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At Home DIY Gel Manicure and What You Need To Get Started

Before I started doing my own gel nails at the end of June this year, I had only ever had 3, maybe 4 gel manicures in a salon, and the same amount of gel pedicures, so I was a newbie for sure. I've come a long way when it comes to doing my own nails, and as a result have quite a high standard when I am paying $50-75 for manicures and pedicures. Most times I shape my nails and trim my cuticles before stepping foot in the salon, and only allow the technicians to paint my nails, and for sure NEVER allow them to buff them!

The few gel manicure experiences I had I was not happy with, and chalked it up to a chemical reaction with my nails, considering they chipped within a week at most, sometimes days of getting them done. This, of course makes paying that kind of money even more painful. I started getting gel pedicures last fall when I started yoga and barre, as working out in bare feet puts extra wear and tear on your toe nails and I wanted them to look good with them bare all the time.

I decided I can paint my own nails, better AND cheaper, with a little practice and a little expense up front. I originally intended to keep the gel nails for vacations, business travel, etc. but have repeatedly applied them for about 6 weeks now. Each manicure I learn a little bit more about technique, and would like to share what I have learned with you.

I'm still rather new to gel manicures, but manicures are my thing. I am a self-taught nail technician of sorts, and can talk forever about nailsssss. Disclaimer- again, I am NOT a certified nail technician, I am just a self-taught guru who is sharing what I've learned. In an effort to keep this from being a novel, I will keep nail and hand care tips out of it as well as gel removal, and keep them for other posts.

Let's get into it, shall we?

OPI 'Don't Bossa-Nova Me Around'
I priced together products and tools from a mixture of youtube videos, salons I've been to, and my general knowledge of nail care, etc. to come up with a system that works well for me. I'll start off with supplies, give a little blurb about each, include substitutes for budget, etc. and finish off with a few more photos of (in my honest opinion,) my absolute perfect nails.

purchased from Amazon, ~$200

I did a bunch of research on what lamp I wanted to use, and ultimately decided on the top of the line Gelish 18G LED Professional Nail Lamp. Whoa, when I went to pull up the lamp it is now $250 on Amazon, so look around before paying that, check Ebay- I almost bought mine there but wanted the 2 day Prime shipping plus I had a gift card for Amazon which helped in the expenses. You can get a smaller Gelish LED lamp here for $62 or that same smaller Gelish lamp with a starter kit of other supplies here for $150. What's the difference? The 18G shown above is the same one multiple salons have used on me, and has two main advantages: 30 second dry time and your whole hand fits in at once. The smaller ones are a 45 second dry time, which isn't that big of a deal honestly, but you will have to do your thumb separately.

Also to note... there are a TON of lamps on Amazon, just read thru the reviews and hey, if it doesn't work return it. Just make sure it has a return policy before purchasing. ALSO, take note if it is an LED or a UV lamp! This is SUPER important! I lucked out, trust me, I didn't even think gel polishes and what type of bulbs in the lamps mattered, BUT THEY DO. Some polishes will only work with LED, and vice versa. Lastly, be sure to use adequate UV protection on your hands if using an UV lamp. The UV lamps also take considerably longer to dry.

purchased from Amazon, prices listed below
Fantastic Four Set: $30
Gelish Remover & Cleanser Set: $13
CND Scrub Fresh Cleanser: $16
OPI Lint-Free Wipes: $10

After reading and watching multiple Youtube videos and reviews about at home gel polishes, I decided to go with Gelish supplies as they seem to be the best you can get without a salon or license to shop elsewhere. As I stated above, you can get an entire kit for about $150 including a lamp which has mini bottles of most of this (excluding Structure) AND 2 bottles of color on Amazon, which is a GREAT way to dip your toe into all of this. OR, you can go ahead and buy full size like I did.

Here is a brief description of what you need:

1.) ph bond- used sparingly, this dries all the oils off your nails to ensure a proper bond
2.) foundation- this is gel base coat and is not always necessary, MORE TO COME further down
3.) structure gel- available in clear and pale pink, supposedly good for your nails and provides a glass like surface
4.) top it off- top coat for your gel mani
5.) nourish- cuticle oil to apply when you're all done

6.) artificial nail remover (pink liquid bottle)- removes your gel in 15 minutes, highly recommend
7.) nail surface cleanser (blue liquid bottle)- cleans off excess oils, cleans off rubber finish at the end

I have not used the Gelish one as I had already purchased the CND version, Scrub Fresh:

1.) Lint-free nail wipes- you can get any wipes, but ensure that they are lint free or you'll have fuzz in your manicure
2.) nail clean up brush- I bought mine years ago, but Olive & June sells a good one here for $8 or just pick one up at a craft store. Just make sure it's tapered and will work for cleaning along the cuticles.
3.) Glass mini jar- I bought this at Sally Beauty years ago, for maybe $2-3? Pour in some acetone nail polish remover while you're painting each step and use your brush to clean up around your cuticles

