My UV Gel-Nails tutorial

Ever since I was a kid, I used to bite my nails. Luckily I have pretty large nail beds. For that I suppose I need to thank my mother's genetics. So my nails always looked... ummm..... sort of ok. Just extremely short and uneven. But as I grew they became weak and fragile. So fragile that I could loose a nail by a paper cut. 
Quite a few years ago (can I still say "few" about 20 or so years?) I discovered the acrylic nails and for a while I had my nails built with acrylic powder in a salon. But I became allergic to it and after a couple of weeks of  swollen and itchy fingers, I got rid of them. Several years ago I discovered a new thing: the UV gel. And so far I consider it a life saver of sort.  Since I was asked so many times how I keep my nails long the way they are, I've decided to tell you my secret. I wrote it as a sort of tutorial, mostly because I felt awkward saying "I.... I.... I..." all the time. LOL. Aleta - this one's for you    And do note that this is a long post filled with lot's of talking!

So let me share with you a little of my own routine of nail care. 
The products I use. I'll explain more later but I thought this was a pretty picture ;-)

First, you should know I'm a lazy person. By this you have to understand that I hardly do anything with my hands around the house. I don't do dishes (I have a disher machine), I don't clean (I have a cleaning lady), I don't do hand laundry (If I learn that a garmet requires hand washing - it goes straight to charity). Also, if I had to do this process daily or even once a week, I would probably give it up a long time ago. So I do that once in 3-4 weeks, depending on my mood. I suppose the more often you do this, the better it looks. And of course it also depends on how fast your nails grow. But usually once every 2-4 weeks is enough. (the funny thing is - I change my nail polish daily. Go figure...)

Second, I love the Nfu-Oh products. I think they are the best and the longest lasting, although they are pretty expensive. I used Konad  before and didn't like it and I know that OPI are considered good but I have some personal unknown issue with OPI products. There are other companies too so if you ever decide to give it a try, you have plenty to choose from. The process is basically the same. Naturally, it begins with removing the old layer of gel, but I will start with placing it, assuming you haven't done this before. It will be easier for me to explain this way. 

and Third, do one hand at the time. Finish the entire process (from cuticles to top coat) on one hand before starting the other. 
This way you will have all the materials dry to the right level to still work properly. Besides, it's so much more comfortable...

Oh, the important thing is - you will need to have a UV or LED machine. I have a simple UV machine that I got for a little less then $30 on eBay and it is perfectly enough. 
My little UV light machine
So first are the cuticles. For this I use Nfu-Oh cuticle remover and a metal scrapper. You don't need the metal one for this. Any scrapper will do. Even an orange stick. But you will need the metal "pusher" later so it's easier to just use this double sided one.
Nfu-Oh Cuticle Remover
Nfu-Oh Cuticle Remover
Cuticle scrapper and pusher
Cuticle scrapper and pusher
I apply a generous amount of remover onto my cuticles, one hand at the time. By the time you apply it to the 5th finger of your first hand, it is time to do the scrapping. So finish one hand before moving to the other. Just scrap your cuticles gently. And I repeat - GENTLY. Especially if you use the metal scrapper. Your cuticles are very sensitive and you don't want to scratch yourself or hurt yourself in any other way. Just hold the scrapper at about 45 degrees to your nail and scrap is gently along the borders of your nails (don't forget the sides too). If you feel you need another round of scrapping - use more of the Cuticle Remover. Don't scrap your dry nail. It's completely un-pleasant.

I know the next picture is a bit gross but... this is what you should have on your scrapper.
Next is the Prep. This material is very important because it helps you make sure you don't get any sort of fungus under the gel. Apply it like you would apply a nail polish. Make sure you place it on your entire nail and mostly around the cuticles. It dries pretty quick so no need to wait before you can continue. 
Nfu-Oh Prep
Nfu-Oh Prep
Next is the bond. This little baby is responsible for the connection between your nail and the gel. Again - apply it like you would apply your nail polish. Important warning: do NOT touch your nail once you have applied the bond. Anything that comes after the bond will damage the gel layer and make it peel off or chip or break sooner then you would want it to. Again - no need to wait after applying. 
Nfu-Oh Bond Primer
Nfu-Oh Bond Primer
Now we get to the UV stuff. Apply the base coat to your nails. Use a very thin layer. Beware, the formula is a funny combination of thick and runny. It is rather heavy but if you have too much on your brush, it will flood your cuticles. Be very careful not to get there. I prefer to leave a gap before the cuticle because if it touches the cuticle the feel is very uncomfortable. Besides, you only want to cover the dead area of the nail. Not to damage anything. So make sure you wipe your brush well and then apply it like you would apply any base coat. Don't forget the tip of your nail. Wrap the gel around the tip too, to make sure it doesn't peel off later. When you're done, put your hand under the UV light for 1 minute. by the way, if you have a LED machine, then you only need 30 seconds. 
Nfu-Oh Gel Base Coat
Nfu-Oh Gel Base Coat
Basically, if you want to use the gel polish here and then not change your polish for 2 weeks, this is the stage when you add your color. In general you're suppose to apply one thin coat and let it dry in the UV for 1 minute and then one thicker coat and let it have some UV for 2 minutes. But since I like to change my nail polish daily, this is so much not for me. So what I do now is put on the top coat! 
Again - wipe your brush very good on the side of your bottle and apply a very thin layer to your nails. Wrap the top coat around the tip too. Then put your hand under the UV lamp for 2 minutes. Under the LED light, you cut all the mentioned times in half, both for any color you decided to use - and for the top coat.
Nfu-Oh Gel Top Coat
You're almost done! All you need to do now is naturalize the gel. If you touch your nails now (don't. Just trust me ;-)) you will feel that everything is sticky and somewhat liquid. Apply some 70% alcohol (I use those AlcoGel hand Sanitizers - those gels that you can use to wash your hands without soap or water, you know those?) to a paper towel and clean each nail thoroughly with it. Voile! You're done.

