Are home gel nail kits for you?

It’s no State Styling Secret that when it comes to all things beauty, I’m lazy with a capital L.

Don’t get me wrong, I very much want the finished, perfectly adequately groomed product. I just don’t have the time to be fussing about to get there.

Especially with my nails.

Which is why I fell big time more than two years ago (way before that beauty wagon was hooked up to the band) for CND Shellac manicures.

For starters, I do love a sneaky beauty outsourcing.

For seconders, I’m SHOCKING with my nails. I should be locked up for Cruelty to Nails. I am that bad. So the fact that this beauty outsourcing could last me more than a day? Yep, big fan. HUGE.

Over the past year or so, I’ve reduced my Shellac habit outsourcing to about once a month, usually pinning a salon visit to an upcoming occasion or event.

My nails are happier with a little Nail-Cation in between … because while Shellac does not do to nails what my short affair with acrylics did back in the day, I found that if I did get back-to-back applications, my nails got weaker over time.

What I had also started to notice –  and I’d be curious to find out if anyone else has found this too (or it’s just my dodgy nails?) – was that many of the colours just were not lasting like they did in the beginning. In under a week – sometimes just a few days – the colour would peel off like plastic. Especially with the opaque colours.

So, when a couple of the other gel nail companies introduced – and sent me* – home gel nail kits over the last few months, I decided to give them a go. Even though the very concept of DIY nails is technically outside of my lazy-girl beauty ways.

I’ve never had the salon versions of both of these brands – although some of the people I follow on Twitter from the US rave about the Gelish nail system – so I don’t have a salon experience to compare with the at-home version. Both use an LED lamp to cure the gel; as opposed to a UV lamp for Shellac. This makes for a quicker curing process.

But if you want to find out what I thought about the home versions, read on, Stylers.

… and please, all you beautifully talented nail bloggers out there … I know. I do not give good mani. See above re preference for outsourcing.

Orly smartGELS

Orly SmartGels home gel nail kit

What you need: LED light ($99); Starter Kit – Cleanser, Remover, lint-free wipes, cuticle tool, nail file, pocket gel removers, primer, base + top ($79.95); colours $23.95 each

Time: less than 20 minutes

Process: Once you have everything set out in front of you, it’s quite easy to work through the steps required to achieve a good finished product. The starter kit includes everything, including the handy lint-free wipes for cleansing the nail. If you’ve had a Shellac salon application before, the steps are pretty much the same. Get your nails and cuticles in order, cleanse the nail, add base+top coat, two coats of colour and then base+top coat again with curing in between. Finish with a nail cleanser and some cuticle oil on each nail.

Nailing it: The LED light is more stable and more powerful than the Gelish Mini so it only required 30 second curing of each coat. Like the Gelish system, this Orly system claims to give you up to three weeks of chip-free nails. Unfortunately I didn’t get even a week with two fingers on my right hand … perhaps it is MY nails and applicator error. I much preferred the less time this system took though, so it was easy to go back and re-do the nails that lifted. Removal was simple, a little soaking in the pocket gel removers for 10 minutes then wipe and orange stick off.

Colours: 12 (I chose Rage, a neutral shimmer)

Where to buy: Terry White Chemists, National Pharmacies and online

Gelish MINI

Gelish Mini | home nail gel kit

What you need: Mini Pro LED Curing light ($59.95); Mini Basix Kit – pH Bond, Foundation, Top it Off, Nourish, Cleanser, Artificial Nail Remover, nail file, orange sticks ($39.95); Mini Colour gels $19.95 each

Time: about 30 minutes

Process: Just like the Orly system above, the first step is a good one. You prep your nails as you would for any mani, dealing with dodgy cuticles and nail shape, then apply a primer – the Gelish Mini pH Bond. This soaks right into the nail bed and draws away any oils that might interfere with the layering and curing of the gel. It’s not until the final base coat that your nails are good to go (you still do the cleanser and cuticle oil on top as with the Orly system) but the staying power of the gel is proving pretty damn awesome.

Nailing it: The finish with this gel seems to be stronger than the Orly on my nails. I was impressed that the colour was super easy to apply and, although far from perfect, did make it almost fool-proof for me to achieve some sort of OK finish. The “tackiness” between each coat was something for me to get used to. And by getting used to I mean, watch for indadvertedly brushing off tacky-ed colour onto arm and then table. The lamp is not as robust as the Orly lamp but quite suitable for home use. Removal of the colour took a bit more time than the Orly but only a few minutes more.

