Gel Manicure At Home – The Complete Guide

Learning how to do a gel manicure at home sounds incredibly attractive. Reddit, Pinterest and Instagram are full of amazing examples of at home gel manicures done by non professionals. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to get gel nails at home whenever you fancy, for a fraction of the price you’d pay at your nail salon.

However, a gel manicure at home is not without issues. Learning how to do gel nails at home goes beyond buying the best at home nail kit and blocking half an hour. Proper technique for prep and application of gel nail polish is key to avoid irritation, allergies or damaged nails. And let’s not forget about how to take off gel nails at home properly which is almost as important a step if you value the health of your nails.

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So, before you go explore the awesome world of gel nail polish, let us share with you how to do a gel manicure at home properly.

Gel Nails At Home – Must Have Supplies

Since rummaging for supplies while you have wet nails is nobody’s favourite part of the day, it pays to be organized and put everything you need on a nearby surface.

Gel Nail Lamp: You will need a gel nail lamp that has enough potency to actually cure the gel nail varnish. If your lamp is too weak (usually the very budget ones are) you’ll need to keep your fingers under it for ages. As a beginner I would choose [this one] or [this one] as they are affordable and easy to use.

I personally find [nail lamps that only fit one finger at a time] to be a gimmick but some people love the portability. If you travel a lot and intend to do your gel manicure at home from hotel rooms they may be an option.

Acetone: You will need acetone to both prep your nails and remove gel nail polish safely. Regular no-acetone nail polish remover won’t work. Avoid acetone nail polish removers with moisturising ingredients, they just slow down the process. Instead, invest on a great nail oil for aftercare.

Cotton Pads

Aluminum Foil:  The easiest way to soak your nails to remove gel nails at home is soaking cotton pads in acetone and wrapping them around your fingers using aluminum foil. Alternatively, these adorable [nail polish soak clips] can be reused and are less messy.

Glass Nail File: A glass nail file will help prevent damage to your nails and lasts much longer than cheap plastic equivalents.

Nail Clippers, Cuticle Clippers, and Cuticle Remover: A good cuticle pusher is also very practical. If you usually do your nails at home you probably have all of this equipment already. If not, the following are very good options.

Nail Buffer Block

Rubbing Alcohol: Useful to dehydrate the nail, remove oils and allow the gel nail polish to attach better.

pH Bond, Base Coat and Top Coat: Each brand has slightly different formulas. They may work well with each other, but to start with I would choose the entire set from the same brand.

Gel Nail Polish Colors: This is the fun bit! Many people choose to stick with the same system they use for the base and top coat, but feel free to experiment.

Gel Manicure At Home – The Prep

If you are currently sporting a gel manicure, you will need to remove it first, and come back to this later. If you are wearing regular (non gel) nail polish, use nail polish remover to make sure it’s all gone and your nails are clean.

Cuticles Prep

If you apply gel nail polish on your cuticles, it will lift and not last nearly as long. So the first step on your gel manicure at home is tidying up those cuticles.

Apply a cuticle remover onto your cuticles and gently rub it in. Use a cuticle stick to GENTLY push down your cuticles and off your nail. If they are very bad use a cuticle clipper to cut them off your nail, but that should be a last resort and not needed with regular maintenance.

Gel Manicure Nail Prep

Afterwards, clip your nails to your desired length and shape them using your nail file. Gel nail manicures aren’t designed to add length (you may want to look into acrylics for that).

Using the block buffer, GENTLY file the top surface of your nail to help the gel polish adhere better. If you are too harsh when buffing your nails you will end up with weak nails and it may even hurt. A gel manicure at home (or at a a salon) should never be painful, and if it is you need to slow down and be less rough on your nails.

Once your nails are prepped, wash them with water to remove all the dead skin and residue and dry them well. Water and oils are the enemy of a long lasting gel manicure, so I don’t recommend you soak your nails excessively.

Afterwards, paint the pH bond to further help dehydrate your nails and create the perfect base for gel polish application.

How To Do Gel Nails At Home

Once your nails are prepped, now is the time to start your gel manicure at home.

Step 1: The Base Layer

Apply a very thin layer of the base layer on your nails. Try to avoid as much as possible getting any gel on the skin around your nails. Repeated exposure of the skin to gel nail polish can cause allergies and contact dermatitis, so be very careful. If you get any polish on your skin, remove it with acetone and a cotton stick as quick as possible.

Cure it under your lamp for the time recommended by the system you are using, or 120 seconds.

If the base layer is too thick your manicure won’t be glossy and even and it will look bulky. Gel polish can feel gloppy so you may need to practice a bit before you get an even, thin base layer. But it’s worth getting it right!

Step 2: Adding Gel Nail Color

Grab your favourite nail gel color (regular nail polish won’t do!) and apply a thin layer. Then use the lamp to cure it.

The key is to avoid getting any nail polish on your cuticles, as otherwise your gel manicure will peel much faster. Keep a toothpick handy to remove any varnish on your cuticles before curing.

Repeat this step twice or three times, depending on the opacity of the gel nail polish and the color. Darker colors are usually fine with two coats, lighter colors often need three.

Step 3: The Top Coat

It’s time to finish your gel manicure at home by painting a thin layer of top coat and curing it under the lamp.

Step 4: Nail Art and Stamping On Your Gel Manicure At Home

Generally speaking, gel nail polish is too thin for proper nail stamping. However, you can use acrylic paints or stamping nail polish on top of your gel nail polish top coat. Once the nail art is 100% dry you can apply another top coat layer to protect your nail design. Remember you’ll need to cure that top coat as usual.

Step 5: Cleanup

Soak a cotton pad on rubbing alcohol (not acetone! don’t be me!) and rub your nails to wipe off any residue.

Best At Home Gel Manicure Kit For Beginners

There are many at home gel nail kit options on the market that are perfect for a beginner. Buy an at home gel manicure kit that includes everything you need: lamp, base, color and top coat. And using the same brand means you can be sure they’ll work with each other beautifully. It makes getting gel nails at home so much easier!

In our opinion, the following are some of the best at home gel nail kit that are widely available. Some salon only brands can be purchased by non professionals from beauty supply stores as well. However, they tend to be more expensive and not so easy to use.

at home gel nail kit
best at home gel nail kit
at home gel manicure kit

As you can see, with the proper supplies a gel manicure at home is not particularly difficult. In fact, I find gel nail polish is easier to use than regular nail polish. It doesn’t dry on its own so you can take your time to make sure application is absolutely perfect. And you don’t need to worry about smudges or chips for around two weeks! And once you get tired of your gel nails, do you know how to take off gel nails at home without damaging your nails?