My Gel Nail Experience

My experience with nails
I still remember when I was only 5 years old, I was already in love with nails and would always take my markers and draw on my nails. But I had to stop once I got into middle school and high school in Taiwan since the uniform rules were very strict. After college life started, I started doing a lot of various nail art designs, from french nails, to polka dot nails, glitter, and ombre. I always did my own nails because as a college student getting your nails done is a pretty expensive thing to do. And I didn't really consider gel nail until after college. I still remember the first time I went to a proper nail salon in NYC, I was so mesmerized by my soft gel nails. Since that one time experience, I started experimenting with doing soft gel myself. But because doing the whole process by myself takes about 3 hours each time, including taking the old design off, drawing on the new design etc I started going back to nail salons again. Also Gel Nail polish is pretty expensive, so you will need to invest a lot to get a good color collection. 

** Normal nail polish and UV gel polish are different. If you put normal nail polish under a UV lamp it won't harden or dry faster. Normal nail polish is usually very inexpensive from US $1, but UV gel polish start from around $14 USD per bottle. Imagine if you want 10 colors of UV gel polish. 

The first time I did my own gel nails, was pretty successful!

Soft Gel vs Hard Gel
Both of these nail styles take a long time to do. Although you might think that normal nail polish takes a long time to dry, but both soft gel and hard gel require multiple layer of coating to complete the look. A typical Soft Gel session at the salon will take 1.5hr and Hard Gel takes at least 2 hours. With complicated designs it can take 3 hours long! Usually soft gel can last around 2-3 weeks, as for Hard Gel I'm not too sure since I usually do soft, but I'd recon it would last for longer. Hard Gel is worse for your nail health though. 

What to expect at a nail salon?
Here are the steps you go through at a nail salon, some might have more steps and others might skip some steps. 
  • Clean up dead skin
    • First they will ask you to dip your fingers into warm-hot water to soften the skin
    • New skin will grow onto your nail surface from your nail bed, so they will use a small scoop shaped stick to scrape off the thin layer of skin
    • Any dead skin on the two sides of your finger will be clipped off
    • These processes don't hurt at all 
  •  Remove previous gel nail layer
    •  Soft Gel
      • First they will use a nail filer and file down the surface of the gel nail
      • They'll put nail polish remover on cotton balls and wrap them around each finger with aluminum foil.
      • After the gel nail softens, they'll use a sharper blade like tool to scrape of the rest of the gel nail
    •  Hard Gel: for hard gel you just have to use a nail filing drill thing, it spins really fast and causes friction so the gel nail layer will come off much quicker.
  • Refine nail shape
    • After everything is removed, they'll buff your nails and then just reshape your nails.
    • There are several types of nail shapes, but the most common are: oval, oval-squared, and squared.
  • Gel Nail design
    •  First 2 coatings are the clear gel. They put a layer of gel, 2 finger nails at a time and then you cure it with a UV lamp for about 30 seconds or more so it hardens.
    • After that you'll do the colors and designs as needed, these are not normal nail polish, they are UV gel nail polish. 
    • Any gems or bling come on last and usually require hard gel to stick in place better.
    • Then it's another 2-3 layers of clear gel.
    • At the end they will file down any sides that have gel nail over spilling the nail bed.
  • Lotion
    • After the whole process they will usually give you some lotion to moisturize your skin.
All of the above process are standard processes in a gel nail manicure. They shouldn't charge you any extra for these services combined. Some salons will charge you for nail removal which is ridiculous, so I tend to avoid those ones. As prices for design go, usually they will add increments on price when you add: more than 1 extra color, design on nails (dots/lines/drawings), gems/deco. Soft and hard gel prices are also different. For reference, the cheapest nails I've done are at Nail For You in HK (which I'll review in my next blog) which cost me around $29 USD for 2 colors + 2 designs + 8 gem stones. In NYC I did a 1 color + 2 deco bows for $60 USD. It really depends on where you are and how complicated your design is to determine the price. But often a lot of salons offer packages, so if you buy a 10 time gel nail package it will be cheaper than paying for each time separately.

  This is the manicure that cost $60 USD in NYC. Very expensive! 

How often?
Generally I wait until something is wrong with my nails (there is a crack, I chipped a corner, one of the bling fell off). That usually takes somewhere between 2-3 weeks. Also because the designs I do are more obvious colors so when they grow out it's very obvious. If you don't want to do your nails that often, you can choose a design that is clear at your nail bed and then ombre at the tip into a glittery french nail. Because even if new nail grows out it wouldn't look very awkward.

Why I'm an absolute fan of gel nail
It lasts for a really long time without chipping! Gel nail rarely chips, and I hate chipped nails. Plus they make your nails much stronger, so for people that are more active or careless like me it's much more convenient because I don't need to worry about breaking my nails and having to wait for them to grow out again. Although there are some articles online saying that doing these gel nail processes really damage your nails, but I've been doing them for over 2 years and my natural naked nails still look perfect and undamaged. I think it may depend on what your original nail conditions are like. It's up to you to do your own research to see if this is a good option for you!

Here are 3 more designs that I actually done by myself at home:
(You probably notice that I'm holding normal nail polish and not gel polish. This is my proper explanation: as a poor girl that still wants to look pretty, you improvise. I sandwiched my normal nail polish in between clear UV gel base/top coat so I can save the money of buying colored UV gel nail polish. It still works, but you just need to wait for the normal polish layer to dry before applying the UV gel top coat.)


I hope this article has been helpful! These are just my personal experiences. Comment down below if you have any questions! Next up is my favorite nail salon in Hong Kong - Nail For You.

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