Gel Nails Manicure at Home

Today’s topic is about doing your nails at home. Gel nails that is! I shared this on Instagram and so many were interested in hearing about my at home gel nails that I figured that many of you might be interested too.

Let me start by saying that my nails are in really bad condition. They’ve never really recovered from having acrylic nails on over 10 years ago. I wore them only for a year or two, but that was enough to ruin them forever. I made the mistake of letting them use those sanding drills on my nails, the drills that smooth out and remove the old acrylic to prepare for new. That drill is dangerous and will totally mess up your nail bed, so I would recommend to anyone to never do the drill!

I regret it all the time and wish I had never let it happen. I stopped acrylics early on and vowed to never do it again and I haven’t. My nails are still shot, they have ridges, the thumb nails will hardly grow, but split constantly from the nail bed growing out. And yes, I’ve tried Biotin for several months and it really didn’t make a difference in my nails. I have gotten gel nails at a local salon for special occasions and I really like how those wear. They are a lot easier on the nails than the old acrylics are. I’ve heard SNS is even better, although I haven’t tried that method at the salon yet. I might try it for a special occasion and see how I like it. I’ve heard a lot of positive comments about SNS and how gentle it is to the natural nails, but it’s still being a slave to the salon, which means time and money.

So, a few years ago, I started doing my own gel nails at home. I bought a smaller UV light from Walgreens and used the brand Sensationail. It was OK, but wasn’t perfect by any means. But gel nails with a light kit was the only thing that would stay on my nails. If I use regular polish it chips and peels within one day, so it’s not even worth it to me, so gel is my choice right now.

I’ve been using that same UV light for about 5 years and I also tried Gelaze gel polish too. It was better than the one from Walgreens, but I still wasn’t satisfied with it. Lauren, my niece, did some research and came up with the above LED light and OPI gel polishes from Amazon, so I did the same. I put this MiroPure LED light on my Christmas list and was so excited to get it.

Here’s my Amazon affiliate link below, if you’d like to check it out. Not saying that this one is any better than others, but it’s affordable and I have read LED might be better than UV, which was what my old light was. What I like also is that this light comes on automatically when you put your hand in.

Also, it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen on your hands when you use an LED or UV light. I haven’t been doing this, but I’m going to start! I’m not sure how dangerous this is, it doesn’t seem to be that bad from what I’ve read, but it’s not probably not great for your skin, so sunscreen would definitely help.  

I also bought the Base coat and Top coat from OPI, as well as a couple of light colors. I really like white neutrals for most of the time and so that’s what I got. I might try a color one day too.

I shared a series of videos on Instagram when I was showing these products and doing my nails. I couldn’t actually video me painting my nails, but I showed the process and talked about the steps I took. So check those out under my Instagram Highlights (those little circles just under my profile and picture).


Here are some from Ebay that are less expensive, so you can check these colors too. I found my colors on Amazon originally for $10 each, but now I’m not finding those prices anymore.

You’ll want to prep your nails first. It’s good to wipe them down with regular rubbing alcohol to take off the oils. I lightly sand my natural nails with that white buffer above to give the polish a little more tooth.

Steps for a Gel Manicure at Home:

Step 1: Wipe with alcohol and lightly buff nails.

Step 2: Use 1 Base coat. Cure 90 seconds. 

Step 3: Use 2 coats of Color gel polish. Keep polish off cuticles by using an orange stick or edge of fingernail to remove.  Cure 90 seconds between each coat.

Step 4: Use 1 Clear Top coat. Cure 90 seconds.

Step 5: Use a cotton pad with alcohol to remove the sticky haze that remains on the nails after curing under the lamp. 

You’re now ready to go and your nails are completely hard and dry.

Keep in mind that this isn’t perfect. I need to work on my cuticles better in pushing them back and moisturizing them, but I’m really happy with the way my manicure looks. This color is Oh My Majesty, a pearly white that I really like. I bought one more called I Couldn’t Bare Less, but it was a little lighter and thinner and I like how opaque this one is. I’ve also heard Funny Bunny linked above is a good white too, looks like a French White. But, if you like color, just shop around on the OPI colors until you find what you like.

The main thing to keep in mind when you try doing gel nails at home is to keep it off your cuticles. If it gets on the cuticle, try to get it off before you put your nails under the light to cure. Any polish that gets on the cuticle not only looks bad, but it will make your polish lift a lot faster.

