How to DIY Gel Nails at Home

Hello lovelies!

I’ve been painting gel nails at home for over five years and after seeing all of your comments on my DIY gel nail kit giveaway, I realized that a surprising amount of people find the idea of doing gel nails too daunting.
So this will be a short crash course in how I do my gels! Hopefully, this will help DIY gels seem a bit less intimidating!

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Gel nails at home

Step one to gel nails

You’ll start the same way as any manicure, make sure your nails are clean, filed, and shaped, and make sure to remove all old polish.  Lightly buff away the shine on your nails, this will create a slightly rough surface for the gel to bond to. Be careful not to go crazy buffing, if you over buff it can weaken your nails and lead to breaks!

Dehydrate nails for gel polish

Even with bare nails, you will still want to wipe them down with either pure acetone or rubbing alcohol. This will remove any oils from the nail and help the gel adhere better. Many brands sell products to “cleanse” the nail before applying gel polish, but acetone works just as well and it’s much cheaper!

Applying the gel base coat

You’ll start with a thin coat of base coat and then cure it for around 30 seconds using your LED or UV lamp. The Born Pretty basecoat I’m giving away only needs 30 seconds of cure time, but this greatly varies depending on what brand you’re using. You should always look over the packaging to see what length of time the brand recommends. Overcuring the polish won’t hurt the manicure, but if you under cure and move forward with wet polish it can cause the gel to peel off prematurely. 

Curing gel nails with lamp.

Applying the gel color

Now that your base coat is cured you can start applying the gel color! Keep in mind that after you cure the polish you won’t be able to clean up smudges of polish from your cuticles or skin. Be sure that everything looks perfect before moving forward to curing.

Keep your coats on the thin side, if the polish is laid down too thickly it will not cure properly. The gels I’ve used from Born Pretty only take 45 seconds to cure, but again this varies from brand to brand. Most polishes will take 2-3 coats to reach full opacity, and you will need to cure between every coat.

DIY Gel Nails at Home

Troubleshooting gel polish issues

You might find run into some polishes that shrink back from the cuticles and the sides of your nails after curing. If you run into a polish like this you can prevent shrinkage by flash curing each nail for 5-10 seconds. If you flash cure each nail it will hold the polish in place so that when you’re ready to fully cure the entire hand the polish can’t shrink away from the edges.

Topcoat and last touches

After applying the top coat, you will cure your nails one last time. I’ve been using a no-wipe topcoat from Born Pretty, but with most top coats you will need to wipe off a tacky layer from the gel. You can use rubbing alcohol for this step, but do not use acetone! You will need to use a lint-free wipe or a paper towel to avoid getting fibers stuck to the nail. Use a different part of the wipe to clean each nail, if you use the same portion more than once it can cause the gel to appear dull.

Come and enter my DIY gel nail kit giveaway before you leave!


  1. Honestly as weird as it sounds I don’t like gel nails because they are too hard to get off. I know they don’t chip and that’s awesome but I can only stand the same nail color for about a week and then I’m ready for another. This is perfect for the woman who gets her nails done a lot and wants to save some money and time at the salon.

    1. I used to have the exact same mindset! Before I started working full-time I would change my nails a couple times a week, but sadly nowadays I just don’t have the time and gels are a nice back up 😀 I can’t stand chipped polish so they’ve been a life saver.

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