How to Do Gel Nails at Home (Like Acrylic)

Unlike acrylic, gel nails do not chip easily.
Unlike acrylic, gel nails do not chip easily. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Acrylic nail manicures look clean and professional, but having them done by a professional is costly. Additionally, acrylic nails cannot withstand much abuse, and the polish often chips away within days of your costly manicure. Acrylic nails also can permanently damage your nails. Nail stylists often use gel nails to replace this outdated form of nail care. Gel nail manicures are indistinguishable from acrylic, but they last much longer. You can easily perform a gel nail manicure at home. Purchase the supplies at most beauty supply stores, either individually or in kits.

Things You'll Need

  • LED nail light
  • Hand soap
  • Nail file
  • Orange wood cuticle stick
  • Nail buffer
  • Gel primer
  • Gel foundation or base
  • Gel nail polish
  • Gel topcoat
  • Gel nail cleanser
  • Lint-free cloth or paper towel

Thoroughly wash and dry your hands and nails, paying special attention to your nail beds and cuticles.

File your nails. Use an orange wood cuticle stick to push back your cuticles.

Buff each nail lightly with a buffer.

Apply gel primer to each nail, including the tips, and allow them to dry completely.

Coat each of your nails with the gel foundation or base. Cure the gel under an LED light for one minute.

Apply a coat of gel polish and cure in the light for one minute. Repeat this step for all your nails.

Paint a coat of gel topcoat to all your nails and cure for one minute.

Apply the gel cleanser to a lint-free cloth or paper towel. Wipe your nails to remove any sticky residue.

Tips & Warnings

  • A gel manicure will last about two weeks.
  • Remove gel nail polish by soaking your nails in regular acetone nail polish remover.
  • Avoid inhaling the acetone polish remover and keep it away from children.
  • One type of gel nail polish contains methyl acrylate, a chemical that can cause a reaction called dermatitis, which causes a rash to form on your skin. If methyl acrylate comes in contact with your eyes, a rash can also form on your eyelids. If this occurs after using gel nail polish, remove the polish and apply cortisone cream to the rash.
  • Some gel nail polishes contain butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA), which is a known carcinogen. The amount of exposure to the chemical that may develop cancer is unknown, but checking ingredients' lists and avoiding gel nail polishes with this chemical is the safest choice.
  • If you choose to use an ultraviolet light to cure your gel nail polish, know that exposure to this light can cause skin cancer. To avoid this risk, apply an SPF 30+ sunscreen to your fingers and hands during the manicure. In addition, buy a pair of tightly woven cotton gloves and cut the fingertips out of them. Wear these during the manicure as well.

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