DIY Gel manicure: How to create professional nails at home

When I was ten my New Year’s resolution was to stop biting my nails. I carefully wrote it down on a little piece of paper in my best handwriting to show my commitment to quitting my bad habit. Thirteen years later, I’m still a biter. Nail biting, as well as being unhygienic, is terribly unfashionable, so throughout the years I’ve tried just about everything to break the habit, from bad tasting polishes to nail extensions, and the only thing that worked for me was a good gel manicure.

For the uninitiated, a gel manicure is a type of polish (or nail extension) that requires being hardened under an L.E.D or U.V light in order to properly activate. You’ve probably seen them being done in salons and nail boutiques, women in rows sticking their hands under an alien looking device being blasted with a blinding blue light. Gel manicures are usually expensive, especially if you opt for having acrylic extensions fitted, and being unemployed meant I had to give them up altogether. Until I got my own gel manicure set, wrapped up nicely and with easy to follow instructions. My manicure habits changed that day, after the initial cost of the set and a couple of good quality polishes, I’ve saved loads of money and haven’t been tempted to get them professionally done since. I love experimenting with my nails and having a glossy, long lasting manicure that I created all by myself so here’s my guide to doing your own gel manicure at home, and getting the best results.

Step One:
Make sure you have good quality equipment. Amazon has hundreds of sets for a variety of prices but make sure you read the reviews before you buy. My set included a U.V lamp for curing my nails, acrylic tips and the gels for building them up, nail primer and cuticle polish, acetone and finishing wipe, plus all the added extras such as files, a cuticle stick and a buffer.

Step Two:
Invest in some extra polishes. If your kit didn’t come with a base and top coat, invest in some as they’re crucial for the coloured polish to set properly. Check Amazon or other reputable sites for U.V Gel polishes and be amazed at the variety of colours they have. There’s even thermal colour changing polishes which are my favourite. I usually buy Bluesky chameleon polishes, because they do glittery colour changing nails which are basically too cool not to have.

Step Three:
Prepare your nails properly. Your kit will come with instructions on how to do so properly, and doing it correctly will make all the difference. You’ll need to clean your nails thoroughly and push the cuticle back before applying nail primer and base coat. Although it sounds like hard work, it usually takes a matter of minutes, and you can do it in front of the TV.

Step Four:
Avoid your cuticle at all costs! Never underestimate the instructions in your kit, avoid your cuticles at all costs when painting your nails, and try to avoid accidentally overlapping the edges of your nail as I’ve found this will cause your beautiful nail varnish to lift a little and eventually peel away from the nail.

Step Five:
Use up to three coats! This is important, the first time I used my kit I put one huge blob of nail varnish on my nails and cured it under the lamp for two minutes, it was uneven, the edges lifted off, and worst of all the colour changing properties didn’t even activate. Three light coats is enough to get the best results, curing under the lamp before each new coat and finishing with a light and even lick of top coat. You don’t need to be a professional to get good results, I can’t use my left hand to paint my right hand without making mistakes, but a little acetone will erase any smudges and they always end up looking nice.

Step Six:
Don’t forget the finishing wipe! When your manicure is done, use the finishing wipe that’s included in your kit to take off the tacky layer and be left with a strong, shiny manicure that will last you ages. My manicures often last me three to four weeks and allow my nails to grow long and strong.

Step Seven:
Embrace the jealousy! If you follow the instructions and paint carefully you’ll end up being the envy of your friends and once they find out that you did it yourself, they’ll be queueing up to get you to do theirs too.

PHOTOS: Buzzfeed