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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DIY Gel Nails at home

I'm really excited for this blog post today because I've been thinking about it for a while. I've been playing around with the idea of investing in a gel nail system for myself so that I can do my own gel manicure at home.

So what's so great about gels? Well, think of it as really long lasting nail polish. It doesn't chip, doesn't lose its shine, and stays on for up to 2 weeks! It cures with a UV or LED light and as soon as it's finished curing under the light the gel is completely dry and hardened. No joke- I went from doing my nails to washing dishes by hand just a few minutes later without messing up my nails at all.
Here's one thing you need to know about me: I am a nail technician. I went to beauty school to become a nail tech and then ended up going back again to do hair. However, I didn't have a ton of knowledge on gel nails until recently because we didn't cover them very much in beauty school. When I was a student, gel nails weren't popular. Acrylics were. So that' mostly what I did in school- full sets of pink and white acrylic nails. I had only worked gel a handful of times in school and never really did them in real life. So while I do have a better understanding of nails in general, I'm still very new myself to the whole gel thing.

Upon hearing all of my old beauty school friends (who are now successful hairstylists) rave about their Shellac manicures, I decided to do my own research. I wanted to try Shellac, but I wasn't about to pay to have them done in a salon when I've been doing my own acrylics for years. I was able to try out some of my friends' gel products and hear their personal experiences and testimonials.

Since I'm also a blogger and an avid DIYer myself, I went to the internet and blogs to try to find some good information on doing gels yourself at home. I read tons of tutorials from various blogs and beauty websites. Most of them were OK at best. First of all, they all lacked pictures, and I need pictures! I have to see what you're talking about. Most of the tutorials just lacked information. Sure, I was able to follow the step by step instructions, but I don't need as much information as the average person because I have experience. I realized that the average woman attempting gels for the first time was probably left feeling slightly confused by these tutorials.

That's when I decided to do my own. I feel like with my professional knowledge and a little of my own trial and error, I've put together a pretty in-depth tutorial on doing your own gel nails at home. I know the mistakes these other tutorials are making because I see it from two perspectives: 1 as a professional, and 1 as your DIYer/beauty blogger.

Before you decide to spend the money on a gel system, there are a few things you need to know about gel nails. I don't want anyone spending a bunch of money on this stuff without knowing the following:
  • A gel system can be expensive when you first start doing them yourself. I spent about $125 on my basic set up.
  • Gel nails can't be rushed. This is a time consuming system that requires patience. If you can't set aside an hour to an hour and a half for your first at home application then this is not for you.
  • You can't skip steps. If you cannot follow the instructions exactly, your nails absolutely will not turn out.
  • Gel nails can't be interrupted. While you're doing your nails, you can't be doing anything else. No eating, no texting or talking on the phone, etc. The nails are not 100% set until the very last step. If anything touches them or contaminates the nail or gel before the last coat is applied, the nails will not turn out correctly.

I decided to get everything I needed for my at home gel manicure from Sally Beauty Supply. The reason I did this was because I wanted to be fair and use the same product that was available to everyone else out there without a cosmetology license

 {not pictured- nail wipes}
*Can substitute Isopropyl alcohol for Cleanser.
**PH Bond is not a must-have, but it's nice to have. If you don't have it you can skip it!
    Here's what you'll need to get started:

    UV or LED Lamp . The UV lamp I purchased can be found here on Sally's website. I've also used this lamp from Amazon and it seemed to work just as well. Both are about the same price when it's all said and done.  As of July 2013, I switched from UV to an LED lamp and I love it, and I highly recommend an LED lamp over UV because the curing time is much shorter and there are no harmful UV rays to worry about. I use the Gelish MINI lamp found here (look on Amazon too). This lamp cures each coat in only 45 seconds! I've also heard a lot of good things about some of the newer store bought kits with LED lamps in them (Like Sally Hansen), though I haven't used them myself.

    Gelish Foundation, Gelish colored nail polish, & Gelish Top It Off. These are the 3 essential steps in your gel manicure. You'll need the Foundation Gel (base coat), the Gelish colored nail polish you want, and then Top It Off to seal your manicure. With your club card, Foundation Gel is $18.95, the colors will run you $12.95 each, and Top It Off is $12.95 as well. That's about $45 for the Gelish products you'll need to do your first manicure. Each bottle should get you 15-20 full manicures.

    99% Isopropyl Alcohol or Cleanser. Most instructions will say you need Gelish Cleanser to do your gel manicure. This is not entirely necessary for doing your own nails at home, and you can substitute 99% Isopropyl alcohol instead- either is fine. *Please note* I am aware that in a salon the nail tech does need to use Gelish Cleanser on the client rather than plain alcohol to correctly follow all safety and sanitation procedures. However, chances are if you're doing your nails at home, you are the only one using the products and this extra step for sanitation isn't necessary. If that is the case, Isopropyl alcohol is perfectly acceptable to use as a substitution.
    Lint Free nail wipes. These are a must. Regular paper towels or wipes are not recommended.
    Sunscreen. If you're using a UV lamp. If you're using LED, you can skip it!
    Basic manicure tools. You'll need a cuticle pusher, a 180 grit file (also called a zebra file. Ask the sale's clerk), a nail buffer, an orange wood stick, and cuticle oil.
    Desk lamp or extra light. You need good lighting to apply your gel nails properly. Grab a desk lamp and make sure your hand is directly under the light while you're applying the product. You should be able to clearly see each nail from every possible angle.

