Gel Nail Polish at Home Tips & How To

--Update (May 2014) : Read our simple photo tutorial on how to do Shellac Nails at Home.

Thinking of doing it yourself gel manicure at home and not sure what products to use and how to apply it? Great, because I'd like to show you the how-to and tips for doing gel polish at home.

Doing Gel Polish at Home? Really?

Gelish Gel Polish

The idea of getting your gel nail polish done at home is very reasonable since applying gel nail polish is getting way easier now and it will save a lot of money in the long run.

No more electric drill or strong-odor chemical because gel polish nowadays is just like regular nail polish in regular bottle without the painstaking steps. There are many brands of gel nail polishes to choose from. Esther's Nail Center offers CND Shellac, Gelish, OPI Gelcolor, IBD Gel and Daisy Gel.

Shellac or Gel Polish?

The first thing people usually ask is which brands of gel polish I should choose. In my opinion for doing gel nail polish at home, each brand has its own pro and contra. Shellac requires no buffing on nails (so it's more gentle) but costs more. Gel polish, such as Gelish, has many more colors to choose from and more affordable. But there is more buffing process involved in application and removal process so it's rather harsh for the nail. 

One best way to find out is to try them out. You may go to a salon and see what and how the nail technician does your nails. Then see which one stays longer on your nails as everyone has different nail condition. Some people has better application with one brand while not on the others. 

Gel Nail Polish at Home Step-by-step

What You Need

Gelish Gel Polish System

Basically what you need for doing gel nail polish at home are listed below. It's recommended to use gel polish as a system to ensure the optimum result.

  1. Gel base coat such as Gelish Foundation Base Gel 
  2. Gel top coat such as Gelish Top It Off
  3. Nail cleanser such as CND Scrubfresh or Gelish Cleanser (blue liquid)
  4. Gel nail polish such as Gelish Soak-off Polish or Daisy Gel Nail Polish
  5. UV light 36-watt or LED Lamp
  6. Nail bonder such as Gelish phBond 
  7. Gelish Structure Gel - optional, only if you have weak and peeling nails
  8. Cuticle Oil - important to use it daily
  9. Lint-free nail wipes or Cotton ball
  10. Fine nail buffer block - Gelish recommend using 100/180 nail buffer but we like to use a fine nail buffer because it's less coarse so less harsh to the nails.

To make things easier, you may purchase a Gelish Starter Kit that includes nearly all products above (except structure gel, cuticle oil and nail wipes). This kit is a great choice for everyone who wishes to do gel nail polish at home.


  1. Prepare nails by cleaning the nails or removing old nail polish.
  2. Push back the cuticle and clean the surrounding nail plate.
  3. Shape the nails with 240/240 grit nail file.
  4. Buff nail lightly with nail buffer block.
  5. Remove the dust and wipe the nail with Nail Cleanser using a lint-free wipe.
  6. (Optional) Apply a coat of nail bonder. Wait until it dries. Why nail bonder? Read tips below.
  7. Apply gel polish base coat in a very thin application and seal the edges of the nails. The key to successful application is to apply in a very thin later. Make sure the gel doesn't touch the cuticle. If it does you can wipe it off later with wood cuticle stick.
  8. Place hand (all fingers) in the UV Lamp for 1 minute setting. 
  9. Using clean dry, lint-free nail wipe, remove tacky surface of the base coat.
  10. Apply gel polish color in a very thin application from cuticle to free edge. Be sure to seal the edges.
  11. Place hand in an UV light for 3 minutes for dark colors or 2 minute for light colors.
  12. To even the coverage, repeat step 10 & 11. 
  13. Apply gel polish top coat from cuticle to free edge using a thin light application.
  14. Place hand in UV Lamp for 3 minutes.
  15. Wipe of tacky surface with nail cleanser.
  16. Apply cuticle oil to the skin surrounding the nail. 

Here's a video tutorial about Gelish application.


Tips for Applying Gel Polish at Home

  • Shake, shake, shake your poiish before application to make sure it mix well. 
  • The purpose for applying nail bonder is to ensure optimal performance by increasing the bonding between natural nails and the gel polish. If you feel that your application doesn't last as long as it should be, try using nail bonder.
  • Get a yourself a nice and handy cuticle oil, like CND Solar Oil or this cuticle oil pen, because you often need to keep the nails moisturized as using gel polish can be dehydrating.
  • Any brand of 36-watt UV Lamp works as long as it has a tunnel model with 36 watts bulbs (4 of 9-watt bulbs). Some have switch on the back some on top. I prefer on the top just because it's easier to reach the buttons. I also prefer UV Lamp for starter because it's cheaper than LED light. The drawback is just you have to change the bulbs regularly.
  • If you are concerned with UV Light exposure you can apply sunblock on hands or wear the UV Lamp fingerless gloves before application.
  • If you find out that your gel polish is thick, use gel polish thinner before application. The thinner can't be used for gel polish that has become hard solid.


Esther's Nail Center is a nail supplies store for people who want to get their nails done at home. We offers gel nail polish brands such as CND Shellac nail polish, Gelish Gel Polish, and Daisy Gel Polish. Check out also our manicure pedicure supplies for your nail polish application at home.

Application instruction is provided by Gelish manufacturer, Nail Harmony.