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My At-Home Gel Polish Nail Set up

June 14, 2022

I'm Chelsy, a single mom in a small town, who loves photographing weddings, and helping photographers build their own businesses

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A little over three years ago, I think I wanted to have my nails painted before I shot a wedding. Something about having a fresh manicure made me feel put together, and ready to take on the world. At weddings, I was constantly shaking hands, and people were staring at me and my hands as I held a camera to my face literally all day. Now I love having my nails done, but I hate going to get my nails done. I hate the small talk, I hate that I have to drive at least an hour to get anywhere to get them done, then it’s another 2-hour process of getting my nails done in total it was almost a 4-hour ordeal to get my nails done.

So I decided I would just learn to do it myself, and I did. Youtube is where it’s at yall! The Nail Hub is an amazing resource if you are wanting to dive into doing your own manicures. She has so much knowledge and is such an amazing educator highly recommend checking her videos out!

I started out my DIY manicure with regular gel polish. While I still use regular gel for the colors I have started using what is called builder gel as my base coat and top coat. Essentially builder gel can give your nail more structure and looks similar to acrylic nails you would get at a salon. The builder gel is a little intimidating at first especially because there are so many different types you can use. They come in different colors, and different viscosities and can be hard gels or soaked off.

Supplies

Liz at The Nail Hub has a ton of videos that dive way in-depth into what different builder gels are used for and why you might want to use one over another. But today I’m sharing what I’ve been using for about a year now.

Curing Lamp

The first thing you are going to need is a lamp to cure your gel. This is the one I have had for about 3 years now. It is UV and LED which is nice so if I use a polish that needs one over the other this lamp will work.

Nail Drill

While a nail drill isn’t really a necessity it makes the process soo much easier. You can find some pretty cheap ones on amazon, this one is on the lower end but isn’t the cheapest one you can find. This is my second drill. My first one was a super cheap $10 one and lasted about a year. The one below I’ve had almost two years now. I love that I can use sanding bands for the nail and metal bits for my cuticles for a really great finished at-home gel polish manicure.

Builder Gel

I tried a few different builder gels before I found this one. I really like this formula for a few reasons. First off it is a thick formula or thick viscosity this means that it doesn’t move around too quickly on your nail after you apply it. It also self-levels really well but slow enough that as a beginner I have time to make adjustments as needed. It’s also clear so I can keep an eye on my nail bed between manicures, and allows me to have clear nails when I want them.

Another thing about this formula is it’s a rubber base. It’s not actually made of rubber what that means is it has a bit more bend to it. While I like having my nails painted, I also love digging in the dirt riding horses, and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. I also live in the frozen tundra and when it’s really cold out sometimes your nails will just snap if you bump them wrong. The rubber base has been great for me and my day-to-day life.

Color

I have a plethora of nail colors my favorite brand is Modelones. The color is super pigmented, and generally, I only need to use two coats of color. They are pretty cheap, and come in almost any color you can think of.

Acetone Rubbing Alcohol

You will need acetone and rubbing alcohol mixture to prep your nail, and to take off your inhibition layer (the sticky tacky layer) after you cure your nails. You can get pre-mixed solutions but you can also make your own with a ratio of one part acetone and 3 parts alcohol. The little pumps below are awesome for nails!

Regular Base + Top Coat

If you don’t want to mess with the builder gel you can do a regular base and top coat that works pretty similar to regular nail polish you just cure them under the lamp to dry faster! This brand has been the best one I’ve used over the years and really prevents chips and cracks well! You can also get a matte top coat that will turn any color into a matte finish which is really awesome!

Other Tools

The next few things on the list are definitely optional as far as at-home DIY gel polish manicures but they are useful and can help create some pretty neat designs.

How To Do a DIY At-Home Gel Polish Manicure

I’m going live on Instagram today June 14th for a fun little chitchat and to show you how I do my nails. I have a photoshoot for myself coming up on Friday so I wanted to swap out my current abstract busy nails for something a bit more nude and understated. You can find me here on Instagram, I’ll also be uploading the video below once I’m finished up!

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Tioga, ND
Manhattan, KS

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