Ever since I was little, I’ve loved having pretty nails. I probably learnt to paint them when I was about 10 and have been experimenting (not always successfully!) ever since.
A couple of years ago, I decided to teach myself how to do gel nails and have never looked back. I’m the kind of person who will go and get her acrylics done and smudge the beautiful manicure because I was too impatient to sit under the nail drier for 5 minutes more. As gels dry instantly, learning to do them myself was a godsend!
I’m constantly asked whenever I post a nail pic where I get them done. When I say I do them myself, people are often surprised and think I must be a nail tech – I wish! The truth is, gels are no more difficult to do than painting your nails normally. With a bit of practise and Pinterest inspo, you can come up with some really creative designs without shelling out upward of £30 for a full set at a salon!
So, I’ve put together a guide for anyone wanting the basics of how to start out doing your own gels. Hopefully it’ll save you a lot of time and money in the long run, and show you a bit of nail art too. I’m thinking of following this up with some different nail art techniques if enough people are interested – let me know what you think!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
All of this stuff comes with the Sensationail gel starter kit, which is what I use. You can find them here and it’s about £50 – not bad when you think one manicure at the salon is £30 and you’ll use this a lot more than once!
First remove any nail polish (obvs) so you have a clean base to work with. Then, you’ll need to buff your nails. These special files are dead cheap – I got 2 for £1 in Primark – but you can use any nail file that isn’t too harsh. Roughing up your nails a bit helps the gel base stick.
Cleanse each nail using the lint-free wipe and cleanser liquid. Pro tip – if you don’t have any special wipes, a cut-up blue kitchen cloth does the same thing! This removes any hand creams or nail polish remover that might be left on the nails. It also removes fluff which is not something you want on your nails as it wrecks the smooth shiny surface for your mani and is very noticeable with gels because they’re so shiny!
3. Nail Wraps (optional)
This step is optional – if you’re not using nail wraps, move to step 4! Always apply nail wraps before gel. For some reason, the glue they use on them hates gel and refuses to stick to it. Pick the right size nail wrap for your nail (or cut one down to size if, like me, you have freakishly tiny hands!) and stick it down making sure there’s no bubbles. The wraps come way too long, so file off the excess using a normal nail file in a downward movement. So pretty!
Now for the long and (slightly) boring part! With gels, the general rule is more thin coats are better than a couple of thick ones (something I’m still trying to get right!) This makes sure the nails dry quickly, which stops them from peeling like mine always used to do – a tip I picked up from the loveliest and most helpful nail tech at a salon I went to once.
I usually do 1 coat of base coat, followed by 3 thin coats of colour, curing under the lamp between each coat. Top tip: I cure each coat for double the time suggested in the instructions to ensure the colour is properly dry. Luckily, the Sensationail lamp has a timer which flashes at 15seconds (when you’re supposed to take them out), and turns off at 30seconds (when I take them out!)
So to recap: base coat, cure, colour, cure, colour, cure, colour, cure! I tend to do the 4 fingers of one hand first, then thumbs, then the other 4 fingers.
5. Top Coat
Last step – step 4 took a while, right – top coat. It’s very important that you ‘cap’ the nails at this stage to stop the edges lifting. Basically, capping means running the polish brush along the end of the nail once you’re done painting them to seal the edge of the colour. Then – you guessed it – cure. And then for good measure – cure again! I know this seems excessive, but it does make the difference between your nails lasting over or under a week, believe me!
And voila – you’re done! Once you get to grips with the basics, it’s so easy to incorporate gels into your beauty routine. They might take a little longer to do, but they also last longer too, and save you time and money you’d waste on salon visits or chipped nails!
Let me know if you try the tutorial out and if it helps you!