Last year, for Mother's Day, I asked for my very own trapeze bar (installed in our high ceilinged living room)! This year, with a baby on the way, my requests were a little more practical.
A friend was given a gel manicure kit for Christmas. I was intrigued by the idea of polish that wouldn't chip or wear down in a really short amount of time. By this spring, I had seen a few gel manicures and was impressed that they seemed to grow out long before they wore out. I asked for a starter kit and received the Gelish polish system for Mother's Day.
At the time, I didn't realize that there were multiple brands (Gelish, CND, OPI) to consider. Gelish was sold locally at Sally's Beauty supply, so it was easy to explain to the husband where to go and what to ask for. (Even so, I'm still fairly certain that her made my sister go pick it out!) Either way, he (they) got me the Gelish starter kit and then a separate UV light. I was generously given an LED light instead of a UV which requires less drying time than UV. I was also given the light that fits all 5 toes, making gel pedicures a possibility.
The picture above shows everything thing that I got. I was a little overwhelmed by the number of tiny bottles in the kit. There were six bottles to start with, many of which get used multiple times in the process. There were also printed directions and a DVD tutorial highlighting the SEVENTEEN steps to your new gel manicure! I was beginning to get a little worried.
Luckily, I read through all those directions before starting and figured out that for all those little bottles the Gelish starter kit does NOT include a starter polish color. I enjoyed picking out my own shade from the 72 that they offered (and my sister included a gift card in my gift to get the polish) but I was still a little bummed that my first manicure had to be postponed a few days until I could get to the store.
So, a few days later, I was all set to give it a try. The color I selected is Exhale. You can find it on that chart, but it looks NOTHING like the finished color. Apparently, most Gelish polishes look lighter than advertised. Good to know, but if you know that, then why not use actual pictures of the finished product in the color charts? (I'm talking to you Gelish corporate conglomerate!) Also, it was a really small bottle with a really big price tag (about twice what I pay for OPI polish). Everything in my kit is labeled as Gelish Mini. I can't seem to find the maxi size, but based on what the mini costs, I probably couldn't afford it anyway!
Other than a little sticker shock and color shock, I was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy the process was. I am used to doing a base coat, a few layers of polish, and a top coat. This system just adds a cleaner at the beginning and at the end (apparently the gel is sticky until cleaned at the end) and a ph bonder liquid (I have no idea) before the base coat goes on. You need to already be able to paint your own nails pretty neatly and then keep in mind that it is a little harder with those tiny brushes in those tiny bottles. I painted both my fingernails and my toe nails and I was amazed that they were INSTANTLY hard and dry and SUPER shiny! I usually bump mine within a few minutes of painting them and then wear them down after only a day or two of constant crafting and cleaning both at work and at home. I am also used to trying not to touch anything for a few hours after a DIY manicure (difficult with kids) but with the gel it was solid as soon as I was finished!
Two weeks later, and the painted part of my nails still looked GREAT! I have NEVER had a manicure last so long that it needed to be changed because it grew so much! (Lets blame prenatal vitamins, for the sudden growth and hope I can eventually make it to 3 weeks as promised) My pedicure was also holding up well, and not growing so fast that it needed to be redone. I did have one toe suddenly loose ALL polish (it peeled off I suppose). So, I did the full process on the one toe and then added a new layer of top coat to make all my toes extra shiny again. I am going on 3 weeks for the pedicure with only minimal maintenance.
My finger nails were not so sime and required much more work. The removal of "soak off" gel polish, like the application, is also a multi-step process. The soaking requires holding the special removal chemical to your nails for 10 minutes, hence the aluminum foil. I discovered that trying to wrap ALL my fingers in foil.... While all my fingers were WRAPPED IN FOIL... Was really difficult. So in the future I need to plan 20 minutes to take off the polish one hand at a time.
I did test to see if the special chemical (mostly acetone) was any better than my cheap drugstore fingernail polish remover. The left hand is after 10 minutes of the chemical that came with the kit. The right hand was the regular polish remover (mostly acetone also). Not a huge difference between the two. What IS different is that the gel polish doesn't dissolve like regular fingernail polish. It loosens and flakes off, so be prepared for flakes and chips of old gel coating to fall off and make a mess. Also, be prepared that it won't all come off. I had to re-soak and scrape a few nails.
So, I survived the entire process from start to finish over a two week period. Even with the extra steps, I still thought that the time I spent was comparable to a regular DIY manicure. I LOVED the lack of scuff marks, dings, chips, etc! Mostly I LOVED feeling like even with kids and a lot of crafting (hands always covered in clay, paint, cleaners) I could have nails that stay nice looking.
My biggest complaint is about those weird small bottles of polish. I'm looking online for a non-mini size. In the mean time, I did one more experiment. As long as I needed to paint my nails again anyways, I tried using the gel ph stuff, then the gel base coat, then my REGULAR OPI non-gel polish, then the gel top coat. I used the LED light between each coat as instructed (including between polish coats with the non-gel polish). So far (5 days later) it still looks good! It has a tiny bit of wear on the edge that the gel did not have (the edge looks like it has rubbed off a little) but I am probably the only one to notice. This is the last week of school, so my hands have done TONS of cleaning and no chips or weird spots yet! I am a VERY happy girl!