How To Achieve A Flawless Gel Manicure At Home
As part of the government’s new restrictions to battle Hong Kong’s third wave of Covid-19, nail salons are among the business that have had to close their doors. While the current restrictions are currently set to expire on July 28, there’s no guarantee that beauty businesses will be able to open their doors on this date – and that you’ll be able to get an appointment if they do.
Can't wait that long for a fresh manicure? Tackle chipped nails and grown out polish with these easy to follow tips on how to perfect the gel manicure at home.
Removing old polish
Though it can be tempting to peel off old polish, this can be damaging to your nails, so it’s worth taking the time to remove old polish properly. As acetone is needed to remove gel polish, be sure that you’re in a well-ventilated space or open a window before you begin.
Begin by lightly filing or buffing the top of your nails to remove the very top layer of your gel polish, which will speed up the removal process.
After buffing, Jenny Lam, owner of Holly Nails, states that “the easiest way to go is to wrap your gel nails with foil and inside have a cotton ball that soaked in acetone or nail polish remover. It will slowly peel off in about 30-40 minutes.”
For this, you’ll need small squares of foil (or re-useable soak-off clips), a good quality acetone and cotton wool balls. If you are short on time, you can leave the acetone on your nails for 15-20 minutes and then use a steel nail pusher to help peel of any remaining polish. Alternatively, Jenny states the you can "dip your nails into a bowl of acetone only and it will peel off on its own" if you're in a hurry.
Prepping your nails
After your polish has been removed, you can choose to give them a break from polish, and use a nail serum or cuticle oil, or give yourself a fresh manicure.
If you’re going for a fresh manicure, celebrity nail artist Elle states that perfect nails “starts with proper nail filing.” Noting the importance of the file itself and your technique, Elle recommends “always making sure you use the grit of a nail file that's for a natural nail. The higher the grit number, the more sandpaper. For example 180 would be for an acrylic nail and 120 would be for a natural nail. If you can feel the sand grit in the file then you know it's too coarse. It should sound smooth-not like a saw… If you're taking down length you can go back and forth, but always finish going in one direction to make sure that the nail won't split. When you saw, you rip the keratin layers and that causes nails to split. Never buff on top of the nail as that also leads to splitting.”
After you’ve cut and filed your nails to your desired length and shape, it’s also worth paying some attention to your cuticles. Your usual manicurist will most likely spend a fair amount of time on this as its crucial to both your nail health and the final result.
Elle advises to “remove the cuticle, but not the eponychium and be careful to the note difference. The cuticle is the white, dry, flakey portion attached to the nail plate (a cuticle remover will bubble it up and push it off). Begin by soaking nails in a little soapy water and then use a plastic or metal pusher to remove the cuticle off the nail plate. This also will promote nail growth.”
Elle warns against using a wooden scraper as they can attract bacteria, also adding that the “trimming of the eponychium is usually best left to a professional.”
At this stage, “use an antibacterial soap and just like you would cleanse your face, wash off your nails. Let them dry and to ensure they're dry and the pH level is correct, wipe the nail with a rubbing alcohol on a lint free wipe (like a paper towel). Think of this step like toner is for your skin. Don't use an orange wood stick with a cotton ball like many salons do – it will only deposit lint and chemicals back onto your nail which will prevent your polish from drying correctly and looking smooth” explains Elle.
Now that your nails are prepped and clean, you can move onto the actual manicure.
As Elle explains, “your nails are ready for a coat of base coat followed by two coats of your favourite gel colour – I recommend LeChat Perfect Match(r) Gel Polish and top coat – curing after each coat.”
To perfect you manicure at home, you’ll need to purchase a good quality polish and top coat, along with a UV nail lamp to set your manicure. The recommend time to cure your nails after each coat is about 120 seconds.
If you’re unsure of the technique to use to yield the best result, Elle explains, “when painting like to start in the middle of the nail, painting by the cuticle and polishing upwards to the free edge. Then repeat on each side. This gives you a smooth application. Once you've cured the top coat, wipe away tacky on each nail with alcohol”.
To keep your cuticles and nails looking healthy, Elle also recommends to add some cuticle oil after you’ve complete your manicure once your nails and set and dry.