    • Find a comfortable place with  plenty of room to do your nails. Remember, you're going to be spending at least an hour on them, so make sure you have plenty of room to stretch your arms and legs and still not knock over or spill any of your product.
    • While doing your nails it is imperative to not touch anything! Dirt and oils are everywhere, and those are the types of things that contaminate the nail during the application. Before you begin, pull your hair back, put on a headband, go to the bathroom, have a snack, grab a drink, gather everything you need, make sure you have no distractions, and put your phone away! You will not be able to use your hands in any way, regardless of how "careful" you think you might be. (you're not). This also means no touching your face, hair, etc.
    • Read the entire tutorial thoroughly to make sure you understand each step clearly and have everything you need. There are no substitutions for any of the steps involved, so if you skip a step or an item, you will most likely ruin your manicure.
    •  Make sure you have proper lighting and make sure you can see your nails clearly from all angles in the lighting that you have. 
    • Remember, thin, even layers! Applying any of the products too thickly will result in the nails not curing properly.
    • You must cure each individual layer separately!
    • Don't do all 10 nails at the same time. This almost always leads to accidentally touching the tacky gel nails on something while you switch hands, or a step is forgotten or skipped. I'll make it easy for you: break it up into 3 sections. The left 4 fingers, the right 4 fingers, and the 2 thumbs. I prep all 10 nails first (see "prep" below). But when it comes time to apply the gel, do it in 3 sections. Do the left 4 fingers first, from start to finish, completing those 4 nails entirely. Then they will be completely cured and can't be damaged or messed up. Then move along to your right hand and do those 4 fingers from start to finish. Then when they are completely cured and done, do your thumbs last. Trust me when I say this is the easiest way to do your own nails!
     Like this!
     {click to enlarge}

      This is one of the most important parts of any artificial nail application. The number 1 reason most artificial nails fail to stay on properly is due to the nail not being prepped correctly. You must prepare the nail carefully and thoroughly! Be meticulous, take your time, and be a perfectionist. Keep in mind that if the natural nail is shiny and/or oily, nothing will stick to it properly. Prep, prep, prep!!!

      Follow these steps:
      • UV lamp users- Apply sunscreen to your hands. I use SPF 50.Work it in to the tops of your hands and fingers really well. (remember, this is only if you're using a UV lamp. LED users can skip the SPF).
      • Trim or file nails to desired length and shape with your 180 grit file.
      • Using your cuticle pusher, gently push the cuticles back. You also want to push back any dry or dead skin that may be on the surface of the nail. If there is any skin left on the nail, the gel will not stick
      • Use your buffer to gently take the shine off the nail. You want to pay careful attention around the cuticles and try to get as close to them as possible. Inspect each nail from every angle to make sure you buffed the entire surface. If you see any shiny spots lightly buff them away or the gel will not adhere to the nail.
      • Remove the dust with an alcohol soaked lint free wipe.
      You are now ready to apply the gel product. If you need to take a break for anything, now is the time to do it. Once we start the next step you cannot stop until the very last step is complete. Your nails will be sticky and tacky and every little piece of dust or lint will stick to them, ruining your finished manicure. Have I said that you can not interrupt gels enough yet? Good, let's get started!

       
      Dehydrate the nail. Use an alcohol soaked lint free wipe to thoroughly dehydrate the nail and remove surface oils. I know we just did this step in the prep, but I like to do it twice to ensure every bit of oil is off the nail plate.
      These nails have no shine to them at all and have been prepared correctly.

      Apply Gelish Foundation. First, wipe the brush off completely to remove any extra product. Then dip the brush back into the bottle and get a small amount of product on the brush. Most instructions will say to apply it to the nail and then seal the free edge. I do it in the opposite order to avoid the product "pooling" at the tips. Instead, use your thumb to pull the skin back slightly on your index finger. Apply a very thin layer of Foundation to the very tip, or free edge.

       Do this to all 4 fingers.
      Then apply a very thin layer of Foundation all over the entire nail. You want to get as close to the cuticles as possible without actually touching them. This is where the desk lamp comes in handy, because good lighting is a must. If any Gelish product touches the cuticle your manicure will end up peeling off. Be careful not to get it on the skin. If you do, use your orange wood stick right away to clean any of it up. After the entire nail is covered, wipe off your brush again and go over all 4 nails again to ensure that you have a very thin, even coat.

      Cure. Place the 4 fingers under the lamp and cure for 45 seconds. (Times will vary- check your lamp instructions).

      After curing, remove your hand from the lamp. The Foundation is cured, but is still tacky. Most instructions won't tell you this, but I like to wipe off this tacky layer with a dry, lint free wipe. It's a personal preference, and you can choose to leave the tacky layer at this point if you'd like (most people leave it). To remove it, press the wipe down firmly on the nail & wipe the tacky layer off of each of the 4 nails. They should now have a thin, shiny coat of Foundation on them. Again, you can skip this step if you'd like.

      Apply Gelish nail polish. Remember to use your thumb to pull the skin back and seal the free edge first

      Then apply a very thin layer all over the entire nail, staying close to the cuticle.

      Cure. Cure the color for 45 seconds. (Curing times will vary- look at your lamp & gel product instructions).
      When you remove your hand from the lamp, the gel will be tacky. 
      Do not remove the tacky layer at this point! 

      Apply a 2nd coat of Gelish nail polish. Remember to seal the free edge first, then apply a thin layer to entire nail, and cure again.
      Apply a 3rd coat of Gelish nail polish. Depending on how your color covers, a 3rd coat may be required (and then cure it). If you have sufficient coverage with only 2 coats then go ahead and skip ahead to Top It Off.

      Apply Top It Off. As always, apply to the free edge first.
      Then apply to entire nail. Be very careful to apply Top It Off over the entire surface. Anything that isn't covered with this top coat is not protected and will not stick.

       Cure. Cure for 45 seconds.

