Applying gel nails gives you the strength of acrylic nails with the appearance of natural nails. When applying gel nails, you don’t get the strong fumes that you get when acrylics are applied. The gel hardens under UV light. Each layer has to harden under this light for two to three minutes. This creates a chemical bond that connects the gel to your nail.
Prepping Your Nails
File and shape your nails. To get the ultimate look from your at-home gel nails, start with the ultimate blank nail. Take the time to cut, file, and shape your nails. Before you cut them, decide what shape you want. Cut the basic shape and then file the tips. Finally, finish shaping by rounding the surface of your nails with a buffer.
- You can create round, square, pointy, almond, or oval nails.
- Because gel nails are based off of your nails, this is when you shape your nails. It is not like applying acrylic nails that can be shaped during/after application.
Use cuticle remover. Once you have the basic shape to your nail, apply a cuticle remover around the base of your nails. Use a cuticle stick to push back any skin off of your nail plate. Remove any remaining oil or debris from your nail with a cotton ball that’s been dipped in acetone.
Apply your base layer.
Apply a very thin layer of your basecoat to your nails. For gel, you use a much thinner layer than you would with standard nail polish. Be careful when applying your base layer: you don’t want to get the gel on your fingers. Let your base layer dry for twice as long as recommended.
Applying the Color
Apply 2 thin layers. Once your base layer has dried completely, apply another extremely thin layer. This will be your color gel. It will probably look streaky, but that is normal for the first layer. Make sure to use these colored layers to paint over the tip of your nail as well as over the surface. This will keep the gel from curling back off your nail.
- Cure each layer under a UV lamp for 2-3 minutes.
Apply your top gel. Coat your nails completely in your top gel. Paint over the tip, like you did with your color gel. Once again, cure the gel polish under a UV light for 2-3 minutes.
Remove the tacky.
Some gel methods leave a tacky, sticky layer on and around your nails after curing the top gel. If this is the case, simply take a cotton ball dipped in isopropyl alcohol and wipe over the tacky. Finish off your gel manicure by rubbing a cuticle oil into the skin around the base of your nail.
Removing Gel Nails
File off the top layer. To remove your gel nails, you first need to file off the top layer of the gel. This will take away the shine. Only once the shine is removed can you move forward in removing the gel.
Cover cotton balls in 100% acetone. The gel won’t come off if you don’t use 100% acetone. Take 10 pieces of cotton balls and soak them in your acetone. The cotton balls should be big enough to cover your whole nail
Wrap tin foil around your fingertips. Take one of you cotton balls and place it on your nail, covering your entire nail. With the cotton ball in place, wrap the nail and the tip of your finger with tin foil. Do this over the rest of your nails.
- It is recommended to do this one hand at a time. It is very difficult to use foil-covered fingers to wrap the second hand.
Let sit and then remove one at a time. Let the foil stay wrapped for 15 minutes. Don’t try pulling it open to check if it’s working—keep it shut. After 15 minutes, remove the wrapping one nail at a time. The gel will have started to peel back. Use a cuticle stick to push the gel off your nail.
- If there is gel stuck that you can’t remove with the cuticle stick, re-wrap your nails with another acetone soaked cotton ball and foil. Let sit for another 15 minutes and try again.
Finish with cuticle oil. Once again, you want to finish with cuticle oil. Massage cuticle oil into the skin around the base of your nail.
- If your nails look rough, apply cuticle oil to the surface of your nail and buff them using a nail buffer.