So y’all know I’ve always said I’m not a DIYer, I’m a buyer. I’m not the crafty type, probably because I’m too impatient and a bit of a perfectionist. So sewing my own curtains or refinishing a yard-sale find? Uh, never.
For the last few years, I’ve been partaking of (READ: addicted to) salon-created gel manicures; I love the weeks of cushiony, gleaming, chip-proof, practically bullet proof color and shine they provide. I love walking out of the nail salon and being able to buckle myself into my car seat without the fear of mangling a nail. I love that I can wear my nails long and they won’t break.
But that UV LIGHT it takes to cure gel nails…it’s been freaking this sun-phobe out from day one. Even wearing fingerless gloves did not make me feel safer or better about that aspect of it. I don’t care how many doctors have said it’s a minimal amount of UV. I just couldn’t reconcile it. And then there’s the hassle of booking in with my nail girl. And the expense. I needed a solution.
Shifting to DIY
After a brief stint with acrylics (cheaper, gorgeous, but brutal on the nails…plus I couldn’t pick up my bobby pins, they were so thick), and a couple months rehabbing my nails, I got sick of painting every four of five days. Sure, I used to do it all the time prior to 2010, but now I’m spoiled. I thought, something’s got to give.
I knew LED-cured gel systems existed, but my hesitation was always the pain-in-the-you-know-whatty removal process. Then I reasoned with myself. Taking 15-to-20 minutes to remove gels every three weeks sure beats the hell out of removing your polish and repainting every four days (that’s FIVE times in 21 days, plus drying time, etc.). So I started researching. What was best? Sensationail? Red Carpet Manicure? Sally Hansen?
After Googling for the best LED lamps and systems, I happened upon DIY Gel Nails at home by Melissa of Lulu & Sweet Pea. I knew the process for gel manis, having had them so many times, so I didn’t need that info…if you do, check out her posts. Melissa is actually a trained nail tech, and she provides ample details and photos if you want to tackle a gel mani on your own, but aren’t totally sure of the steps.
I wanted to know which lamp and system to buy, and when I read on Melissa’s site that my favorite gel nail polish, Gelish, could be cured with UV or LED, I was sold. Although she cured hers with a UV light, I knew Gelish + LED was for me. I called my Mom and persuaded her to pony up her Sally card so I could buy my set-up with a discount. Gel fanatic that she is, she obliged.
Stocking Your At-Home Salon
In Melissa’s post referenced above, she noted her initial cost was $125, with the Sally discount. Mine was about $140 with my mom’s pro discount. I bought:
- A huge bottle of acetone (for gel removal)
- Two nail filing blocks
- A spoon-shaped cuticle pusher (for gel removal)
- Gelish Go Girl and Gelish Red-Y and Waiting nail color
- Gelish Mini Pro 45 LED Curing Light,
- Gelish pH Bond
- Gelish Foundation
- Gelish Top it Off
Also necessary is rubbing alcohol, but I already had that on hand, and it’s not more than a buck or two anyway. Melissa calls for 99% isopropyl alcohol; mine was only 91% and it worked just fine, for the record.
Does $125 or $140 sound like a big outlay to you? Melissa broke down the cost in her DIY Gel Nails at home post as well. She estimates $35 per visit every two weeks, which is about right for me. That’s $910 a year spent on gel manicures. She estimates $125 twice a year, or $250 annually, for the initial investment and restocking, which is an average of $9.62 a manicure.
But I think it’s even less. You won’t be buying the LED lamp twice a year, so assuming you get the lamp at a discount, that’s $250 minus $65, which is $185. At-home gel manicures every two weeks for a total cost of $185 annually is $7.11 per manicure. That is so much better than $35 per manicure! Worth the investment, I say.
So how was my first experience painting and curing gel on my own nails? Super! And super easy! I have a pretty steady hand when it comes to painting my nails, so that helps. That and the wooden stick I use to clean up polish on my cuticles as I go.
Each layer (foundation, two coats of color, and top coat) was cured for 45 seconds in between, and it was rock-solid by the time I was done. These are the results immediately after the manicure (could have tidied my cuticles a bit more; this is prior to finishing with cuticle oil), but anyway…
I can’t believe how ridiculously simple the whole process was. I’m looking at my fingers at this moment, five days later, and my nails are still perfect. No chips, no lifting…just a little bit of growth. I even gave my mom a gel mani. This is the best thing, like, ever!
My mom (who is my hairdresser) and I now have an arrangement: I do her gel manis, she keeps coloring/cutting my hair for free. Uh, who am I kidding? I owe her for a lifetime of hair services! I’ll never be able to pay her back, but at least I can save her a little money, and have some fun mother-daughter time.
Just do it! You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!