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How to Apply Gel Nails at Home in 2021

@BETINAGOLDSTEIN, @LAURENLADNIEInstagram

K, don’t @ me, but I was today years old when I found out you can actually get the perfect gel nails at home. Like, sure, the nail salon is, and always will be, one of my happy places, but I kinda love knowing that I can DIY my gel manicure if / when I need to. So if doing your own gels has always been on your bucket list like it used to be on mine, you’ve come to the right place. Ahead, YouTuber Gabby Morris breaks down everything you need to know to do gel nails at home, including the best supplies (spoiler: you’re definitely going to need an LED or UV lamp), the easiest way to keep your cuticles from drying out , and so much more.

Keep scrolling for all the tips, tricks, and products that’ll help you create the mani of your dreams at home.

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Is it worth doing gel nails at home?

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Well, that depends on what you’re looking to get out of the process. One of the best things about doing your own gel nails at home is that it’s cheaper than going to the salon—Especially if you get them regularly. Professional gel manicures usually start at $ 35 (and can definitely go up from there), whereas DIY kits start can cost anywhere from $ 30 (like the Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit) to $ 80 (like the Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Pro Kit) and can be used as frequently as you like.

That said, if you’re a total newb when it comes to painting and filing your nails, you might want to leave your gel manis to the pros, since the process does require a steady hand and a decent amount of patience.

What do you need for gel nails at home?

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Before you attempt an at-home gel mani, you need to make sure you have the right supplies. You’ve got two options: You can buy a gel nail kit online, or you can buy all the pieces separately. You’ll need a UV or LED lamp, a cuticle oil, a nail buff, a top coat, a base coat, and gel nail polish to get started. BTW: While you technically could use a regular nail polish and a gel top coat, I’d recommend staying on the safe side and opting for gel nail polish. Regular polish won’t last as long as gel, even if you use a gel top coat.

How to do gel nails at home

Step 1: Cut and file your nails

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Youtube / Gabi Morris

Before you apply any polish, you need to make sure your nails are prepped and ready to go. Start by cutting your nails — you’ll want them all equal lengths — and then file to smooth out any rough edges. Pro tip: Glass nail files are great for getting a smooth finish, since they’re a bit more gentle than traditional emery boards (which, personally, leave my nails feeling a little jagged — ie, the opposite vibe I’m going for with my gel manis).

Hawatour Nail Clippers Set

Hawatour Nail Clippers Set

Tweezerman Combo Clipper Set

Tweezerman Combo Clipper Set

Morgles Acrylic Nail Clipper

Morgles Acrylic Nail Clipper

Makartt Acrylic Nail Clippers

Makartt Acrylic Nail Clippers

Step 2: Apply cuticle oil to your nail beds

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Youtube / Gabby Morris

Another important part of nail prep: cuticle oil. It’ll soften your cuticles so you’ll be able to push them back gently. And please don’t forget to wash or soak your hands afterward! You need to make sure the oil is completely off your nails before you start the gel process — any leftover oil could cause your gel nails to lift (not ideal). To be extra safe, swipe your nails with a bit of acetone before washing your hands to remove any excess oil.

Pear Nova Growth Green Tea Cuticle Oil

Pear Nova Growth Green Tea Cuticle Oil

Nash + Pine Hydrate Cuticle Oil

Nash + Pine Hydrate Cuticle Oil

Dr. Hauschka Neem Nail & Cuticle Pen

Dr. Hauschka Neem Nail & Cuticle Pen

CND Essentials Nail & Cuticle Oil SolarOil

CND Essentials Nail & Cuticle Oil SolarOil

amazon.com

Step 3: Buff your nails

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Youtube / Gabby Morris

Next up, you’ll want to buff your entire nail from edge to edge. If you don’t buff, the natural oils on your nails can build up, cutting the lifespan of your gel mani short. After buffing, clean up any residue (and remaining oils) with an alcohol wipe.

Mischo Beauty Glass Nail File

Mischo Beauty Glass Nail File

Breukelen Polished Stay Polished Nail Kit

Breukelen Polished Stay Polished Nail Kit

Tweezerman Neon Buff & Shine Block

Tweezerman Neon Buff & Shine Block

HeeYaa Nail Files and Nail Buffers

HeeYaa Nail Files and Nail Buffers

Step 4: Paint a base coat on your nails

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Youtube / Gabby Morris

Swipe on a generous layer of gel base coat—it’s basically the foundation for any fire gel mani. After applying a coat, cure your nails in your UV lamp for up to 30 seconds. (PS Depending on the type of lamp you have, this time could differ, so make sure you read the instructions to a T before you get started).

Step 5: Start painting with your gel polish

Nail polish, Nail, Nail care, Manicure, Cosmetics, Finger, Pink, Hand, Material property, Peach,

Youtube / Gabby Morris

Next, pick a color (or colors) and start painting your nails. Remember: Gel nail polish is going to be the best choice here, since it’ll last longer than traditional polish. Between each coat, cure your nails with your UV light and repeat until you have a nice, opaque color.

Step 6: Finish with top coat

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Youtube / Gabby Morris

Now for the finale — swipe a gel top coat over your nails and then cure it one last time under your lamp. If you want to show your nails some love after this grueling process, finish off by adding a couple drops of cuticle oil for a nice, hydrating treat.

The final look

Nail polish, Nail, Nail care, Green, Blue, Manicure, Turquoise, Cosmetics, Finger, Aqua,

Youtube / Gabby Morris

Yup, there are just six steps for recreating a salon-worthy gel manicure at home. Not bad, right? Once you’re ready to remove your manicure, pls refrain from peeling it off. Instead, read — and then re-read — our guide to safely removing gel nails without causing any damage. Happy painting!

Ama Kwarteng Ama Kwarteng was previously the associate beauty editor at Cosmopolitan. Ruby Buddemeyer Beauty Editor Ruby is the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers beauty across print and digital.

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