.
*Note that your nails are "curing" but the wont be dry and smudge proof until your last step.
Cure your first color layer according to the directions on your lamp. Re-polish your nails again, and cure them again (cleaning up any polish on the skin before curing) So at this point you'll have, base coat, cure, polish, cure, polish, cure.
*PLEASE READ!* Sometimes, at this step, you can get what they call 'heat spikes' when curing. What happens is, the UV lamp is literally drying all the layers and this creates shrinking essentially and what you end up with is a really unpleasant, almost burning feeling in your nail beds. To combat this, what I do is, put my nails is for about 3 seconds, pull them back out for a few seconds, and I repeat that two or three times before putting them in and letting them cure normally. I haven't experienced any heat spikes since using this process.
I used a regular top coat for my middle nail since its sparkly, and I used my matte top coat for my other nails since that's the design I was doing. Remember, thin layers!
***If you are using a matte coat, it wont look matte until you cure it. Once you take it out of the lamp, you'll be able to see any spots your missed. They'll still look shiny. Its totally fine to give your nail a second matte coat to hit the spots you missed, and cure it again.
Last step is to take your 2 in 1 dehydrator and cleansing wipe, and put some on your cotton pad, and scrub scrub those nails. Up to this point, the nails will still be tacky, but once you've done this step you will be totally dry and ready to go!
If you have acrylic nails the easiest way to remove gel polish is to drill the color off.
If you used press on nails, simply remove the press on nails according to the directions on the package.
If you have natural nails, you'll need first gently file off the shiny top coat. Next, soak a cotton ball in acetone, place it over each nails and then wrap the nail in tin foil, or you can use THESE cups. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes, and then GENTLY push the gel off using a orange stick. It should come off very easily. If it doesn't, soak them a bit longer. Be super careful here not to dig down into your natural nail. Acetone is strong stuff.
And that's it! Yay! I'd love to see your nails! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to sign up below for emails!
Want to see this nail tutorial? Click the picture below to see the tutorial!