DIY {Easy} Gel Nails*

This post has been a long time coming. I know it’s not food and we all love food. But I also love everything girly and that includes nail polish…and according to all the emails and instagram comments y’all love it too! I have been doing my own Gel Nails for about a year now thanks to Jaden. When I was visiting her last year, she introduced me to Gelish. After a lot of googleing and practice, I finally got the process down!

Unlike regular nail polish, Gel nails last 2 weeks (on average – sometimes longer). After spending so much of my life with chipped nails, I was ecstatic to discover gel nails. Then after spending hours in the salon, I know I was thrilled to learn I could do Gel Nails at home for a fraction of the cost. Now instead of paying $60 (plus tip!) every time I got my nails done, I put in a $100 dollar investment…and have been doing my own nails at home for a year (I do occasionally buy more polish colors…with each one costing $12 with free shipping from Amazon).

So I thought it was time I finally put a post together that would share my favorite secret with all you nail polish lovers out there! Below you will find tips, FAQ, what supplies you will need, and step by step instructions on how to DIY Gel Nails. Happy Polishing! :-)

**all photos from this post are old photos from Instagram. please ignore the quality…and the food!**


  • Yes, they do sell a mini starter pack. It’s $30 and is MINI and you don’t need half of whats sold in it. For the same price, you can buy a normal size bottle of foundation, top coat and a color.
  • You can also buy it at Sally’s Beauty Supply. However, they do not have the large bottles like amazon…and the mini bottles at Sally’s cost $14 a bottle…while the big bottles on Amazon are $12 with free shipping.
  • THIN! You want to paint thin layers that coat the entire nail. Try not to paint thick layers, you will see that a little polish goes a long way.


  • How long will a bottle last me? Well, I have been doing this a year and haven’t run out of my first two bottles of foundation/top coat yet!
  • Will this ruin my nails? As long as you don’t have really weak nails to begin with and follow the removal process instead of just ripping them off, nope it will be fine! This process is not half as hard on the nails as artificial nails. Also, this is a “Soak Off” brand, so it is not as thick as some of the traditional gel nails.
  • How long does it last? About 2 weeks as long as you don’t paint on your layers too thick. If you accidentally do, it will probably only last about a week because the edges will start to pull up.
  • What happens if I get it on my skin? Just wipe it off before you cure it in the light. Unlike regular nail polish, the gel polish wipes off extremely easily with an alcohol wipe before it is sealed. If you happen to cure it under the light before noticing it was on your skin, no big deal, just scrape it off.

What you will need to apply and remove:

  1. Alcohol Wipes (I buy these at the drug store. There are over 100 in a box for around $2)
  2. UV Nail Light Dryer
  3. Gelish Foundation
  4. Gelish Top Coat
  5. Gelish Color of choice (Amazon has TONS of colors. These are my two favorites: Hot Rod Red & Shake It Till You Samba  Favorite Glitter: Water Field)
  6. 100% Acetone Nail Polish Remover (I also buy this for cheap at the drug store)
  7. Small Bowl
  8. Cotton Balls


  1. Trim/Push up your cuticles and clean your nails with alcohol wipes.
  2. Paint a thin layer of Foundation. Cure for 1 minute.
  3. Wipe nails with alcohol wipe to remove tacky layer.
  4. Paint on a thin layer of the Gelish color of your choice. Cure for 1 minute.
  5. Paint on a second thin layer of the color of choice and cure for another minute. Continue this process until desired color is reached. I usually only do 2 layers of color.
  6. If you want to add a layer of glitter Gelish polish, do that now. Cure for 1 minute.
  7. Once you have reached your desired color, apply a thin layer of Top Coat. Cure for 1 minute.
  8. Wipe nails one last time with an alcohol wipe to remove the top tacky layer. You’re done!

To Remove:

  1. Soak nails in a small bowl of 100% Acetone Nail Polish Remover.
  2. Once the gel is pliable/sticky, pull the gel nails gently to remove. If it is not budging, let that nail soak more. You can also just a metal cuticle pusher to help get them off.
  3. Once the nail is off, rub fresh nail polish remover over the nail with a cotton ball to remove any lingering polish.
  4. Let nails dry and lightly buff them to remove any ridges or rough patches. That’s it, clean nails!

**Gelish did not sponsor this post, however this post does contain affiliate links to amazon**

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40 Responses to “DIY {Easy} Gel Nails”

  1. 1

    Alaina @ Fabtastic Eats — November 8, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

    Sounds exactly like how they do my nails at the salon! What a great idea doing it at home and not constantly spending so much! Thank you! :)

  2. 2

    Roberta — November 9, 2012 @ 11:41 am

    I have removed mine by soaking a cotton ball in remover, putting in on the nail , wrapping the finger tip with foil and letting it sit. This way you don’t use as much remover each time.

