Gel Nails at Home: A Simple DIY Guide for Beginners

Looking to do gel nails at home to avoid a trip to the nail salon? 

Doing gel nails at home isn’t so different from the nail salons. So long as you have the right equipment and have the patience to learn, you’re going to find this to be rather enjoyable to do.

Will it work? Yes, perfectly… but only if you know how to do it right!

In this guide, you’ll learn:

Enchanted Forest gel nail polish kit - S&L Beauty Company

(Source: S&L Beauty)

Is it Worth Doing Gel Nails at Home?

S&L gel manicure

While at home, maintaining a regular manicure routine helps keep your nails healthy and strong. This could be the best opportunity to learn and become skilled at DIY gel nail polishing.

Doing gel nails at home is indeed beneficial in the following ways:

  • It’s cost-effective. When doing gel nails at home, you only need to worry about the cost of buying products and equipment rather than the additional service cost.
  • It’s time-saving. At-home gel manicures don't require you to have to travel to the salon, saving you time spent on commuting.
  • You get to be creative. Coming up with unique gel nail polish styles allows you to experiment with color and design ideas to develop personalized nail art you’ve always wanted to try.
  • It’s resourceful. Typically, each gel nail polish bottle can last you 20-30 manicures. Our S&L gel nail polishes contains more volume than the average gel polish bottle. They last really long.
  • It's healthier. Nail salons rush to remove the gel nail polish on your nails without adequate time for them to soak. If you DIY at home, you can soak the gel polish off more patiently so your nails won't damage.

What You Need for Gel Nails at Home

Getting gel nails done is unlike a traditional nail polish procedure where equipment is not needed. With gel nails, you will need an at-home gel nail polish kit in order to properly apply gel polish. 

What you need for a seamless at-home gel mani is:

  • LED lamp or UV Lamp
  • Glass or crystal files
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle oil
  • Orange wood sticks or stainless steel filers 
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Base coat
  • Top coat
  • Gel polish colors

1) LED or UV Cure Lamp

S&L UV Curing Lamp

Without a curing lamp that emits UV light, you won’t be able to cure your gel nails. 

A UV lamp or LED curing lamp is the only right choice here. However, our recommendation is to stick with an LED curing lamp as it omits less UV light and dries the gel polish the quickest.

2) Glass or Crystal files

Girl filing nails at home

(Source: Pexels)

There are numerous types of nail files like emery board, glass, or crystal files. We recommend glass or crystal as they last longer. They have the file pattern etched into the glass or crystal, hence the longevity.

Good to note — cheap glass files have patterns that are glued to the surface rather than etched, which can wear off quickly. Glass or crystal are also best for your natural nails, as they smooth the nail tip to seal it rather than shredding the nail tip.

If you have a durable glass or crystal file, it can serve you many years since the pattern is etched on the glass and will not wear. They're perfect for personal use so minimize sharing. Also, make sure to clean them after a while to keep them safe for use. It's a tool you can't miss if you want to start your journey to do home gel nails.

3) Nail Buffer

Buffing nails before applying gel nail polish

Nail buffing is a necessary step in your home manicure. Most times, your nails' surface isn't smooth enough to go without one. The purpose of a nail buffer is to prepare your nails to adhere to the gel polish not only properly, but longer as well. To achieve perfect buffing, you need a nail buffer made of fine grit.

4) Cuticle Oil

S&L cuticle oil

You need to moisturize your nails before proceeding with the gel manicure at home. The best solution for this job is cuticle oil. When you expose your nail cuticles to excessive sunlight, chlorine, salty water, or soapy water, the nails risk cracking, chapping, or drying.

Cuticle oil helps to bring such nails back to shape, making them beautiful and smooth hence easier to paint on.

5) Rubbing Alcohol

Applying rubbing alcohol

When applying gel polish to your nails, you should aim to maximize how long it serves you. This can be difficult if you don’t prepare your nails properly before applying gel polish. 

Rubbing alcohol helps with setting your nail bed with a clean and unblemished surface so that the gel polish can adhere to your nails as effectively as possible. This is especially important if you had used cuticle oil previously because the rubbing alcohol frees the surface of your nail bed of oil traces. 

6) Base Coat

Applying S&L gel polish base coat

gel base coat sets the foundation for your gel nail application process. 

It acts as a base between the nail plate and the gel paint polish, offering strength to your nail and the ability to sustain the paint for long. A gel base coat is the vital step to a long-lasting manicure.

You can use any brands for a base coat and top coat as long as they are specifically for gel nail polishes. However, it's recommended to use S&L base and top coats for the best results.

Besides its long-lasting features, base coats prevent polish stains on your nail as it allows the polish to stick and give your polished nail even texture. You don't have to worry about yellowing your nails when using base coating.

7) Top Coat 

Applying S&L gel nail polish top coat

A top coat acts as an armor to your gel manicure. It protects your applied gel polish from the effects of environmental factors such as sunlight and water, both of which shorten the lifespan of your gel manicure. 

