DIY Manicures: UV Lamps and Bio gels

Profile Gel Nail starter kitI’ve long been a sucker for a nice relaxing facial, even though I wish the therapists would stop promising that if I buy their particular brand of voodoo cream my face will become 20% more beautiful (and that if I don’t spend £90 on the eco-friendly oil they’ve had shipped over from Australia I’m some sort of skin abuser, no better than someone who spends the weekends engaging in hate crimes).

But manicures have always failed to charm me. Pedicures I get. Pedicures involve sitting in a chair, having a leg rub, drinking champagne. Or they do in my world (I go once a year to the Cowshed with my sisters in lieu of buying each other birthday presents). But manicures involve sitting in a chair with your hand at an awkward angle, making small talk with someone about the state of your cuticles and the length of your nailbeds.

Much better to save yourself the money, buy yourself the gear, and giving your fingernails a good going over in front of the latest episode of FlashForward.

Related: Nailene SensatioNail LED Gel Starter Kit review

What you’ll need:

1. UV Lamp

If you’ve ever woken up the day after painting your own personal nail masterpiece and discovered the duvet has embroidered a rippled finish all over the topcoat, a UV lamp will make your life worth living again. Yes, I am exaggerating.

The lamp “cures” gel and varnish, leaving you with a very hard, shiny finish in 2 minutes. You can use it on toes and hands.

Spend as much as you can afford, and go for a 36 watt lamp (otherwise you’ll have to wait longer for your polish to cure) with an auto-timer and – preferably – different timer settings.

Wide selection of UV Lamps on eBay

Rio Salon UV Lamp £59.99 at Argos

2. UV Gel

Not the crappy powder acrylic gels that look nice but ruin your nails (and leave you unable to pick up coins you’ve dropped on the floor – believe me, I’ve tried). These gels are the bio gels that feel like extra thick nail varnish and let your nails continue as they were without interference. The great thing about this stuff is that it lasts for ages and doesn’t chip and go crappy a few days in. Plus, it gives you super-strong nails without making them brittle.

Getting a set of bio gels done will cost you around £50 at Nails Inc, so although the gel is a big upfront cost, you’ll soon save money if you’re doing it yourself.

Bio Sculpture gel is the stuff everyone wants, but it’s only supposed to be sold to professionals, so it’s not always easy to get hold of. Unsurprisingly, you can buy it on eBay. Expect to pay around £40 for a small pot or £50 for a large pot.

I have the Profile Clear Gel, which is fine and not too expensive. I can’t vouch for other gels, though and have mainly heard bad things about cheaper gels.

3. Starter Kit

You can buy ready-made starter kits (check Amazon and eBay) but they nearly always include too much stuff. I’d recommend splashing out on decent gels and then you’ll need a basic starter kit that you can put together yourself. This includes:

Nail Prep

Wipe Off

Acetone-Free Nail Varnish Remover

A decent brush

– A really good top coat – You can’t go wrong with OPI

– Cocktail sticks, cotton wool, emery boards and some cuticle oil to finish.

This Profile UV starter kit offers pretty good value for money and doesn’t include loads of unnecessary stuff.

4. Skills

Painting on gel isn’t quite as straightforward as painting on varnish, but once you know the basics, it’s much easier to get a decent finish because gel is a lot more forgiving than varnish. If you’ve had gels done before, you’ll know the drill, but if not, Bio Sculpture has a good basic guide.

Invite your friends round and have a few practice runs and you’ll soon be making small talk about the state of your cuticles and the length of your nail beds.

Katie Lee

Dork Adore's Editor! Katie started out life as a tech journalist and blog obsessive, launching the UK's first and biggest blog publishing network, Shiny Media. Favourite dork things: knitting, crochet, Press Gang, Buffy, Battlestar, Doctor Who and lifehacks.

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  1. […] I’ve also developed a fairly unhealthy obsession with buying Nails Inc. nail varnishes. They tend to last quite a while without chipping, but I’m still always on the look out for products to make them last even longer. Sadly, I don’t have quite the patience Katie has to do my own gel nails. […]

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