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How to do an easy at-home gel manicure

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

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Well, Hello there!

A neat manicure equals a polished look!

Do you regularly visit a salon? I visited the salon 2-3 times a month to get my gel nails removed and re-applied. Now I do it myself at home, saving money and time.

A gel manicure is like the regular manicure you would get, except turbocharged!

If applied properly, a gel manicure can last 2-3 weeks.

This article will show you the equipment you need, as well as how to have a salon finish from your own home.

What is a gel manicure?

  • A gel manicure may also be known as Gelish, Shellac and Gelux, depending on the nail polish brand that you use.

  • A gel manicure is a technique that uses gel polish that gets 'cured' under UV lights. The result? Shiny, strong nails for weeks and no drying time. Perfect!

  • Applying gel polish was a skill originally preserved for nail technicians in a salon, but now UV lamps are relatively cheap and readily available.

  • My nails used to be brittle and weak. Since I replaced acrylic nails with gels nails several years ago, my nails have become healthier, stronger and longer.

Pros and Cons of Gel Nail Polish

Pros of gel nail varnish

Cons of gel nail varnish

Dries instantly with no smudges

You have to soak off the gel with acetone

It can last between 2-4 weeks instead of 1 week

More expensive than a regular manicure

Your nails may grow longer because they won't break as easily

Exposing your hands to UV light can cause premature ageing or lead to cancer

They look fresh and shiny

Weak nails if you don't give your nails a break every couple of manicures

I am a massive fan of using gel polish. My nails get too long; they are that strong.

My gel nails have survived hours of DIY, and in fact, I don't do any DIY without my gel polish on because it protects my nails so much.

I started doing my nails myself six years ago but wasn't very good at it and gave up! I spent time applying the polish properly last year and got the knack. I only go to the salon now if I would like nail art.

Pro's and Cons of DIY Manicure


  • No need to book an appointment

  • You can do it whenever you want

  • No waiting between appointments if your nails chip

  • It is cheaper


  • Less choice of nail colours until you build up a collection

  • You will have to do nail art yourself

  • The initial cost will cost more than a manicure

  • It may take some practice, so it doesn't peel off (I have this covered now)

Everything I Use for a DIY Gel Manicure

  • You need UV light. Mine has lasted six years so far, and I have not changed the bulb yet. They can cure your nails much quicker now; IIt dries think my next purchase will be a slight upgrade.

  • Top and base coat I have used several brands and find Mylee lasts the longest after my application.

  • REMEMBER you can buy the UV light and everything you might need to start you off as a deal which includes the classic nail varnishes. I preferred to pick traditional colours to start as they will go with all of my outfits.

  • Other nail varnish styles which are great to start with are:

  • Pastels for a gorgeous spring look

  • Runway themed ones for when you need to look polished

  • Bold for when you want to make a statement

  • Glittery for when you want to sparkle, don't forget these can be applied over your other colours

  • Christmas themed for festive cheer

  • Brights for summer festivals and whenever you need cheering up!

I am applying Mylee New Flame to my nails in this post. It is a gorgeous vibrant orange. I was having a tropical wardrobe week!

  • If you want a super pamper, you could exfoliate and finish off with a hand mask. Just remember any oils placed on your nails before the manicure will prevent the nail varnish from staying put, and it may peel off!

Got everything you need? Great! Let's get to it!


How I do a DIY Gel Manicure

Step 1 Treat and Push Back Cuticles

Cuticles are the tiny folds of skin at the base of each nail, and they protect the area between the skin and the nail from infection.

I usually place cuticle oil on my nails for 5-10 minutes before pushing back cuticles and then filling my nails. Putting the cuticle oil on my cuticles makes them easier to push back.

Step 2 Trim and File Nails

When filing, I like to create an oval shape and do so by filing gently in one direction.

Step 3 Prep the Nails for Polish

I then wash my hands and remove any excess oil using the prep and wipe with the lint wipe.

Put nail prep onto the lint wipe and gently rub over your nails.

Step 4 Apply Base Coat

Carefully apply the base coat.

My nails used to peel off within days because I would cover the entire nail and carelessly get polish on the cuticle. Do one hand at a time and leave the thumb!

On every layer of polish, you should leave a slight gap between the polish and your skin. This will prevent the polish from peeling!

Here I am using builder gel instead of my usual base coat. I have to say that it does last longer, and my nails are harder and more robust.

I used the builder gel as the base coat and as a topcoat.

The builder gel was more expensive, but I found my varnish lasted longer. This was my first time using it, and I would use it to replace the usual topcoat and basecoat combo.

Step 5 Cure the Nails

Place your painted nails under the UV light. I cure them using the timer for 120 seconds.

Check the settings on your lamp as they may be different.

If you don't cure your nails for long enough, the manicure may peel off sooner than you would like.

I would advise taking off your jewellery, unlike me!

Step 6 Paint the Nails (same hand)

Apply a thin layer of polish, and remember to leave a gap away from your skin!

Don't do the thumb yet!

Make sure to gently cover the tips of the nail with polish, as I am showing you in the image. This helps prevent the polish from peeling by sealing the nail.

Now repeat steps 5 and 6 until you are happy with the colour. This usually takes 2-3 coats of polish.

Step 8 Apply Top Coat

You can now apply the clear topcoat. In this manicure, I used the builder gel again. Make sure you cover the tips and cure the nails (step 5)

Step 9 Wipe the Nails

Once you have cured your topcoat using a clean lint wipe, with some nail and polish wipe on it, gently wipe off your nails.

This will remove any sticky residue, and your nails are finished.

Repeat steps 3-9 with your other hand, and FINALLY repeat steps 3-9 with your thumbs.

Step 10 Apply Cuticle Oil

Add a drop of cuticle oil to your finished manicure, which should last for at least two weeks.

I add cuticle oil every night before bed to keep my cuticles and nails healthy.

And that is how I do my at-home manicure. I often sneak off to my dressing room, watch Netflix on my tablet, and enjoy some me-time. The entire process takes around 30 minutes, and I have found that painting them carefully means the manicure lasts much longer.

Key things to remember from this post:

  • Leave a gap around the polish; no polish should be touching skin.

  • Make sure you paint the tips.

  • Take your time when curing the nails. Wait for the timer.


Get Fair's Look

martini, vintage look, circle skirt,

As you may know, I do my hair, nails and makeup myself. If you want to see how I do it, then just click on the links below.

  • You can see how I do my eyebrows here.

  • Here is how I keep my skin smooth and glowing


A few words about Fair

A few words about Fair

Fair is a vintage gal on a journey to find financial freedom. She shares her best tips with you, so you can achieve the same goal, whether it is saving money or looking fabulous!

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