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Gel Nail Polish At Home: How To Do A Salon-Quality DIY Manicure

Updated on August 12, 2014

Gel Nail Polish At Home: The Hype, The Rules, And The Goods On DIY Gel Manicures

So, you’ve heard about how awesome gel manicures are - or you’ve tried them at the salon and you’re hooked. But now you’re curious about doing your own gel nail polish at home. With so much conflicting information out there about gel nails, how and where do you start? What do you really need to DIY a gel manicure at home? And which products are best? In this article, I’ll explain the simple yet rigid process of applying gel nail polish - and walk you through the supplies you’ll need. By the time we’re done, you’ll be ready to visit the salon every few weeks - in the comfort of your own home. Ready?

'Gel Nails' & "Gel Nail Polish" What's The Difference

The terms ‘gel nails’ and ‘gel nail polish’ are often used interchangeably, but gel nail polish is the proper term for the type of gel manicure we can do at home; this is the type that lasts for two weeks and soaks off with acetone.

‘Gel nails’ are actually a more permanent type of nail created by a combination of acrylic and gel products, which is applied only by professionals and does not soak off but rather is filed off. These nails are sometimes called ‘sculpted nails’ and they are a more permanent overlay that can be painted repeatedly; but they are harder to remove and best left to the pros.

How To Do Gel Nails At Home: What Are They, Anyway?

Gel nail polish is a special type that offers long-lasting, durable manicures - up to two weeks of ultra-glossy, no-chip, hard-wearing nails. This type of polish is painted on like regular polish, but each coat must be set by a UV or LED lamp, after which the polish forms an incredibly durable surface. A gel manicure must be soaked off by applying pure acetone to the surface of each nail for ten-twenty minutes - best done using a cotton pad soaked with acetone, which is held onto the finger with foil or specifically designed nail wraps.

There are many brands of gel nail polish; the best-known are Harmony Gelish and CND Shellac - although Shellac is actually a hybrid between gel polish and regular polish. Besides these, most large brands are releasing their own versions of gel nail polish - OPI, Sally Hansen, SensatioNail, and Orly, to name a few. Although some brands only sell to salons, many do make their systems available to the beauty-product-loving-public and the supplies can be purchased easily online. Let’s go over what you’ll need for a diy gel manicure at home.

How To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home

For a step-by-step guide to removing your gel nail polish at home, please see my other article here

I Can Do Gel Nails At Home?? What Do I Need Besides Gel Nail Polish?

To apply a gel manicure at home, you’ll need specific supplies. If you’re just entering the world of gel nail polish at home, I highly recommend purchasing a kit to start out; that way, you know you’ll be getting all the items you need, and afterward you can purchase individually if you like.


When choosing a gel nail polish kit, it’s important to consider your goals and your budget. If you are a serious gel manicure devotee and you plan to do your own gel nails at home often, you are better off investing in a pro-level kit. If you are curious about the system and want to try it out, with plans to wear it now and then, you might be better off with a more entry-level kit. Either way, read on to discover the pros and cons of both.

Excellent Value For Gel Nails At Home: SensatioNail Gel Polish Starter Kit

If you’re curious about doing gel nail polish at home, but don’t want to sink a lot of money into satisfying your curiosity, then this kit by SensatioNail is just what you need. This kit includes nail cleanser, a gel primer, a base/top coat, one color of polish, an LED lamp, and a basic nail buffer, orange wood stick, and lint-free wipes. I think there is great value in this kit - for the price of one salon manicure, you can give this system a try to see if it’s for you.

Gel Nail Polish At Home Made Easy: Red Carpet Manicure Pro Starter Kit

At $79.00, the Red Carpet Manicure Kit is still only the cost of two salon manicures - yet offers you much more value for your money. This kit is a step up and offers a professional quality LED lamp and all the polish and cleaning products you’ll need for great gel nails at home. This kit does not contain orange wood sticks or buffers, so you’ll need to add those yourself... and make sure to follow the instructions to a T for perfect DIY gel manicure results. Red Carpet offers many delicious polish shades to choose from.

How To Do Gel Nails At Home With The Red Carpet Kit

Professional Gel Nails At Home: Gelish Complete Starter Kit

For the true gel nail polish experience at home, go with Gelish, one of the original brands to offer this product. The Gelish Complete Starter Kit contains everything you’ll need to get started, and a few extras as well. Be aware, the bottles in this kit are ‘starter’ sizes - meaning they are smaller than average. But you’ll still get plenty of use out of them as they are designed to be applied very thin. Gelish gets excellent reviews from DIY gel manicure clients - their polishes are thin enough for easy application, and to form an excellent bond to the nail. In fact, many people prefer to use Gelish base coat and top coats with other gel nail polish brands - they are that good. This kit offers excellent value - approximately the same as two salon manicures. You won’t be disappointed with Gelish.