I’m definitely not a hand model, so keep that in mind, but I think this is a pretty good job of doing gel nails at home. With anything that’s new, doing your own nails at home might be a little strange at first, but I think anyone can learn to do their own nails. If you can polish with both hands, you’ll be fine. Or get someone to help you if you can’t do the right hand.

So, that’s it for today! I thought you all would enjoy seeing the process and products I’ve recently picked up for this task. It’s a little bit of a cost up front to get the LED light and the polishes, but once you get them, you can definitely save money over going to the salon. I don’t like the cost of a salon and so this works for me. I think most gel manicures are at least $25 to $30 a visit, so that adds up fast. It makes me feel better to have polish on my nails. I grew up painting my nails at home so am comfortable with the process. If you’ve never done that, then it might be more of a learning curve, but this OPI Gel polish goes on nice and smooth, the best I’ve ever used.

Taking Off the Gel Polish

I know you’re wondering how to get off gel polish, aren’t you? Well, it doesn’t come off with regular nail polish, you really have to either soak it off or peel it off (which is not good for your nails). I’ll be honest and admit that I usually peel off the old polish after about a week of wearing it. By then it’s starting to lift on me and it peels very easily. It does make the nail very dry if you peel it off, so I’m not saying I recommend that, but that’s what impatient me does! I pick and pick and the next thing I know, it’s all off!

The best way to get it off is to soak it off. That’s what they do in the salon. Put cotton pads on soaked with acetone on top of the polish to break it down and it should then scrape off pretty easily. I did buy these tips to help with that, as I’ve tried tin foil before with the cotton pads and it was messy and they didn’t stay on, so these are a good little tool to use on your nails to help with the soaking off of the polish. I’m going to start using them.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. Is this something you’d try at home? I’d love to know how long yours stays on. I can only get about 7 days out of mine, but I’m hoping to make it last longer. 



- Rhoda


  1. FYI, before you consider doing an SNS, it’s basically like having short term acrylics. They use a dremel as part of the process. I’ve had an SNS for the past 4 months, and had it removed last week. My nails are as bad as they were after removing acrylics years ago.

    • HI, Mary Ann, thanks for sharing that. I’ve had someone tell me SNS is very gentle and safe, so that let’s me know there are still issues with it. So I probably will not do that option either. Gel seems to be the best solution for me at this point.

    • I haven’t tried SNS either but I have used Gel nails. Some words of caution. The nails that require the lamp to cure the product use ultra violet light. If you have had any type of skin cancer use caution. Melanoma can form in the nail bed. Also my nails will not take the acetone soak to remove the gel nail polish. I am fighting to grow them out again. They are dry and brittle. They are peeling as well.

  2. Great topic, Rhoda! I’ve been getting the SNS (dip polish) too. It lasts for weeks. But there is some light sanding with that Dremel too. It all depends on who does it to keep your nails healthy. If my guy Henry isn’t available, I wait. He is patient enough to let the old polish soak off! I am definitely getting some of those soak off things you listed. I pulled off gel polish a couple of times and messed up my nails instead of soaking. For regular nail polish, my best luck has been with OPI Chip Skip under the base coat and Sally Hansen mega shine top coat…I can get a week out of that combo. I grew up watching Shindig, Hullabaloo, and Sonny &Cher while polishing my nails!! You did a good job!!

    • Thanks, Roxanne, I love that there are better options out there now. I just know regular nail polish will not stay on my nails at all.

  3. Rhoda, I’ve been using Sally Hansen Miracle Gel polishes lately and really do love them. It’s simply 2 coats of the gel polish of your color choice and then a gel top coat. I can easily get 10-12 days before a sign of chipping. There’s no light involved and the products are very inexpensive. Just thought I’d chime in on another option.

    • Hi, Iris, thanks for sharing what works for you. I just know that any regular nail polish will not stay on my nails and I don’t think the gel would either. I haven’t tried regular gel, but I’ve heard others talk about how good it is too. I wish my nails could handle that type polish too.

  4. Well, you had me sold on gel polish until you described how to get it off. My nails are fragile like yours and I really have to baby them. If I had to peel and soak them to get the polish off it seems like I would be doing more damage to my nails. Thanks for all the info though. Your nails to look pretty.

  5. My nails are dry and ridged and split easily. They look awful without polish, and polish seems to help glue them together! I’ve had good luck with Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure polish. It has a built-in base coat and top coat and lasts at least a week for me. My favorite color is “Shell We Dance,” which is a very pale, semi-opaque pink. I’ve used it for years, and the price is right!