      Remove the tacky layer. After the final coat has cured, the nails will still be tacky. Use an alcohol soaked lint free wipe to remove the tacky layer from the nails.

      If you've applied all of the product correctly, your nails should be finished and glossy looking.

      Now it's time to repeat all of these steps to the 4 fingers on your other hand. Go back up to the gray and white header that says "seal, apply, cure" and do all of the steps to these other 4 fingers.

      Finally, do all of these steps from start to finish on your thumbs. I cure mine together like this:

      So is it worth the time and the investment?

      Yes! Here's proof:
      Go here to see my 2 week update & read more tips on your DIY gel nails!

      If you follow all of these steps correctly and apply the product as directed, you will end up with a salon quality gel manicure at a fraction of the price by doing it at home by yourself. Most gel systems say they will last up to 14 days without chipping. I can confirm that this is in fact true. My nails lasted the full 2 weeks and were still shiny, with only a few very minor dings in the thumb and pointer finger of my dominant hand.

      The average Shellac manicure costs about $35. I've personally seen it as low as $22 and as high as $50 though, so $35 is pretty modest in my opinion. Keep in mind that's also not including the gas it takes to drive to your appointment, the tip you might have to factor in, or the sales tax you might have to pay. $35 per visit every 2 weeks adds up to $910 for a year of manicures.

      Now here's a look at the cost breakdown for doing them at home yourself: I spent about $125 for my set up. That should get you anywhere from 15-20 manicures, but let's say 15 to be nice. So about halfway through the year you'd need to restock your Foundation and Top It Off, restock your colors, and update your color selection. Say you spend another $125 and get another Foundation, another Top It Off, and 7 more colors for your Gelish collection. That's a pretty well stocked gel system just for personal use. That adds up to $250 for a year of at home manicures. Let's break that down even further and we see that it's 9.62 every 2 weeks! 

      Whether this sounds like a good deal or not is up to you because you also have to factor in the time you spend doing your own nails, as well as the quality of your finished manicure. For me, my manicure looks just as good as one I'd pay for in a salon, so it's totally worth it to do them myself. I'm pretty convinced that with a little patience, practice, and if you study my method in this tutorial you can get great results with your gel nails too!

      Be sure to check out the rest of my gel nail series:

      A two week update is posted here.

      How to remove gel nails is posted here.

      How to fill or "refresh" gel nails

      How to change your gel polish color without soaking them off first.

      How to embed loose glitter in gel nails

      Like this post? Pin it!

      Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Sally Beauty Supply, Gelish, or any other brand mentioned in this blog post. All products were purchased myself and I received no compensation for this post. As always, all opinions are my own

      Linked up here

      150 comments:

      1. Had no clue you could do Shellac nails at home!! And agreed after a couple of times it will end up being cheaper then going to a nail salon.

        xoxo
        Gwen
        oursweetlifeblog.com

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        1. You should definitely check out doing your own before you get them done in a salon :)

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      2. Oh wow, this is pretty awesome! :)

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      3. I loved your explanation and photos.

        I don't love how my nails feel after the gel is removed, so I don't think I'd invest in a home system. I never wore acrylics or anything like that, just my own nails have always been fine.

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      4. Thanks so much for this!! I am definitely thinking about trying this out. Pinning this!! ;)

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      5. I get gels done every once in a while because I find that my nails are stronger when I have them on. I've been looking in to the Sally Hanson gel kit. It's a lot cheaper than this, so I'm probably going to try that first :) Thanks for all of your tips!

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      6. this is the BEST tutorial ever!!!! sooo glad for all the pics and step by step walk through and pricing!!! you rock!!!!!

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      7. This is such a great tutorial! Thanks for posting it :) This is Katie, the person who won the giveaway, and I have to say, I absolutely adore your blog :) I'm honored to have my button here!

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      8. The new thumb pics are definitely better :p

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      9. I actually have been going to the salon to get Shellac...but this gives me the courage to try it at home...and save a few pennies!

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      10. AMAZON.COM!!! :-) Light is 30$, plus Ibd full size polishes are 8$! I am having SOO much fun doing my gels! Thanks for the spf hint, duh on my part! XOXO

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        1. I'm going to start buying some on Amazon now that I've tried a few different brands and know the pricing. Thanks!

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      11. Hi! I was wondering if you've tried doing gels on your toes? I hate painting my toes every 3 or 4 days and this would be great to do myself instead of paying to have them done

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      12. Yes! You can do gel on your toes too :) I forgot to mention that, but you do them exactly the same way. I've had gel on mine for about a month now & it's still shiny and looks almost new! I would definitely recommend it for pedicures! Especially since toenails grow much slower so they are very easy to maintain.

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      13. Thanks! May have to look into this! =)

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      14. Thank! May have to look into this! =)

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      15. The beauty of nails depend on the caring of it. This looks good.

        Sell on Amazon

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      16. I was wondering if you have tried to combine different brands (i.e. Gelish and CND Shellac) to layer and create new colors (each layer cured, of course)?

        Also, do you realize you show pictures of two different brands of pink polish? One of your pictures above shows the Kiss brand gel polish and another picture shows the Gelish. At first I thought it was a bottle of CND Shellac and then I looked a little closer, Ha! Anyway, I know you don't recommend the Kiss so I thought you might want to know you show it in your DIY tutorial pictures. Just as info!

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      17. Have you tried using your regular NON-gel polishes in between the gel base coat and gel top coat? I'm wondering if that would work or not?

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      18. Have you tried using regular polishes in between the gel top coat and base coat? I'm wondering if I can use any of my old colors with this system!

