Home, Lifestyle, Self-care

Nail Rescue 101- The DIY Gel Manicure that Saved my Nails

It seems like a misnomer, a gel-based polish that could rescue your nails. For most who have experience with gel-based manicures, we know that the beauty of this shiny, light-capturing, nail-plumping treatment is usually followed by a second visit to the salon for the arduous task of removing the polish. For those who have tried self-removal – soaking in acetate polish, wrapping your fingers in cotton and foil, or waiting until they grown out enough to clip off the polish in its entirety, we know there has to be an easier way.

In one article I read last year, a young woman who had gel-manicures done monthly reported that it completely destroyed her nails. But we get the sacrifice, as the end results of a gel manicure versus a traditional polish manicure is light years (yes, I am punning) apart. The gel holds up longer, looks amazing, and isn’t that much more expensive than a traditional manicure.

However, the harm to the nail over time can outweigh the desire to continue getting these manicures.  And, the expense of application and removal of the manicure can realpainting-1281340__340ly add up over the course of a year. Figure on average $50 for the manicure and $20 for the removal (with tip) and you’re talking about the equivalent of a monthly transit pass or a fun night out in some cities. For those in really expensive areas – the alternative is coming. So, there has to be an easier way to get the same results but with less damage or within a more cost-effective budget, right?

There is . . .

Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Collection Gel Lab Pro Fashion Size 2 Counts

Purchase Gel Lab Pro on Amazon

Price Range 24.00-50.00   Deb Lippmann

This is my go-to product for a gel manicure. It is super easy to use, cost effective over the long-term, and looks just as professional as a salon finish. Like the headline suggests, my nails were in terrible condition after my first salon gel manicure, but like many, I really wanted to obtain the same results. I did my research and came across this set on Amazon. Once I compared it to its gel counterparts, I knew it was the one.

The Perks:  This polish gives you amazing shine and long-lasting wear (7 days). It is affordable, when compared to other gel sets and salon manicures, and is easy to apply and remove. No UV lamps, special polish remover, or soaking required.  It is also is ‘5-free’, which means the brand has “removed formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene from their mixes along with the allergens camphor and formaldehyde resin—all potentially dangerous ingredients that could do everything from disrupt your endocrine system to cause cancer.” (Prevention, 2014)

The Drawbacks: I have not found too many drawbacks with this polish, apart from the fact that the top coat can get a bit thick and gloppy at times as I am applying. I simply set the brush back in the bottle and let it rest for a moment before I continue. I am also surprised that Amazon doesn’t have higher reviews on this product, but don’t let that discourage you. This gel manicure set has been covered by many popular magazines like In Style, Bazaar, O Magazine, and Cosmo.

The Full Potential:  This Gel Lab Pro duo by Deborah Lippmann replaces the need for more costly and time consuming salon manicures, you have the ease of changing it up simply by changing the color, it is super easy to remove with store-bought nail polish remover, it is free of harmful chemicals, and it yields gorgeous results!

It should be noted that this brand makes no claims of salvaging your nails, it is simply my experience as the polish did far less damage overall than its salon counterpart. 

If the chemicals aren’t that important in your book and you are simply looking to replace your more expensive salon gel manicure with a DIY set or system, we’ve got you covered!

NEW Gelish Harmony Complete Starter LED Gel Nail Polish Kit – Includes 5 Colors

Purchase the Gelish Kit on Amazon

Price Range 99.00- 100.-00+ Gelish

This is an all-inclusive gel manicure system that promises a salon-quality finish at home. It includes a LED Lamp (which is said to be both faster and safer than a UV lamp) and a Pro Starter Polish Kit with 5 colors. We wouldn’t endorse it if it didn’t have great reviews (an average of 4.5 stars) and offer some safer alternative to the UV-version most salons use.

The Perks:  The LED lamp dries faster than its UV counterpart, which saves you time and sets the get manicure perfectly. You still get the salon feel with the DIY costs. Users have experienced their manicure lasting for upwards of 20 days and the product suggests that most results are up to 21 days.

The Downside: This set is more of an investment upfront, but well worth the long-term savings according to users.  Unlike the Deborah Lippmann gel set, this is not 5-free, still requires a lamp for setting the manicure, and still requires special polish remover and potentially the use of special clip caps for polish removal.

We recommend:

HIGHROCK 10Pcs Acrylic Nail Art Polish Remover Wrap Cleaner Clip Caps with an average customer rating of 4 stars and super-affordable pricing for reusable clips. They are also versatile and can be used with acrylic nails, artificial nails, and gel manicures.

Onyx Professional Soak Off Shellac & Gel Nail Polish Remover Coconut Scented Removes Artificial Nails, Nail Glue, Glitter Polish & More, 16 oz is a lovely, coconut scented alternative to those loud smelling acetone-based removers. It is both affordable and pleasant.  Check out the 4.5 star reviews on Amazon.

The Full Potential: The Gelish Harmony Complete Starter LED Gel Nail Polish Kit is an entire DIY set that give you salon results at home. Users rave about it and see the investment in the kit and accessories as well-worth the long term savings!

If seven days seems too little and a larger monetary investment seems too much, we’ve got another great product that just might suit your needs.

AIMEILI Soak Off UV LED Gel Nail Polish – Base and No Wipe Top Coat Kit Set 10ml

Purchase Aimeili Gel Polish on Amazon

Price Range 10.00-25.00  Aimeili

This 14-day gel manicure set has garnished a 4.5 star rating from multiple users. While it isn’t 5-free like Deborah Lippmann and does require drying under an LED/UV lamp, it is a more affordable alternative that blends our two initial recommendations seamlessly.

The Perks: Most users rave about its affordability, ease of use, and brilliant shine. With current pricing on Amazon, this by far is the most affordable product for users who want the DIY convenience and the feel of a salon manicure.

The Downside: You will have to invest in an LED Lamp or a UV Lamp, as well as special remover. But, with the money you save on the kit itself, you will have some left over to purchase those accessories.

We recommend:

MelodySusie Portable LED Nail Lamp – Violetilac 6W Mini Nail Dryer Curing LED GEL Nail Polish Professionally – White , a super-compact and cute LED Lamp that receives rave reviews from user.  It does not require the LED lamps to be replaced ever and can be used with a variety of popular gel manicure brands. Did we mention is also really affordable!

The Full Potential: Aimeili is the perfect compromise between the 5-free, no LED Deborah Lippmann and the full-on DIY kit from Gelish. The manicure lasts up to 14 days and is described by users as a great investment and product for the price.