    I enjoy your blog and am the same age as you. I am also blessed to still have my parents, both 87 years old. Keep up the good work, Rhoda!

  6. Hello! I’ve been doing my nails at home for quite some time now. I can completely relate to your article from damaged nails to saving money. I’ve been using the brand Gellen, in both top/base and color. I purchased it from Amazon for around $17.99 for 6 smaller bottles. Top and base were about $8.99 for both. I really do like this product and can easily get 2 weeks (longer on my toes) before I too start picking at them. However, I do find that removing the product is a bit tough and time consuming. I’m not sure if this has to do with the product because I haven’t tried other brands, or if it’s just a soak off polish thing. My former nail lady uses the brand Gelish, and I don’t recall it being so hard to remove. It too is a great brand, but a bit more spendy. I usually buff off the shine of the top coat with a file or block, then soak. It does help save time. Thanks for the great read. I’m so glad I’m not alone.

  7. Rhoda, I’ve tried gels but didn’t have good luck with them. May I throw out another polish regimen that has resulted in strong nails and a long lasting manicure for me (I also used to have acrylics so know of what you speak)?
    1. One coat of Nailtique Formula 2 nail strengthener. It has changed my nails from weak to very strong!
    2. Two coats of OPI polish. (Other brands may work just as well. but I only use OPI.)
    3. One coat of Seche Vite quick dry top coat. This stuff is amazing! Nails dry to a pretty, hard finish in minutes. A sales associate at Sally’s Beauty Supply raved about it and I’m so glad she did! I believe it is what keeps the manicure lasting so long.
    I’m really pleased with my at home professional looking manicures and receive regular compliments on my nails. (Not trying to usurp your post but thought others who haven’t had good luck with gel may be interested in this regimen.)

    • HI, Dawn, thanks for sharing! I know of all those products and used to used Nailtiques many years ago before I had acrylics. It did work for me and then seemed to not work as well after awhile. I will definitely try it again since my nails are so damaged and see if I can get them stronger. I’ve also heard good things about the Seche Vite top coat too. I’m glad you shared this with everyone too.

    • Rhoda, I had the same experience years ago with Nailtique as you…it worked and then it didn’t. I wonder if the Formula 2 is a new product in their line. I don’t remember the exact name of the one I used before but I don’t think it was Formula 2. I’ve used this for perhaps two years now. I also have to trim my nails regularly. I can’t believe how strong they are now; I’ve never had nails like this before.

      I would also recommend following the Formula 2 instructions until your nails become stronger. IIRC, it was to apply every other day until your nails have improved, then begin using polish. I only use it now as a base coat.

    • I think Formula 2 was out back then too, if I remember right. I’m going to get some again and try it all over and see if it makes them stronger. Can’t hurt at this point!

  8. Lynne A Johnson says

    I’ve only had my nails done professionally a few times. I have always thought the process was harsh. I started doing my own with a french nail kit and really love the look. It is a bit tricky to learn how to do. But, a little practice produces lovely nails. This way you can treat your nails the way you want them treated. I also give my nails an occasional rest from any products except some warmed olive oil. Best to you as you find something that works and adds to the health of your nails.

    • Thanks, Lynne, I had much better nails before I ever did any procedures to them, so I wish I could roll it back and not do any of those harsh things to my nails. Now I’m stuck with what I have. Glad you have found good products that work at home for you.

  9. Please do research on UV lights for drying nails. There is a greater incidence of developing melanoma with this use. With a dear family member melanoma survivor who went on to develop a nonprofit melanoma organization, a great deal of preventive measures are researched and available.

  10. Interesting post to me. I always enjoy your posts! I had a similar experience after acrylics…about 5 years of thin peeling nails. I’ve found a product that has completely blown me away. My nails are the strongest they’ve been in my 70+ years and I have to cut them down. I use Nailtiques, then a nail gel polish. I touch up with Nailtiques most days. I think if you try it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Nailtiques is on amazon.

    • Hi, Vel, Dawn just mentioned that above in the comments too, so glad it’s working for you. I’m going to pick up another bottle and try it for awhile without the gel method I’m doing and see if I can get my nails looking better. I used Nailtiques years ago and had good results then.

