Gel Nails At Home

I recently got a very basic gel nails kit, which consists of UV activated gel, a brush, and a UV light. The cost of the kit was the same as 1 or 2 gel nail applications at a salon, so I thought I’d give it a try. I have had only a couple of salon experiences in Japan and generally don’t want to repeat them!

The material in the kit is pretty cheesy. The gel itself is pretty hard to work with, but this could be my lack of skill rather than a problem with the material. The brush fell apart pretty quickly, so I think I’m safe in saying that these implements are not really top quality.

You can add length to your nails with gels and a sort of sticker form that the gel builds on, but this is way beyond my ability. I was aiming to coat my nails in clear gel, cure the gel under the lamp, therefore making a nice protective coating over my recently overbuffed nails. The gel is sort of like a clear, mega-strong topcoat that won’t chip. Or so it’s supposed to be.

I got a rather lumpy surface that stayed sticky and maybe didn’t cure right, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? I cleaned my nails, skipped the buffing as they were already buffed, and applied the gel. It said it didn’t need a primer, but I bet this gel will lift by the end of this weekend because of the lack of priming. My mom got her nails done at a salon without the primer, and they were lifting within 7 days. So I’m a little sceptic but we’ll see what happens.

Also, in addition to my lumpy gel job, you get to see my HOT NAKED TOTALLY BARE nails. XXX!

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No gel on the left, gel on the right.

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The UV light. Basic but it seems to get the job done.

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The gel is about the consistency of clover honey. It’s not that easy to control, and the brush stiffened up halfway through. I was able to clean it easily with some solvent, though.  The instructions said to brush on a thin coat, cure for 30 seconds, brush on a second coat, cure for 30 seconds, and then brush on a third coat and cure for 2 minutes.

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My whole lumpy gelled-hand. I haven’t gotten around to doing my left hand yet. I hope practice makes perfect!

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About nevertoomuchglitter

Nail artist. Wanderer. I'm a color-holic, in fact, it was my love of color that brought me to the nail art world. Well, that, and the fact I was too cheap to pay crazy Japanese prices for nail polish while living in Tokyo, so I had to start mixing my own. That's how NTMG began.
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23 Responses to Gel Nails At Home

  1. Lucy says:

    I don’t have any experience with gel nails. How long does it last on your nails? I hope once you get past the lumpy stage, that it will help your nails. Very annoying when something like this doesn’t come out right. Hope you get some help in the comments.

  2. nevertoomuchglitter says:

    I guess it just takes practice. I was pretty bad at polishing at first too! I can buff the gel but I’m just too darn lazy. The trick is very, very thin coats and I piled it on.

    They are supposed to last several weeks and then need a fill-in, just like acrylic. The nice thing about gel nails is that you don’t have to file up your natural nails before applying them and also the gel doesn’t smell so much. You can polish over gels too. Fall season vampies are coming up and I’m trying to avoid staining from the dark polishes.

  3. Kristine says:

    That is the exact same kit I have! From Rio? The lamp looks the same :-) I haven’t tried it yet, but my plan was like yours, use it to strengthen my natural nails :-)

    Good luck with your left hand :-)

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Good luck to you too, Kristine. :) I got mine from Nailyasan here in Japan, but it seems to work OK. I’m just not technically skilled!

  4. michii says:

    What a coincidence! I was inspired after I picked up the most recent Nail Up magazine this past weekend… so I started looking into gels (possibly Nobility – I’m a sucker for nice ads). I love the strengthening idea. But I’ll have to see.. can’t wait to hear how this works out for you ^_^

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Michii, they seems to work pretty well, but my skill is not so good yet. For the gels, try a US site like Transdesign or 8ty8beauty- the gels are much, much cheaper than in Japan. Even with the expensive shipping, it’s still cheaper than Tokyo prices! Let me know how the gels work for you if you decide to try them!

  5. Violet says:

    I tried gels at home but I couldn’t get it right, my kit sounds quite different though as it didn’t come with a UV light and had a few other chemical components to make it hard. They always look so nice and shiny though so I’m thinking of trying again!

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Violet, I’ve seen those kits too, they are almost like resins that require a chemical hardener. .Those aren’t true gels but if they work for you, sounds good! I like the UV-activated gels because the gel isn’t so chemicall-y, or if it is, at least it doesn’t smell bad.