Colours: 72 (I chose Tiger Blossom, a deep orange)

Where to buy: Price Attack, Hairhouse Warehouse and selected stockists. Phone 03 9575 0600

Stuff to consider

1. The initial outlay for either system is the equivalent to two-three salon gel applications. Once you have everything, it will be a matter of topping up your colour supply and other bits as they run out. There is still  definitely a medium-term cost saving there for regular salon gel lovers.

2. Both this and the Gelish LED lamps are smaler than salon versions so you need to do your thumbs separately.

3. If you want to change your nail colour before the two-three weeks is up, you can. Just add regular polish over the top and remove with normal cleanser.

4. You do have to do it yourself! Yes, that means getting over your lazy-girl ways (don’t worry I get that you may never want to get over them … that’s ok too).

Tell me about your nails? Are you a DIY girl? A salon gel-addict? Something in between? Does a home gel system appeal?

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  • Molly Littleford-Schacht

    LED and UV lights product the exact same TYPE of light, which is ultraviolet (UV) rays. There is no health difference between an LED or UV bulb nail lamp, since both emit the same type of light. LED lamps are just preferred now days as they are simply more powerful and last longer than UV bulbs, making cure time faster and more efficient. :)

  • http://runwayprof.com/ Cindy lemmer

    Hi Nikki, Nice article. I think it can be worth considering. Recent I’ve got one of the Shellac kit at Runway Professional. Its really nice and perfect for me. I strongly recommend checking them out and suggest me.

  • http://www.jeweldivas.com.au/ Jewel Divas Style

    I used to do acrylic. I’d buy the home kits and do mine and mums. We had long coloured nails, but when I finally decided to stop they were so weak and thin it was ridiculous. Took about a year for them to be strong again.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Same happened to me – nowhere near as bad with these systems.

  • http://twitter.com/OhEmJay1 OhEmJay

    Hi Nikki, I have a Gelicious DIY kit and have used it about 4 or 5 times… I’ve found the only annoying thing to be that sometimes the polish had a tendency to ‘bead’ as I apply it… as if there was a waxy residue underneath that stopped it from sitting smoothly (a bit hard to describe). Therefore I have to apply a number of coats, which can be annoying.
    I’ve tried a few different polish removers to clean my nail with first, in case there was too much oil present, but nothing seems to help. Has anyone else had this problem?
    Rebecca

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I had that happen once with one Shellac colour. Not sure if it was the colour or my nails at that time. @hereiamloulou:disqus or @facebook-1069794835:disqus might have some suggestions for you?

  • Hayley Joy

    I already do diy shellac. Best investment I ever made. I was already a very experienced at home painter but so sick of changing my nails every day because I can’t stand chips. I’m so happy others can now get these great kits & try diy!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Good to get that feedback and yes, more accessible for others is great too.

  • Stacey

    I do my nails every second night before I head to bed. I can’t stand a chipped manicure and I find I’m pretty speedy at it now. It allows me to change colours or brand of polish depending on my mood or to match what I plan to wear to work the next day. I use OPI Drip-Dry after painting (also moisturises cuticles), wait 10 minutes, wash my hands and then go to bed. It’s a pretty fail-safe method. About every third time I paint my nails, I will do a full file, buff and cuticle trim, but because I do them so often, they remain in pretty good shape.

    I tried Shellac but was wary of the need to sit my hands under a UV lamp. The smaller lamps look okay, but some of the bigger ones mean you have to have more of your hand under there. I didn’t realise there were LED light lamps used for this purpose as well, I imagine they would be safer?

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Yes, I’d imagine LED is safer but unsure – the time under there is definitely shorter but you can feel the heat so whether there is any effect on skin from that not sure. Love your dedication to your nails!

  • http://www.tinysavages.com/ Carli

    Thanks for this post, I wondered how the do-it-yourself kits compared. I’ve noticed mine peel when they don’t wrap the tips properly, really annoying when you’ve gone somewhere pricey just because they offer a free glass of wine ;)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      So annoying ;) And I’ve had mine peel even when tips are wrapped.

      • http://www.tinysavages.com/ Carli

        It could be because I always pick the opaque colours too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ssmith.au Susan Smith

    I love the shelllac nails and recently discovered them for the toes – fantastic for summer! Wonder can you do toes in the DIY kits?

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Yes, you could Susan.

