Complete Guide to DIY Gel Pedicures at Home: Step-By-Step

When gel manicures debuted on the beauty scene, they were an instant success. Being able to get a manicure that lasted far longer than the traditional service was an unprecedented gift to salon-goers everywhere, and the brilliance and shine of the colors offered didn’t hurt their resounding popularity.

But what about the gel pedicure?

This service has been offered just as long as the manicure, but without the same level of popular attention, it is sometimes overlooked -- even by tried and true gel nail polish fans.

The gel pedicure is a beautiful and long-lasting accompaniment to any gel manicure and an upgrade to the standard acrylic option. If you’re looking to try this on your own, start with our own Soak-Off Gel Polishes. We have colors for every occasion and season. Our impressive selection of polishes will help you get started with your dream pedicure.

Our guide will give you everything you need to know on DIY gel pedicures. In our step-by-step gel pedicure guide, you'll learn:
gel nail polish pedicure

What is a Gel Pedicure?

A gel pedicure is exactly what it sounds like: a pedicure option using gel polish. This pedicure is similar to a gel manicure in procedure and effect, but given its lower popularity, even gel manicure aficionados may want a refresher on what to expect. 

The traditional gel pedicure will consist of nail treatment and preparation, softening your cuticles, and making sure each toe nail is perfectly shaped with smooth edges before application. A gel base coat is an essential first step, followed by two or more thin layers of polish and a gel top coat to seal your new pedicure.

The service can take a variable amount of time when done at home compared to the usual hour spent at the salon because the polish needs to be dried before each new layer is applied. However, because the procedure is dried immediately and incredibly long-lasting once finished, nail art and designs are an easy and even practical addition.

With the right tools and preparation, you can even try your hand at applying designs to your gel pedicure by yourself, from the comfort of your own home.

gel pedicure after(Source: Pexels)

Benefits of a Gel Pedicure

While a regular pedicure is already less likely to chip than a manicure, a gel pedicure allows for an even higher level of wear without compromising on the life of your polish.

One application can last as long as a month, depending on your footwear choices and activity level -- among other environmental factors -- so it can be a great way to treat yourself before vacations, events, or even just to spice up your average Tuesday. 

Longer-lasting and more resilient than a traditional pedicure, a gel pedicure will maintain its color and shine without chipping for quite a while and give you the same level of effortless style that you’ve come to expect from any gel product. 

Just like a manicure, a gel pedicure fits right into your busy schedule.

A gel pedicure is dried under UV or LED light right away, you can leave your appointment or at-home pampering session in the same shoes you came in, without the need for open-toed sandals or flip-flops -- unless, of course, you immediately want to show off your new nails. 

Gone are the days of overcautious movement to avoid disturbing your newly-lacquered toes. This is the perfect polish solution for anyone on the go or anyone who wants a pedicure that they can apply and then immediately forget about, without running the risk of smudging or chipping their newly applied color.

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What are the Steps of Getting a Gel Pedicure?

Whether you go to your favorite nail salon to see your go-to technician or decide to try your hand at gel polish application at home, the steps of the process will be similar.

Toe nail preparation and moisturizing the skin come first. Applying a base and top coat with any gels is essential, and making sure to apply at least two coats of polish gives you the best results. If you're interested in the details or want to try your hand at a DIY gel application, here are the expert tips and tricks on how to get the most effective and lasting pedicure experience.

pedicurist filing toe nails

1) Nail Prep

As is good practice for any nail polish application, you will first want to prep your toe nails. The tools that you’ll want handy for this process are the following: 

  • A nail buffer 
  • Nail clippers
  • A nail file
  • Cuticle tools 
  • Alcohol wipes/hand sanitizer 

To prepare the toe nails themselves, buff thoroughly, then trim and file to ensure that all edges are smooth and even. Then, push down your cuticles to maximize polish coverage and extend your gel nails' life. If necessary, you can also trim your cuticles, but be incredibly careful not to trim the area that naturally lifts off of your toe nail. You can cut yourself or accidentally risk infection.

Once your toe nails are prepped, procure some alcohol wipes -- hand sanitizer can also work in a pinch -- and make sure your toe nails are clean and dust-free before beginning application. Then move on to step 2.

2) Apply Base Coat

Starting with a base coat is a required step. A regular polish base coat won't work with gel polish because it will never cure. You will need a gel base coat

In between every layer of polish, be sure to dry your toe nails under a UV or LED light. This will ensure that each layer can be applied smoothly and allow for an even more pristine final result. 

This drying process is also known as curing and is an essential part of any gel pedicure. For each coat of polish you apply, experts recommend that you cure each nail for at least 30 seconds. However, you don’t want to cure for too long as the light source used for the process can be damaging to your skin.

Of the two options, the LED lamp is the gentler choice, so be sure to keep that in mind when procuring your tools for an at-home application, or when considering your choice of salon.

beautician applying base coat

3) Apply the Gel Polish

Now the fun part. Find a gel nail polish in your favorite color.

When you apply it, you'll want at least two coats, so make sure they're thin and even. Have a pack of cotton balls and some acetone for this step so you can remove any stray polish from the skin around your toe nails.

You will want to catch the strays before curing because this will be easier to do as the lamp will dry the polish, causing the polish to adhere, which makes it harder to remove once done.

You will also need to cure each nail between coats to ensure smooth application. At a nail salon, a nail tech will likely have you put your feet under the cure lamps once for thirty seconds between applications of each gel layer.