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        1. Yes! I've heard that you can, but I haven't tried it yet. You have to make sure the polish is completely 100% dry before doing the top coat though or else it won't set up correctly. I want to play around & experiment with it, I just haven't had the time yet.

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      19. The Finger Paints gel system is also a good, less expensive starter kit that you can get at Sally. The starter pack, plus LED light, plus 2 polishes ran about $107 with the Beauty Club Card

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      20. As a nail tech myself, can I just say, you totally went the right route in purchasing the gelish system! I've tried every gel polish brand out there and gelish has their base and top coat DOWN. their color formula isn't my fav, I prefer OPI Gelcolor it lasts so much longer for me. but I always, always use their base and top its been compatible with every brand of gel polish color that I've tried.

        I post all of my gel polish pictures on Instagram: @karadcampbell

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      21. As a nail tech myself, can I just say, you totally went the right route in purchasing the gelish system! I've tried every gel polish brand out there and gelish has their base and top coat DOWN. their color formula isn't my fav, I prefer OPI Gelcolor it lasts so much longer for me. but I always, always use their base and top its been compatible with every brand of gel polish color that I've tried.

        I post all of my gel polish pictures on Instagram: @karadcampbell

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      22. I've seen kits at the store with small uv lights included. They are around $50. Have you tried these? I'd be interested in how those hold up.

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      23. Can you use your own nail color (enamel) or do you have to use the nail color that comes with the kit?

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      24. Hi Melissa, I would just like to say thank you very much, your instructions are really nice and clear and for a first timer doing gel nails myself, the results were great :-)

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      25. Great post!! This is really well explained. I was going to get this for my mom for mother's day and then realized how complicated it is. I have also seen the small uv light kits and wonder how well those work.

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      26. Hi I bought an 45w uv lamp from amazon but the colour layers wipe off after curing for 5 mins, and the tio never feels solid. some colour alway wipe of. Any thoughts on this? I can't afford a gelish led lamp.

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      27. Thanks so much for this post! I have an at home gel system, but was having trouble with mine peeling after a couple days. I'm a nurse, so regular nail polish won't cut it. I love my gels and will definitely be using your techniques from now on! :)

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      28. Hello Melissa; did my nails with your tutorial yesterday for the first time ever and it came out great! So thank you!!!

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      29. Love your tutorials!! Thank you!! Just wish I had read them before I did my nails:-(. I really like Gel II products, so used those. I used their shiny top coat, cured my nails for 3 minutes, then wiped them off with the alcohol. The problem is that it tool the shine right off. What did I do wrong?

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      30. Awesome post!! This might be well revealed. I was going to get this for my personal mother for mother's time following recognized how challenging it is truly. we have furthermore observed the little uv light kits and additionally magic how actually those work.

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      31. Thank you for this tutorial! The instructions with the kit (Sally Hansen) I bought weren't as detailed and it peeled the second day in. I found your tutorial and tried again and I'm going on day 5 with no peeling or chipping. At this rate I may get tired of the color before it's time to remove it!

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      32. Very helpful tutorial! Excellent blog right here! I was just searching for this information for a while.Very effectively written information.There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.

        Gel nail polish

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      33. excellent explanation. Can you put nail tips on and then do gel polish also?

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      34. Absolutely! You can use tips if you have shorter nails or if you want to extend the natural nail :)

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      35. That is SO great to hear! I'm glad I could be of help & I hope your nails are looking fab

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      36. Hmmmm...I'm not really sure. I've never had that happen before...maybe it's the brand?

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      37. That is SO great to hear! Yay :) You're welcome and I'm glad you found the information useful

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      38. Awesome! Let me know how they turn out after you try some of the new tricks you learned :)

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      39. i've been doing my nails at home for about 6 months. tried shellac, gelish, orly gel fx. every time i did a manicure, there'd be a bump or piece of hair (have cats), or something not quite right about the finish. today i followed your instructions to the letter ... my nails are smooth and shiny. BEST MANICURE EVER! thank you so very much for your tutorial.

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      40. Also, what kind of alcohol did you use? Are you sure it was 99%? It MUST be 99%

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      41. I use to love my gel tips. I work as a dog bather and my hands are in water about half of my work day. Is it possible for me to use the gel nail polish and it last longer than a week without damage to my nail bed?

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      42. This is an awesome post. I have bought the sensationail gel system and found your instructions much easier and better to follow than the set that came with the gel system package. I agree pictures are much, much better than the video. Thank you!

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      43. Found your tutorial...i also have been googling and doing my research...yours by far is the BEST!! Thank you for taking the time to share these tips :)

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      44. Does it matter what brand of gel nail polish I buy for whatever kit I use? For example if I buy the Sephora brand its for OPI gel nail polish do I have only buy OPI or can I use any brand of nail polish with the lamp?

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      45. You can totally mix & match! I use Gelish base & topcoat with everything but I use different brands of colored gels with them. Sally hansen is worth trying too! Play around and try different brands of colors once you have a base & topcoat you like :)

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      46. I haven't tried any of the lamps in the little store bought kits, but I've had many people email me say they love the Sally Hansen, Red Carpet Manicure, & other kits.

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      47. Mine lasts longer than a week. I spend a lot of time washing dishes, doing laundry, and other household chore s and my gels usually withstand most of it. It will definitely stay on longer than regular polish.

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      48. That is SO great to hear! Glad I could be of help and thanks for the compliment :)

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      49. I haven't used tips with gels yet, but if I remember correctly from school you'd apply the tip exactly as you would with acrylics. The only difference will be the gel application rather than acrylic after the tips are applied.

