This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my disclosure page for more information.
I am rough on a manicure. I do a lot of shipping for my Amazon business, I clean my house, wash dishes, and spend time typing on my computer. All of these things can take a toll on your nails. A manicure REEEEAAALLY has to want to be with me to stick around. Traditional manicures are usually frantically swiping left on me after a couple of days. 🙂 So I’m perpetually on a quest for the perfect manicure.
Back in the Stone Ages when I was single, I would get weekly manicures. My first job was in a department store, back when they were fabulous, and had a whole floor for each department. I would head up to the beauty floor on my lunch hour and get a manicure. I also went through the acrylic nail phase, back when that was a thing and before all the Housewives of Wherever hijacked it. I don’t personally care to implement ANY beauty regimes those gals employ–acrylic nails, nasty extensions, fake tans, botox–none of that interests me.
When I was expecting a baby, the acrylic nails would no longer adhere for some reason. Maybe hormones. So I decided that was a good time to ditch them since they leave your real nails weak and paper thin. I was taking prenatal vitamins which can be great for your hair and nails, so I decided it would be a good time to stop with the acrylic and strengthen my natural nails.
I tended to stick with traditional manicures through the years, no matter how fleeting my satisfaction with them was. I cannot stand chipped nail polish, so I was forever changing out my polish.
Then came gel nails. I remember watching Michelle Obama give a speech at the Democratic Convention on TV. And just as I didn’t hear anything Monica Lewinsky said during that fateful interview on TV because I was dissecting her lipstick color, I didn’t hear anything Michelle Obama had to say because I was looking at her fabulous greyish purply super shiny nail color. 🙂 Apparently, I wasn’t the only one because the internet was buzzing the next day, speculating on the color and application of her nails. I promptly ordered the suspected nail color online and learned that it was a gel polish. I started researching gel polish and decided I would try it myself. I learned that the polish had to be cured with an LED light, so I ordered the Red Carpet Manicure Light and the Red Carpet Manicure Must Haves Kit.
The kit contains a prep solution, a base coat, top coat, a solution to clean the nails with to remove the stickiness, and a polish remover.
Giving yourself a gel manicure is not hard. You simply apply the prep solution to clean the nails of any oils. Then you apply a base coat and place your nails under the LED light to cure the polish. Then you apply two coats of gel polish, curing under the light after each coat. Then you apply the top coat, curing it under the light.
You then take a lint-free cloth and rub the Purify solution over your nails to remove the sticky coating. It’s a little scary the first time you do it because it’s hard to believe your nails are completely dry at this point if you are used to traditional manicures. But your nails are TOTALLY dry and once you remove the sticky coating, you are good to GO.
That is one of my many beefs with traditional manicures. I just simply do not have the time or patience to sit around waiting for the polish to dry completely. I don’t like going to bed thinking my nails are dry, only to wake up with sheet prints on them. 🙁 With gel nails, when you are done, you are DONE. It does take longer to do the gel manicure than a traditional manicure because you have all that curing time in between coats of polish. It takes me 45 minutes to an hour to give myself a gel manicure. But then I am good to go. I know I end up waiting way longer than that for a traditional polish to be dry and smudge free.
One thing I like about gel polish is its durability and shininess. It really doesn’t chip at all and it is super glossy. I also like how long it lasts. I can easily get ten days out of a gel manicure. Even then, it hasn’t chipped, but rather has lost some of its glossiness. One of my favorite colors to use is this one called Baby Doll Pink.
The one thing I don’t like about it is the difficulty in removing it. To do it properly, you soak cotton balls in the remover and place the cotton ball on each nail, then wrap it in foil to hold the cotton in place. The industry quickly got smart and invented Soak Off Gel Foils Nail Wraps with Cotton Pad which are foil wraps with a pad already there that you can put the polish remover on.