  6. Rachie30 says:

    there is a salon which is japanese owned called sakura where i live in manhattan. they only use a gel called “calgel” which you can get at http://www.nailderoyale.com.

    the women who do the calgel there are expert nail artists but i plan on giving it a try myself soon. apparently you do not need a primer, bonder or other chemicals when using calgel but you do need a 36 watt UV light which is powerful enough to cure it completely. let me know if you learn any tricks and have fun!

    oh also, i don’t have any pics of my nails but you can see some of their artistry at http://en.wordpress.com/tag/sakura-nail-spa/ or http://seouldiva.com/category/beauty-spot/nails-beauty-spot/.

  7. skgoh says:

    My SIL is a budding nail tech, so I got her to do a gel overlay on top of my right big toenail, which somehow is always peeling and splitting at exactly the same point (I probably have a faulty nailbed). She did the gel overlay last Thursday, and today is Monday and I have already noticed that the nail is peeling under the gel overlay! And since the gel isn’t adhering to the nail under the peel, the split has gotten even deeper since. ARGH.

    What would you suggest for splitting peeling nails? I’ve switched to acetone-free polish remover and use Qtica religiously, but the problem seems to re-occur at that very one spot, only. The rest of my nails are fine!

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Ooh, that sounds like a tough one. When I get splits (not usually in the same places), I use a teabag and some cyanoacrylate glue (the really tough nail glue that’s likecrazy glue) right on the split. Cut a little square out of the teabag, dab on the glue, and then lay the teabag square on the split. This will usually hold it together long enough for the split to grow out. Sort of like the poor man’s silk wraps, but I find it to be very effective for those very low splits that can be super painful. Plus you can replace as necessary, but it should last a few days at least.

      I also take Biotin, a cheap and readily available vitamin (I think it’s Vitamin K) and rumored to make nails stronger. It seems to have helped my nails and it’s certainly not doing any harm, so maybe give that a try. I also use strenghtener (OPI Nail Envy) BUT be careful not to strenghten your nails too much or they will get too hard and brittle. There are “maintenance” nail strenghtener formulas to use after your nails are sufficently hardened.

  8. SC says:

    Just discovered your site! And I love it. You mentioned that the nails stayed sticky after curing. This maybe a gel that requires a cleanser: the tacky finish has to be wiped off with gel cleanser (90% alcohol will also work) This will leave the nail shiny with no stickiness.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Thanks for coming by and for the tip! I’ll definitely give it a try, since the stickies were giving me the blues.

  9. Megan says:

    Hi there,
    Just thought I’d give you a tip. I’m a nail tech, and while I wouldn’t recommend that people do their own nails at home (A lot of bad things can happen if you don’t know how to properly apply nails), I think you’ve had bad experiences at salons in Japan, so it can’t get any worse, right?
    Anyway, here goes. The sticky layer is called a dispersion film, this appears with all gels that are cured under a uv lamp. You just need to wipe it off with a cleanser and you’re good to go. As for the lumps you are getting, I would suggest that you use a 100-180 grit file to buff down those bumps then apply a sealant (if you have one) or one more thin layer of your builder gel. Since the gel you’re using is thin, after you put the gel on one fingernail, put it under the light for 10 seconds or so to freeze it in place then move on to the next finger. When you have your whole hand done, cure under the light for 2 minutes. You should have good results with this.
    Gel nails generally don’t need a primer, some systems use a bonder, but they are all different. To avoid lifting with your gel make sure you remove all of the cuticle that is touching your nail plate and then lightly buff your nail plate with no lower than a 240 grit file, and I cannot stress that enough, you can do major damage to your nail plate if you use a low grit file or apply a lot of pressure.
    Finally, by looking at your picture, I can see that some of your gel is a little too close to your cuticle and sidewalls, I would assume this is because of the runny consistency of the gel. Make sure they do not tough any living tissue, if they do, they will most certainly lift. Oh, and your brush probably stiffened because it was in front of the lamp while it was on. Make sure you keep your products out of any contact with your lamp as even minimal contact with the lamp’s uv light will harden your products.

    Anyway, hope I could help you, and good luck in the future with your nails!