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      50. The gel will not be 100% set until the final coat of top coat is applied to fully seal the nail. After that you will remove the tacky layer with an alcohol soaked wipe. If you don't do that correctly, then yes, some of the gel will still wipe off even after curing it under the lamp. I think you may be missing a step in there somewhere...

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      51. That's awesome! So glad to hear it- thank you.

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      52. Oh thank you! This review is really thorough and detailed, one more question, can I use regular nail polish and use the top it off to seal it or would that not work?

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      53. That color red is so strong. christmaslightdecorators.com

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      54. Where are you? Do you do nails privately? LOL..

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      55. Great post! Well detailed. The only thing ill note is you can find better deals on the gelish polish. (I get why you showed products from Sally's as they're everywhere and convenient) but I they only sell the mini bottles. I go to a local nail supply store that sells to the public and get fu size bottles for around the same price. I've also noticed amazon has great deals on lamps and gelish polish.

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      56. So since you have hand tattoos, do you just use regular sunscreen, or do you use the special tattoo sunblock sticks to prevent the tattoo's on your hand from fading? im just curious because im interested in doing nails and i have a tattoo i want to get on the webbing between my thumb and pointer finger.

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      57. Dear Melissa, thanks so much for this helpful totorial. Short question: I have an OPI set inc base, gelcolor and top. Did rverything as mentioned but it just wouldnt dry off. When I wipe it with the alcohol some of the polish comes out and the looks is horrible. Partially naked with no polish and not shiny at all. Any clue what I must be doing wrong?
        Am so frustrated. .. 10x.

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      58. Thanks for the post. I get here Very helpful information. Excellent blog right here! I was just searching for this information for a while.There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think
        you made some good points in Features also.

        Personally, I love gel polish kit . it is basically lasts 2-3 week. Recent I have got PolyLock™ Hybrid Gel Polish which instead of shellac. I feel , it is much better for nails.

        Cindy xx

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      59. Awesome post! I have had acrylic nails for years, but it is so expensive. Two questions: 1) Do you need to do the alcohol wipe on the surface of the nail between the last color coat and the top coat? You did the alcohol wipe on the base coat before you did the color step, and then again after the top coat cured. I just want to make sure I don't miss a step. 2) Do gel manicures help make nails stronger? My natural nails are paper-thin, that is why I have had acrylics. Thanks!

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      60. This was awesome...thank you! Strangely enough, I had just bought the Gellish stuff from Sally Beauty a supply, as well as that exact same UV lamp from Amazon, but couldn't figure out why they were still slightly tacky.....there is definately not enough info given and I really wanted to do my own DIY gel nails-I actually did my toes in a French pedi and they look great-and so much cheaper than the store! Now I'm moving on to my own nails, but going on a limb and doing a sculptured gel nail with tips :o. Wish me luck!

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      61. Hiya, your blog is amazing. I just wanted to know if you can use this system over gel overlays? Would you still need to buff the nail and use the top coat? Thank you

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      62. Looking into my own at home system, what GREAT information and detailed instructions. I am convinced I can do this myself, too! Thank you so much!

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      63. Thanks for the tips! I've been wanting to try this at home. This is very detailed and helpful.

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      64. I love gel polish kit when I have the opportunity to read blogs as interesting as this. Really thanks. I’m going to have to try that.

        - Cindy

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      65. Thank you very much for such a comprehensive step by step guide. I decided to do my own gel nails after doing some research and found your instructions to be the best. I did my first DIY gel manicure last night and its been really successful and I'm over the moon with the results!

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      66. Hi! My question is more about cuticle clean up for that "seamless" manicure look. Is there anything you can do to clean up the cuticle line before the curing? Or is the orange stick enough? I'm glad I read through some of the comments, I was curious about mixing and matching too.

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      67. An orangewood stick would be the best thing for this- preferably with a sharper, pointed end (check the nail section in a beauty supply- they should have some that aren't just flat on the ends). Practice, practice, practice! I can't say it enough...the best way to avoid a messy cuticle area is to just not get any product on there in the first place. Once you get it on the skin it can be really hard to go back & get it perfect, so keep practicing and you'll get better.

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      68. I love gelish polish! Great tutorial! What color is that? Thanks!

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      69. I have the gelish brand and use the UV light. I'm having trouble with my finger tips peeling....Do you know what may be causing this? I thought it was the acetone but bought the Gelish remover and still having trouble with it. Could it be the light is burning them? I havent used sun screen before applying.

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      70. I'm a nail biter and I just got a gel manicure at a salon, and I am also a DIY addict so I am super excited to get a set up and do gel manicures in a couple of weeks when this one grows out! Thanks for your detailed how-to, it will help a lot!

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      71. Thanks so much for this wonderful tutorial! I normally do my own nails at home, but I tried a Gel manicure a few weeks ago at a salon for my vacation to Hawaii so I didn't have to worry about touching up my nails while I was there. I was in love with that manicure, and sad when it was time to take it off. I found your blog when searching for how to take it off myself at home. After reading this application process, I went out and purchased the Sally Hansen kit. I'm happy to say that with your help, I successfully completed my first at-home gel manicure on my very first try and I love it! Thanks for the fantastic tips!

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      72. This is the greatest posting I've seen on how to do your own gel nails! Do you have any instructions or tips for doing French gel nails?

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      73. You should do a vid, great explanations above though!

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      74. Thank you this post was really helpful! For the gelish pH bond do I have to cure it before I put on the foundation coat?