OPI Gel Polish purchased on eBay here, and Universal Nail Supplies here, average $13-15/bottle
DND Daisy Gel Polish purchased on eBay here, average $9/box

I started off on the cheap, and purchased these polishes, DND because the salon I frequent uses them in bulk, so I figured they must be the best. And don't get me wrong, there is NOTHING wrong with them, I've used two of them so far with no problems. They are extremely reasonable at $8-10/box and they come with the matching regular polish! I think that's pretty neat. Oh and wait...remember I said further up that base coat isn't always needed? Some of the DND Daisy polish as you can see from the picture below are All In One Gels, meaning you could use just the nail color and exclude other steps. I haven't tried this, when I did use DND I used the DND base and top coat also purchased from eBay. I am curious though and will let you know if I try it.

I have pinned a TON of DND Daisy gel colors as well as OPI colors on my Nails Board on Pinterest if you need some inspiration! Remember, and this is critical...google the nail color to see swatches and real applications of the color before purchasing, do NOT trust the outside of the bottle. Gel polishes are packaged in special coated or covered glass to protect them from lights and sunlights, and the label/packaging doesn't always match up to the color. Look at this one:

Of course in this photograph it doesn't look very different, but in real life the paint is much pinker than the bottle. 

NOTE on POLISHES: do a little research like I mentioned earlier what will work with UV or LED lights, and what polishes work well together. I heard from numerous sources and will attest myself that gelish and OPI work wonderful together, and that's what I'll continue with. Plus I wanted some iconic shades to be gel and last longer. 

What I would do differently

I went overboard with polish as usual, and I do regret that. Looking back I wish I would have purchased a few colors- a pale pink (OPI Bubble Bath,) a red, and a neutral. I don't have a red, I need to find the perfect shade of red and that will be my last color for now. I have about 10 colors which isn't much, but 7 of them are pinks or neutral pinks, I have a type.

PROS. Well, it's a gel manicure, so it lasts longer than regular polish, make your nails stronger, and has a glass surface finish.

CONS. Time consuming and expensive.

That's about all I have to say about getting started, I will share photos and tips of my application and removal over on my Stories on IG, so make sure you're following me there! I will save them to highlights as well.

So, have you tried an at-home gel polish or want to try?

Living with Rosacea: Basics & Skincare Part I

Just about 3 years ago on a whim, I decided it was time to start seeing a dermatologist, at the time for precautionary reasons. I am very fair skinned, and I have an abundance of moles, so it was in my best interest to start annual appointments to monitor them. After a terrifying cancer scare, it was the beginning of a health & wellness lifestyle change for me as well.

The first dermatologist I visited was in and out of the room in 5 minutes, including the time it took to do a full body exam, having diagnosed me with rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis, and handed me 3 prescriptions. I literally sat there in the paper-towel sized gown in tears. What just happened? She also gave me a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of best practices for rosacea, but didn't explain anything to me. So I switched doctors, and between what she explained to me and what I researched for myself, I am more knowledgeable today, specifically on what works and doesn't work for me.

*disclaimer* Remember, I am not a doctor- do not take what I say for word, if you have concerns, please see a doctor. What I am about to talk to you about is what I have found to work for me, after years of trial and error, and it may not work for you.

I plan to continue a vein of content regarding rosacea here on my blog as it's a big part of my life, and as I find new and better products I'd love to share them with you. Honestly, I have found the best of my products through bloggers, specifically Lex from Talonted Lex, adjusting a few of her recommendations along the way due to US/UK availability. I am starting with a novel of an introduction post, with just the basics I use to survive everyday pertaining to skincare. I thought about speaking here on products I have tried with lots of hype that do not work, but I decided a post separately will call for that.

Rosacea is a chronic skin diseases, that waxes and wanes, basically gets stronger and weaker, oftentimes inconsistently. It is most common in women aged 30-50, but can occur at any time, and is characterized by a reddening of the skin causing blushing of the cheeks, nose, and forehead. Common symptoms include burning and stinging of the skin, acne-like bumps on the skin, thickening skin, bumps on the eyelids called styes, and sensations like there is sand in your eye. The most common symptom of course is the "flush & blush," reddening in a butterfly like shape across cheeks and nose, which is usually the first sign you may have rosacea. Prevalence rates vary, but the average rate I found was affecting 30%+ of the population.

Rosacea is very often diagnosed from what I have read, oftentimes misdiagnosed as acne. Along with the redness, there are postules (pimples) and papules (raised red bumps) that can resemble acne, hence the misdiagnosis. The problem with this is acne and rosacea are completely different, and if you are misdiagnosed, acne medications can actually make your rosacea worse due to harsh treatments and medications.