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Thanks so much Megan- it’s great to hear advice from a pro. I do know that doing one’s own nails can be hazardous, but so can a salon where they don’t sterilize tools.Yeech! I do use the lightest touch when filing and buffing and I actually got some IBD gel and a better brush, which is yielding much better results than the stuff that came with the kit. Thanks again for the advice! :)

  10. Sarah says:

    Im really confused by the amount of contradictions accross the web.. Is it ok to cure the gel nails under a 9watt uv lamp?? I have bought one but it took forever to dry the nails and I ended up taking it all off in the end.. however.. some stayed on which I am happy with. When I look for lamps on the web, a lot of them are 9watt.. heeeelp!!!

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      You need at least a 16 watt lamp, or your gel was too thick to be cured by 9W. Aim for the thinnest coat possible while still covering all the nails.

  11. rebecca says:

    hi, just wondering are u using a ‘builder’ gel or just a clear gel?

    The easy way to start is to put pre made false tips for eg. air brusehed tips. I use a 9watt lamp and the trick is thin coats and about 1 minute inbetween layers. and after the final layer i get clients to keep them in the lamp for a good 5 mins and then do a top coat and after the top coat a good 10 mins.

    The key to unlumpy gel is simply dont over work it, get your gel glob and place it in the centre of the nail and work in 3 section, left middle and right .

    So add your gel to the nail and make on nice long brush in each of the 3 sections, dont worry if the 1st layer is a bit bumpy cuz u can fix that up on the2nd or 3rd.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to give us a couple tips! I used the gel that came with the lamp, which I’m guessing is not a very good one. I’ve since tried IBD and had much smoother results. I should post an update, acutally. I’m not smooth as glass but much better since my first attempt.

      I had gel nails done here in Tokyo and they not only cost a bundle were lumpy as heck- I even did better on my first try with the el-cheapo gel, if you can believe it. Thanks again for the tips!

  12. DLK says:

    Thanks for all the info, I would love to do my own, but at looking at the OPI system. All very confusing!

  13. Brene says:

    Hey i just wanted to let you know a few things a) there are steps you missed b) i have a great site with good gels brushes etc.

    Ok things to know do not i repeat DO NOT let your gels be anywhere near the UV lamp! That well make your gels lumpy and cure it.
    Curing your gel takes 3mins per coat not 30sec i don’t know why that company told you that.

    Steps:

    1:Clean the nail with cleaner or for a cheaper way Rubbing Alcohol. You need to take off all the shine and oils dirt your nail has flr gel won’t stick to that surface. also if your going to add a tip do this as well. deydrator your nail buff your nail if it is very smooth.

    2: Put primer on your nials a very thin coat let primer dry DO NOT put primer on a fake tip ONLY your real nail

    3: Apply the gel you want (clear, pink or a color if you want) Pratice this on a fake nail if you want before you do your nails put the gel over your nails don’t get it on your cuticles or have it touching skin cure the one thin layer of gel under the UV lamp for 3 mins. Also i scoop up some gel and start in the middle of my nail and spread it from the top to the tip of the nail.

    4:repeat till you have all your nails done on one hand. or do one finger at a time.

    5: apply the 2nd coat of thin Gel remember less is more. Try to get the gel as close to the edge of the nail without having it touch skin for if it does twi things will happen a) the gel will lift b) it will sting or burn while curing because the gel is shrinking as it curses. cure again for another 3 mins

    6: Repeat step 5 do a 3rd coat of gel.

    7: Check all your nails see if there are any missed spots thin spots, holes than fix them. File the sides so that they look nice.

    8: Now your nail is done but still it’s Sticky you ask well now you have to wipe the tacky/sticky layer off with gel cleaner or again like i said Rubbing alcohol. Use a lint free wipe otherwise you will have lint all over your nail!! Yuck right!

    9: paint clear polish over your gel nails and tada you are all done once they are dry! Congrats You did it :) hope i helped you and some ppl out so you can enjoy doing your own gel nails at home :)

  14. Suni says:

    Awesome!!! I intend to do my nails at home, starting today, I must say, here in South Africa doing your own nails seems so much easier!!! There isn’t nearly as much hassle with gel etc. everything just comes in a bottle which looks exactly like cutex :)

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