How to get an At-Home Gel Manicure

Saturday, February 06, 2021

There's no better treat than going to a nail salon and getting a gel manicure - I don't go too often, but it is so relaxing and I love how long it lasts. Sadly, it feels like they won't be opening up anytime soon, so I decided to work out how to do it myself - it is seriously easier than you'd think!

One of my main pet peeves of wearing ordinary nail polish is how easily it chips - on my index fingers, it will chip after a day, no matter how good the quality of the polish is! So, especially during lockdown, I started doing it less and less often because it felt like such a faff, having to repaint them every few days. This was my main reason for working out how to apply gel polish myself, now I only have to reapply every couple of weeks, or sometimes even less frequently, which is such a win win for me!

There are three key elements to achieving a gel manicure at home - shaping, painting, and removing, and I'm going to talk through how I achieve each one.


So, until I started going to a nail salon about a year ago, I had no idea how important shaping and maintaining your nails is. But then I went to get a manicure for my birthday a couple of months ago, and they spent well over half the time actually looking after the nails before putting a drop of polish on. That was when I realised, no matter how pretty the polish shade is, it will always look a mess if you don't pay proper attention to your nails first!
The key tools you will need for this are a good, high quality nail file (I've recently realised how ineffective primark ones are, sadly), a buffing block and a cuticle tool - I picked this one up from Boots mega cheap, and it does the job perfectly. Using the cuticle tool to push the cuticles back and then remove them with the other end is a little bit of a weird job, I did start to squirm a bit when I thought about it too much! But it makes the world of difference to how your manicure looks, and the polish will last longer too. 
I also like to take the nail file to make sure all my nails are roughly the same size - yep, difficult when there's always that one that has just broke, but as much as possible! I'm not the best yet at shaping them, it's still something I'm getting my head around, especially as I prefer a rounded shape and all my nails seem to be naturally square, but I'm learning!

Finally, take the buffing block to buff the surface of your nails, this will make the polish apply easier to the nail - if you have a smooth surface, it's just going to slide right off!


The big difference between regular and gel nail polish is the use of the LED or UV lamp for curing. This is one reason why I actually much prefer gel polish - I hate waiting around for polish to dry, and often smudge it before it's ready!

There are so many lamps on sale in a range of prices. To start myself off, I purchased a gel polish set from the brand 'Le Mini Macaron'. The sets come in a range of colours, from white, light pink, red to the burgundy I chose. This includes a little mini LED lamp in the shape of a macaron to cure one nail at a time. It's super cute and easy to travel with, which personally suits me more than a big lamp that cures the whole hand at once. 

The set also included a polish in the shade 'Cassis' to match the lamp, a couple of tools and a USB lead to attach the lamp to a socket or device (I use my laptop) in order to power it. This makes it even easier for on the go use! 

I also recently purchased a further two shades of Le Mini Macaron's polishes, a pink (Honey Ginger) and grey (Sugar Stone). When applying, make sure to wipe off the brush along the top of the bottle so you only apply a very light layer - it's all about building up the polish to ensure it lasts! I usually go for three coats, although I may opt for two if it's a dark shade like the burgundy.

You may be thinking, what about a base coat or a top coat? Well, one of the reasons I was drawn to Le Mini Macaron gel polishes is that they are a '3 in 1' with a base and top coat part of the formula. However, they do offer their own top coat, which I think would be a good idea to ensure it lasts for as long as possible.

One of the biggest difficulties of doing a manicure at home is doing your alternative hand - for example, because I'm left handed, my right hand always looks great, but then my left will be a complete mess! Well, luckily I have a couple of tips to help you out here. Firstly, I suggest keeping your unnatural hand still holding the brush, and let the fingers you're painting do the work, moving them around the brush because they will be far steadier! Secondly, use a tool like a cuticle pusher or a cotton bud to wipe up any mistakes, like nail polish on the skin - this is important before curing because polish left around the nail will make it easier for it to chip! Now my left hand actually looks as good as my right!
An optional step to finish off is adding some hand cream and cuticle oil to achieve that relaxing feeling straight out of the salon - The Body Shop is my go-to for these! 


Eventually, we will get to the point where the nail growth is getting annoying (mine seem to grow so fast!), maybe it has chipped a little, or perhaps you just fancy trying out a different colour. Removing gel polish is more difficult than regular polish, but I guess that is the price you may for them to last so long! I had an absolute mare with Amazon when trying to purchase some remover (they just casually lost my parcel), so ended up getting the Red Carpet Manicure gel remover from Look Fantastic. It's not the most effective, but it is very affordable! Soak a cotton pad in the remover, then place it on your nail with some tin foil around it for about quarter of an hour! Then you can reuse the cuticle tool to scrape off any excess, and you are ready to start the cycle over again!

Achieving a gel manicure at home is super easy, and makes for a perfect pamper evening. I miss nail salons as much as the next person, but this is a fine alternative! Gel polish lasts so much longer than regular nail polish, and I don't feel like I'm walking on eggshells waiting for it to chip! Have you been doing your own manicures during lockdown? I would love to hear!

EG x


  1. This post is very timely for me! I used to get acrylics done but stopped when the pandemic started (as the nail salons closed) and recently I've been feeling bored of my nails. I bought some press on nails today but took them off after a few hours because they just weren't sturdy. This has inspired me to buy a gel kit - can be something to use even after things have gone back to normal!

    1. That is so lovely to hear! I hope you enjoy it and can't wait to hear how you get on - definitely, I'll still use it once everything is back to normal, so it's a great investment! x

  2. I invested in a gel nail kit this lockdown as I love going to a salon but obviously we can't go at the moment - this looks great!

    Lucy | Forever September

    1. Thank you! It's super handy to have, isn't it?! x

  3. Those shades are so pretty! The pink on looks great on your nails xx

    lenne |

    1. Thank you! I love the pink, it's such a wearable shade! x

  4. I don't think I'd have the patience for doing gels at home because the removal process seems an absolute nightmare. These colours look so cute though, that pink shade is beautiful xx

    Hannah |

  5. Sounds like the perfect kit for a cosy pamper evening, and I love the colours you chose. Defintiely adding this to my wishlist :)

    Anika |