Now you can apply your favorite nail polish, do some nail art or whatever. The only thing you have to keep in mind is - do not use acetone over the gel-nails. If you want to change your polish, use a remover that does not contain acetone. You can see that my nail is slight thicker then a normal nail but not enough to look fake. So far - its been holding on nicely. I better shut up now. No need to give the devils any excuse ;-)
Btw - I am wearing Zoya Savita topped with Nfu-Oh 51. Well, this is all about Nfu-Oh, isn't it? LOL
Are you tired yet? I know I am. But I better tell you how to take this off properly. This is one important tip: when you want to renew it - remove the old layer. Don't layer more over it or you'll have thick nails. 
So to remove this, all you have to do is use the foil method! Well, you better start with a very sandy file. File the entire shiny layer of your nail. This shiny layer is what protects your nail so you need to get rid of it before you can remove the gel. Don't worry, you will not file your own nail. Only make sure you get rid of the shiny area.
Next, have a 100% pure acetone, some cotton pads, some foil paper and your UV lamp. Dip the cotton in the acetone. Be very generous. make sure you have a nice amount of acetone on the cotton, wrap your nail with it and wrap it all with foil. In this stage do not use any other polish remover. Only 100% pure acetone because this is what melts the gel. Besides, if you like to wear glitter, you're in a very familiar territory here ;-) Just remember that for this stage you really need the foil. You can't get away without it because you will have to place your hand in the UV lamp and without the foil - the cotton will dry up and won't melt your gel.
So now, the last tweak is - with the foil on, stick your hand under the UV lamp to 4 minutes. (Led users - cut the times in half, remember?) After 4 minutes, when you take the foil and cotton off, most of the gel will be on the cotton. But you will still have lot's on your nail. So grab the metal scrapper (well, use the "pusher" side this time) and gently push the gel off your nail, from the cuticles and onward. 
Usually it peels off real easy. If you do have so stubborn gel - dip your finger in pure acetone for a few seconds then repeat the cotton + foil + lamp for 2 more minutes. Then wash your hands and... put on the new coat and be protected for the next 3 weeks :-D

Wow, i'm done! Who would believe...
I do have one last tip though: because these materials are so expensive (evil-bay does help a little on this, but not much) you might want to try it first in a salon. Do it just once see how you feel about it, see how it holds on your nails before you spend a lot of money. BUT - make sure the lady in the salon does NOT file your nail! There is no need in removing any layer off your nail to have it hold nicely. Maybe the first time you do it, it will hold a little less then the normal, but still it has nothing to do with filing your nails. 

Ok I need some sleep now, but I will try to think if I have any more tips and tricks on that. 
And now that you know my deepest secret, I just might have to kill you ;-)


Melanie Davis said...

Super helpful! Just making sure -- you only do the base coat and the top coat if you want to change the polish a lot?

Aleta Colucci said...

Great post! I learned everything I need to know about gel polish! :)

JinJit said...

Yes! But you have to make sure to use a non-acetone if you want to change your polish on top of the gel!

The Silverinator said...

Awesome post, Jin! <3

Chameleon Stampede said...

Great post Jin! I love gel! I tend to do it if I know I'm going to be really busy or going out of town.

Gosia said...

oh my gosh, I laughed so hard at your lazy hands... lolol, especially at the hand-washed garments!!!
maybe that's what I should do, apply gel nails to mine so these suckers don't break all the time!! but then I would be too lazy to take them off!! haha =)) I'm not too much different from your lazy hands!!! =))

Lusty For Lacquer said...

Thanks, I was on the fence about gel polish since I like to change my polish alot but i never thought of just doing the base/top coat.

GlitterInfatuation Jazz said...

I would so do this but i'm terrified of heat spikes! Get tutorial as well as it's got me thinking!

Jazz x

Criminal Nails said...

Wow so that's your secret! I always whine when one of my nail breaks, but I've never been tempted to try gel nails. Too much work, I guess! But... do the nail underneath suffer from this? I mean is it weakened in any way?

JinJit said...

The UV light has no heat at all. Its just like a florescent light so there are no heat spikes ;-)

JinJit said...

It's not suppose to. You're not doing anything to harm your nail. You just add some sort of shield on top of it, and you let the living part (near the cuticle) breath normally. But you know, every one has their own reaction. One of the reasons why I think its better to try it first in a salon or something and not invest in the material right away.

Annie Suzie said...

Brilliant post JJ. Filing the shiny layer off is rather worrying. I'd love to know the root of this OPI thing! Great blog TQ :)

JinJit said...

The shiny layer that you file is ONLY the gel. NOT your own nails, and it's meant to make removal possible ;-)
I'd love to know the root of my OPI thing too. I wish I had any idea. It's one of those irrational things I suppose :-(
Thank you!!!

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