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How to DIY Gel Nails At Home, Nail the nail

DIY Gel nails – Table of contents

Homemade Gel Manicure, how it all started

I have something a bit different for you today. If you’ve read my posts before, you know I love DIY-ing my nails. I’m always looking for a good top coat, a great nail polish formula and so on.

Well, about two weeks ago I was contacted by an NYC-based startup that launches Gel Nails Subscription boxes and goes under the brand name Nail the Nail – I love the name! You subscribe for a fixed price (more on the price and a promo code for my readers later) and you receive different nail products each month that help you create your unique DIY Gel Nails.

Spoiler alert!

Here is the finished look below:

gel nails

The first month, you get top and base LED curable polish and – of courseLED lamp that cures those polishes. The top and base coats will be included in your package every three months and they promise to replace the lamp if it gets broken. I love how they thought of every scenario and that they got you covered.

Also, each month you’ll get new brushes and a disposable manicure kit that contains nail file, buffer, wooden cuticle stick and disposable pads that ensure to easily remove your gel nails.

Every month there are two new gel paints and you get a surprise with a color. Of course, you may wonder: Hey, what if I don’t like the colors?

Fret not! These gel paints are much easier to mix than your regular, air-dried nail polish. After a few months, you’ll have enough of them to be sure that you’ll always be able to mix your unique shade. If your shade is too bright, you can always make it look more neutral with a touch of a nude shade. You can lighten too dark shades just as easy as you can darken those who are too light.

In the end, you can always use them for nail art where every possible shade is needed (or is that only me?).

So obviously, this is not the most eco-friendly solution with all the disposable tools. I realize that some of you will hate it and it will steer you away from this subscription box – but I must admit that it certainly is easier. And that is coming from someone who ruined its expensive glass nail file while buffing DIY Gel Nails before removal. (It was for the sake of Kiss Gel Nail Kit tutorial.)

Anyway, before we begin with the step by step process, let me just point you to their official site so you can verify all the info I gave you and maybe read a little more about it.
Nail the Nail official site.

If you check out the price that is immediately visible on their homepage, I’ll be happy to inform you that the price visible includes shipping. Also, I can even save you a $5 off if you use my promo code, but more on that later.

Disclaimer: As some of you already know, I’m from the EU. This nail subscription box is NYC based and can only send their subscription boxes over the US. They made an exception for me to do a review since most of my readers are US residents and therefore can order this box.

What was in my box?

Nail the nail subscription box

When I picked up this box, it was unusually small – I kinda pictured just the lamp to be almost the size of the whole package. The second thing I worried was the fact that it was soft-wrapped. I already pictured shattered pieces inside, but luckily that was not the case because the package is bubble wrapped.

When I opened it, there was more pink paper hidden inside. Their whole web page is pink so that is a nice correlation.

Nail the nail pink wrapping paper

The first thing that I noticed when I unwrapped the paper (Yes, it felt like Christmas!) was, unsurprisingly, the LED lamp. It came in additional bubble wrap that did a good job of keeping it intact.

gel nail compact LED lamp

I like the fact that this is not the usual, UV lamp. Most of the salons are transferring to LED lamps. Although UV lamps cure a wider range of polishes than LED lamps, possible health side effects are not worth it. I like that Nail the Nail did their research and opted for a LED lamp.

affordable gel nail USB LED lamp

The lamp has an unusually short cord. I get that, because of the USB connector, it is supposed to be portable and able to charge even through your computer/laptop USB port, but an additional foot of cord (at least) wouldn’t kill them. The short cable made me do my nails on the floor, which I didn’t mind as much as some of my readers may.

portable LED gel nails cheap lamp

The lamp has three bulbs and is quite narrow so you’ll need to adjust your fingers accordingly and you’ll have to cure your thumb separately which prolongs the process, but I don’t mind it.
The specs of this lamp didn’t come with the package so I did some Googling because you know I love to be totally transparent with you guys.

I found the exact same lamp on Amazon (in a variety of colors) so you can check it out here.

Of course, it is handier to receive everything in one package where the products are verified, but I had to do some digging. It says that it can cure UV gels, but I’m afraid that is false advertising and that it can only cure LED compatible gels. Again, that’s from investigating and not from my experience.

It seems that this lamp requires 3W of power. Not to get all technical with you, but still glad to know that my engineering degree can be put to good use. You have two options:

  • Charge it from your computer or laptop. Depending on the USB port used, you can be underpowered which will cure your nails less efficiently. You can forget about USB 1.0 or 2.0 because they provide (on average) only 2.5W of power. USB 3.0 and higher can give you 4.5W which is still not ideal, but you can work with that. That’s why avoided charging it from the computer. I didn’t want to compromise on the efficiency.

  • Use an adapter that goes to your AC outlet and has a built in USB port. Ideally, you should be using something like PowerFast Official OEM USB Charger and Power Adapter.

top base coat gel nails UV LED

Next up are Gel top and base coat from Sarness that look just like regular polishes. They have only 8ml, but you get them in your box every three months so just when you’re about to empty them – the next pair awaits.

