My secret - although my nails may look like I go to the salon to get them done, I do them myself. Yep. Professional looking gel manicured nails, on the regular, fo' free!...after purchasing the initial gear.
I'm a frugal kinda' gal. Also, sitters are golden in these parts. I don't like to waste valuable sitter time. As y'all know, Joe works late. We don't get family time in the evenings. I prefer we spend his days off together rather than me heading to the nail salon. Instead, when the kids go down at night, I bust out my nail kit and some wine.
The details - There is an initial investment. My kit cost about $160 for everything. I'm set. I've been doing my nails on that for the past six months. Since then, I've spent probably an additional $30 adding more colors to my collection. The bottles are big. They last. Gel manicures with nail art at the nail salon aren't cheap. Going bi-weekly would easily cost $60+ a month. In about three months the supplies pay for themselves. I put all my supplies on my Amazon wish list and got them for my birthday. Just throwing that out there since Christmas will be here before we know it!
To do your own gel nails at home you'll need a UV or LED light. UV lamps cost less but don't work with all gel polishes. LED does, and the cure time is much faster. That's what sold me. You cure after every coat, sometimes using 3-4 coats plus base and top coat. The difference between 30-60 seconds a layer and 2 minutes a layer is big. This is the light I chose after extensive research. If you decide to look around, just be sure that whatever you choose fits a whole hand. Some only fit four fingers. So odd. That quadruples curing time. If you decide to go with a cheaper UV light, be sure the polishes you choose work with UV and not just LED lamps.
You'll also need foundation and top coat. I use Gelish. A prep product is also recommended but you can use rubbing alcohol instead.
Next, your colors. I use IBD. It's a fairly popular brand with good reviews, a good selection and is priced reasonably on Amazon, around $7 a bottle, shipped. Much less than Shellac, OPI and Gelish brands. The reason I choose to use the IBD colors with the Gelish Foundation and Top It Off is because the reviews weren't as good on the IBD base and top coats. I started off with around six colors. I usually add a new one to my collection every month or two. I'm licensed. I can buy supplies at cost. The price Amazon sells them at can't be beat.
Prep your nails with a light buffing and some rubbing alcohol.
Cure times. (with a LED lamp, UV will be more time)
Foundation- 10 seconds
Each color coat- 30 seconds (some dark colors may need 60)
Top it off- 60 seconds
Some tips. Get these sticks. You do not want the color to overlap onto your skin or cuticle. It will lift and peel off your gel. After polishing and before curing, do a check to be sure the polish does not extend off the nail. Also, apply thin coats. More thin coats is better than fewer thick ones. If they are too thick, it will lift.
Now, for the nail art. This will go on after your last color coat and before the Top it off (top coat). If you don't want nail art, then skip straight to the Top It Off.
I use nail stamping for all my designs. YouTube the process, "Konad nail stamping". Konad is the original brand but there are others. I use some of the more affordable stamping plates by Cheeky, but with the Konad stamper, since it's the best. Be sure and wipe over the nail with some rubbing alcohol before stamping. The nail will be sticky from the gel polish and the stamp won't transfer.
Tip: once you get your polish from the metal plate on to the stamper, move quickly. I've had it dry on the stamper and not transfer to my nail more than once. I mean it...really fast.
Keep acetone handy to clean your stamper, scraper and plate when done. I use this one but got it at Target for a third of that price.
If you mess up on your stamp, just clean the plate, stamper and your nail with a quick swab of acetone and try again. I'm a perfectionist. I re-do my designs often to get them just right.
I bought a plate book to prevent getting them all scratched up.
The polishes used for stamping are extra pigmented. There are others that work but I tend to stick with the Konad brand because the consistency and pigment is perfect. There are lots of different colors. I have the white and black and they've been enough to do all the designs I've wanted to do.
After stamping, give it a minute to dry. It dries fast. No lamp needed. Finish with one coat of Top it off and cure for 60 seconds.
The polish and Top it off leave a tacky layer on your nails. When done, wipe that off with a cloth and some rubbing alcohol. Clean excess stamping from your skin with acetone remover.
When you're ready to remove the gel polish, drench some cotton balls in acetone, I break mine in half, and place over each nail. Wrap your finger tips with aluminum foil over the cotton and let soak for about 15 minutes. You can check on them to see how it's coming along. The polish should easily come off.
That's it - my nail routine. If I've left anything out or you have questions, feel free to comment and ask!