  • http://twitter.com/nicollanna Nicoll Heaslip

    I’m a fan of acrylic… Once upon a time I used to get gel nails in a salon, however it did not have great staying power and I think it’s due to the weak nature of my nails – they just flexed too much and the gel flexed right off. My beauty therapist suggested acrylic instead and she is a expert at making them look very natural. This time last year she stopped working due to maternity leave and I resorted to the local chain nail salon and was very disappointed – it did not last, nails were coming off within days and they were very brittle. I really think it was due to the quality of the product, as well as the application. It was so bad that I seriously considered going back to my natural nails but they used to take so much time to maintain – nails constantly peeling etc – that I persevered and found a therapist using good quality products. Now my nails look great for 4 weeks, and if the regrowth is particularly noticeable I repaint between visits. However, having said all of that, I really wish I could do it myself!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      So, so important to find someone who can do them well Nicoll!

  • http://www.boxandbrownie.com/ Hannah

    I have some shaking issues due to some health issues and with practise (lots) my left hand painting is now pretty good. To start with i’d have splotches on my knuckles, if that gives you an idea of how terrible i was at it to start with.

    I love painting my nails so two weeks of Shellac has never really appealed to me but I can see that if I didn’t love it or have time for it that the gel nails would be just the ticket for me! :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Anyone who loves a change and does change frequently, doesn’t need this type of thing – but you can put your colour over the top of this and take off with normal remover.

  • http://twitter.com/HomeleaLass Lynda Rennick

    I’ve been using the Gelicious home nail kit for awhile now and I love it. After a few uses my skills improved and I can get a week out of an application.

    I love the flexibility that a home system gives – I don’t need to try and schedule an appointment around my work commitments.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Glad to hear another recommendation for Gelicious.

  • Karen

    I don’t think I am convinced. For me half the advantage of a professional mani is that they do such a good job on your cuticles etc. Plus for that much time/effort I would want a better finish than I think I could achieve.

    To me this is a bit like home waxing; sure it is cheaper but some things are best left to the professionals.There is no better feeling than stepping out of the salon with perfect finger and toes nails and freshly groomed brows. I’m willing to pay a little extra/have my nails done less often to cut costs rather than do it at home.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Totally get where you’re coming from Karen because that’s me too – the reality though is that many people don’t have the budget or time to do salon all the time even if they’d like to. Especially with small children … so these options are good.

  • http://www.hereiamloulou.com/ Here I Am LouLou

    Hi Nikki

    A good post to review the home kits.
    I’m not sure if you know how much I love gel.

    I originally was a Bio Sculpture gel girl for years and used this in my salon non stop.
    The wish used to be from our lips “wouldn’t a nail polish that set under a UV lamp be fantastic”! So over time our wish came true.

    I love CND products though feel Shellac needs to improve on their formula – it lifts and peels too quickly (and if that’s from a professional application – what chance would a home application have).

    Orly has always been a well respected professional Beauty brand and seen at many professional trade events. I am yet to try the Orly gel though will be in the near future.

    I discovered Gelicious this year and to date have not looked back for many reasons. (I did a review on my blog a little while back).
    I’d love to do your nails one day with the Gelicious and see what you think.

    Like everything it takes a little practice but to me I think anyone who would love to have gorgeous nails for 3 weeks wouldn’t mind the practice, you can change colour anytime you want and not have to wait for a salon appointment.

    Thanks for your perspective on the gels – maybe Mr SY has a new thing to paint in the house – your nails :)

    have a lovely day Nikki

    x L

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      HAAHHA … can just see him wanting to do that! Thanks for mentioning about Gelicious … Louise below is a big fan too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1069794835 Louise Di Trapani

    As a WAHM beauty therapist I love Shellac and have converted lots of my clients away from acrylic (I don’t offer this service). I have many brands in the salon and I’m loving Gelicious (available online and found on Facebook), Orly and new to the market Artistic. Of course doing it yourself you get that ‘dodgy hand’ but after practice and ensuring you have plenty of time it does get better. I love nothing better than sitting in a quiet place at home on a Friday night with a glass of wine and doing my nails.

    As for the thumbs, I always do them separately and last as if you do them with all the fingers they don’t sit flat and therefore you can end up with a ‘run’ look where it has slid to one side. You will have to pick up the LED light and hold it for the recommended time (depending on what brand you use).

    Anyone else require tips just ask. Happy Shellacing!