It’s hard to find these two online, so I got the next that was the most similar. IT is Elite99 Gel Nail Polish that also works with LED lamps and has exactly 8ml of product.
So if you’re interested, check out Elite99.

nail buffer file wooden stick cuticle

So the next one is actually a small mani kit. It has a wooden cuticle pusher. Personally, I hate using anything other than my rubber cuticle pusher because it just feels too rough on my gentle skin so I would recommend you to do the same.

nail buffer file wooden stick cuticle Rouge geek review

There is also a very rough nail file (blue) that is meant for one-time use. It will probably be good for using on your hard toenails or on acrylic nails. Again, it seems too rough for my natural nails so I’ll just stick to my gentle glass nail file.

Lastly, there is a pink buffing block. I actually used this to buff my nails reaaallllyy gently before applying base, but more on that later. I will probably use it for removing my gel nails so I didn’t discard it after buffing.

Nail art brushes brush

Last, from the tools part of this unboxing are these tree nail art brushes. Although they come every month, I didn’t discard them after using because they are so easy to clean with acetone that it was a shame to throw them out after one use. Not that they are flawless or made out of gold – it’s just that I don’t like throwing stuff away that works.

Take a look at Professional Pen Nail Art Brushes Tool Set Manicure Tool if you are interested in buying them separately.

Here are the brushes up close:

gel Nail art brush

I’m not sure about the third one because the tip is slanted. If you check out the photo on the link that I posted above, you’ll see that this brush looks kinda different. The other two are just fine.

gel manicure Nail art brushes

They come with plastic tip protectors so they don’t ruin the gentle hairs while transporting them. A nice touch.

gel polish disposable acetone remover wraps

Phew, this just never ends. Here are the nail removers in the form of disposable pads. I won’t get into details about it in this post because I haven’t actually used it, but you get 30 of them in total so that they can cover your three manicures. Don’t worry; they come each month with your subscription box.

If you are interested in buying a pack of 200 of them, check these Nail Gel Polish Remover Pads out.

Canni gel nail paint pink peach

Last, but not the least – we have the pots of gel paints. I didn’t know what two shades will I be receiving and I’m glad I really like them both. Canni is a Bulgarian brand of nail products.

I will link Canni official page but, unless you know Bulgarian, there is really no point in clicking this link.

Anyway, I am glad that it is made in Europe, it gives me at least some kind of reassurance that it is not dangerous to use on my nails.

Canni nail art packaging

Under the lid, you’ll see safety aluminum foil that is MUCH harder to remove than one may think. I really hated opening this.
Here is the first shade – number 512 both in the natural light and under a flashlight.

Canni gel nail paint peach salmon color

The second one is more in-your-face than the first. It is number 532 for the reference and doesn’t look that bright on the sticker on the lid. Once you open it, you are greeted with this view:

Canni gel nail paint pink fuchsia color

Before you use any of these shades, I recommend mixing it. You can use a wooden cuticle pusher that came with the box or just use a toothpick. The point of mixing is not just to stare at the hypnotizing color, but also to even out the said color. After sitting out for too long and being exposed to a variety of temperatures, it is normal for this gel to separate the pigments a bit. Nothing that a bit of mixing can’t solve.

Just look at how hypnotizing it is:

If you came here for the step by step process, get your lamps ready – we’re taking off!

travel friendly LED lamp for gel nails

Applying Gel nails Step by Step process

I will be following Nail the Nail official instructions, but with follow up pictures and with a bit more detail because I know how frustrating it can be to be confused in the middle of your manicure.

First of all, do one hand at a time. I applied a base coat to both hands and had tacky nails and had to be extra careful the whole manicure. Won’t be making that mistake twice, trust me.

  1. Step: Preparation to your DIY GEL

    • 1. Prepare all the tools that you’ll need:

    • 1.1. Gel paint of chosen color along with brushes

    • 1.2. Nail file and a buffer

    • 1.3. Acetone (acetone-free polish remover doesn’t count here)

    • 1.4. Cotton & paper towels so that you can be ready for any mess that comes your way

    • 1.5. LED lamp already plugged in

    • 1.6. Cuticle pusher (worst case scenario – the wooden stick that comes with this box)

    • 1.7. Base and top coat

    • 2. I’ll presume your nails are already naked (meaning there is no polish or any waxy/creamy residue on them)

    • 3. Gently push back your cuticles – no cutting please (I hope you hydrated before)

    • 4. File your nails to the desired shape, it will be too hard to shape them after the gel is on

    • 5. Lightly (LIGHTLY!) buff the surface of your nails so that they have a rougher texture. That ensures a better grip when you apply a base coat. Do this only the first time, every other time buff just the new, shiny growth. That way you’ll keep your nails healthy and not paper thin.

    Here are my nails after buffing. Your nails can’t be shiny because the base coat won’t stick in that case. As you can see, there are no visible scratches or thinning because of the buffing.
    Keep. It. Gentle.

    Rouge Geek natural bare long nails

  2. Step 2: Applying GEL Polish
    • 1. Apply base coat and cure for 2 minutes under the lamp

    • 1.1. Make sure you cure each side of the nails as with the small lamp the light doesn’t get to the edges. Turn one side of your nails up to the LED lights for 1 minute (one press of the button) and then do another side

      Gel nails - Curing gel base coat LED lamp

    • 1.2. Cure the thumb separately for two minutes straight. You can do a minute per side if your nail beds are curved, but I did it for two minutes straight.

