At Home Gel Nail Polish: Tutorial + Tips

Happy Tuesday!

With so much talk about gel nail polish, I decided to check it out for myself. In today’s post, I’ll provide a step by step tutorial, some best practices, and the pros and cons on gel nail polish.

Step by Step:

  1. Prepare your nails. Cut, file down to desired length, and clean/push back your cuticles. Once you’re done cleaning your nails, apply the bonder. The bonder basically removes any oils on your nail so that the basecoat can bond to your nail. {Tip: A clean nail bed will help your gel polish last weeks.}
  2. Apply the basecoat and cure under LED lamp for 30 seconds. {Tip: Take your time to apply without getting any on your skin or cuticles.} The LED lamp can fit up to 4 fingers at a time, so I recommend applying and curing your nails in 3 groups.
    -1st group: Pinky, ring, middle and index finger on my right hand.
    -2nd group: Pinky, ring, middle and index finger on my left hand.
    -3rd group: Both thumbs.
  3. Apply your gel polish and cure for 30 seconds. Apply a second coat and cure again if you’d like 2 coats of polish. {Tip: I know I sound like a broken record… but don’t get any polish on your skin or cuticle!}
  4. Apply the topcoat and cure for 30 seconds. Your nails will be sticky/tacky. Just take a cotton pad and rubbing alcohol (or if you’re like me and don’t have rubbing alcohol… Vodka works too) to wipe your nails clean.

Helpful Tips:

  • Take the time to prepare your nails and cuticles. This will help your gel polish stick to your nails.
  • Between each step, don’t touch your nails. Your nails will be tacky and touching them will get imprints on them.
  • I can’t emphasize this enough: Don’t get any of the basecoat, gel polish, and topcoat on your cuticles and skin around your nails. Getting the base/top coat or gel polish on your skin/cuticles may allow oil, dirt, and other debris to get in under your polish which may cause chips and peeling. 🙁

Pros and Cons:

  • Cost: I haven’t tried other gel polish systems, but I was quite happy with NaiLuv! I initially planned on getting Sephora’s OPI gel nail system, but couldn’t believe how expensive it was: $159 plus $17.50 per color! The NaiLuv gel system costs $50 plus $11.99 per color. Gel nails cost about $30-$40 per set… so NaiLuv basically pays for itself with just 2 sets!
  • Long lasting: I now understand why people are crazy for gel nails! When done properly, they last F.O.R.E.V.E.R! I removed my polish after 1.5 weeks only because I wanted to change my polish color. I typically change my polish at least twice a week, so 1.5 weeks was forever and a day for me. If you don’t change your polish often, gel nails are perfect for you! Your nails can stay perfectly manicured for up to 2 weeks. Personally, I’m excited to have gel nails for events, weekend getaways and even longer vacations. I no longer have to worry about chipped nail polish halfway through my vacation!
  • Colors: There are 36 different colors available with NaiLuv. I chose a neutral color so that the nail growth wouldn’t be too apparent.
  • Shine: Nails were super shiny even without a separate top coat!
  • Strong: My natural nails tend to break and peel, but with gel nails… they were so strong! Gel nails are great if your nails need some heavy duty armor while growing out!
  • Ease: It was pretty easy to apply. On my first try, it took me about 30 minutes from start to finish.
  • Removal: Honestly, removal was challenging even though I followed NaiLuv‘s instructions. But don’t worry!~ I gossiped with some nail experts and I’ve got some great tricks to easily remove gel polish! I’m excited to share my tips with you, so please stay tuned for that tutorial!

Here are the 36 NaiLuv colors. Which colors would you like to try?!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments section below. I’ll be sharing my gel nail removal tutorial soon, so keep an eye out for that.

Are you interested in gel nails?! Let me know which colors you’d like to try out!

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  1. MaryRose
    January 4, 2017 / 12:06 pm

    If I need to add another coat of polish can I add it over the cured top coat? I did 2 coats of polish on my left hand and 3 on my right hand ? Can I add one more color coat cure it then add top coat and cure it or do I need to start all over?

  2. Tabatha Sterling
    October 28, 2016 / 4:55 pm

    Do you have to remove the sticky residue between coats of gel or just the final coat?. I got a led/uv light, gel polish, and a primer and base coat 2pk all for $1.00 each and $1.00 shipping from a shopping app called Wish. I love it! This app has so much gel and different systems and so much polish and at reduculous prices. My led/uv light was only a dollar. Its just for one finger at a time. It looks just like a small flash light. They have other types for higher prices but for a dollar my little lught works just great.