    • Lisa Mckenzie

      Louise do you know why my nails peel off after a day,or so it is usually dark colours am I doing something wrong??? any professional tips,thanks in advance.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Great tips, thanks Louise!

  • Adele

    I bought a DIY shellac nail kit from one of the group discount sites recently, and am loving it. The kit came with 4 colours, lamp, top and base coat for $69. Whilst I probably wouldn’t have picked 2 out of 4 of the colours, I’ve found I can get different colours by putting a layer of one over the other. It is great for toenails too.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Score! And yes, have had some great layering combos from Shellac.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1069794835 Louise Di Trapani

      NSI promote theirs as layering colours which is awesome! I hate a black nails but add a glitter shellac to it and it changes the dimension and looks fab

  • Lisa mckenzie

    I love painted nails too,And I am like you if I am lucky I get one day out of a regular polish before it starts to chip and I am pretty anal when it comes to chips it has to come off,I hate chipped polish on fingers or toes.I purchased an at home kit a gelish one and some other darker colours from a cheaper brand and I have not had much success with the staying power,but it could be from my application method,toes I have done and it lasts for over a month but fingers nope,they peel off and I have treid different curing times,different polishes and different base coats but I must get that Ph bond cause I think it peels because of my hand cream addiction,but maybe my light isn’t strong enough I am not sure but when I have time I will be giving it another go,love that orange colour Nikki looks fab and I am glad you have had some success with it.I laughed about the tackieness issue I too did that but got it all over my clothes as well,not all have the tacky thing though:)Yes I am mostly a do it yourselfer with my pedi,i have the foot spa and all the polishes,but like a salon one from time to time.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Maybe it’s our nails? At least with a home kit I can fix up one nail.

      • Lisa Mckenzie

        So true,and I do think the handcream has something to do with it.

  • http://www.mrsnotable.com.au/ Louisa | Mrs Notable

    I think I need to try the kits. I’ve been a long fan of the CND shellac and OPI gel colours for my toes. But always found I was too rough on my hands, and wouldn’t get much time out of it. Although I have mainly when for the same dark colours for my finger nails, maybe it was the colour. I need to investigate this in the new year, thanks for this post Nikki, I’m really interested.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      It’s certain colours that don’t seem to last for me now too!

      • annetree

        I wonder if lots of the cheaper nail bars buy the knockoff versions of OPI, Shellac nail polishes that are sold through the internet. I’ve seen so many new OPI bottles of polish selling for $5 from some trader in China. They look exactly the same but I doubt the quality and formula are the same as the originals. I wonder if that is why your not getting the mileage out of your salon polish. I started having the same issue a year ago…changed nail salon to another salon doing OPI gels and suddenly my colour was lasting again for 3 weeks.

        • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

          I can’t say that that could be the problem for me as I go to a beauty therapist who buys her Shellac direct from the CND distributor.

  • Jo

    I generally stay away from manicures and nail polish of any kind because my nails don’t usually last very long & I always seem to chip them within minutes of application. I just tried gel nails for the first time & I’m hooked. I don’t chip my nails & the colour lasts for several weeks. I am DEFINITELY putting one of these DIY kits on my Xmas wish list!!

  • Kelly

    I don’t know if I am the right target market for these products. Gel nails just seem a bit too hard. Not that I have had them done to be honest … I think the home kit however makes it more appealing as I can do the application and removal when suits me. But the dodgy left hand painting is still a problem!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      For me, the salon gel nails (when they last) make my life easier. They look good for longer than a day or two. The home kits appeal for just being able to do that without an appointment but I’m not that good at the left hand hold either. Was surprised that was able to apply quite well with these systems though.

  • http://twitter.com/RedcliffeStyle Rachel Wernicke

    I love shellac nails but only get them occasionally now. Recently a friend of mine we sick, so I stopped by her salon and picked up her shellac light and supplies and took them to her house and gave her a mani and pedi. It was a little harder than I thought but I think I could manage it at home. I like the pampering though :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Oh, what a lovely thing to do Rach … and I’m with you. I do love the pampering!

  • Workingwomenaustralia

    I’m a recent convert to shellac (ok, I jumped on the wagon ;)). However, after only 6 back to back applications, it’s not lasting as long and my nails are peeling and weak underneath. It won’t stop me though! I’m too addicted!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I find Kim, that even if I leave a week between applications, my nails are ok. During that week, I use a nail hardener/treatment. I wrote this post about giving your nails a nail-cation http://www.stylingyou.com.au/2012/03/nacial/