    • 1.3. Once your base coat is cured, don’t touch it! It will feel tacky to the touch, but that is normal, I assure you. The point of base coat is to hold other coats so it has to be tacky. Even if you cure it for twice as long, it will still feel same to the touch. Trust me, I tried!

    • Gel base coat shiny nails

    • TIP: When you press the lamp button once – the timer is set for one minute, but when you press it twice it lasts two minutes.

    • Cure gel manicure LED light

    • 2. Apply the first layer of gel paint

    • 2.1. Make sure the gel doesn’t touch the skin around your nails. Clean it up if it does.

    • 2.2. For the first try, it is better to leave a millimeter from your cuticle line than to get over it when you try to get as close to the edge as possible.

    • 2.3. Take your time while applying it and try to do it as thin as you can. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look opaque or even at this point. We will do another coat.

    • Applying first coat gel paint

    • 2.4. Cure it for two minutes the same way as you did the base coat.

    • DIY Gel manicure nails

      Above is how it looks after one coat. Obviously, we will need to do the second. You can lightly touch it now if you want to check if it’s fully cured, it should feel almost greasy, but not as nearly tacky as the base coat.

    • 3. Apply the second layer of gel evening everything out (again, thin layers!). You can even wrap the tip, although I didn’t here.

    • 3.1. Cure it for four minutes total this time

    • 3.2. Cure each side of nails for two minutes (two presses of LED lamp)

    • 3.3. Cure your big thumb separately

    • Gel nails at home

      Here is how it looks after two coats. It is fully opaque and I am really happy with the results, but we are not quite done yet. We need something to boost the shine and longevity.

    • 4. Apply a layer of top coat (It wasn’t as thin this time)

    • 4.1. Cure it for four minutes, the same way you did the second layer of color

    • 4.2. After curing, there will be a sticky/greasy layer (also called inhibition layer) that you don’t want on your nails. You can easily remove it with a swipe of acetone soaked pad

Your nails should be totally cured, shiny, not tacky and looking something like this:

DIY gel nails swatch peach

To sum it up, I really dig this affordable kit. It is not quite made for totally inexperienced gals, but if you follow the instructions carefully and are patient enough, the results should be good. It is a good DIY alternative for salon manicures considering how much cheaper it is.
Also, the concept where you get different nail thingies each month is like a little carefully planned gift to you. Of course, you could buy everything separately (although for a higher total price), but that’s not the point. This way you get tried out nail tools and colors that you probably wouldn’t buy for yourself. They really make you experiment with it.

diy hard nails gel polish

What About Removal and Lasting Power?

So, having done these nails a mere three days ago, I’m still not bored with them and won’t remove them anytime soon. For now, they look the same as they did on day one, but I realize that the time span is too short to judge them this early. I didn’t wrap the tip (I read later about how you MUST do it if you want a lasting manicure) so I’ll remedy that mistake the next time I do my nails.

Here is a shot of my unwrapped nails.

gel nails at home swatch

I am still not sure about the damage it will (or won’t) do to my natural nails and how easy will it actually be to remove these nails. That’s why I plan to write something like “Part two” of this review. It will include tips for removing DIY gel nails and a final conclusion about this kit. If everything goes according to my plans (read: my nails still being healthy), I plan on trying out the second, neon pink, shade. I can include swatches in part two if you’d like (obviously, without repeating this tutorial). Just let me know what would you like more of, you can use the comment box below to voice your opinions.

If I succeed in my persuasion attempts, I’ll try to organize a giveaway for you if you are interested in these boxes, but you must voice your wishes to me.

Pricing & My Promo Code

Lastly, let’s talk about pricing. If you’ve peeped their official site, you’ve already seen that it is $24 per month. Since you get a base and a top coat along with a LED lamp the first month, other months may be filled with more goodies.

Also, it is worth noting that the shipping is included in those $24 so it’s not like they are planning to rob you. And, with a little effort, they can look really good. I’m no professional and I managed to do a decent job just by being careful. It made me really proud to see this result:

diy hard nails gel polish

But what about the promo code, you ask?

Well, my readers get another $5 off simply by entering “rougegeek” as their promo code at checkout. That means you get this box for only $19. I’m sure it is worth a try if you are interested in gel nails and want to save on your biweekly salon trips.

Hurry to Nail the Nail and use this coupon!

I’m not sure will I be receiving any boxes after this one, like I said, my country is not exactly their target point. That’s why I can’t vouch for boxes that come after this one. If I receive any other box, I’ll be sure to let you know and write a post with my honest opinions.

Comments (3)

  • I’ll be signing up for the November box, I’m wondering if the gel colors will be a little darker. Those pink/nude colors are so summer like.

    • Hey Lisolette,

      They probably switch up the colors depending on the month because these two really look Summer appropriate.
      Let me know what colors came in your box, oh and don’t forget to use my coupon for $5 off! 🙂

  • This is nicely expressed!

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