Sculpting gel nails

I’ve written before about my love of gel nails – specifically in helping me achieve lovely long, strong nails – all the better for doing nail art on! Well here is how I do my nails (images and links coming soon!).

What you’ll need

  • A UV nail lamp
  • Cuticle pusher
  • nail file/emery board
  • Nail forms
  • Alcohol nail wipe
  • Lint-free wipes
  • UV gel base coat
  • Nail art brush – flat brush (medium sized)
  • Clear builder gel (thick)

What to do

  1. First off you need to prepare your nails, so clean everything up – in particular push your cuticles back. Cleanse your nails and don’t forget to clean your brush!
  2. Carefully buff the surface of the nail and wipe with the alcohol and lint-free wipes. This bit is really important to remove the oils and moisture from the nail that would otherwise cause the gel not to bond to the nail and cause it to ‘lift’ (basically come away from the nail).
  3. Put your nail form on (image coming soon). Make sure the surface is flush with the edge of the nail. Be careful not to touch the nail.
  4. Apply a thin layer of UV gel base coat – the thinner, the better. Be careful not to get it on the cuticle or skin.
  5. Put your nails under your UV lamp to cure the case coat for 1 minute.
  6. Apply a thin layer of builder gel to the entire surface of the nail. Take a bead of builder gel on to your nail art brush, brush it on to the nail, again being careful to get it on to your cuticle or skin – cure for 20 seconds.
  7. Now you can create your extension by applying the builder gel to the free-edge of the nail. Don’t push the gel about, instead let ribbons of the builder gel fall on to the nail form. I find it easy to create a box on the nail form, and then fill in the box. By hovering gently on the gel, take up some of the gel on to the nail. Carry on working it up the nail until a smooth layer covers the nail. You can use a little extra gel around the free edge, and sides of the nails, the sort of areas that are prone to breaking, to give it a little bit of extra strength. This stuff is thick, but it will level out – don’t leave it too long to avoid getting it on your skin.
  8. Cure under the UV lamp for 2 minutes.
  9. Carefully remove the nail form – if it’s a little stuck just gently wiggle it a little.
  10. Now float some more builder gel on to the nail, starting in the middle and working your way outwards, until again the entire nail, plus extension is covered. The trick here is to, not push, but float ribbons of gel from your brush on to the nail, to create a smooth surface. Look at it from a number of angles to see if it’s smooth, filling in any dimples with more gel  – I find that holding your hand upside down helps level things out and create a nice nail curve, but without letting the gel get on to your skin.
  11. Cure for 3 minutes.
  12. Cleanse the nail using the alcohol wipe to remove the sticky layer.
  13. Now buff and file the nail to get the shape you want; the free edge, and to make sure the surface is smooth.
  14. At this point you can put a really thin layer of gel on top again to leave a shiny finish. Cure this for 2 minutes.

Et voilà, shiny, strong, lovely, long nails!

It’s pretty straightforward, but obviously the more practice you get, the better! And apart from the odd (though rare) breakage, if you use your hands to do anything, these should last a long, long time, and you just need to do in-fills every 2-4 weeks.

For overlays and in-fills, simply buff the entire surface of your nail, taking care around the cuticles so you don’t file too much off from your natural nail! Then put on the base coat, cure, paint on the builder gel, cure, and that’s that.

I should probably note here that this is more of a permanent solution, so if you’re looking for a nice, long-lasting but soak-off manicure then try soak off gels or shellacs. I’ll probably write about those one day…