    • Jessica replied: — November 13th, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

      I have tried that but made a mess when I was checking them to see if they were done! It is easier for me to just stick my fingers in a bowl. 😉

  3. 3

    Marie Feighery — November 9, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

    Thank u thank u thank u!!! i cannot wait to try this… my own time…no appointment needed…and practically free!!! :)

  4. 4

    Bonnie — November 9, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to post this! We have a low budget this year for Christmas because I have lost my job, and so I’ve been trying to ask for something that I know will not just serve me, but also others. I am absolutely going to ask for these items and I am so excited because I plan on making myself available for my friends to give them free manicures! I’ve often felt that giving to others and serving them remind me how much I have to be thankful for. Thanks again Jess! xoxo

    • Jessica replied: — November 13th, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

      Oh Bonnie. I’m sorry girl.

      That sounds so awesome thought….perfect way to get together with friends and all save some money. Throw in a bottle of wine and it’s a party!

  5. 5

    Sam — November 9, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

    I LOVE doing my own gel polish at home. I work at a beauty supply store and we sell Shellac, OPI Gel Polish, and IBD Gel Polish. IBD is BY FAR my favorite! I’ve seen in on amazon as well and HIGHLY recommend you give it a try. It goes on nice and thin, layers nicely, and is more user friendly/durable than any other brand I’ve used. The price is also quite nice. You actually can’t buy it unless your licensed like the other two but I’d say get it off of Amazon and give it a try!

    • Jessica replied: — November 13th, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

      Oh cool! I will have to check it out. I really do love all my Gelish stuff…but I will have to investigate!

  6. 6

    Saturday Seeds – Plus a Pregnancy Update » Pennies on a Platter — November 10, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

    […] season!  And, remember Jessica from the cookbook above?  Well, she just posted a how-to on DIY gel nails.  I might have to tackle this […]

  7. 7

    marla — November 11, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    YAY!!! You are awesome to write this post….how many times did we discuss this process in Idaho ?!

  8. 8

    Tina | My Life as a Mrs — November 11, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

    any tips on how one would stop biting their nails so they can do these really cool DIY gel nails??! lol

    • Jessica replied: — November 13th, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

      Bitter gel stuff?? LOL!

  9. 9

    shelly (cookies and cups) — November 16, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    I think I need to get this! I go through gel, no gel, gel, no gel stages and the salon kills my nails! This leaves me way more control!

  10. 10

    jessica w — November 19, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    Thank you for posting about this. This sounds sad,but I just recently got into painting my nails,but was disappointed with how long it took and how fast they started to peel,etc. I am seriously considering buying everything for this and give it a try! How do you get your cuticle area to look so great?

    • Jessica replied: — November 20th, 2012 @ 12:43 am

      I apply lotion/cuticle oil a couple of times a day to keep them soft and then I push them back and clip them when I am giving myself a manicure!

      But the key thing for me is to keep them moisturized. Otherwise no matter what I do during the manicure time…they still look scraggly. :)

  11. 11

    Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. — November 19, 2012 @ 11:21 pm

    Um, I seriously love you for posting this! I have been wanting to do this at home to save money, but wasn’t sure how to do it! Totally trying this!

  12. 12

    DIY Gel or Shellac Nails - warfieldfamily — February 6, 2013 @ 9:00 am

    […] this blog post from a blogger I follow, and was very impressed to find you could do it at home. She suggests the Gelish polish and to get everything from amazon, and I agree,but I didn’t […]

  13. 13

    Laura B — February 11, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

    Im a huge DIYer and would love to do learn to do this….the instagram pic with the ring finger with glittery nail was that gel as well? ive seen that look and love it

    • Jessica replied: — February 11th, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

      Yup, all the pictures above are done with Gel!

  14. 14

    Nicole — February 11, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

    I asked for all the above nail stuff for Christmas….and just managed to use it all on my toes tonight! Very quick & easy!! Thanks for the great directions! :)

  15. 15

    Gel Nails — February 22, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

    I think I need to get this! I got through Gel Nails some salon expert kills my nails, this leaves me way more control

  16. 16

    Athena — February 24, 2013 @ 11:01 pm

    I’ve been doing gel nails myself for 2 mths now. If you have any suggestions on how I can do mine better I would appreciate it. I’m a bit obsessed with my nails.

  17. 17

    Kelly CookingQueen Perkins — February 25, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    Thinking we might need to invest in this and give it a try. Between myself and 2 teenage daughters, we use quite a bit of nail polish. This sounds like a great way to save money and have totally cute nails!! Thanks for posting!!

  18. 18

    Anna — March 9, 2013 @ 11:07 pm

    Everyone should know, regular polish works with the gelish foundation & top coat. Same rule applies… keep the polish in thin coats. You can do 2 thin coats without issuse. The ph bond that they sell can be replaced with the alcohol wipes, or just 90% rubbing alcohol on a lint free wipe. That also replaces their nail cleanser. A good lotion replaces their nourishing bottle. And like the poster said, you can buy the foundation and top coat MUCH cheaper on amazon. Get creative!