The top coat is the last layer you apply during the gel polishing process. Its protective features also help in creating the highly radiant and glossy appearance you yearn for.

Like the base coat, a top coat polish is necessary for doing gel nails. 

8) Gel Polish 

Double Red - Gel Nail Polish - S&L Beauty Company

(Source: S&L Beauty)

Finally, the gel nail polish. Choose a brand that celebrates its long-lasting formula and has many color options. For DIY gel nails at home, you want complimentary color options to work with as well as non-toxic ingredients because you’ll be experimenting with them often. 

All the colors in any of our gift sets compliment each other to give you endless color combinations to be creative as you experiment at home.

But don’t limit yourself. See our entire collection of 100+ gel nail polish colors and pick out the ones that you like. The ingredients used to make our polishes are vegan-friendly, sulfates free, cruelty-free, and paraben-free.

How to Do Your Own Gel Nails At Home: 8 Easy Steps 

Now that you know what you need for a gel manicure at home, here is an  easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide on how to do your own gel nails at home.

1. Prep Your Nails

S&L filer

Prepping your nails before the whole gelling process is crucial because it's not something you can do after applying the gel polish. If you were to try, you would immediately ruin your gel manicure. 

Prep your nails by:

  • Cutting your nails - Use a clean nail cutter to cut off extra-long extensions of your nails for a uniform look.
  • Shaping your Nails - Shaping your nails requires nothing but a file. File your nails to a shape you desire, whether it's round, pointed, square, almond, or oval - it's your preference.

2.  Push Your Cuticles Back

(S&L's Gel Nail Starter Kit comes with a cuticle pusher)

Push your cuticles back gently with a cuticle pusher enough to reveal the base of your nails. Small orange wooden sticks and metal cuticle pushers are often used to here. This would allow your nail bed to be more exposed to gel polish.

Remove any debris on your nails after you push back your cuticles, as any debris can cause your gel nails to lift later in these steps. 

Any oil or residue you leave behind too can lead to your gel nail lifting.

3. Buff Your Nails

S&L Buffer

A buffer has three sides that are crucial in the buffing process: a rough, smooth, and shiner side.

The smoothness of your nail matters when it comes to making your gel manicure last longer. Make sure to buff your nails to make it a rough before you apply the polish for the best result. 

Use the roughest part of the buffer to gently buff the surface of your nail as you move the buffer from your nail base to the edges. Depending on the buffer’s abrasiveness, don’t overdo it as you can easily thin your nails. 

Continue buffing until your nail bed no longer shows any unevenness or blemishes. If your nails are already even, this step can be skipped.  

Use the buffer's smooth and shiner parts to achieve a smooth finish. 

4. Wipe Your Nails with Rubbing Alcohol

Acetone with gel nails

Buffing leaves behind a lot of dust that can interfere with the gelling process. Thankfully, you can clear the nail of the traces of dust with rubbing alcohol. 

While anything 70% or higher can work well, using rubbing alcohol with 91% alcohol content is best for this work. 

Applying the rubbing alcohol is easy but should be thorough. After washing your hand with warm water and hand soap, dry them gently using a soft cloth. 

Then put the alcohol on a cotton pad and wipe each finger nail gently. Make sure no strands of cotton get attached to the nail bed. If they do, simply remove them.

Alcohol dries naturally fast, so you don’t have to wait long for each finger nail to dry. Redo the same process for the other fingers to achieve dry and clean nails free from oils ready for base coating.

5. Apply Base Coat

Base Coat - Gel Nail Polish - S&L Beauty Company

(Source: S&L Beauty)

You can’t skip this crucial step of applying a base coat. Without a base coat, your gel nail simply won’t adhere to your nail bed. 

Apply a thin layer of base coat. Make sure it’s evenly applied across the whole nail. Otherwise, when you apply the colored gel polish, there will be a gap where the gel polish won’t adhere. 

After applying the base coat, cure the nail with your LED cure lamp for about 30 seconds. This duration differs depending on the lamp you are using.

The gel base coat is supposed to be sticky after curing. It's a misconception to believe the base coat is supposed to feel dry after curing. 

6. Apply Gel Polish

Glitz and Glam - Gel Polish Kit - S&L Beauty Company

(Source: S&L Beauty)

After your base coat is cured, it’s time to go for the fun part, applying gel polish. 

Apply a thin layer of gel polish carefully without it mistakenly touching your cuticles. Make sure you evenly apply the gel polish on all of your finger nails. 

Sometimes, manicurists paint the entire hand before curing it under a lamp. Sometimes, manicurists paint and cure them individually. Each approach is fine, it’s up to you.  

Regardless of when you choose to cure your nails, you should cure your nail based on the amount of time specified by your curing lamp. If none is indicated, 30 seconds is the typical amount of time.

7. Apply the Top Coat

Applying the top coat ensures that the cover you're about to apply protects all the work you've done on your nails. 