  3. Lucy Richardson
    September 9, 2016 / 9:19 am

    What can I use to remove the stickiness once I have cured the gel polish?

    • September 10, 2016 / 9:29 am

      Rubbing alcohol will do the trick!

      • Tata
        April 26, 2017 / 5:53 am

        Is there anything else I can use? I don’t have rubbing alcohol

  4. Laura
    August 26, 2016 / 8:33 am

    I’m so pleased this page came up on my Google search. I too was having a problem with a sticky residue after I had done my nails. A good run over with hand sanitizer and my nails are perfect…. Thanks you everyone xoxo

  5. July 20, 2016 / 4:36 pm

    Hello, the polish in the picture is Pucker up not Hunkielicious? I’m a lil stuck in between the two but I really want the one in the picture. Thanks

  6. May 17, 2016 / 3:50 pm

    LOVE this post. I don’t use gel lacquer too often but during a Sally’s special sale on polish I picked up 3 ASP and didn’t realize this brand would leave a sticky residue. I first used soap (LOL!), then whipped out the anti bacterial gel. I rubbed it lightly into the nails and rewashed my hands. It worked like a charm! I had to go back on the sides and under the nail but it is now completely dry. YaY!

    • May 17, 2016 / 10:28 pm

      Great to hear your story! Thanks for visiting and your comment!!!! Xoxo

  7. Kelli
    February 5, 2016 / 7:12 am

    I know this is an old thread but being it was the first site that popped up during a search I figured if I was here looking for answers, others would be too. For those wondering about purchasing low wattage lights…walmart has a 7 watt light for $15; polishes for $7 and $13 for the french manicure. I also bought a bottle of 100% acetone for less thn $3, which I use after curing to remove the tackiness. Just rub it hard and fast since you wont want it on your nails for too long but it works like a charm getting the sticky stuff off. Plus you’ll need the acetone anyway to remove the nails.

  8. Becca H
    August 6, 2015 / 10:07 pm

    I recently did my own gel manicure today and i cured with my UV lamp and it’s still sticky and tacky even after using rubbing alcohol. I even tried curing each layer for about 5 minutes can you please tell me what’s wrong?

    • May 27, 2016 / 2:34 am

      I would recommend using a different gel topcoat. If that doesn’t work, I wonder if the lamp is not curing the product enough which can leave the gel color AND topcoat uncured which would explain the stickiness and possibly mushiness. Hope this helps.

  9. Chelsea
    July 6, 2015 / 2:15 pm

    Hi I was doing gel nails and didn’t have any rubbing alcohol what could I use for replacement

  10. S
    March 26, 2015 / 8:35 am

    Hi when I applying my gelish paint after curing it it stays sticky what I’m doing wrong pls help

    • madinah
      June 13, 2015 / 6:14 pm

      You need a nail cleaner. Perhaps, the one that matches the system. Wipe each nails for residue.

  11. January 25, 2015 / 5:15 pm

    My gel polish is very very thick and I cannot brush it on my nails what can I do?

    • May 27, 2016 / 2:36 am

      This response is long overdue! Sorry, I must have missed this question. Unfortunately, thickened gel usually means that the gel has cured in the ambient light. Unlike regular polish that tends to dry out, gels get cured. Repeated exposure to light as you applied with the brush could have cured it enough where the gel has thickened. I hope this is helpful!!!! Thanks for visiting and the comment!

  12. billie
    January 20, 2015 / 4:36 pm

    ​I also have a bad reaction to nail polish remover! I just use as little as posible, make sure to wash my hand after, and then I use the Lady Soma Nail treatment after washing my hands. I didnt used to use a moisturizer after nail polish remover, but its a must, because it will leave your hands looking tired

    • Tami Gabel
      March 9, 2017 / 9:23 am

      Use a peel base coat. Then no need for all that acetone to remove . Yes it does work on gel nails

  13. January 17, 2015 / 2:08 am

    What can I use to take the sticky residue when finished

    • January 27, 2015 / 8:50 pm

      I typically use rubbing alcohol to clean off the sticky residue. Give that a try! Good luck.

  14. Carah Ekins
    December 23, 2014 / 3:37 pm

    I used a gel lamp and the package says they’re cured but they feel sticky and hair is still sticking to them, what should I do?

  15. Samantha
    August 12, 2014 / 11:41 pm

    Any ideas how to get the base and polish off the skin of you fingers… I should have let them grow past the skin before I attempted this…now my fingers are red

    • August 21, 2014 / 7:11 pm

      So sorry to hear that! I would try using a q-tip + remover to clean the area. 🙂 I hope that’s helpful.

