How to Do Your Own Gel Nails

Updated April 17, 2017

Gel nails are a stylish alternative to acrylic nails. Both types of artificial nail lengthen, strengthen and generally improve the appearance of your own nails, however, gel tips tend to look glossier and more natural. Gel application involves painting a premixed polymer and monomer gel onto nails. The gel is then cured using ultraviolet light or a special brush-on gel activator. Non-UV gel nails are faster to apply and don't require specialised light equipment.

Apply artificial nail tips to your nails in the normal way.

Paint a thin, even coat of gel to the entire surface of the nails on one hand, as if you were applying nail polish. Allow to dry.

Place the nails under the UV light for three minutes. You may need to cure the gel on your fingers and thumb separately, depending on the design of the UV light device.

Apply and cure a second and third coat of gel to the nails, repeating steps 2 and 3.

Remove sticky uncured surface layer of gel with a lint-free cloth soaked in the cleanser product supplied with your kit. Apply and cure a final layer of gel if craters or bumps remain.

Apply the sealant supplied with your kit to the nails.

Repeat this process for the nails on your other hand.

Apply artificial nail tips to your nails in the normal way.

Apply a thin line of gel running vertically along the centre of the nail, starting about 3mm from the cuticle.

Paint gel activator over the entire the nail so the gel spreads and coats the surface evenly. Allow to dry.

Smooth any uneven patches of gel using a nail buffer.

Repeat steps 2 through 5 to apply a second coat of gel.

Repeat the process until gel has been applied to all of your nails.


Apply gel to nails using minimum pressure to ensure the nails are coated enough to allow for shrinkage during the cure process. If the bristles of your brush fan out, you are applying too much pressure. Avoid smearing gel on the cuticles and skin around the nails. Remove excess gel and create a tiny margin between skin by running an orange stick around the edge of the nail before curing. After curing, buff away excess gel using a nail file.


Check for skin sensitivity to the gel product by testing on a single nail 24 hours before applying to the rest of your nails. If redness, swelling or irritation develops, remove the product immediately and do not proceed with the full application.

Things You'll Need

  • Gel nails kit with either a UV light device or chemical gel activator
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About the Author

Based in London, Lisa Green has been writing entertainment and women’s lifestyle articles since 2004. She has contributed to the MyVillage and Glam networks and is the former editor of Entertainmentwise. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from De Montfort University and a City & Guilds journalism certificate from the City of Bristol College.