DIY Gel Nails

I'm excited to share my step-by-step process for DIY Gel Nails with you! It is a rare occasion you find me without my nails painted. I've always appreciated pretty nails!

I love using the gel polish because it lasts an average of 2 weeks on my fingers and a month on my toes; otherwise, I'd be painting them weekly (when they chip I have to peel it all off...I have to).

The supplies were a bit of an investment up front, but compared to a salon twice a month I've saved at least $6,000 on manicures alone in the past 10 years. If you factor in pedicures once a month, I've saved $9,000. So the investment is well worth it!


I found a kit at Sally Beauty Supply with all of the trimmers and cuticle tools several years ago and love it. You get what you pay for with these tools. I get a lot of my polishes there too! There are several different brands so all you're looking for is 'UV Soak Off Polish'. The only brand I've tried that I would not recommend is 'gel len'; I've ordered it on Amazon and it was not high quality. This is the green pictured in this tutorial. My all-time favorite color is Bella's Vampire. This is the current base and shiny top coat set I'm using.

I also get my buffers from Sally's. I use the pink or yellow grade buffer (not sure the grit on these, but it's pretty fine). I linked the UV nail dryer I have above for you. It is hands-down my favorite because of how small it is and will automatically come on when you place your hand under it.


  • Wash your hands

  • Trim and file your nails to desired length and shape (I've found trimming mine rather short makes them last longer as they grow over two weeks).

  • Soak your fingers in warm water long enough for the cuticles and skin surrounding the nail to get slightly softer (You don't want swimming 2 hours, prune finger level)

  • While the skin is still soft, push back cuticles or any overgrowth on the nail bed with cuticle tool then trim cuticles with cuticle trimmer.

  • Buff the nail surface until smooth; we don't want to see or feel any ridges

  • Using rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cloth, wipe the entire surface of nails generously (do not touch them after this; it removes all oil and debris which helps the polish to bond). I've found a cloth is sometimes better because cotton balls can leave some straggler fuzz.


I like to paint one hand at a time so I can use the working hand to wipe off any errors (this means you'll want to use the rubbing alcohol on the working hand right before you paint it because you'll get oil and polish on it while working on the other hand).

Please note on the color coats, it's optional to do one or two coats depending on the color. The key is thin, because I've found the more you layer on the easier it peels off before two weeks. Sometimes on my darker colors, I can get away with one slightly thicker coat rather than two. Also, be mindful not to touch the cuticles with the paint layers, it peels less quickly if it is not thick around the cuticle.

  • Once the alcohol has dried, apply a thin base coat with your foundation gel, making sure you get the tip of the nail (cure for 2 min)

  • Apply a thin layer of the color coat, making sure you get the tip of the nail (cure for 2 min)

  • Apply a thin layer of the top coat, making sure you get the tip of the nail (cure for 4 minutes; for the matte I use two top coats)

  • Using a cotton ball or cloth and rubbing alcohol, rub the entire surface of the nail to remove the stickiness (I promise it is cured at this point, and you will not mess it up).

Below is my favorite color, Bella's Vampire, mentioned above.

That's it! The process is fairly simple once you get the hang of all the steps! It takes me about an hour or less to do my manicures.

I hope you enjoyed this DIY post and found some inspiration to try your own gel mani/pedis!

A collage of photos for Heather Corinne's blog: Warm cup of coffee, yarn and gold scissors.