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      75. Thanks for this fabulous post! I can't afford regular gel manis and unfortunately have really thin, weak nails that rip easily, to which the solution is of course gel manis! I visited site after site learning about doing gels and was nervous until I found your tutorial. A trip to Sally's and a few hours later, and here I sit with an amazing gel mani-pedi! THANK YOU!!! :)

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      76. That is SO great to hear!!! Amazing what gels can do for thin, peeling nails, huh? I had the same results when I did gels on my mom over the summer- she couldn't believe how they transformed her damaged nails. I'm so glad you love them & found the tutorial helpful :) Make sure you check out my other posts on how to fill or refresh them & how to remove them! They should answer all of your questions. Thanks for reading and enjoy your beautiful nails!

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      77. You said you found your answer, but I wanted to make sure I replied in case anyone else was wondering the same thing. NO- you don't cure pH bond. You just brush it on the nails before you do your base coat. The pH bond will just completely soak in to your nail and/or dissipate- it's an added step to ensure the natural nail is dehydrated! Hope that helps :)

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      78. Thank you so much! I'd love to do some videos, but I'd have to figure a set up for that. Or find a camera man! Thanks for the suggestion.

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      79. That is so great to hear!!! I love hearing success stories of people doing their own nails. Make sure to also check out my post on how to fill or refresh them too! :) Enjoy your beautiful nails!

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      80. I will have to do a tutorial on french tips- I've had a lot of people ask about that one!

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      81. Awesome! Hope this tutorial helps you when it comes time to do your own!

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      82. Acetone, alcohol, and the cleanser are all very drying. Are you talking about the skin on your fingertips peeling? If that's the case, it sounds like your skin is just extra dry and/or you are sensitive to the drying products you are using. I would recommend moisturizing a TON after using anything with alcohol in it. Use cuticle oil daily and apply a lot of hand lotion after doing your nails- and especially after removing them!

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      83. The color I'm wearing in the tutorial is Gossip Girl!

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      84. So great to hear!!! You are so welcome- glad you found it helpful! Make sure to check out my post on how to fill or refresh them & how to remove them too! :)

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      85. You can do it! Just follow each step and I'm sure you'll do great. I'd love to hear how they turn out!

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      86. You are so welcome! Glad you found it all helpful. I agree that the information is very limited on the packaging, that's why I try to be so detailed! How did your sculptured gel nails w/ tips turn out? Those can get tricky! I haven't even tried that with gel yet (though I can do sculptured acrylics with tips).

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      87. No- you don't have to do it between the last coat. Only wipe with a DRY wipe after the base coat, and then again with an alcohol soaked wipe after the very last layer (top coat).


        Yes- gel manicures make nails stronger! If you have thin nails I highly recommend gels! You'll see in the comments where many people have said that they had weak, thin, peeling, brittle nails and gels transformed them. My mom's nails were the same way and I put gels on her and she was amazed at how perfect her nails looked, and how STRONG they were. They held up for 3 weeks!

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      88. When I was still using a UV lamp I just used regular spf 50 sunscreen. However, I have since switched to LED, so there's no need for sunscreen anymore. If you're using a UV lamp, regardless of whether you have tattoos on your hands or fingers, you should still be using sunscreen to protect your hands from harmful, damaging UV rays.

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      89. Thank you! I just listed the ones at Sally's because anyone can walk into a Sally's store and buy the stuff! Amazon does have some great deals, especially if you buy a bundle or collection of them!

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      90. Washington state, and YES! I do nails for my family and friends :)

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      91. Sorry- missed this one! YES, you can do regular polish too. I've had many people tell me they've had great results doing this, but I have yet to try it myself. The only thing with regular polish is you have to wait for it to dry completely before topping it off with a gel top coat...so it seems like you'd be sitting there for a very long time with half cured nails. Feel free to play around and experiment though!

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      92. Thank you so much! Glad you found it helpful

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      93. I haven't used them myself, but from the comments and emails I've gotten, people are saying they are pretty decent! Read some of the reviews online but I've heard good things about some of the Sally Hansen ones.

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      94. I haven't tried the OPI gel yet! I'll have to grab one and see how I like it. Thanks for the tip!!!

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      95. Awesome deal! How do you like the Finger Paints stuff? I haven't tried it.

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      96. They turned out great for the most part! They are definately a little tricky-my only issue was that my nails were slightly damaged from my prior salon nails and I should have waited for them to grow out a bit. Other than that, they would have been fantastic. I kept them for a couple of weeks-then took them off to go camping. Now I'm just waiting until they grow out a bit before I put them back on. But they are by far the strongest nails I have ever had and totally worth the time it takes to do them.


        Also did my toes at the same time with the gel-wow! My toes lasted all the way until this week, and I am just now going to re-do them. I used CND gel on those and even with the camping they lasted forever in perfect condition!

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      97. I loved your post! I followed your instructions, got all gelish stuff and just finished my first manicure! Yeeeee! So exciting! I have a better tip for removing if you'd like to know. I'd be happy to share!

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      98. Before I stumbled upon your blogs I was really nervous and confused about getting the stuff and application of DIY gel nails, so I would like to thank you and tell you that I really appreciate the thoroughness of yours blogs. You have inspired me to do my mother & my nails. We both love them and are on our second sets. I bought the gelish polishes and kit of foundation and etc. I also bought the LED gelish light which I love. I cannot thank you enough for how much money you are saving me and for explaining every detail for every step of the way, from which products to buy up to removing or refreshing your nails. Thank you again Melissa!

        I have recommended your blogs to anyone that compliments me on my nails.

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      99. Thank you SO much for taking the time to comment! :) I'm so glad that you found all of the information helpful. I'm a stickler for detail and I need to know ALL of the information before I do something for the first time, so I tried to be as detailed as I could be (maybe overly detailed?!) Haha. Anyway- that's awesome that your nails turned out great and that you can do them yourself now! :) Shoot me an email if you have any questions when it comes time to fill them or soak them off.

