“Clothe me in any fashion.
Glitter to so mundane.
Tell me how you’d love to change me.
Tell me I can stay the same.
I just want to shake us up.
And make it well.
Come together now.
Yeah let’s gel.”
(from the song “GEL” by Collective Soul)
Salon manicures are one of those things you either consider a little luxury, or an absolute must, depending upon who you are. But one thing we all agree on, is that well manicured nails make you look and feel more fashionable and fabulous. And, in the past few years, gel manicures offered at salons, have given the busy (as well as the lazy) a chance to have a gorgeous, shiny manicure that lasts for weeks. If you are traveling, or you know you’re going to be tied up and unable to get a proper manicure, a gel variety gives you weeks of worry-free wear.
The downside is that gel manicures at salons are expensive, and the process requires at least a very long lunch hour.
The good news is that Gel manicures have gone “do-it-yourself” with kits and products that are modestly priced, and that you can do at home without a lot of muss, fuss or time. They are almost foolproof! And while salons generally have been using “curing” lamps with UV light (that some say could eventually cause some types of cancer, with prolonged exposure), the at-home kits use LED lights, which emit less UV radiation than any other light source (so unless you’re baking your hands under them constantly, which isn’t going to happen), you can rest easy that these DIY manicures are not nearly as damaging. *tip: if you are still a bit worried,apply some moisturizing sunscreen to your hands before beginning the gel manicure process (just be sure to clean residue off your nails before applying the gel products). .Here are a few options that are a good investment, especially as the warmer weather arrives and you’re no longer hiding your hands in gloves.
The Sally Hansen Salon GelPolish Starter Kit, at $69.99, is the real deal, and it’s a complete kit. It has enough of everything you need to create genuine gel manicures at home–a whopping ten of them. Like all of the DIY gel manicure kits, you can get refills of the products, and once you have the LED lamp (it comes with the kit), you can continue to DIY without the initial outlay for the big kit. In this one, you get a salon-style 6-watt LED lamp that “cures” a hands’ worth of nails at one time, a gel base coat, gel nail color, gel top coat, 10 nail cleanser pads, acetone remover, cuticle stick, nail file, buffer and instructions. You can get a refill kit and purchase the items individually, too. I tried this kit, the first time I’d ever tried to do a gel manicure myself, and played it safe with a ladylike nude. I organized everything on my table, read the instructions (yes, you do need to do this if you want a good result), and set about adding the layers of base, polish and top coat. The result was a set of beautifully colored, super shiny nails that lasted until I finally decided I wanted to try something more bold, a few weeks later.
I then tried the Sally Hansen InstaGel Starter Kit ($29.99). This is a different way to apply a gel manicure, and it is ridiculously easy! Sally Hansen’s Salon InstaGel Strips and Salon GelPolish come with an included, mini LED light, to process the application (you can only “cure” one nail at a time). But on the other hand, this kit is less than half the price of the GelPolish Starter kit, and you don’t have to apply different layers of product to get a salon style result. All you do is clean your nails, apply the strips, and coat with a sealer. Then you cure the nails one at a time, and you’re out the door with a perfect manicure that lasts and lasts. I know…it sounds like magic, but it’s here and available, today!
You get everything you need, including 16 real nail polish appliques (8 size choices for a customized fit), a quick cure gel top coat, the mini LED light, and application accessories including a cuticle stick, buffer and alcohol cleaning pad. The polish can last up to 2 weeks, and the best thing is that instead of just one color of polish, you can go wild with 16 different colors, or bold designs, like Leopard print! Even though you have to cure one nail at a time, the easy to apply (in seconds) strips makes it possible to get all your nails done at far less time than it would take to get a regular manicure at your local nail place. It’s just, genius!
Get Sally Hansen at drug store and mass market retailers, or visit www.sallyhansen.com
Other Gel nail kits have entered the marketplace, as well. One of the things that I find discouraging about all gel manicures is that they last, but when your nail starts to grow out, you either have to be able to touch up the polish with a regular nail polish in a color that is a true match, or remove the entire gel manicure. And, if you’re as hard on your nails as I am (since I type all day long), you may find that even the best of the gel manicures will eventually fade, or separate a bit from the tip of the nail. Proper application will help you avoid this, but no gel manicure is going to last forever. Alas, removing a gel manicure, whether it was done in a salon, or at home, requires some patience, and soaking your nails in acetone (not so great for your nails). That’s one of the reasons I’m liking Nail Luv’s Starter Kit $125.oo
Launched in February, the first thing I really like is that the 4W LED lamp that’s included is in the shape of a bright, shiny, red heart. Who could resist? It just makes the process a lot more fun. You also get a Gel Polish Remover 60 ml, Dual Purpose Base/Top Coat 15 ml, Nail Buffer, Manicure Stick, Cleanser 60 ml, Application Guide, Bonder 15 ml, and a gel shade (mine was a bright red). The thing that makes Nail Luv a little more love-able than some others, is that the more generous amount of gel in the gel shades makes it easier to remove. You still have to soak, but not quite as much. And, while I didn’t find that the manicure lasted quite as long, I’m going to chalk that up to first time application errors on my part. The result was still a gorgeously perfect set of shiny red nails that lasting way longer than any DIY regular manicure would. I was really delighted. There is enough product to do at least 10, maybe even a dozen manicures…less than $11.00 per manicure (and it will last).
If you are curious how a DIY Gel Manicure works, here are the easy to follow directions for NailLuv (other brush on gel manicures are similar): * Prepare and clean nails before doing the gel manicure. Before opening a bottle of NaiLuv Gel Shade, turn bottle upside down, then roll in between your palms. Never shake as it creates more air bubbles. Use cotton with alcohol when cleaning nails after the process.
1. Push back cuticle. Buff the nail with 100 grit nail file. Clean nails with alcohol to dehydrate.
2. Apply thin layer of Nailuv Bonder and wait 30 seconds or until the bonder is dry.
3. Apply base coat using NaiLuv Dual Base/Top Coat. CURE for 60 sec using LED Lamp or 2 min in UV Lamp
4. APPLY NaiLuv GEL SHADE of your choice. CURE for 30 sec using LED Lamp or 2 min in UV Lamp (Apply second coat of color then cure for 45 seconds.)
5. APPLY Top Coat using NaiLuv Dual Base/Top Coat. CURE for 30 sec using LED or 2 min in UV Lamp.
1. Lightly buff nail with 100 grit nail file.
2. Place acetone-soaked cotton on top of nail. Then wrap each finger with foil. Let set for 10 mins.
3. You may use cuticle stick to remove polish.
I suggest getting the starter kit. It’s the most complete and economical way to DIY a gel manicure with Nail Luv. But if you already happen to have a 4W LED Gel Polish lamp (or you want one), you can get NailLuv items separately: naiLuv 15 ml UV/LED Gel Shades $14.95; Cleanser 2 fl. oz $4.99; Remover 2 fl. oz $4.99; Heart LED Nail Lamp 4 W UV Lamp $70
Ready to try NailLuv? Get it at www.nailuvpolish.com