The Ultimate DIY Gel Manicure: OPI Professional Salon Manicure Kit

For the ultimate how-to-do-gel-nails-at-home experience, invest in this kit by OPI. This kit is perfect for the OPI devotees out there, containing six shades of OPI gel nail polish. The LED lamp included in this kit is larger than most, accommodating even longer fingers and pedicures comfortably. As well, it includes lacquer remover and a sample set of OPI’s remover wraps. All in all, you can’t go wrong with this product, and although it is an investment, if you’re a committed fan of gel manicures, DIY results will save you plenty of time and money and pay for the kit in no time.

A Few Tips On Getting The Best Gel Nails At Home: Maximize Your DIY Manicure

No matter which products you decide to go with, the one critical rule to applying gel nail polish at home is this: Follow. The. Instructions. This is important! If you miss or skip a step, your manicure will not bond as it is designed to, and you will be disappointed with the results. But if you follow the rules carefully, your DIY gel manicure will be perfect every time.

Here are a few essential tips to keep in mind:

  • The natural nail needs to be oil-free. If oil or shine is present, nothing will stick to it properly - meaning your gel manicure won’t bond. Follow this step carefully.
  • Avoid getting gel nail polish on the skin around your nail plate - if this happens, the nails will lift once cured. Luckily with gel you have some working time, so clean up the sides before curing.
  • Apply THIN THIN coats. This is important. If the polish goes on too thick, it may end up peeling prematurely.
  • If you struggle, try completing four fingers on one hand, then four fingers on the other hand, then your thumbs separately. This can make things a little less tricky.

DIY Gel Manicure Poll

What appeals to you about doing a gel manicure at home?

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Gel Nail Polish Manicures At Home: An Easy DIY For Beautiful Nails Every Time

I hope this has been helpful in explaining the different options on the market for the DIY gel manicure fan. This process is indeed easy and straightforward, once you have the proper supplies and instructions. With a little practice, you’ll be rocking your gel nails - and no-one will believe you did it at home.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Are you a gel nail polish fan? Have you considered trying them at home? Are you convinced now that it is doable? I’d love to hear your experiences if you try this out! Please share what you love and what you’ve tried.


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    • Jasmeetk profile image

      Jasmeet Kaur 

      3 years ago from India

      u have shared very helpful stuff.. thanks!!

      I do nail art with normal nail polishes and i have a blog too. I want to try gel nails now.

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Canada

      That's a good point Sonia!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      i am a nurse and i wash my hands quite often i have found gel nails to be perfect i would suggest applying primer really well it helps seal of openings and areas where moisture can enter moisture breeds germs if that happens soak the polish offf quickly

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Canada

      Thanks Peggy!

    • profile image

      Peggy James 

      4 years ago

      Great article! "Useful"

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Canada

      Stephanie, you bring up a great point I didn't mention in the article... doing a gel mani at home definitely helps avoid those overwhelming salon chemical smells! I'm very sensitive to those as well. Gel nail polish itself has very low odour, so it doesn't pose much irritation risk at home. And yes, always nice to be able to do this treat for yourself! Thanks for your comment.

    • StephanieP profile image


      4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Wonderful article with useful tips that I will try. One of things I dislike most about nail salons is the intense smell of harsh chemicals. While it's nice to be pampered, it's always rewarding doing things yourself. Thanks for the beauty contribution!

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Canada

      Victoria, I've had the same experience with cheap salons! They are usually cheap for a reason. I'd definitely choose doing my nails at home over risking a questionable salon. And yes, with the cost of these kits, you can't really go wrong. Let me know how you like it! :)

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Canada

      Msdielise, I'm with you on acrylics! I wore them for awhile years ago and they were very hard on my nails. So when you get your nails done now, do you choose gel polish? Thanks for your comment!

    • Victoria Baughman profile image

      Victoria Baughman 

      4 years ago from Michigan

      I will try this. I love to get my nails done often, but it costs me $50-$60 to get a quality set near me. I have tried the less expensive places and they turned out horrible. The cost of these starter kits might even save me so money. Thank you.

    • msdielise profile image


      4 years ago

      Hi, thanks for the wonnderful hub @manicuregirl. In my experience, I also recommend gel nail polish instead of acrylic ones. Gel is much safer to use. Acrylic dried out my nails. It took me days to bring back the old natural shine of my nails. I haven't done my nails for a couple of months now. I rarely get it done (during special occasions only). Nail care in a regular basis is still important. Always keep it clean and short.

      Have a nice day!

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Canada

      I'd love to hear how you like it, Lisa... thanks for your comment!

    • weezyschannel profile image


      4 years ago from Central USA

      I may have to try this is I've been looking for something different to do thank you this is great information


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