Do Your Own Gel Nails At Home


Natassia Chloe is Glossier’s Brand Coordinator, and if you stop by her desk to watch her work you will a) be shooed away for distracting her (What! Who doesn’t like a hoverer?) and, if you’re lucky, b) catch a glimpse of her manicure. She does them at home, by herself, and they’re always artist-quality. After weeks of wondering, ITG finally asked Natassia how the heck she does her own gel nails. Turns out, it’s easier than you might think. Here’s Natassia on the technique:

“I got gel nails for the first time this past summer when I was back home in Indonesia—my aunt basically forced me to do it. I had never wanted gel because I thought it would be really hard to take off, but my aunt kept talking about how long it would last, and once I did it I realized gel actually helped my nails grow really long. They started to look thicker and stronger—I was like, ‘What is this?’ I was also so impressed by the fact that they dried in 30 seconds—that’s insane. When you use normal nail polish, you can’t really get nail art because it takes so long to dry, and you can’t clean up your mistakes. When I got back to the US, I messaged a coworker who had amazing nails and asked her to take me to her salon. My manicure ended up being like $80—it’s usually $5 extra per nail if you want art, and I didn’t want to pay $80 or more every time I got my nails done.

I had been doing my own nails since I was maybe in sixth grade, just with normal nail polish. And I was a painter my whole life. So I figured I could probably do gel myself. I went on Amazon one day and started looking—I’d need a UV lamp, because that’s the thing that makes the polish hard. I needed a top and base coat, polish that you paint on, little brushes for the nail art. Then I went down a rabbit hole… I got chrome powders and glitter and little sequins. I put everything in my cart—all together it was around $100, which would basically equal the price of one manicure in a salon. It was really cheap. Plus, everything could fit in a pink pouch.

Honestly, all the polish brands are kind of the same. I usually look at reviews, but the only helpful ones are when people have posted pictures of swatches. I recently bought two OPI gels because I just wanted my normal polishes in gel form. The only thing that’s different is the chrome powders. You start with a base coat, cure it, use top coat, cure it, and then you take the powder on an eyeshadow brush and rub it on your nail. They make tacky and non-tacky topcoats, but I find the non-tacky ones to be easier—and they’re the only ones you can use for chrome nails. If the top coat is tacky, the powder can bunch up and pull. I actually don’t know why the tacky ones exist—I just use the non-tacky one for everything. After you brush on the powder, you do another coat of top coat and cure it. It’s so easy.

I give myself manicures like this every two to three weeks. I try not to do more than that because taking them off really dries out my cuticles. First I file off the topcoat, which makes the gel come off easier. I have to soak off the rest, so I use acetone on a cotton pad and secure it with these little purple tools. [Ed note: you can also use tin foil, but it’s more wasteful.] You can scrape off anything leftover with a cuticle pusher. Then I’ll cut my nails, do my cuticles, and file them so they’re oval. I generally find that oval nails break less, because the edges don’t get caught on things. I started using cuticle oil every night before I go to bed to keep my cuticles healthy, because the acetone dries them out. My friend Kata recommended this dehydrator, a special solution you brush on before gel that basically takes away all of your nails’ natural oils so the gel can adhere better. I also started putting sunscreen on the backs of my hands when I’m putting them under the UV lamp. In Korea, they do that for you in the nail salon.

I tend to do negative space designs on a clear base because when they grow out, you can’t really tell—I hate when you can see a line. For inspiration, I love Unistella. She’s a Korean nail artist, and in my opinion she’s the best. She does all the famous people’s nails in Korea. I like her textures and how her nails are more design-y. I also love Fong Min Liao because she just has the prettiest nails, and Imari Nails does really pretty ones too. Nails by Mei paints the craziest art. I could sit doing my nails for four hours, just painting. And I get really sad when the process is over. I just want to remove them and do it again!”

—as told to ITG

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Photos via the author