Red gel nail polish being brushed on nail

Source: James Lee – CC 2.0











Tools You Will Need

  • 99% Isopropyl Alcohol Lint Free Wipes
  • UV Lamp or LED Lamp
  • Gel/Shellac Base Coat
  • Gel/Shellac Color Coat
  • Gel/Shellac Top Coat

1. Start with Clean & Trimmed nails:

File your nails to the shape you want then use a nylon brush to dust off your nails. Make sure you have no lingering nail polish anywhere on your nails. If you leave any polish on then you will end up with a bumpy manicure, which is never good! Use a nail cleanser to clean the nail so the Gel will stick better. CND Scrubfresh is one of my favorites because it de-contaminates the nail and improves adhesion in one simple step.

2. Push back the cuticles & Buff Your Nails

Apply a cuticle remover on your cuticles and then push back each cuticle with a metal or wood cuticle pusher. If you have tough cuticles then you can soak them in warm water to soften them for one to two minutes before you push back your cuticles. Next, you buff your nails to increase gel adhesion to your nail!

3. Apply the Gel Base Coat

Typically, most gel brands sell a gel base coat, but this can vary depending on the brand. Shake the bottle to blend, then apply the base polish on your nails without getting it all over your cuticles or fingers. Then immediately put your hands under the UV/LED lamp to cure for the prescribed time by the manufacturer of the gel product you are using. Some brands require curing for 1 minute while others require more time. Check the box or bottle for directions or go online to the manufacturer’s website to find out how long you should cure your nails.

4. Apply the Gel Color Coat

Apply one coat evenly and cure for the prescribed time (typically 90 seconds-2 minutes). I really like to layer on and cure a second coat to make the color bolder, especially if I’m working with a sheer polish.

5. Apply the Gel Top Coat

This coat is a critical step and is key in creating a long lasting manicure. Apply a thin and even layer, then cure for the prescribed time limit.

7. Wipe with Alcohol

No I’m not talking about getting boozy and pouring vodka on your hands. I’m talking about 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. Your nails will feel sticky and tacky at this point so you will need to pour a little bit of the alcohol onto lint free cloths. You can use cotton pads – they won’t ruin your manicure but they won’t be as effective. Now your nails will be dry, hardened, smooth and shiny! It’s time to go show off your DIY Gel Nails that your friends will surely think were done at the salon!

Will Gel Nail Polish Ruin My Nails?

This is a common question women ask because the removal process is so different than normal nail polish. Typically women who have very sensitive/weak nails or women who are addicted to gel manicures and get them non-stop back to back are the people who have problems with nail damage. In general, the majority of women can do shellac nails at home safely if they give their nails a break for at least one week in between gel manicures. Improper removal is another main cause for the damage. If you get impatient and scrape it off, this can leave white spots and damage your nails. Ultimately, if you give your nails a chance to breathe and remove gel properly and you’ll be good to keep gellin’.

Is Gel Nail Polish Safe?

Many people are concerned about the affects of using a UV or LED Lamp to cure the gel. woman wearing a white royal nails anti-uv gloveMy opinion is that gel manicures are safe in moderation and are no where near as risky as laying out on the beach in the sun. There are conflicting reviews on the safety of UV Nail Lamps but most dermatologists seem to think it is perfectly safe (checkout this Dr. Oz article for more safety information). There are also safety precautions you can take at home by using Anti-UV Gloves that are only $6, which is a pretty low price to protect your skin!

What is Shellac / Gel?

Gel is a type of nail polish that is extremely long lasting and will go with out chipping for as long as 2 weeks. Different brands chip sooner than others so the timeframe really depends. You will need a UV lamp or LED lamp if you want to do DIY gel nails at home. The only downside is that gel is more difficult to remove then normal nail polish, but it’s totally worth it because you would have to take off normal polish twice in the time frame one gel manicure lasts!! Plus, I will show you how you can remove gel nail polish easily.

Many of you are wondering what is shellac? Is it different than Gel? Shellac is the brand name that the company CND chose for their gel product. So shellac and gel are essentially the same thing. Still have questions on Gel? Check out this guide to learn more.