Okay, so I started doing gel manicures on myself, like, 2 years ago or something. I heard people chattering about them, and was intrigued/skeptical. The snag for me, initially, was that it seemed to be a salon service, and I just really don't like people touching me. I will get haircuts, but I don't want to go get a manicure or pedicure or a massage or any of those things where someone is touching on my body parts.
At the time, there seemed to be 2 options in terms of gel polish: Shellac and Gelish. I chose to get a setup to do Gelish because they had way more colors, and way better colors (at least at that time.) At first I got a big old school UV light, in case I hated it, because the little LED lights were way more expensive. Once I decided I liked gel polish, I got the LED light, and it actually was a good move on my part because by time I was ready to get the LED, it was way cheaper than it was initially.
My 3 day old gel manicure. This is pretty impressive because I am brutal on my hands.
They still look like perfect little Chiclets!
SO! Gel manicures. Here's how I do them (actually, how anybody would do them, since I just follow the instructions.)
1. Do my cuticles and file my nails and all that. Basically the same as the first step in a regular manicure.
2. Clean my nail plate with the special cleanser stuff, which is basically isopropyl alcohol.
3. Put the pH Bond stuff on. Again, I am pretty sure this is just isopropyl alcohol. They just want you to dry the hell out of your nails so there isn't any lotion or greasy stuff that will make the gel lift or chip.
4. Put the Foundation on. This is like the gel polish base coat. You use as little as humanly possible... seriously, you wipe the brush on the neck of the bottle until you get all the Foundation off, then what is left on the brush is enough to do ALL of your nails. Just scrub it on. Put your hand under the light and cure it. Get a little lint-free wiper and wipe your nails off. Theoretically, you don't have to cure this coat as long, but I always do it for the full time because it is like 30 seconds or something and I am too dumb to time it myself. Maybe it makes something terrible happen, but I haven't noticed so I will remain willfully ignorant.
5. Do a coat of Structure. This is an optional step. Structure is a thick gel that you apply with a nail art brush or something similar. Then you cure it and it makes your nails a little thicker and harder, and my nails are neither thick nor hard, so I like to use this. Wipe this layer with a lint-free wiper, too. Don't wipe layers that come after this one.
6. Paint on some gel polish. Basically, you do a coat, cure it, and repeat until you have the coverage you want. Some colors take a lot of coats, some don't. Paint, cure, paint, cure, etc etc, off into the sunset.
7. Slap on some Top It Off, which is the gel topcoat. Cure it. Then you get that cleanser stuff you used in step one, put it on a wipey thing, and wipe all your nails off. When the polish is curing, the UV light makes it react with itself. The top layer of polish molecules are in contact with the air, so they don't cure, and it leaves a sticky film behind and the nail cleanser (or isopropyl alcohol, let's not front like it makes a difference) gets the sticky all off and then your nails are totally done.
REMOVAL: You get a super gritty file and file the surface of your nail to scratch up the topcoat all over, then do the acetone/cottonball/foil thing for 10-15 minutes. It all comes off in a big flake. If it doesn't, you let it soak longer because digging it off will basically ruin your nails and you'll hate it. There are a couple Gelish steps that I think can be done with alcohol (nail cleaning, wiping off the sticky) but I have found that their remover works a little better than plain acetone.
Now, I am sure that other brands might have different products that do similar things, and that is fine. Use whatever you want. I started using Gelish, and I still use it because that is what I have and it works, and it's a salon-style product, so I assume it might work a little better than the mass-market stuff that is popping up all over. I did try the Sally Hansen Gel Strip things, and they suuuuuuucked.
OKAY! So, Pros and Cons of gel manicures:
PROS: It lasts forever. It's way mega shiny. Once you are done, your nails are done and you can't ding them up trying to pee before your nails are dry. It's awesome if you do a lot of stuff with your hands or are rough on them in general. It reinforces your nails, so if they are soft and don't like to grow, it makes your nails real hard and you can get them longer than you would otherwise.
CONS: It's kind of a fussy process putting it on. If you get a bubble or something, it is there for a week or two and it will drive you completely mad. Removal is kind of a pain in the ass. You can see growth along your cuticle edge, the same way you can with acrylic nails. The biggest con for me is that it is boring... I like painting my nails and having the same nails for 2 weeks is depressing, and you don't want to do a crazy color if it is going to be on forever, because sometimes crazy colors just don't look that great with what you're wearing/where you're going. I know you can paint over gel manicures and remove with non-acetone remover, but still. Also, the UV light is theoretically bad for you, but you can get UV gloves and put a little sunscreen on your skin beforehand and do your thing.
As far as price goes, you can get a light for around $50, a kit of the basecoat/topcoat/cleanser/remover for $30, a tub of structure for $10, and polishes for $10 (on Amazon, elsewhere they are pricy for whatever reason.) So, for $100ish you can have your own rig, which is pretty expensive. BUT, if you like gel manicures, you'll recoup the cost by doing your nails 2-3 times if you usually go to the salon to get them done.
In closing, I think gel manicures are pretty nice if you have a lot going on, and you don't have time to keep your nails nice. It is a little fussy, but it is not much effort if you consider that you won't have to do your nails again for a long time. It's not going to eat you out or anything, but it is a good thing to be able to do if you're a nailpolish person.
Dear Spanx Leggings,
I love you. You are my #1 favorite thing to wear when I am just bumming around, and sometimes I will wear you under a dress or tunic if I am going somewhere. You are very versatile.
I love that you seem to have some kind of vanity sizing going on. I think next time I need to buy a pair of you, I will get a medium. Wearing size medium pants is an ego boost, even if it's Spanx.
You make me look like I might actually have some muscle tone, instead of looking like I am a tub of flan, which is how I usually look. Even better, you are like Spanx that go from my ankle to the band of my bra, so I do not have flan spilling out and ruining the illusion of being marginally un-flabby. I know I am optimistic thinking you make me look fit, I am sure my legs just look like kielbasa, but still. That's still better than hella flabby.
You are really black, and matte. I like this because shiny kielbasa legs seem like they would be a bad look.
The only thing I do not like about you is that you are kind of expensive. Also, if I am not careful to make sure to hike the crotch all the way up to my crotch, sometimes that area will wear out. I'm not gonna lie, though, sometimes I wear you even when you start getting a hole in the crotch. I don't sit around with my legs spread like I'm waiting for an airplane (I'm a lady!) so I don't think it really matters. The crotch hole can just be our little secret.
Don't forget the contest! I got a MILLION BILLION entries so far! I have to say, there are some mega-cute ladies who read this site. Well done, ladies.
If you want to enter and maybe win a Naked Palette, Black Honey lip thinger, and 2 bottles of my nail polish, or a Naked Basics Palette, Black Honey lip thinger and 1 bottle of my polish, make sure to enter by February 14th!! Send me a pic of your mug, a list of what you're wearing on your face, and your mailing address... Send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put CONTEST in the subject because I am a moron with a short attention span and I would hate to lose your entry because I glazed over and didn't see it in my inbox full of Ulta spam. Yeah! Let's do this!