Use a light layer of the top coat over the colored gel polish while carefully sealing your nail tips. It’s a little trick to make your polish color last much longer.

After that, smooth over the layer and cure with the LED cure lamp you used before.

Add a few cuticle oil drops for an excellent hydrating finish.

8. After Care

hands with aftercare

(Source: Pexels)

Massage cuticle oil around your nails and cuticles to help nourish your skin every now and then, preventing them from drying out and keeping them looking healthy.

Remember, when you have a gel manicure, hot water isn't your best friend as it lifts gel polish faster. Avoid it if possible.

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish at Home 

Even with the best gel polish removers, going to the nail salon for professional help and minimizing chances of ruining your nail beds is always advisable. 

With our help, we’ll help you remove your gel nail polish at home as well as the manicurists do at professional salons.

Gel Nail Polish Removal Methods

These are the recommended gel nail polish removal methods you can use to successfully remove gel from your nails. 

Keep in mind that before trying any of these methods, you should first lightly file the shiny top coat or buff the surface of your gel polish. This helps the acetone soak in better.

1. Soaking Your Nails in Acetone

soaking nails in acetone and wrapping with foil

(Source: Pexels)

Due to the high-solvent nature of acetone, it remains as one of the best nail polish removers. However, using acetone frequently removes lots of natural oils and pales your skin, so keep your nails soaked in acetone for 15-20 minutes. 

Nonetheless, it's still a good gel polish remover. You have to settle for one of the two options to use it: file your nails and soak them in acetone, or soak cotton in acetone, and wrap your nails with cotton and foils. Either way, the polish will be out in minutes.

2. Use a Gel Nail Polish Remover

With a gel polish remover, no acetone, cotton balls or aluminum foil needed. 

This is one of the fastest and easiest way to remove gel nails because you simply buff off the top coat, apply the gel polish remover, and wait 3-5 minutes for the gel color to lift off.

You can the gel polish remover alongside our gel nail kit. Our starter kit lets you start applying gel nails and removing gel nails all in one kit. 

3. Use Nail Clips

Nail clips are clips that you attach to each nail to hold your acetone-soaked cotton against your nail. 

The benefit of using nail clips is they maintain the acetone-soaked cotton on top of your nails while giving you free range of motion with your fingers. 

To apply, add cotton swabs soaked in acetone inside the nail clip and clip them to each of your nail. Set a timer for 15 minutes. After 20 minutes, the gel polish should come off with relative ease.  

Safety Precautions Handling and Applying Gel Nails at Home

  1. Always work in a well-ventilated area: Gel nail polish give off fumes that can be harmful if inhaled. Minimize your exposure by working in a well-ventilated space, such as an open window or a room with a fan.

  2. Wear UV gloves: Since your nail lamp will emit UV rays, it's a good idea to wear UV gel manicure gloves when you're curing your nails. This will help prevent unnecessary exposure of your skin to UV light to your skin. 

  3. Avoid contact with eyes: Avoid getting it in your eyes since it can cause irritation. If you do, rinse your eyes immediately with plenty of water.

  4. Keep the equipment clean: Clean your tools and equipment (nail clippers, cuticle pushers, nail files especially) with rubbing alcohol or soap to prevent the spread of bacteria. 

  5. Don't over-file your nails: Over-filing your nails can damage them and make them more susceptible to infection. Use a gentle touch when filing your nails, and don't file them too often.

  6. Follow the manufacturer's instructions: Each gel polish brand has its own set of instructions, so make sure you read and follow them carefully. This will help you to achieve the best results and avoid any safety issues.

  7. Use a high-quality gel polish: Choose a reputable brand of gel polish like ours that is known for its quality and safety. Cheap or low-quality polishes may contain harmful chemicals or be prone to chipping and peeling.


Performing DIY gel nails at home is a matter of preparation. Make sure you have the necessary tools before you begin. The better the tools you have, the better the results. But at the end of the day, the gel polish you choose is what counts the most.

Each step we mentioned is crucial, so you should follow all the steps without skipping any of them. Again, the best gel polish stands out We hae great options for your at-home gel nail manicure, so be sure to check out shouldn't miss our gel polish collections.


I love the thorough explanation and it has really prepared me because l’m thinking of becoming a nail Tech

How much does your starter kit cost ?

Mationesa January 12, 2024

I really love the explanation of the process

Donna-marie Johnson December 13, 2023


Isabel March 31, 2024

Thank you I’ll try it . It looks simple enough.

Mary Matthews March 31, 2024

How much for a starter kit please?

Aroha March 31, 2024

How much is the starter kit I will love to have one?

Kelebogile Matshane December 28, 2021

Excellent detail. I will purchase the tools mention..thanks

Dolores T.Rodriguez December 06, 2021

Hoping you guys will have a starter kit. I’ve been looking for one

Lina C September 30, 2021

Thank you for the straight forward and easy understanding to have the best at home gel nails.

Daphne Elliott August 06, 2021

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