  16. Cathy
    June 26, 2014 / 7:50 am

    Hi when painting on white tips. Do you do it in the beginning or is that the last thing you do , I think the lady that did my nails did it like in the beginning .

  17. kerry
    May 21, 2014 / 2:10 pm

    I have just done mine with a cheap uv lamp 34w from ebay which cost £12 with postage. I bought a cheap gel base coat and top coat from ebay also and used a normal colour polish. I can not comment on the longivity of the nails at the moment, but they have cured. I did not have anything to take off the sticky residue, so I tried cider vinegar and that helped a little. Just some tips if your on a budget like myself.

    • May 21, 2014 / 9:55 pm

      Thanks so much for visiting and for the tip!

    • Tami Gabel
      March 9, 2017 / 9:25 am

      Use hand sanitizer to remove the stickiness

  18. Melissa
    January 19, 2014 / 6:51 am

    Hey! I have this same gel kit, and I’ve used it about four times now. Every single time, the entire polish peels right off of my nails within a few days. Any advice? I really want this to work because professional nails get so pricey, ugh.

    • January 19, 2014 / 2:12 pm

      You have to make sure you don’t get any on your cuticles. Also, it’s very important to not have any water, oils or lotions on your nails and hands before you start. I hope this helps and good luck!!!

    • beth
      April 14, 2015 / 12:12 pm

      I’ve had this kit for over a year and I love it. You must use the bonder first and it’s a good idea to lightly buff your nail just to get the Shiney off before the bonder. It helps alot.

  19. Beverley
    January 12, 2014 / 12:42 pm

    Thanks for your advice it will be a great help (sticky nails) lovely Christmas present from my son & girlfriend & I just love nice nails.

  20. Rosa
    January 5, 2013 / 5:07 pm

    Still waiting on gel nail removal tutorial!!

  21. Kelly
    January 3, 2013 / 10:17 pm

    What color did you use in your picture? I used did 2 layers of “tickled pink”, and it basically turned out clear.

  22. Tamara
    December 7, 2012 / 11:05 am

    Can you please post the link to the removal tutorial? Thanks!

  23. Carrie
    September 21, 2012 / 5:05 pm

    How many watts is your nailuv lamp? I just bought the one on hautelook and it’s only 2watts. Is this enough?

    • September 21, 2012 / 5:08 pm

      HI!~ I believe my nailuv led lamp is 4 watt… which works great. Never used a 2 watt lamp so not sure. Let me know if it works! good luck. xoxo.

  24. Jennifer
    September 7, 2012 / 1:37 pm

    I got my system yesterday, and OH EM GEE!! So easy! I did white tip on mine with “What’s Up”! I posted a picture on Instagram jenng_83 🙂 NaiLuv answers one’s questions on FB SUPER quickly, too! They gave me tips on how to do a French manicure with “Tickled Pink” and “What’s Up”! I’m surely going to try that next! This is certainly my new fave product!

  25. stephtaur
    August 29, 2012 / 4:11 pm

    They seem to have raised the price of the nailuv starter kit to $75 and are sold out, but they have similar 2 watt UV LED curing lamps on ebay for $25 for anyone brave/broke enough to try an off-brand alternative.

    Great blog! I used your wavy hair twist dry tutorial and it really helped my massive frizzy lion’s mane look almost like normal hair! :3

  26. Genny
    July 29, 2012 / 5:03 am

    Look fantastic and sounds easy to do…
    Economical and quick!
    How hard are they to remove between polish?

    • July 30, 2012 / 3:34 am

      The removal is a bit more difficult than ordinary polish. I’ll do a tutorial soon. 😉 Thx for visiting and commenting. xo

  27. July 26, 2012 / 3:28 am

    You have definitely made me interested! I’ve been thinking about buying a package for a while now. I don’t think they’ll ship to Belgium and if they do, I would have to pay a huge fee to customs. You don’t know, by chance, a great (yet economic 😉 ) UV kit available in Europe?

  28. Kathi
    July 18, 2012 / 4:13 pm

    I just received my polishes in the mail will be doing my nails with Hunkielicious, Yay!

    • July 18, 2012 / 4:49 pm

      OMG! You have to show me pictures! Are you on twitter (@prettygossiping) or instagram (@prettygossip)? Please give me a shout when you take some photos! xo

  29. July 17, 2012 / 7:57 am

    This is so neat! I’m going to save up for this system! 🙂

  30. Annette
    July 17, 2012 / 6:51 am

    I have been dying to try these!!