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HOW TO: DIY At Home Gel Manicures Made Easy!

A few months back I had my very first gel manicure. Also called gelish, or shellac. Seriously I’ve heard a million different names for this manicure. But one thing they always were, no matter what you called them: expensive. And time consuming. But then they’d last for up to three weeks and we were all like: SOLD! Am I right?

Each time I’d get a manicure I’d tell myself it would be my last. At $35 a pop (here in the city) they are not inexpensive. But I just loved the little bit of luxury they represented. And there is nothing that takes the edge off of changing a dirty diaper than a really pretty set of nails (that you know you’re not going to ruin).  Finally I did some research and realized it’s entirely possible to get your own at-home kit for the price of about three professional manicures. And then you’re set! For a really really long time.

To find out how you can do your own at home manicures, click after the jump!

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  • What You Need 1 of 10
    What You Need
    The most important supply you'll need is a UV lamp. You can get them on Amazon for anywhere from $25 to $100. I wanted one wide enough for two hands at once. You can buy yours HERE, $49. You'll also want nail polishes, but these don't necessarily need to be the gel polishes made by CND or OPI. Top secret: any polish will do. Shhh! I know! But you do need the top coat, and I like to use the CND brand. You can get your own top coat HERE, $15.
  • Step One 2 of 10
    Step One
    First you want to buff and file your nails with an emery board. You need a little bit of texture for the polish to really grab on. Don't go crazy, just a nice even buff. I once went to a salon in Utah where they used a Dremel on my nails. Um, thanks, not necessary.
  • Step Two 3 of 10
    Step Two
    Trim your nails and make sure they're shaped just how you want them. This is a time when removing cuticles and trimming your nail beds really will make a difference.
  • Step Three 4 of 10
    Step Three
    My local Duane Reade sells these prep polishes that are basically made of rubbing alcohol. They dry the nail and make sure it's primed and ready to go. They also claim to prevent fungal growth, for those of us who wear polish most of the time and don't give our natural nails too much time to breathe. An unnecessary step, probably, but I like to use it. You can get a similar product HERE, $2.
  • Step Four 5 of 10
    Step Four
    Polish time! Yes, I am skipping the base coat. In my experience, the base coat isn't necessary. In fact, there's such a high margin of error on that stuff that the few times I've used it my polish has peeled right off in one big chunk. So, straight to polish. Try to keep your polish coats as neat and thin as possible. Layer slowly. No thick coats allowed! Unless you feel like curing under the lamps for ten minutes each coat...
  • Step Five 6 of 10
    Step Five
    In between each coat you'll need to set your nails under the UV lamp for 2 minutes, if you're using gel polish. This dries the polish. Gel nail polish will NOT dry on its own, ever. Regular polish will require less curing, but I still bake a full two minutes for each coat. Better safe than sorry!
  • Step Six 7 of 10
    Step Six
    I decided to try some nail art (soooo trendy right now) and while I don't totally love it, I don't hate it either. One coat of polka dots, and I set it for another two minutes.
  • Step Seven 8 of 10
    Step Seven
    This is the part where your nails become indestructible. A thin (very thin!) coating of this stuff, followed by two three-minute sessions under the lamp (the salon I go to has me cure for three sessions!). This is of the utmost importance: keep the coat thin, and pay extra attention to the tips of your nails. Make sure you're covered all the way to the very tips, so there won't be any chipping. I like to run the brush horizontally along the end of my nail just to be sure.
  • Step Eight 9 of 10
    Step Eight
    Until you swab your nail down with rubbing alcohol, it is going to be sticky and weird feeling. Take a cotton ball and rub those nails down. A little polish may transfer, but it won't adversely affect your pretty nails, promise.
  • All Finished! 10 of 10
    All Finished!
    You're done! Enjoy two to three weeks of blissfully perfect nails! To remove, simply soak your nails in acetone for a few minutes until the polish becomes soft enough that you can gently scrape it off. Enjoy!

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