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DIY Manicure Tips to Make Your Nails Look + Last Like Gel

Trying to save money? These tips on how to do a DIY manicure are perfect! Easy tricks that anybody can do will get you a manicure that looks and lasts like gel.

Hands holding gold pineapple

I love splurging on a good gel mani, but often it just makes more sense for me to paint my own nails.

For starters, gel manicures just wreak havok on my nails. If I get one, I usually have to wait a couple of months before doing another because they weaken my nails.

Beyond that, as they’re growing out they don’t always look great, and I usually end up wanting to take them off before they’re even worn out.

All this is to say, I’ve perfected my DIY manicure game so that it’s a pretty darn good gel substitute. So I thought I’d share a few of my tricks and secret weapons on how to do your own manicure.

Fun Manicure

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Is Gel Polish Bad For Your Nails?

Now, I’m definitely not a doctor or a dermatologist, but even a bit of research will tell you that gel manicures can be tough on your nails.

Some dermatologists believe that the chemical compounds in the gel itself is damaging enough to cause thinning or increased brittleness in your nails.

And the acetone soak that is required to remove gel polishes can cause drying, flaking, thinning, and brittle texture to the nails.

Personally, my nails seemed perfectly happy with gel manicures throughout my 30’s, but since I hit my 40’s I have seen a shift in how they respond.

So I tend to stick to my DIY manicure that looks and lasts like gel!

DIY Two Tone Gilded Mani

How To PREP YOUR NAILS FOR AN AT-HOME Mani

Prep Your Nails Start by removing any polish and soaking your nails in warm water for a minute or two.

Apply a little cuticle softener and push back your cuticles. (That’s a matter of preference — I just prefer to push mine rather than cut!) Wash and dry your hands.

Base Coat I like to use a base coat that also smoothes out any ridges (this one is my favorite). I feel like the ridge filler makes the end result look really smooth and shiny, like gel.

But basically choose a base coat to both protect your nail from getting stained and to hold onto your nail color longer.

diy mouse pad

THE BEST POLISH FOR A DIY MANICURE

Polish My favorite polish hands down is Essie. Their colors are perfect (I always use Secret Story for photo shoots) and the formula goes on really smoothly.

To get it even and thick like gel, I always put on two heavy coats, one right after the other.

A Surefire Drying Technique Here’s one of my secrets! I’m always trying to get my polish dried really fast so it doesn’t smudge.

To do this, I make a bowl of ice water and dunk my polished nails in it for about a minute each. Yeah, it’s cold. But for some reason (any scientists out there?) it dries the polish really quickly and leaves it nice and shiny.

HOW TO DO YOUR OWN MANICURE AND MAKE IT LAST LIKE GEL

Secret Weapon Topcoat Last things last, and this one is important! The best topcoat I’ve found is the Seche Vive Gel Effect Top Coat.

It makes your nails look just like gel and when I use this stuff my at-home manis last for about 5-6 days, which is kind of a record for me.

Apply a nice thick coat and let it dry (you can dunk in your ice water again if you like!).

That’s it! All of my secrets for saving a buck and doing a killer DIY manicure. Do you have any tried-and-true tips too? xoxo

P.S. Have you seen our most popular beauty DIY ever? Bet you can’t guess what it is in a zillion years…

Fun Manicure

DIY Manicure

Yield: DIY Manicure
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $20

Trying to save money? These tips on how to do your own manicure are perfect! Easy tricks that anybody can do will get you a manicure that looks and lasts like gel.

Materials

  • Essie nail polish
  • Seche Vive Top Coat
  • Base coat
  • Optional: cuticle softener

Tools

  • Cuticle pusher

Instructions

  1. Start by removing any polish and soaking your nails in warm water for a minute or two.
  2. Apply a little cuticle softener and push back your cuticles. (That's a matter of preference -- I just prefer to push mine rather than cut!) Wash and dry your hands.
  3. I like to use a base coat that also smoothes out any ridges (this one is my favorite). I feel like the ridge filler makes the end result look really smooth and shiny, like gel.
  4. My favorite polish hands down is Essie. Their colors are perfect (I always use Secret Story for photo shoots) and the formula goes on really smoothly. To get it even and thick like gel, I always put on two heavy coats, one right after the other.
  5. Here's one of my secrets! I'm always trying to get my polish dried really fast so it doesn't smudge. To do this, I make a bowl of ice water and dunk my polished nails in it for about a minute each. Yeah, it's cold. But for some reason (any scientists out there?) it dries the polish really quickly and leaves it nice and shiny.
  6. Last things last, and this one is important! The best topcoat I've found is the Seche Vive Gel Effect Top Coat. It makes your nails look just like gel and when I use this stuff my at-home manis last for about 5-6 days, which is kind of a record for me.
  7. Apply a nice thick coat and let it dry (you can dunk in your ice water again if you like!).

Notes

Now, I'm definitely not a doctor or a dermatologist, but even a bit of research will tell you that gel manicures can be tough on your nails.

Some dermatologists believe that the chemical compounds in the gel itself is damaging enough to cause thinning or increased brittleness in your nails.

And the acetone soak that is required to remove gel polishes can cause drying, flaking, thinning, and brittle texture to the nails.

Personally, my nails seemed perfectly happy with gel manicures throughout my 30's, but since I hit my 40's I have seen a shift in how they respond.

So I tend to stick to my DIY manicure that looks and lasts like gel!

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4 thoughts on “DIY Manicure Tips to Make Your Nails Look + Last Like Gel

  1. This is super interesting! So you put your nails in the ice water right after you polish them, even when they’re still wet? Or do you wait for them to dry at least a little bit first?

    1. Yep, I usually put them in as soon as I’m done polishing. It just seems to help harden the surface so that dings and smudges are less likely.

  2. Oh my gosh! I just found the gel stuff a month ago and I swear it is THE best! Now I can use any kind of polish for the color and make it look fab! So on the same wavelength!

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