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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

DIY Gel Manicures with Red Carpet Manicure

Essie bottle included for size comparison.

I love doing my nails, but you know what I love even more?  Chip-free nails that last a long time.  Considering my nails get used and abused at work with the frequent (that's an understatement) handwashing that I do while working in a hospital, it's rare that a manicure lasts more than a few days.  The only time I've been able to leave work with shiny, chip-free nails is when I had a gel manicure, and my co-workers say the same.  Sure, they last a few weeks, but maintaining this type of mani can add up.  I've thought about investing in a at-home-DIY-gel-manicure kit for a while and I'm glad that I waited until Ulta had a Black Friday deal to bite the bullet and get one.

The kit that I bought was the Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Pro Kit which usually retails for $80, but with the Black Friday discount, I scored the Gel Polish Pro Kit for only $60.  Considering gel manicures usually cost about $25-$35 where I live, I break even after just two manicures!  Buying the kit, whether it's the Pro  Kit (45 second cure time) or the Starter Kit (2-3 minute cure time) is much more cost efficient than buying the LED light separate from the polishes (nail color, base and top coats).  I'm always trying to save time, so naturally, the LED light that sets each layer in 45 seconds was my first choice.  If you're thinking of investing in a gel manicure set, I highly suggest you buy a starter kit instead of buying each item individually.  

My one hesitation with gel manicures is that I get bored with my nail colors quickly, wanting to change the color almost every other day.  There are very few colors that I can wear for a while (red and fuchsia).  Changing nail colors is easy for me because I can do my own manicure in less than 10 minutes (usually 5 minutes, no joke), but since I'm going on vacation in a couple of weeks,  I won't want to worry about my nails, so, it was perfect timing for me to invest in this kit.

When I received the package, I was surprised at how small the kit was.  I guess I expected the LED light to be as big as the ones in the salon, but in reality, it's about 5 inches wide and about 3 inches in length making it very portable and easy to store.  Red Carpet Reddy, a true red nail polish was included in the kit (perfect for the holidays!).  At the time, there was a GWP with my choice of any Red Carpet Manicure polish.  Of course, I chose Paparazzied, a bright fuchsia.

Before I started my first gel manicure, I read the directions carefully because I wanted to time myself to see how long it would take me.  When I do my own manicures, it takes me less than 10 minutes to apply a base coat, two layers of polish, and a top coat.  I've gotten so used to doing my nails that I can do my nails fast, and it comes out looking clean and professional.

Since this was my first time doing a gel manicure on myself, I took my time, being careful to clean up any mistakes before curing it under the LED light.  My kit included the "pro" version of the LED light making curing times only 45 seconds.  The LED light doesn't fit my entire hand, and so each step was broken down into three sections: 4 fingers at a time, then the thumbs together.  Considering that I had to break down my manicure into that many steps, I was surprised that I had finished in 30 minutes, and I'm sure I will get faster with time as I get used to doing a gel mani on myself.

For some reason, the base coat included in this kit was very viscous, almost like a honey consistency.  I don't know if it's supposed to be like this or if I just received a bad bottle.  The nail color, base and top coats had a normal thin, nail polish-like consistency.

Overall, this was a great purchase and I'm so glad that I bought it on sale.  I learned a few things during the process, so here goes...

- Take you time on the first try while getting used to the steps.
- Invest in a lighter, nude color if you're afraid of messing up on your first try.  
Mistakes are more obvious with darker colors.
- Ensure you have adequate lighting to precisely apply polish on your nails and not on your skin.
- Remove any polish on the skin before curing, otherwise you're stuck with it on your skin.  
I'm sure you could pry it off, but why bother?
- Go through all the steps... Pre-cleanse, prep coat, base coat, two coats of polish, top coat, post-cleanse.  
I know this sounds like a lot of steps, but it's so worth it to not have to worry about your nails for a week or more.

-Rush your first time.  I think following all of the steps will ensure that your gel manicure lasts for weeks, or until you decide to soak you polish off.
- Work in an area that has dust or lint.  It'll stick to your nails when you aren't done.  That's what happened to me on one nail after the first coat, and I was not about to soak my nail and start all over. :/
- Expect to be a pro the first time.  Just like regular manicures, it takes practice to make it look salon pretty.
- Hesitate about buying an at-home gel manicure kit, especially if you're nifty with your nails.  It's a great invesment!

This kit as well as nail colors can be found at Ulta or
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  1. Wow this is pretty fancy! I've never had a gel manicure done. My nails are very fragile, and I don't really know if this will make things worse. I do REALLY like the idea of not having to redo my nails every 3-4 days though!

    1. I've gone two weeks with a gel manicure which pretty darn good. Since you have fragile nails, I would be cautious with this. It goes on like a regular manicure, but to take it off you would have to soak your nails in acetone for 10-15 minutes which can be very drying.

  2. Wow that's interesting Chris! I have never tried gel manicures before because I am afraid that it'll damage my nails (my nails are naturally weak :( ). I am really interested to try glitter gel manicure, it looks so pretty!

    xx Meryl

    1. Hi Meryl, I think doing gel manicures consistently aren't the greatest for your nails because to take it off you have to soak your nails in acetone. I prefer this type of manicure when going on vacation since it lasts a long time.

  3. That kit is so neat! I love salon Gel Manicures, wish we could get these kits in NZ!

    ♥♥♥ from


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