So I will be the first to say my hands aren’t my most favourite feature. Having grown up playing sports, they were always functional first. They are strong and capable, and better suited to climbing boulders and doing push-ups than for hand modelling. And don’t get me wrong, I am OK with this.
Still, I could always appreciate how a little pop of nail colour could always lift my mood (we don’t need to be just one thing, right?) It’s one of those simple pleasures I’ve grown to appreciate with every passing year, so I’ve always sought to keep my nails trim, clean and painted – at a minimum.
Manicures are my long-standing self-care ritual
Over the years, I went through various phases: DIY with regular nail polish during my self-proclaimed Movie-and-Mani sessions, regular salon visits for gel, acrylic, or dip powder full-on pamper-me manicures, and most recently, back to at-home toxic-free polishes. Over the past year, more often than not I’ve also kept them totally bare, giving them a much-needed break and focused on simply keeping them strong and healthy (pro DIY tip: before tossing that lemon peel, rub the insides on your nails as a natural nail strengthener).
Still, call it unfettered optimism, or the promise of a not-too-distant summer sun, but I’ve felt extra motivation as of late to put in a little extra oomph into my nail game.
Inspired by Nina Huynh’s DIY video, and conversations with a friend who always seems to be in the know about the latest beauty finds, I decided to try an at-home salon manicure solution: a 150W UV LED Nail Curing Lamp and Gellen Gel 16-Colour Nail Kit.
Reality check: I’m no expert nail tech
I have nothing but admiration for the talented and detail oriented nail techs who’ve helped my digits look their best over the years. And I am painfully aware that I’m not them.
But what I lack in sheer fine motor skills and ambidexterity, I make up for with a desire to be my own one-stop-mani shop; there’s something satisfying about being able to look after your own beauty needs.
I will be honest. I was skeptical at first. I know not everything on the web is as advertised, but encouraged by my friend’s experience, I got to business. Here is what I found:
Gellen Gel Nail Polish Kit & GreenLife LED Lamp: The pros
- I loved the convenience of being able to give myself a manicure on my own time without leaving my home; I can get my near-salon level manicure on even in a pandemic.
- I know my tools are only mine and don’t need to worry about sanitization.
- It’s cheaper than going to a salon; while the upfront expense may be higher than a single visit, you make that back within a few sessions.
- I loved that there were multiple colour options with Gellen’s nail kit – 16 mini-bottles to be exact.
- The lamp worked! It did cure (polymerize in science-speak) the polish, which was pretty neat given how relatively inexpensive it was.
- While I initially thought something wasn’t right as my polish remained tacky and sticky, once I applied the top coat and cured it for one last time, that stickiness went away.
- While my regular polish starts to chip within 24-48 hours, my polish looked uniform for 48 hours, but here’s where I found some of the drawbacks…
Gellen Gel Nail Polish Kit & GreenLife LED Lamp: The cons
- While the lamp and polish instructions recommend 30 seconds to cure, I did find this was just not enough time so I kept my hands under the LED lights for longer. However, this isn’t always advisable as some people have more sensitive skin, and science is still out whether led nail lamps can be directly linked to cancer over the long-term. But we do know that UVA rays cause skin to age prematurely.
- The lamp power cord was too short, and this meant I had to do my nails in an awkward spot for my work space set-up.
- With this at-home solution, I miss out on the opportunity to support my local businesses and talented nail techs who are definitely better at this than I can ever be.
- By day 3, one nail totally peeled off, but this may be because I did go over my cuticle and the instructions (which I only read subsequently in greater detail) did clearly warn lifting may happen if I don’t leave space between your cuticle and polish. Noted.
Gellen Gel Nail Polish Kit & GreenLife LED Lamp: What I’ll do next time
- Find a more comfortable at-home set-up.
- Wear sunblock on my hands, and maybe even wear UV shield manicure gloves, especially if I need to keep my hands in for longer than 30 seconds to cure the gel polish thoroughly.
- Avoid painting too close to my nail edges to avoid lifting.
- Try a nail dehydrator to help the polish stick better.