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      100. I'd love to hear it Traci! And thank you so much- I'm glad it helped you out. Are you still loving your gels?

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      101. Hi this post was brilliant and i ordered everythi straight away , you pusuaded me well ! I have everything on this accept the isopropyl alcohol. Am I unabale to do it without ? Many thanks x

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      102. You absolutely MUST HAVE either the cleanser OR the 99% alcohol to remove the tacky layer! Otherwise your finished nails will be sticky & not shiny at all. Hope that clears up any confusion!

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      103. Thank you for this! I love gel nails but really don't want to spend all that money at a salon. I will be purchasing my own kit in the very near future. I do have one question though, do you have to use the same brand base coat, color, and top coat? There are soooo many gel nail colors out there and I don't want to be tied down to one brand. Would you have any insight on this? Thanks again for your wonderful blog post! Very informative.

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      104. You can totally mix & match the brands! I use the Gelish base & topcoat for everything (they are the best ones- in my opinion) and then I can use any brand of colored gel in between those if I want to. I mostly have Gelish colors in my collection, but I've successfully applied Shellac, Sally Hansen, Red Carpet Nails, and a few other brands of colored gel polish with the Gelish base & topcoat. You don't have to "commit" to one specific brand at all. Hope that helps!

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      105. Just bought a Gelish kit but haven't opened it as I wanted to check out what else was available. I can buy pro products as I kept my license but haven't worked in a salon for 20 years. I also am interested in the Sephora OPI system because I love OPI polish. Have you used the OPI system and also what pro products should I try out?

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      106. A fantastic tutorial, thanks :)

        One thing that I thought I would mention with regard to sunscreen is that you still need to use it with an LED lamp. UV is short for ultra violet, which refers to the colour of the light while LED refers to the type of bulb used. LED lamps are still emitting UV light and so you still need an SPF.

        My beautician didn't believe me when I told her this until she picked up the lamp and saw that it was labelled as UV LED.

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      107. Hi Melissa. After reading this post, I decided to buy my own gelish kit on ebay. I was able to pick up the exact kit you use here for $120 on Ebay. I just attempted to do my own gel manicure and found your steps super easy to follow! The pictures really helped me follow what you were explaining. I was so nervous doing this myself, as I usually go to a salon to get mine done. I cant wait to see how long they will last! Thank you very much for your post, and I look forward to using your refill post in a few weeks (hopefully)!


        Thanks Hayley

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      108. I have not used any of the OPI gels, but I have heard great things about them! I pretty much mostly stick with Gelish because that's what I'm familiar with, but please let me know what you think of the OPI one if you ever try it out!

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      109. Lisa- I personally have not tried gels with tips. I have a friend who recently tried it and informed me that she needed to use another special type of gel to go with tips (perhaps it was to help reinforce it more than regular gels). She didn't have any of the other product so she just tried doing tips with regular gels and said the results weren't great.

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      110. That is so great to hear! Glad you are loving gels! Are you getting the hang of it now?

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      111. What color is this pink? I love it and have been trying to find it and I just cannot seem to match it.

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      112. What if I have like zero nails to begin with? I can hardly grow them, and I'm hoping this would maybe help? Thoughts please??

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      113. If you have problems growing out your nails this should definitely help. The only issue might be that it will be a little more difficult to apply the gel when your nails are really really short. Try doing it carefully and don't get it on the skin or cuticles. Once it's on though, it will give you some added strength and you should be able to grow them out more!

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      114. Hi there! Great tutorial! But I have a quick question about the step right after buffering the nails and removing the oils/dehydrating the nails. I've watched a lot of tutorials, and many of them mention applying a binder (dabbing it on) to the raw nail before applying the foundation layer. Is it recommended to do so? and what are the effects of it on your natural nails? (does it hurt them more?) It would be great if you could do a tutorial with putting glitter or those "embedded" designs on the nails :)

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      115. Hi I have followed your steps, along with the gelish instruction books perfectly. I'm kinda a freak about things being perfect. And at the last wipe of the tacky layer, I have just a LITTLE color coming off. The instructions in the book say if that happens they have to be redone. What could I be doing wrong? Maybe not completely covering the color that I just put the top coat over? And if so, if I'm wiping that off, is it okay because whatever I did cover is still protected?

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      116. I would suggest doing 2 coats of the top coat, just to make sure you're getting complete coverage. Just cure the first one, then apply another coat right over it, cure, and remove the final tacky layer. If you're STILL getting a little color on your wipe, it probably means you just missed a tiny spot here or there around your cuticle area. It happens to me too, and I usually see a tiny bit of color come off on my wipe at the end. Anything that isn't completely covered by the top coat will come off, so just try to be super careful around the cuticle area. As long as it's not ALL coming off & it's not leaving them dull looking you should be fine. Hope that helps!

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      117. Thanks so much. And thank for for this article! I also wonder maybe it wasn't a good idea to use a glitter polish on my first try? The tips are a bit gritty and not smooth, although I covered them with top coat! Again, thank you for takin the time to write such a detailed article for people to easily understand and not be so intimidated by doing their nails at home :)

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      118. Thank you!! I just bought a gel set-up and tried it for the first time last night. I have never had a gel manicure so Had no idea what to expect. The continued tackiness totally threw me after each curing. I quadruple cured everything trying to get rid of the tackiness. I am so glad to have found your post. Thanks for your thoroughness.

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      119. Glitter polish tends to be gritty feeling, especially on the tips! I'd suggest trying to stick to 1 coat of anything glittery, and double up on your topcoat. Also, before curing, you might want to make sure there's no glitter on the free edge. I did that once and it drove me crazy!