You should leave it on for at least 20 minutes to loosen the polish. It helps to lightly file the top of each nail prior to doing this so that the remover can soak in. After the 20 minutes, you remove the wraps and the polish is now a little gooey and slides off. It is very tempting to peel the polish off without soaking. But it’s terrible for your nails, so don’t do that. 🙂 Gel polish adheres so strongly to your nails that peeling it off can take off thin layers of your nail. So soaking is the way to go. If you are still worried about damaging your nails you can use a product called SensatioNail Shield 3 in 1 Nail Protector which is a layer that you apply before any others with a gel manicure. You cure it with the light then begin the manicure. It protects your nails from damage during the removal process. I have used it and it works. But if the gel nails are removed properly there shouldn’t be any damage to your nails, so it’s just an extra step that may not be necessary.
I’ve been wearing gel polish for several years now. I occasionally get bored with how long it takes so I will sometimes go back to traditional polish for a minute, quickly realizing how much I don’t like it when it chips the very next day.
There are always new innovations, and I recently tried two of them. The first one was Sensationail Express Gel.
I got excited reading about this because it claims to be a one-step gel polish. No need for a base or top coat. Just apply two coats of this polish, curing with the light in between coats. This would greatly cut down on the time involved to apply a gel manicure. So I tried it. At first I LOVED it because it was SUPER shiny. My nails looked like glass. And it did take way less time to do. This color is called “I’m so Bord-eaux.” 🙂 I love nail polish color names. They’re so cheeky.
I caught a glimpse of them in the grocery store the next morning, and they were still super shiny.
Then on day two, the polish CHIPPED! I was not used to gel polish ever chipping, so this surprised me. Even more disappointing, by day three the polish had dulled considerably and was no longer shiny at all.
I tried again, only this time I put a clear gel top coat over the polish and cured that, thinking that would solve the problem of the shine dulling. It did not. I might have gotten an extra day or so of shininess, but it eventually dulled. One thing I love about gel polish is the shininess, so even though this one is much faster to apply, it fails the shine test for me. And it chipped. So it’s a no from me.
The other type of gel polish I tried is called Slick Pour Cover Powder .
This system involves a powder coat polish that claims a high gloss gel finish, ease of removal, and up to 14 days wear.
I like the idea of a pour-over powder because I thought it would make it easy to do a neat manicure without any excess polish anywhere you didn’t want it. This system also uses an LED lamp to cure each coat. Here’s what the kit looks like:
It includes a cleanser, a base coat, top coat, the nail powder, a little scoop, and a remover. It operates much the same way as other gel nail systems, in that you apply each coat and cure in between. But with this system, instead of painting the nail color on in between the base and top coat, you use the little scoop to pour the nail color on over the base coat. I really liked the application, because I could pour the nail powder all over my fingertip and shake off the excess back into the container. I applied two coats of the powder and then a top coat.
Looking at the polish in the sun, you can see the little flecks of powder.
I followed the instructions that indicated a very thin base and top coat. When I did that, the finished product felt grainy. I could feel the powder polish and I felt like because it was a grainy substance, the finished effect was not very shiny.
I tried again a few weeks later, this time applying a thicker top coat, hoping to make the nail feel smooth and appear shiny. It helped a little, but the nail polish started to lift after a few days because of the thickness. So that was a bust. 🙂 I really like the idea of this system but am not thrilled with the execution of it. I will keep trying.
So, for now, I am back to regular gel manicures. They aren’t quite perfect but I am not unhappy with them. I’m just always on the hunt for the next best thing. 🙂 This is one of my favorite colors to use called Macchiato.
But if anyone in the nail industry is listening, here’s what my Manicure Holy Grail looks like. I want a nail polish that goes on easily, is super shiny, doesn’t dull, lasts two weeks without chipping, and comes off with regular old nail polish remover and a cotton ball. If that is out there and I have somehow missed it, please let me know in the comment section! If it does not, I will continue my quest for the perfect manicure. 🙂
I’d love to hear about your favorite manicure, and for you to follow me on Pinterest!