I’ve been painting my own nails with Gelish polish for about five years and I have learned some tricks to make Gelish manicured nails last longer. I used to have gel or acrylic nails done at the salon and it always seemed hard to find the time (and the money) to get them done. I can do my own gel nails when I have free time. I often prep one day and then paint the next. It costs about $120 to get started, which is about what I would have paid for a few trips to the salon.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that have made my Gelish nails last longer:
- Choosing the right curing light
- I had two UV lamps that were seriously disastrous! One used batteries. The other just couldn’t cure without about 4 minutes per layer. The light I’m recommending below uses LED lights to cure.
- Use of Primer Xtra Bond Acrylic UV Gel (amber bottle below)
- This is the kind of primer that they put on your nails before they apply acrylic or gel nails.
- Use of an eye shadow brush
- I use this to stipple the base layer to make it so there is a more beveled edge that is less likely to pull up over time. I feel that this disruption in the base layer also helps to make the first layer of color adhere better.
- In my experience, nails will last much longer if you keep them short.
Disclaimer: All products I recommend are items I have purchased myself and have now come to love. You’ll see links to sites like Amazon, which are called affiliate links. This means that I will receive a small commission on purchases at no cost to my readers.
Here are the items I’ve purchased on Amazon. I bought the small Gelish color at Sally’s Beauty Supply before I realized you could get a much larger size for the same price on Amazon! I buy the 91% isopropyl alcohol at Walgreen’s. It’s usually available at 70%, but I use the more purified 91%.
- Cuticle pusher
- Gelish kit (pH bond, foundation, top coat)
- Eye shadow brush
- Gelish Polish of your choice
- LED Curing Light
- 91% isopropyl alcohol – make sure you don’t get 70%!
- Nail filing block, emery boards, nail clippers, etc.
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Prep your nails:
- Remove previous polish (see below)
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap especially if you recently used hand lotion
- Rough up nail surface with foam block nail filer. I’ve skipped this step before with good results if you’d rather not buff your nails.
- Push cuticles back with cuticle pusher.
Here’s my YouTube video of my Gelish Manicure. Keep reading for the written instructions.
Paint your nails:
- Brush Gelish pH bond onto all nails and allow to air dry
- SECRET TIP TO MAKE GELISH LAST LONGER – Brush Mia Xtrabond (brown bottle) onto all nails and allow to air dry
- Note: this whole process works without the pH bond and Xtrabond, but I feel they create a better bond for polish to not lift up at the edges
- Apply relatively thin layer of Gelish base coat. It’s important that all layers of polish from this point on are thin. If it is too thick, the polish will basically slide off the nail and be reminiscent of a Salvador Dali painting. I guarantee that’s not the beautifully painted look you were going for!
- LED light – 30 seconds (if you purchase the same lamp as I have, when the power button is pressed in the up position, it will automatically cure for 30 seconds. It will turn on when it senses your hands entering the curing area.) It’s important to not go pet the dog or do anything else that will get something stuck in your layers of nail polish. The layers are sticky even after curing from this step on.
- SECRET TIP TO MAKE GELISH LAST LONGER – Use a clean eye shadow brush, dabbing down at 90 degree angle to disrupt base coat surface, making sure to thin out edges/sides of each nail’s base coat. I dab about 4 to 6 times per nail, fewer times on pinkies (this is easier to understand if you watch the video)
- Notes: avoid brushing in strokes, you want to dab into the base layer. Strokes will make your base coat uneven.
- the polish will be wet and sticky even after each layer is cured. This is normal, but avoid touching anything that will leave lint or other material on your nails.
- you will need to clean the eye shadow brush in acetone after every few uses, as the bristles will tend to stick together over time.
- when you cure your nails, it can sometimes feel hot, but don’t worry, it won’t burn you. This is especially true on the topcoat.
- Mix polish color well, it tends to separate.
- Apply 1 layer of color in a relatively thin layer. If your nails are longer, “cap” over the edges of the length of the nails by painting over the length edge.
- LED light – 30 seconds
- Repeat 2nd layer of color, same as previous.
- LED light – 30 seconds
- If needed, apply 3rd layer of color.
- LED light – 30 to 60 seconds
- Apply top coat clear layer. I go a little thicker with this layer, but not so much that it could pool up on the sides of the nail. Thicker edges are more likely to lift up.
- LED light – 60 seconds (2 rounds of 30 seconds)
- Saturate a small section of paper towel with 91% Isopropyl alcohol and wipe sticky layer off top of nails.
- If it feels sticky at all afterwards, I run my hands under very cold water to help the polish set.
- You’re good to go… you could probably mess them up if you tried hard to gouge them, but they’re pretty well set at this point.
Remove your polish:
- Soak each hand in a bowl of hot of tap water, but please don’t burn yourself! Soak for a couple of minutes.
- Starting at the side or cuticle are of the nail, peel away polish. I actually keep my nails in the hot water while I’m peeling polish off. They will often peel in large pieces. If needed, use the cuticle pusher to help remove polish.
- Alternative is to buff the polish surface with an emery board, then soak with acetone, but I haven’t done this in years. If you have a hard time with the hot water method, try not using the pH bond and/or the primer to see if the polish comes off easier. If you’re still having trouble, you’ll probably have to use the traditional acetone soaking method.
Other Things I’ve Tried:
- Sometimes I use seasonal or flower stickers intended for nail art. Just put them on before you layer on your top coat. Voila, instant nail art!
- I’ve done my own french manicure using Sally Hansen’s Salon Effects. It’s a bit of work because you have to trim them to fit your nail, but if you really want a french manicure, it’s worth the effort. I just do the base coat, then a couple layers of topcoat (in place of your colored polish). Apply and trim the white nail tips, then cover with another layer or two of the topcoat.
- You can successfully cut your nails without ruining them, but the polish will likely pry up on the ends within a few days. It’s best to use one of those 4 colored buffer pad blocks to buff the ends of the nails. I may do this if I break a nail and have to cut it short, then need to cut the others to the same length. This is more successful on a pedicure and I have cut toe nails and my polish has stayed on for weeks.
- I’ve tried to do a single layer of topcoat to “refresh” my look a week after doing my nails. It works, but after a couple of days, I’ve noticed that there are hairline cracks in the topcoat polish. Maybe just do this to make them shiny for a night out, then plan to re-do them soon. I’ve noticed that this also affects how the polish comes off. It wants to peel off in layers.
- I have tried to “fill” the polish like they do a “fill” at a nail salon. First, use a white block foam nail file to file the base of the current color near the cuticle. This is to make it flat so you will not be able to see a ridge later. Then go ahead with the standard instructions, but just paint the grown out area near the cuticle. On the last layer of color, paint the whole nail, then add your topcoat. I’m not sure that this gained me anything except for not having to remove the previous polish. Also, the polish became very thick.
- I hope you like the polish colors I’ve shown in my pictures. Unfortunately, you can’t buy them. Pretty much every one I own, I have mixed with another color to get to a color I really love. I like using Tutti Fruitti to mix in some sparkles into matte colors. For example, I love Exhale, but have taken it from a mauve color to a more pink shade with some sparkle using Tutti Fruitti. I literally just pour from one bottle to another (more careful when going dark to light), mix and see what it looks like until I am in love with the color!