Friday, May 31, 2013

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About DIY Gel Nail Polish *but were afraid to ask!

I have bad nails for polish.  Seriously, I will get a manicure or do a meticulious DIY one and wake up the very next morning with chips.  Manicures don't last more than a few days . . . sometimes hours.  So when I first heard of gel polish I couldn't get into the salon fast enough.  My first gel manicure lasted almost three weeks.  THREE WEEKS! I continued to get them more or less monthly for the better part of a year, until I finally decided that $45 ($70 including pedi and tip!) was just too pricey for my cheap side to bear.

After fiddling around with better base and top coats (Orly Bonder base coat and Seche Vite top coat gave me fast drying, high shine results that lasted 2-3 days without chips, which was better, but still a far cry from gel), I started looking into DIY gel options.  My first try was with the "sounds too good to be true" Nutra Nail Gel Perfect UV free system.  Waste not your money on this stuff, ladies.  If anything, this polish was more brittle and chipped faster than regular polish for me.  I had massive chips within an hour or two.  It was also approximately 3 1/2 bitches to remove fully.

I then tried one more "gel like" "lamp free" option, Revlon's Colorstay polish.  The first time I tried this stuff I did so using Bonder and Seche (see above links) and it peeled off in sheets within a day.  I gave it another try alone, no base or top coat and that mani did last about a week with major tip wear, but no actual chipping.  The shine left a lot to be desired, but might be improved by use of Colorstay's base and top coats in conjunction with polish.  I wouldn't write this stuff off, if you have "good" nails and your polish generally lasts a week or so.  It is not, however, a substitue for real gel.  And by this point, after experimenting for a few months with alterntiaves, I was jonesing for the hard stuff again.

I came to the realization that I was going to have to buy a lamp.  Now, most UV lamps contained in drugstore kits are not big enough to fit a whole hand in, so you end up DOUBLING your UV curing time doing 4 nails, then a thumb, 4 nails, then a thumb . . . multiply that by a base layer, 2-3 layers of color, a top coat . . . and your at home mani is going to take two full episodes of Mad Men.  

I ended up going with a 36W UV bulb lamp from Amazon, which is very similar to the ones my salon uses.  The price was right and it has been serving me well for a year with one catch: the bulbs are harder to find than a needle in a haystack.  I had one burn out and have twice ordered replacements from various Amazon sellers, none of which have worked.   I still haven't figured the bulbs out, to be honest, but I'm using my lamp effectively with just 3 bulbs for now and will likely either buy a new lamp or invest in a more expensive, but bulb free, LED lamp when my current lamp craps out completely. 

When you first get started, you'll need either a kit which includes all of the basic top and base products or, just a bottle each of base coat, top coat, ph bonder and regular drugstore rubbing alcohol.  Gelish and Red Carpet Manicure both make kits which I can vouch for.  You're going to want to stick with well known brands for your basics.  Gelish and Red Carpet are both great. Once I tried to save a few bucks and tried IBD Gel's top and base and my polish  peeled off whole within 48 hours. Buyer beware! There are lots of inexpensive gel polish brands out there, and predominately I've found that bargain color polishes work fine with Gelish or Red Carpet basics, but you MUST have decent basic products in order to get results that will merit your money and time investement.

I realize this is starting to sound complicated, but I promise once you get all of your products, DIY gel is easy as pie.

Now, colors!  I have had good results with Gelish, Sensationail, and IBD (although again, DO NOT buy their base and top coats!). I'm mixed on Red Carpet colors because I have a black that is all but unusable and a red that is ok.  If you're going for a dark, opaque color, I think you are "safest" choosing from Gelish's range.

Now, I'm sure at this point you're thinking "I just spent $50 on all the things BESIDES colors, can't I just use one of my zillion regular nail polishes with gel base and top coats?" The answer to which would be, sorta.  Gel top coat cured in a UV lamp over regular polish (no gel base required) will last about a week chip free for me.  There are two catches:  1) The regular polish must be BONE DRY before the gel topcoat goes on or the color polish underneath the cured gel will pucker (Use of Seche Vite before a gel topcoat can usually accomplish full drying if you wait 30-45 minutes before applying the gel. Yep. Two topcoats.  I warned you there were catches!) . . . and . . . 2)  Gel topcoat over regular polish is 9zillion times harder to remove than gel topcoat over gel polish.  Gel tends to come off in chunks, gel on top of regular polish does not. There is much scraping and buffing and gnashing of teeth . . . to the point where regular polish + gel topcoat *basically* isn't worth doing.

