My First Time Trying At Home Gel Manicures

There are few things worse that breaking or cracking a nail, at least for folks with my particular hobby. One of the things I dread is breaking a swatching nail during my busy season. I am too fussy to bother with a tea-bag patch, and it wouldn't survive the amount of acetone I was about to unleash. I had to find an alternative. I decided to go with gel.

My First Try Red Carpet manicure

Well, a few weeks ago, the very worst happened. I was in the middle of swatching, and I smacked my hand. The corner of my middle finger was cracked all the way through. It hadn't come away, but I could feel it when I ran my thumb across it, and I knew it would show up when I swatched. Even the best base coat couldn't hide that. I turned to the only thing I could think of: uv cured gel.

I did some light googling, and settled on a kit from Red Carpet Manicure from Ulta. The website had a holiday special kit for a good price, so I scraped my kids together and scampered over. I had been saving my pennies for a video camera, but this was slightly more pressing. Of course, the special kit that I had my eye on wasn't in stock so I grabbed the more-expensive-but-the-same Pro 45 Kit. I chose this one over the Portable starter kit because I am impatient. The portable kit is cheaper, but it takes two minutes under the light instead of forty-five seconds. Time is money...or something.

Prep: Max Hydration Primer
Structure: Base Coat Nail Gel
Brilliance: Seal & Shine Top Coat Nail Gel
Revitalize: Nourishing Nail & Cuticle Oil
Purify: Pre & Post Application Cleanser
Erase: Gel Nail Polish Remover
LED Nail Gel Polish in Red Carpet Reddy
Professional LED Light
20 foil remove wraps
20 lint free wipes
5 orangewood sticks
1 cuticle & pro buffing stick
2 adhesive buffing tab strips
1 emery board
(Instruction card)

I also bought a separate polish, Nervous with Anticipation, for $10

A lot of these "extras" feel like filler. The emery board and the orangewood sticks especially. Those are two things that I have always had on-hand...but maybe I am not the norm. I think it is worth mentioning that everything except the polish is a mini size.

I am pretty pleased with the results, actually. I forgot to take before shots (because I was in hulksmash mode) so why don't you check out these "after" pictures.

My First Try Red Carpet manicure

Here we see the offending crack, complete with a damnable bit of cotton stuck under the gel inside the crack. That drove me nuts for a few days, I can promise you.

My First Try Red Carpet manicure

My First Try Red Carpet manicure

I kept a diary of sorts while I was wearing them. My notes were, overall, pretty positive. I did notice that as long as I was quick with the acetone remover, swatching didn't seem to ruin the glossy finish. One thing that did kinda put a crimp in my gel plans was the fact that I use latex as a peel-off base for swatching, especially for glitters. If you watch my video, you can see how I use an orangewood stick to lift a corner and peel the polish and latex off. Well...guess what else can be lifted up with an orangewood stick?! Yup, you guessed it: the gel. I am not smart.

I kept these on for a week. I had to redo a couple because I am a giant moron and picked at it with stick and then was surprised at the outcome. But overall I am pretty impressed with them.

Taking these off was a thousand times less awful than I expected it would have been. You always hear/read horror stories about people having to drill, grind, and soak to remove gel nails. I assume that all applied to salon applied gels, but I wasn't sure. I used the enclosed remover and wee foils...
>>to break in here: the remover is fine. Totally acceptable. But the foils/pads...I hope they don't sell those separately...because no. They don't work any better or more efficiently than a cotton ball, aluminum foil, and regular acetone. I tested both, and I definitely would not buy that part again.<<
...and I waited a good fifteen minutes. Once I felt like enough time had passed, I slid the foils off to reveal a cracked and dehydrated surface where there had once been a glossy nail. So weird. I brushed most of that off, and lightly buffed my nail to smooth the weird spots.

I was so impressed, I even did my moms nails. She wore these for two weeks before <eek> she peeled them off. She liked the end product so much that she went out and bought her own.

Final thoughts
Other than the scuffing, these gel things are kinda awesome. My mom has been wearing hers for weeks now, and shes over the moon with the results, and my agonizing week with them was actually pretty ok. They are a little spendy, but not really that bad if you think about how much a full polish set up can run you. I will definitely be keeping this set handy, especially for vacations. 

Have you tried gel nails? What did you think?


  1. I've never tried gel nails but it's nice to know of an option that actually works as advertised!

  2. I've never used uv light gel before, but really want to try it out. I often use the light less kits from sallys when my nails are feeling weak

  3. I love the RCM kit, it works better than some expensive brands I have tried and is so affordable and easy to use.
    I have had issues taking other gel polishes off but RCMs will always come off with a good soaking in acetone for a while

  4. I'm glad you had a good experience!
    I have a gelish mini set I won a few years ago. I always use it to do my toenails because I don't like painting them too often. I have 6 nice bright colours so it's perfect for my toes :)

  5. I use Gelish from Sally's & do 2 coats of clear gel & then the top coat as my base & then I can use all my indie polishes on top of that. I can change my polish daily as long as I use a non acetone remover.

    I am certain I'm not the only one to do this but since my nails are ridge-y & I LOATHE stained nails from skipping a base coat I felt like a genius the first time I did this....

  6. I love the results of gel but I change my polish so much that it's not the most practical for me. Great review!

  7. I'm tempted to try gel for vacations (or even just during the work week since I paint only on the weekends). Thanks for the video - it was VERY helpful!

  8. I am just terrified of Gels, lol!!! One day I may give them a try. <3

  9. I've never used gels before, but I think it was pretty genius to use them on your cracked nail though. I might have to try them out sometime.

  10. As someone who's about to go on a vacation, I'm thinking about taking the plunge and getting a gel setup. I can't decide whether or not it's worth it to buy nail equipment just for vacation or if I should just go to a salon. You make this look fun, I kind of want my own!

  11. I do own the equipment but I can't get it done the right way. I wanted to use it for your same reason actually: when a nail cracks as an alternative to patching. Unfortunately it just doesn't work for me, when I have a crack my nails bend over the crack, and they do even if I have a thick gel layer on top.

  12. Looks like you did a great job! Gel manicures can be such a fabulous tool when done properly :) I'm wearing one right now...I love OPI GelColor!

  13. I had a gel mani done once, but it started to peel after less than 24 hours. I'm not a fan, but I know it's not for everyone.

  14. Welcome to the gel polish world! It's SO addicting. I bet you buy tonnes of gel polish now LOL.

  15. You did a great job with these, much better than I would have done!

  16. I agree, more important than a video camera! I have yet to try gel yet, maybe I will soon

  17. On spring break, I was cleaning and snapped my nail right down below the quick. I was so upset I cried. I superglued that bitch back together and have been wearing gel ever since. Another week or so and I think it'll be grown out. A teabag would have never stood up for me either. I like that I can use pure acetone to remove and it doesn't affect the gel unless I soak it. I did end up with some scuffs, though.

  18. Oh my goodness, that hair would bother me, too! But glad you like the gel nails. I enjoy doing them on occasion! :-)


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