Ready for the worst part? There is no cure for rosacea. There are treatment options, but it is a chronic skin disease and can worsen over time. Lovely. The good news is you can learn to live with it- you will learn what your triggers are, you will learn what products to avoid, and you will survive, I promise. I have. There are both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic (prescription & nonprescription) treatments as well as small things you can do to help.

Remember I said to just take what I say with a grain of salt? Well that applies now when I say I was NOT happy with the pharmacologic options I was provided with. My current dermatologist is amazing in that she explains things to me, is highly knowledgeable, and provides me with samples to save me from costly prescriptions. In an effort to not taint you from an option that could work for you, I will refrain from naming the prescriptions I tried, but rather just tell you my experiences.

There are prescription creams to help with the painful burning, but guess what? They can make it worse. Yep, absolute rubbish in my opinion too.  My dermatologist didn't tell me this upfront when she gave me the sample, but in a way I am glad so I could experience myself.  Basically it's good if you're going to a wedding or a party where triggers like alcohol or spicy foods will be, but when it wears off after a few hours, your "flush & blush" comes back worse. I was hesitant to mention this to my dermatologist worrying she would think it was in my head, but apparently it's the number one side effect!

So where to go from here? Again, I have had 3 years or so to play around with products, find my triggers (alcohol, stress, and spicy foods) and create my own treatment plan. I have come to learn a lot which I will share including changes in diet, skincare, makeup products and techniques, and best practices, which I will link below once they're written.

If you've made it this far, I would like to share a few products that are my ride or die products, all pretty reasonably priced, and easy to access.

Favorite products: daily moisturizer, makeup removing wipes, night moisturizer

This was recommended to me on the photocopy from the original doctor, and I cannot recommend this enough. This is a drugstore brand and can be bought pretty much anywhere. Everything I have used from the ultra-calming line has been excellent, primarily the daily moisturizer, the makeup removing wipes, and the night moisturizer.

At the end of the day, after all the expensive skincare I have invested in, Aveeno has been the best product for my rosacea. Bar none.

Favorite products: sunscreen, thermal spring water spray, day moisturizer (it's green which counterbalances redness)

This is another excellent brand for rosacea and sensitive skin, the brand of my holy grail product, the spray. I found this through Lex, and have been slowly trying new products from the line.

La- Roche Posay
favorite products: sunscreen and moiturizer

This is another like Avéne on the premium end of products, but an excellent product for sensitive skin.

favorite product: micellaire water for removing makeup

I use the wipes from Aveeno to remove the majority of my makeup, but use this daily for eye makeup and the inevitable mascara fall down in the morning. As you can see my bottle is well loved, I am almost done it and have dropped it multiple times.

favorite products: overnight peel, cleansing balm, nourishing line, rosewater mist

I have used a few BeautyCounter products over the years, the cleansing balm, the rose water mist, and the nourishing line, but recently began using their makeup line as well. I will have more rosacea friendly makeup posts in the future, but both the Dew Skin and the Hydrating Foundation are excellent for sensitive skin.

At this point, this post is out of control, my apologies. It's a start though, and like I said I would like to continue with rosacea points and products, etc. in an effort to share what I have learned.

Remember to talk to your doctor, but if you ever have questions, feel free to ask me. I have learned a lot over the years through trial and error, and feel passionately about skincare and beauty products!

Glossier Makeup | A Review and a Glossier Promo Code

If you follow me on instagram, you're probably sick of hearing me talk about Glossier, I get it. There's a reason though- it's just that good. I can't remember where or through whom I first heard of it, but I remember watching a bunch of British vloggers doing first impressions which inspired me to jump on the Glossier train.

June Favorites | Self-Care Skincare & Beauty

Mid-May to the end of June is a very busy time for our business, so I don't have much spare time or energy to play with makeup and beauty products. That being said, I do make an effort to keep up my self care, and figured I'd show you a few of my favorites this month revolving mainly around self-care.

Eye Creams 101 | LilyAna Naturals

I have noticed in the last year a larger number of wrinkles under my eyes, and immediately started panicking. I started applying eye creams, which I then worried were the cause of the wrinkles, as I had never used any cream before and didn't have wrinkles. But then I realized they are a natural sign of aging, a privilege denied to many, so I will accept it and do my best not to complain.

Instagram Made Me Buy It : Care/Of Vitamins | Review & Care/Of Promo Coupon Code

I figured it was about time to talk about some of my favorite new brands that I've found through marketing campaigns primarily on instagram and facebook. I was having lunch with a schoolfriend and we were talking about all the products we've bought from instagram marketing, and I had the idea to make it into a series, because honestly there are that many products. And she ended up referring me to another, should be delivered Saturday.

My Lipgloss is Poppin' | Universally Flattering Fenty Glow Lipgloss

In the event you did not know, Rhianna launched a beauty line called Fenty this past fall, and it's actually really good. I say really, because you know as well as I do, when celebrities jump into something and slap their name on it, quality is usually lacking.