How Can I Apply Gel Nails at Home?

Carol Luther

Gel nails are artificial nails that are flexible, durable and odor-free. Less expensive than acrylic nails, gel nails allow you have perfectly groomed nails for two weeks or longer. When you apply gel nails at home, you must prepare your real nails properly and follow the nail kit instructions precisely. To get salon-quality results, you also will need proper manicure tools and adequate lighting in your home manicure area.

A woman with gel nails.
A woman with gel nails.

It may be easiest to apply gel nails at home if you first assemble everything you need, including your manicure tools, your gel nails kit and an ultraviolet nail lamp. It's generally a good idea to cover a flat surface, such as a kitchen table, with a disposable cloth and the put the tools and all the nail kit products on top of it. A complete read-through of the nail kit application instructions prior to starting also can be. Among other things, this will allow you to identify each tool mentioned in the instructions and arrange them on your manicure station in the order in which you will need them.

Only use a cuticle pusher after the cuticles have been softened.
Only use a cuticle pusher after the cuticles have been softened.

Before you apply gel nails at home, you should prepare your nails by buffing each until the entire surface is dull. You then should use the recommended tools to loosen your cuticles and push them back from the root of the nail. All your real nails should then be trimmed to the same length, shaped and any ragged edges smoothed with an emery board.

It's always a good idea to apply hand lotion after a gel manicure.
It's always a good idea to apply hand lotion after a gel manicure.

Applying the gel to one nail at a time usually is advised, as is immediately wiping off any excess gel on the skin around your nails and cuticles with a damp paper towel. The next steps are to cure the first coat of gel for the recommended time, apply the second coat of gel to the nails on the same hand and then cure the second. You then should repeat the application and curing process on the nails of your other hand. The home manicure can be finished by applying a topcoat to the nails on both hands and an oil conditioner to your cuticles.

Mastering the techniques for applying gel nails takes practice, even for nail care professionals. Before you attempt to apply your own gel nails at home, you may want to observe a professional manicurist perform an application from start to finish. If you pay a manicurist to apply gel nails to your hands and observe her techniques carefully during the application process, then you might be more successful at interpreting the written instructions in the gel nail kit that you buy to apply gel nails at home.

Gel nails curing under a UV light.
Gel nails curing under a UV light.

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Discussion Comments


I use the SensatioNail Gel Polish kit. It works well and I get compliments. They look more like my natural nails. I like it a lot. Minimum cost and nice nails for approximately two weeks. I do not like sitting in nail salons. Too many people, too many smells.


I'd be very interested in trying to do gel nails at home! The kits have everything you need. I would like to see if one offered French manicures as their colors. I have seen some pale pink though, and might go with that. I don't do really dark nail polish. I have very small hands and I just think it makes my already short fingers look even shorter! A French manicure or neutral nail color lengthens my fingers -- even if it is an optical illusion. I envy those with long fingers -- manicures just look better on them.

With my small hands, a darker color just looks like I'm a five year old trying on my mom's nail polish!


If my track record with gel nails might be similar to what happened when I tried to apply acrylic nail tips at home, I think I'll leave it to a professional.

I nearly killed my nails trying to do the acrylic tips. They were in bad, bad shape. It took six weeks for them to recover. That sort of soured me on doing anything to my nails at home but painting them. I've seen the kits in the stores and they do make it look easy, but then again, so did the acrylic tip kits. My nails are uneven looking enough as it is, so I'll leave the gel nails to people with a license!

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