So! You've got your lamp, your basics, your gel polish.  The process is pretty simple.  Clean your nails with alcohol using a paper towel (cotton leaves lint that gets cured in the gel and will piss you off for the duration of your manicure).  Use PH bonder (liquid that you paint on each nail, no curing afterwards).  A coat of base, cure for 2 minutes.  2-3 coats of color, curing for 2 minutes after each coat. A coat of top coat, cure for 2 mins.  Wipe nails off with alcohol on a paper towel. DONEZO.  Since I know you're doing math in your head right now, you probably have already figured out that we're talking 16-20 minutes of curing time, depending on whether you do 2 or 3 coats of polish. However, with practice you can do a full set of 10 nails in 30 minutes or so and your nails will be done, fully dry, rock hard at the end of that time. 

My salon gel manicures have been known to last 3 weeks.  My at home manis last one to two.  So there IS a bit of compromise on the durability end of things, but again, I'm not spending $45 a pop and I can do my nails in my pjs while drinking beer and watching TV, so . . . .

And now you know!


Michelle Whiting said...

have you ever tried to do two top coat layers of gel top coat to make it last longer? just wondering if that might help.

RitzzCrackerr said...

can i add rhinestones or glitter to the finished product (nails) or would that ruin everything?

HollyLynne said...

You could! You would want to double up on topcoat though and the more layers, the sooner they will peel.

Kevin Klinefelter said...

if you want to use regular nail polish as a gel mani you have to do whats called a (gelly sandwich) and I promise it will last just as long as a full gel manicure ! You MUST use a gel base or foundation coat first, such as Gelish foundation, or a clear gel builder or regular clear gel such as IBD gels, or really any uv cured gel base/foundation polish. Then your colored nail polish, preferably OPI because those tend to be the most opaque and I find that they dry much faster and better than most other brands, especially when you do two thin coats rather than one really nice coat. Then you would use a gel top coat to finish it off of any brand just like the gel base, but I suggest you use the same brand for the base and top coat so your results are more reliable and consistent.

These directions go for the same with any product you may use but I'm going to explain it with using the gelish products for the sake of less confusion… 1) You must buff the nail first removing all shine and then using a nail prep or dehydrating liquid for the best adhesion of product. 2) Take Gelish foundation base coat and apply one even coat to nail staying away from cuticles and skin, remembering to cap the free edge to create a nice new nail surface for the nail polish and cure it for 2-3 minutes in your UV lamp. 3) Once cured, use your cleanser or alcohol with a lint free wipe to remove tacky layer from nails so that its now a clean hard clear gel surface. 4) Next take your choice of any color nail polish, preferably OPI and paint on two thin coats, allowing the first coat to dry before painting on the next. Doing two thin coats allows you to get a nice even coat of color that is completely dry, instead of having the problem of trying to do one thick coat of polish that might not dry completely making the next step of top coat not cure properly. This is very important*** 5) Lastly, you will take your Gelish Top It Off top coat and paint a even thin coat all over nails , again staying away from cuticles and skin , making sure to cap the free edge then cure for 2-3 minutes in your UV lamp, and again take your lint free wipe and cleanser to remove tacky layer and then you're finished.

At this point you should have a nice new beautiful set of nails to show off, that you did on your own and will last just as long as any gel manicure you'd get in a salon (: doing this "gelly sandwich" process allows you to have a bigger selection of colors and a cheaper way to make your manicure last much longer than regular nail polish by it self! following these steps will ensure that it doesn't chip and last 3 weeks with out all the problems you seem to be having with the process you were using in the above posts. I hope this was helpful and gives you a better outcome for your DIY nails. Happy Painting everyone :) -Kevin Klinefelter

Unknown said...

When I apply my 1st coat of color why does it gather up towards the middle of my nail. The edges end up looking like they missed the polish all together. Does that make sense?

Catalina Herrera said...

When I apply my 1st coat of color why does it gather up towards the middle of my nail. The edges end up looking like they missed the polish all together. Does that make sense?

Joanne Billington said...

I got my first gels for Christmas and have played around swatching all my new colours on the plastic nail things. Did my first manicure and found it all relatively simple. 3 weeks later and still no chips but I did have a lot of growth so I decided to remove. Watched lots of tutorials and read loads before attempting this but still had a nightmare time. I buffed the nails to remove the shine then placed 100% acetone onto foil remover wraps and wrapped my fingers. 20 mins and nothing no sign of lifting. Added more acetone and rewrappd 25 more minutes some slight lifting near the cuticle but the rest was totally solid. After around 90 minutes in foil I was able to chip most off with an orange stick and file the rest. The "just push it off with your finger" removals in the videos were just a pipe dream. Am now very wary of putting more on. Was there something obvious I did wrong? I wasn't expecting a 5 minute removal but also wasn't expecting it to take me over 3hrs to do both hands. Any ideas or advice gratefully received!

Susan McDermott said...

Wow, great that it lasted so long... Did you use the foundation coat? I'm sure you did but I'm trying to think of what made it take so long. The only other thing is did you use Pure acetone? I know you're supposed to use pure acetone. Well good luck with it all.

Joanne Billington said...

Yeah used the Base coat that came with my kit. The remover also came with the kit but I checked it is pure acetone.