How To Do Gel Nails At Home

woman with a gel manicure at home

Anyone who regularly gets gel nails done at the salon may be raising their eyebrows, but doing gel nails at home isn’t as impossible as you may think. Of course, a gel manicure is one of the more hardwearing types of manicure because the polish locks onto your nails when it is cured under a UV or LED light. However, that process isn’t as difficult to recreate from the comfort of your own home as it may seem. Although a quality manicure course can help you learn the ins and outs of this nail art, accomplishing your own gel manicure at home is relatively simple with some specialist equipment and patience. Here’s how to do gel nails at home for a salon-worthy manicure that will last.


You Will Need:

person using UV lamp to cure gel nails at home

  • Acetone
  • Cotton pads
  • Nail cutters
  • Nail file
  • Cuticle oil
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Nail buffer
  • Gel base coat
  • Gel coloured polish
  • Gel top coat
  • UV or LED lamp


1. Remove Old Polish

person removing nail polish

To start doing your gel nails at home, you must remove any old polish lingering from your last manicure. If your nails still have regular polish on, use a polish remover to clear them. However, if the polish is leftover from a gel manicure, you’ll have to remove it with a slightly different process.


Begin by gently buffing the top of each nail, then cover them with cotton pads soaked in acetone. Leave the cotton pads for at least 15 minutes, then scrape off the polish with a cuticle remover. Now, you should be able to remove the polish easily. If not, apply another acetone-soaked cotton pad for a bit longer.  

2. Prepare Your Nails

person filing nails

Once your nails are clean, you’ll have to prep them for the gel polish. Begin by cutting your nails to a neat, uniform look. Then, use a nail file to shape them. Fortunately, a gel manicure suits any nail shape, so you can file them down to your favourite shape.

3. Care For Your Cuticles

cuticle oil bottles

Smooth cuticles are vital for an even, long-lasting manicure. First, massage a drop of cuticle oil into the strip of clear skin at the bottom of your nails, then use a cuticle pusher or the edge of a nail file to push them back gently. Once you’ve pushed your cuticles back, thoroughly wash your hands to keep the oil off your nails. This step is essential, as any oil left on your nail can cause your gel manicure to start lifting.

4. Buff Your Nails

natural nails

For a gel manicure to last, it needs a smooth surface to adhere to. Although you may be uncertain when it comes to buffing, if done correctly with a high grit tool and a light touch, the practice will help smooth out your nail without damaging it. Gently buff your nail bed using the roughest part of the buffer until there’s no visible unevenness or imperfections. Finish off with the rest of the buffer to achieve a smooth finish.

5. Apply & Cure Base Coat

person applying base coat for gel nails at home

Never is a base coat more important than when working with gels. Your gel polish won’t adhere to your nail bed without a base coat, so this is a vital step.


Evenly apply a thin layer of base coat across your whole nail. Then, cure the coat with your UV or LED lamp. How long you should leave your nails under the light varies, but 30 seconds is usually long enough. A common misconception is that a gel base coat should be bone dry after curing. On the contrary, your base coat should feel sticky but not wet.

6. Paint & Cure Your Nails

nail polish bottles for a gel manicure at home

Once you’ve cured your base coat, you can finally add a bit of colour to your nails. Carefully apply a thin layer of your chosen colour to your nails, avoiding your cuticles. Make sure that you apply the coats evenly as well as thinly, or the result will be lumpy.


You can paint your entire hand before curing the nails under your lamp, or paint and fix the nails individually – however you’d like. Whichever approach you choose, make sure that you cure your nails for the time specified on the lamp. If no time is given, a maximum of 45 seconds should be enough[i].


Follow the first coat with another, following the same process. Usually, two coats will be enough. However, some lighter polishes may require a third layer.   

7. Apply & Cure Top Coat

person applying top coat to gel nails at home

Once you’ve cured the coloured layers, you’ll want them to last. So apply a light layer of a gel top coat evenly across your nail, and seal your nail tips. Then, cure it under the lamp for about 60 seconds. To finish off your manicure, add a few drops of cuticle oil around your nails and cuticles for a nourished finish.

How Long Do Gel Nails Last?

pink manicure

If you take good care of your gel nails, they can last two to three weeks[ii]. However, knowing how to look after your nails outside of their manicure can extend the life of your gels.


To make your gel manicure last even longer, try massaging cuticle oil around your nails every couple of days to hydrate the skin. Also, avoid hot water where possible. Hot water can quickly cause gel nails to lift, so try to shorten your nails’ exposure to it.


How To Do Gel Nails At Home

Once you know how to do gel nails at home, you’ll never go back to the salon! Doing gel nails at home can save you plenty of time and money, and knowing you’ve done this long-lasting manicure yourself will only increase the satisfaction.


Do you have any advice for people trying gel nails at home? Let us know.