  11. Rhoda, I can totally relate to your comments on acrylic nails. I had them on for years until I developed an allergy to the products and had to stop. Needless to say, my nails are in terrible shape. Ridges, peeling, breaking painfully low. I am trying to figure out what to do. I think I’ll try your method and see if it works for me. Thank you for all the helpful information!

    • Hey, Bonnie, I know it’s a tough one. I’m going to try the Nailtiques again that a couple of ladies mentioned, so look at that too. Maybe we can improve our real nails with it.

  12. Kathy Maybee POLISHED says

    Just to let you know your nail comes from the Matrix which is right above your cuticle and between your knuckle. The drill never touches that part of your nail. If you had bad nails to begin with, after your acrylic nails have grown out, which takes about six months or longer, you’re still going to have the bad nail you had when you started. The drill does not do permanent damage! Speaking from 18 years of experience as a nail technician!

    • HI, Kathy, I know you are probably well versed in nails if that’s your business, but my nails were never this bad before I had acrylics. Polish just wouldn’t stay on & that’s why I started doing them for a short year or so. I never had ridges or nails that split as soon as they grow out a tiny bit. Both my thumb nails are horrible, one worse than the other and will not grow without splitting. That was never the case before I had acrylics, so I beg to differ with you on this one. I know that drill damaged my nails. I’m sure there are technicians that are very careful with it, but since it happened to my nails I don’t think there is another explanation. I thought too after 6 mos. to a year that my nails would recover and they never have.

    • Kathy,
      I will agree with you ! Also, the condition of our nails has A Lot to do with our diets and a what the body maybe lacking in.

  13. Hi Rhoda, I’ve been doing my own gel nails at home for years now also, and I too have dry, messy cuticles. I use CND brand “cuticle eraser” on my nails everyday and it really helps keep my cuticles smooth and soft during my manicures, especially if I don’t do a good job trimming the dry skin.

  14. Barbara Boyack says

    Rhoda, I love gel nails too. I get mine done at the salon, I need a pedicure every 6 weeks or so, get gel on my toes too..lasts a long time. But the cost adds up. Might try your method!

  15. I had difficulty growing my nails. About five years ago, my dermatologist suggested I use over the counter Biotin. I buy the chewable ones. My nails are now strong and a great length. People often think I have artificial nails. Next time you see your primary care doctor, ask if it would be ok to try this over the counter product.

    • Hi, Isobel, I mentioned in my post that I’ve used Biotin for months at a time, did nothing for my nails. I got it from the Vitamin Shoppe.

  16. You are so funny! I didn’t read all the posts but had to laugh aloud at the comment of get someone to do the right nails! I’ll swap my left for your right lol!

    • Some people say they can’t use their opposite hand to paint nails, so I figured I mention that!

  17. As I age, my nails have gotten so thin and they peel! Any regular polish just cracks because my nails are so weak they bend easily. I’ve been doing my own gel polish with LED light. The best base and top coat for me is the Red Carpet brand from Ulta. I usually get two weeks wear. Sometimes around day 8 or 9, I’ll put a second top coat with the LED light that’ll definitely get me to the two week mark. Everyone’s nails are different so it’s helpful to try different brands until you find the right combination. And the 15 minute soak of acetone cotton pad on my nails hasn’t made them any weaker. I usually oil them up and let them sit for an hour or so to moisturize them before doing a new manicure. Love having pretty nails again!

  18. In the removing process, you have to lightly sand the top coat of the gel or the polish remover won’t work no matter how long you soak it.

  19. I have never had good nails. Probably because of thyroid issues in my younger years.
    My 12 year old saw a YouTube video where the woman was talking about her bad nails and using Jojoba Oil helping her tremendously. My daughter said, what do you have to loose? So I tried it for a month. I couldn’t believe it! No only had my nails grown, they were strong! I have used it almost continuously for the past year and my nails are in good condition. Not manicured perfection, but really good.
    I’ve tried 3 different brands of Jojoba oil and they all seem to do the same. I get the brand that is least expensive on Amazon.
    Try it, you’ll like it.

  20. I had SNS on my nails twice from a reputable salon. I bought into the hype of “Good for your nails.” Both times, I waited 3 weeks before returning to the salon. That is the recommended amount of time. My nails are destroyed. I would not recommend SMS to anyone.

    • Hi, Alice, that is good to know and I don’t think I’ll try it after all. I’ve struggled so much with my nails I don’t need them destroyed anymore.

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