  19. 19

    Saturday Seeds – Plus a Pregnancy Update — March 30, 2013 @ 8:46 am

    […] season!  And, remember Jessica from the cookbook above?  Well, she just posted a how-to on DIY gel nails.  I might have to tackle this […]

  20. 20

    Carol — April 18, 2013 @ 7:19 am

    Okay was at Sally yesterday, saw this can I paint nail art on top of color before final topcoat?

    • Jessica replied: — April 22nd, 2013 @ 9:53 am

      Yes you can! I have done this before, as long as it is not thick and does not cover the whole nail it should be fine. The top coat does a good job of making a “jelly” sandwich!

  21. 21

    Paula Rose — April 21, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

    A question for you. Can you touch up your nails if they still look good, as nail growth starts showing at the cuticle? Or do you have to take it ALL off and do the whole process over? BTW-I just did my Sally hanson nail gel kit yesterday and I love it.

    • Jessica replied: — April 22nd, 2013 @ 9:55 am

      Nope, it’s not made to be touched up. You do have to start over fresh each time. However, you really wouldn’t want to touch it up! By the time you have growth, the ends will start to pull up a little anyways.

      Glad you love it! I am still hooked on my gel nails! :-)

  22. 22

    Susan — April 27, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

    I have done a “fill” with my gel (Red Carpet Manicure) nails and extended the life of the manicure. I have only had issues with the tips — lifting, chipping, etc.) when I have shortened the nail by filing and broken the bond at the free edge. I have been using this stuff for about 4 months now. I bought the pro kit at Ulta, where it usually comes with a bright red polish. When I bought it, you could choos your own polish color, so I chose a glittery sheer white. I have since purchased sheer pink, pearl and french white. I need to practice the french white and have purchased a new brush for cleanup.

  23. 23

    Georgia — June 26, 2013 @ 5:26 am

    I am a beginner in gel nail polish DIY and I have a question. I use the shellac products and have no problems with them, but I’ve noticed that some times after doing the final step with the alcohol wipes, some nails (not all!) look a bit blurry. Not as shiny as the rest. Is there some tip to avoid that blurriness on the nail color, or am I doing something wrong? (maybe wiping off too much with the alcohol wipe etc?)

    • Jessica replied: — June 28th, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

      Hmm I’m not sure why that would happen or what you can do to prevent it. I only use Gelish and OPI Gel – I have no experience with the Shellac brand.

  24. 24

    Eleanor — July 15, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

    This is great! However, I still need help. Can no longer afford nail salon though I think they are great with exception of nail damage. Am I even looking for the right products. At salon, my nails are sanded down, filed, smoothed, etc. Aa to gel, product applications involve various steps with curing in between. I can have color, or leave as natural, which I like and can go 3 weeks instead of usual 2 with color. However, even if I don’t mind one nail veing a different length, they always insist on a tip which is glued, then treated as a nail. Do the tips work OK with DIY.

    I am a senior citizen, not the crafest person and have arthritis; makes some things difficult. All suggestions appreciared,

    Thank you!

  25. 25

    Rose — December 21, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

    I love your recipes! I like you love painting my nails. I just had my first gel manicure done and am seriously considering investing in my own kit as suggested in your post. I just have a question though. Obviously as we are in the festive season I will be doing a lot of cooking and baking for me and my husband. I’ve always cooked with regular nail polish on and never given it a second though but is it safe to prepare food at home with gel polish on your nails?

    • Jessica replied: — January 6th, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

      It is perfectly safe to cook/bake with gel nail polish. Honestly, it’s probably safer because regular nail polish tends to chip and pieces of it could wind up in your food. Towards the end of their time, my gel nails will start to pull up on the edges, but they almost never chip (like 1 out of every 20 manicures will actually get a chip)!

  26. 26

    Christine — December 27, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

    Thank you for such thorough detail! I have not read about what the tacky layer is until now! I thought I was doing something wrong! Now I know! (though. bit frustrated i hadn’t read this till now. ) I look forward to my next mani!

  27. 27

    DIY: Gel Nails — June 8, 2014 @ 10:20 pm

    […] Are you a fan of gel nails? I absolutely love getting my nails done, but I hate paying so much money ($35+) every two weeks. So I’ve been thinking about doing my own gel nails based on this tutorial from The Novice Chef. […]

  28. 28

    The Novice Chef » Thoughts too long for Twitter. — July 1, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

    […] That is Gelish Shake It Till You Samba with Harmony Fields glitter on top. I’m still DIY-ing my gel nails and I have only gotten better at it. You can see from those photos in 2012 that sometimes I was […]

  29. 29

    Shauna — July 15, 2014 @ 11:29 am

    Such a great post! I’ve been painting my nails the old fashioned way for years, and have been interested in trying the gel polish but didn’t know to much about the process. Thank you so much can’t wait to place my order for all of this!

  30. 30

    Mary Lembi — May 22, 2015 @ 2:06 am

    Is DIY safe, gel polish safe !!!!!!!!!or does it have cancer chemicals in it!
    and does DIY gel nail polish require a UV light! or not!
    Can any expert of nails tell me!! Thanks Email:

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