For a do-it-yourself pedicure, you can cure each toe nail individually. Your gel pedicure will take longer to apply, but it will be even more foolproof because each nail will have dried immaculately as you proceed to the next.

If you feel adventurous, try adding some simple nail designs with this step. Using a color-blocking method or a dotting tool is a good way for any beginner nail artist to practice. More complicated designs are also possible for seasoned gel pedicurists and will last beautifully as long as you want your pedicure on.

4) Apply Top Coat

Like the base coat, an ordinary top coat won't cure. You will need a gel top coat in order to cure your gel polish. 

Apply a gel top coat to ensure the edges are sealed. This will help your pedicure last as long as possible. You want to cure this final step for at least 60-90 seconds to ensure that your pedicure is dry.

After curing your top coat, you can finish with some nail art, like nail stickers. Simply add the designs you want — take extra care to make sure stickers are applied smoothly — and seal your work with the top coat again.

Wipe away any excess residue or any stray polish you may have missed on the skin around your toe nails with rubbing alcohol. For the final and most important step: admire your stunning new pedicure!

5) After Care

After your gel pedicure has dried properly, you are free to go about your day as usual close-toed shoes and all. Keep in mind that the curing lamp can be tiring for your skin, so finish off with some aftercare. 

Apply cuticle oil to your toes' cuticles after curing your gel pedicure to strengthen and improve the appearance of your toe nails and cuticles. Curing with UV light can be particularly hard on your nails and cuticles. 

Moisturize your feet afterwards to rehydrate your skin. 

Remember, the removal procedure will also require you to devote some extra time. If you have the time and necessary tools, removing a gel pedicure is simple enough to do at home. 

How to Remove a Gel pedicure at Home: Step by Step

Removing a gel pedicure takes longer than removing a traditional pedicure, so make sure to set aside plenty of time for the process. This can be as simple as scheduling another appointment at your local salon, but it can also be done with relative ease at home, using a similar procedure. 

  1. Prepare the skin around your nails with cuticle oil, cuticle cream, vaseline, or a similar moisturizer.
  2. Then, buff off the top layer of your pedicure to allow the acetone to penetrate the gel properly.
  3. Apply a 100% acetone soaked cotton ball or pad to each nail and cover in aluminum foil. You can soak your pedicure in an acetone bowl for similar effect.
  4. Leave your acetone nails for at least 10 minutes so the solution can work its magic. The longer you let the acetone soak, the better. After sufficient time, you should see the edges of the polish begin lifting off of your nails.
  5. Remove the foil or acetone bath, and with a little nudging, your gel nails should slide right off. If they don’t, you may need to soak them a little longer.
  6. Once ready, you can take a wooden cuticle stick or similar tool and simply push the gel right off of your nail bed.
  7. Any remaining residue that doesn’t remove with the bulk of the polish can be buffed off of your nails.
  8. Be sure to give your skin and nails extra pampering after gel nail polish removal. Cuticle oil, your favorite moisturizer, and a little rest before applying a new nail color will ensure that your pedicure is a winning experience every time. 

s&l beauty company - fairy tale collection  

The process involves soaking your nails in acetone for at least 10 minutes. This loosens the gel's grip to easily slide off your pedicure.

It is worth leaving additional time in between gel applications for your toenails to rest. This will give them time to recover from lengthy wear and the careful removal process that is necessary for gel polish.

Gel Nail Polish Colors available at S&L Beauty Company

How long do gel pedicures last?

The average gel pedicure lasts at least two weeks but may remain immaculate for three four or even more weeks depending on your choice of shoe, your overall activity level, or environmental circumstances such as time spent on the beach or in chlorine pools.

While chipping or smudging is less likely than your average pedicure, your nail will eventually grow out enough to decide it's time to remove the polish and try something new.

How often should you get a gel pedicure?

Since a gel pedicure lasts so long, you won't need to reapply or visit the salon often. That said, you'll want to set aside time for the removal process as you can't wait for the polish to chip off on its own. For one a gel pedicure is unlikely to come off on its own, even after considerable time, and improper removal can harm your nails even more than leaving them on for too long.

It's also recommended to give your nails time to rest and recover between gel applications. How long you need to wait will depend on the resilience of your nails and the care you put into their intermediate applications.

Your nail tech can advise you on the proper length of time to rest between applications, so you love your gel nails every time. If you are applying at home, you can still ask a professional how long to wait between applications or, using your own judgment, wait to see how long it takes your nails to return to proper form.

pedicure aftercare

Can I wear shoes after gel pedicure?

Yes! One of the main benefits of gel pedicures is they can fit comfortably into your busy schedule without requiring extra time to dry. Since the application is dried immediately under LED/UV light, you can leave your appointment or at-home application in your favorite close-toed shoes and continue with your to-do list.

Gone are the days where an additional pair of shoes were needed to your mani-pedi appointments. No need also to step carefully around the rest of your day so as not to ruin your beautiful new pedicure.

Gel Pedicure Takeaways

The gel pedicure may be the lesser-known cousin of the gel manicure, but that doesn’t make it any less lovable.

The process is as simple as any other nail service: with a few coats of polish and added time to dry, you can slip your shoes back on and be ready to go back to your day. After just an hour spent on the application process, you could have a pedicure that lasts you for the rest of the month. 

The many stunning color options available from S&L Beauty mean that you can stock up on a collection of polishes that work perfectly for any season, mood, or occasion that might call for a little added pampering. With gel nail polish that is safe for your skin, nails, and the planet, the possibilities are endless. See our gel nail polishes for ideas and inspiration.

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