Soak-Off Gel Manicures (aka “Gelish” or “Shellac” manicures) are all the rage right now- who wouldn’t want flawless, chip-free nail polish with a patent-shine every day? Well, for one… it can be extremely costly. These manicures cost approximately $40-$50 every two weeks… so that can really add up! Now, there are many at-home soak-off gel polish systems available (usually between $80-$100 for a starter kit, including SensatioNail, Gelish Mini, Red Carpet Manicure and more, which can be purchased from Sally Beauty Supply or even at the drugstore). Still, the problem remains that the actual gel polishes can be very expensive… and I know many of you are thinking “well, what do I do now with my whole nail polish collection”!? I have an answer for you today!
Ever since I tried this as a beauty experiment several months ago, many of you have been asking me all about it! Is it possible? How does it work? What do you have to do differently? I’m happy to let you know that it works wonderfully! I used my at-home Gelish system (along with the gel cleanser from the SensatioNail system… but you can use rubbing alcohol instead) along with regular nail colors to create salon-quality gel manicures at home. The best part? Even a $3 polish works perfectly. It’s really amazing!
The only difference you will need to prepare yourself for is that this way takes much longer. One of the key steps is letting the nail color dry and set completely, which takes at least 30 minutes (but I usually go and watch TV for an hour to make sure it’s completely ready). While true gel polish manicures claim to last up to 2 weeks, I think that realistically they last about 1 week (depending on how fast your nails grow). When done properly, I haven’t experienced any differences in wear or durability from this technique as compared to a true gel manicure. Other than that, the only extra step is one more gel cleanse and that’s it! It’s really simple- hopefully this tutorial will help you to do it at home as well!
You Will Need
- LED or UV Lamp
- Gel Cleanser or Rubbing Alcohol
- Soak Off Gel Polish System including pH Bond, Base Coat, Top Coat and Cuticle Oil (optional)
- Manicure tools
- Your favorite nail polish
Start off with a simple manicure (push back cuticles, file nails and lightly buff the natural shine off the nails). Prep nails with Gel Cleanser or rubbing alcohol.
Using the pH Bond (or nail dehydrator) from your soak-off gel polish kit, apply a thin layer to each nail. This step does not need to be cured.
Next, apply a thin layer of Foundation Gel (or the designated “base coat” from the soak-off gel polish system). Make sure to go as far to the edges as possible, and to cap the free edge by running the brush along the tip of your nail.
Cure the base coat under a UV or LED lamp, whichever is recommended for use with your specific gel polish system. Cure the two thumbs first, then the four fingers on each hand afterwards to ensure an even cure over the entire nail.
Clean any tacky residue off of the nails with the Gel Cleanser or rubbing alcohol. Gel should be hard and shiny, not dull or liquid (although a bit of stickiness is normal until it is cleaned off).
Apply your favorite nail polish to your nails, just as you normally would. Use 2-3 coats for an opaque finish. You can also do nail art, add stickers or glitter at this point.
After your nail color is applied, let it dry completely. This step is extremely important and the nail color must be completely dry for this process to work. I recommend to let your nails dry and set for 60 minutes before proceeding.
After your nail color has completely dried, apply a thin layer of the soak-off gel top coat. Ensure to apply the gel polish all the way to the edges and to cap the free edge.
Cure the top coat under UV or LED light (which ever is designed for the soak-off gel polish system you are using). Remember to first cure the two thumbs together, then cure the four fingers on each hand to ensure a complete and even curing of the gel.
Clean off any sticky residue from the nails with Gel Cleanser or rubbing alcohol. Again, nails should be hard and shiny. If the gel is soft, it did not cure completely.
This step is optional, but is highly recommended. Apply a nourishing cuticle oil to the cuticles to hydrate the nail beds, as this process can be very drying. Nails will look smoother, hydrated and like they would after a salon manicure!