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      120. I bought the Kiss LED lamp from Walgreens and got practically free using my points card. I used it the second I got home and its amazing! It is small but does the same job as the 54 watt UV in less time! It sits neatly and out of the way on my desk without overtaking so much space! No matter what LED is really the way to go it seems

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      121. My sentiments echo the others here - you rock! I really appreciate the step by step and have just completed my first attempt with great results! Am super excited to see he long it lasts. I used the full Gelish system (except I used my own rubbing alcohol and cuticle oil) including the Ph prep stuff. Good to know you can use different brands of gel polish! Thank you for the best tutorial online.

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      122. Hello, I was wondering if you are able to put nail decals or do nail art on these? I am thinking if you have a decal of some sort you can possibly place it on the nail prior to the final top coat? IDK though- any thoughts or suggestions would be fantastic! Thank you & great blog/tutorial- I am thinking about investing in this kit so I can not only do my own nails but maybe branch out as well. :)

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      123. Yes- you can absolutely do nail art and decals with gels. All you have to do is this: after curing your colored gel (after the base coat), use a dry nail wipe to gently wipe off the tacky layer. Then apply your decals or nail art, let dry (or cure, if you're using gel for the nail art) and then apply your top coat & cure. I'd recommend doing 2 top coats (curing each individually) to really help cover and seal in the nail art. It works great!

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      124. You are so welcome! Just a note on the mixing and matching of brands- be sure that they are all compatible with whatever type of light you are using as well. If you're using an LED lamp you'll want to make sure all of the products can be cured with LED, and the same goes for UV.

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      125. I had really short nails when I did my first gel application and it was a little messy when you do the tip edges, but just take your time and don't glop the polish on. I've had my gel polish on for two weeks now and have to redo it because of how much they've grown! I have really thin nails and this seems to do the trick with being able to grow them a little longer (nothing too crazy) without them peeling/breaking. Good luck!

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      126. I've had the polish on for two weeks and it still looks great! I've actually seen a ton of growth, so I'm going to follow the steps to fill them in. ;)

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      127. Very nicely done Melissa!! I have a few questions. Can this be done even when your nails are dry? I experience dry skin & nails in the winter months in particular. And to that point, is there something you could recommend to help with dry nails to prep them for a gel manicure?

        And my final question, is the tat on your left ring finger your wedding ring? I've seen it a couple times before & think it's a very cool idea. Just curious. :)

        Thanks for this very instructive tutorial. It's the best one I've read!! :)

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      128. Yes! If your nails are extra dry the gel will probably adhere better, since you want them to be dehydrated & completely free of oils before application. I would just suggest moisturizing them a lot with cuticle oil while the gels are on to keep your cuticles hydrated, and then give your nails a break for a day or two between new sets and hydrate them with cuticle oil a lot too.

        And yes, the heart tattoo is on my wedding finger :)

        Hope the info helped- let me know if you have any more questions!

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      129. Wow thank you so much for that detailed post! After extensive research regarding gel nail brands etc I went with your advice and bought Gelish products and I am proud to say that I just finished my first gel manicure! :) Your blog is fantastic and hopefully I followed your steps well enough for my nails to last 2 weeks!

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      130. That is SO great to hear! I'm so glad my blog post helped and that's awesome that your manicure lasted that long. I love love LOVE my Gelish!

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      131. Thank you sooooo much for posting this, I love it and find it very simple to follow. I am hoping to do a Nail Tech / Beauty Cert this year and wanted to have a play first. THis is very helpful :)

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      132. Just curious when to use the Ph bond and cuticle oil?

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      133. Okay,...I am sold. I have decided to buy everything I need to do them myself on Tuesday the 11th of March. But, before I buy all the expensive things I need to do it I have a question. Can I use a different LED lamp than the gelish one? It is a little more expensive,...than others I have found. I am curious about this one,.... it is an LED,...for $24.99 the Gelish one is the same wattage. What do you think?

        http://www.ebay.com/itm/310730080255?_trksid=p2055120.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

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      134. Thank you SOOO much!!! I bought all of my stuff and then freaked out when my nails wouldn't stop being tacky!! No one else ever mentions the alcohol part in the end. Thank you thank you thank you! :)

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      135. You are SO welcome! Glad to be of help :) Make sure to check out my other gel tutorials too for when it comes time to remove and/or fill them! Thanks so much for reading & commenting

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      136. Absolutely! Your blog is so helpful and well-written, so I will be keeping up with it and recommending it for sure :)

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      137. Use pH Bond right before you apply your base coat. Cuticle oil is for when your nails are completely cured and finished, just as a moisturizer for your cuticles.

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      138. Hi, sorry for the delay responding- I missed this one! You can absolutely use a different lamp, as long as the wattage is correct. Just read some reviews online to make sure the one you get is of good quality. Let me know how it works out! :)

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      139. Keep it up!! You have done the nice job having provided the latest information.http://plus.google.com/112458942571457568265/posts

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      140. I could kiss you. I'm soooo happy that I kept searching. I knew there had to be someone as excellent as you out there to help someone as helpless as me out <3<3<3<3

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      141. Thank you so much Melissa, thanks to your meticulously detailed guide I am typing this with my first ever gel manicure :)

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      142. I'm curious. I recently removed my acrylic nails and base nails are thinner than paper. I bought the same kit above and they look great when i do the gel nails but end up pealing within a day or two. I think the longest is maybe 3 days. Overall still like them and the process is no too long but wonder why they would not be lasting 2 weeks or close to that

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      143. forget foils and cotton. How good can soaking in acetone be for anyone! Try nailmates
        nailmates.net fast, easy, do both hands at once! chase your kids while fingers are processing, they wont fall off.

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