I have a confession to make: I’ve never had a gel manicure. I’ve worked in the beauty industry since finishing uni and yet a gel manicure has so far eluded me. I’ve had beautiful makeovers from international makeup artists, indulgent facials from renowned skincare experts, had first insights into new skincare trends and dabbled in nail art. But gel manicure has always seemed too much of an effort, especially when I have a perfectly good nail polish collection to choose from at home. The long-lasting benefits were enticing, but in my mind gel involved a lengthy process of curing and sitting still for ages, something that isn’t compatible with having an overactive toddler running riot through the flat. Well I stand corrected. Sensationail’s Express Gel at home kit provided me with the quickest manicure I’ve ever had. Here’s how.

Sensationail Express Gel Manicure Kit

Sensationail Express Gel Polish Starter Kit 

This kit contains everything you need for a gel manicure:

  • An LED lamp with a USB lead and mains adaptor
  • A 10ml gel nail polish which gives you up to 25 applications. You can choose from two shades within the starter kit: Red Your Profile, a deep rich red, or Made Him Blush, a soft creamy pink which I opted for. Once you have the kit there are a further 18 shades to choose from, priced at a very reasonable £10.00 each.
  • A selection of mini accessories: a nail file, some cotton pads and a wooden cuticle stick

How to apply

Start by filing your nails to the desired shape. I like a short round nail for practical purposes, to ensure it doesn’t snag on clothes or scratch my toddler. The mini file provided did a good job of shaping my nails quickly, with a rough side to file down and a softer side to buff.

Then use the pointy end of the wooden stick underneath nails to clean out any dirt and nail dust from the filing, and the tapered end to gently push back cuticles. This is easiest done when your skin is softened, so if you have time, soak your fingertips in a bowl of water. And if you’re looking for an extra indulgent touch you can add a few drops of cuticle oil to the warm water to nourish skin. Although you’ll then need to wipe the nail surface with nail polish remover to take off any oil residue and pat nails dry, ensuring you have the right canvas for varnish to adhere correctly.

At home manicaure starter kit with LED lamp

Once nails are shaped and cleaned, apply the first layer of polish. The nail polish is thicker than the traditional variety but it’s important to apply a thin coat so that it dries well and lasts longer. When one hand is completed, it goes under the LED lamp which only lights up when your hand is placed under it. It also automatically turns itself off after 30 seconds, the time it takes to cure.

Repeat the exercise on the other hand. I couldn’t fit my thumbs under the lamp as the box isn’t deep enough, so both thumbs went in together in a separate stint. The first coat doesn’t provide full coverage so nails need a second application and another 30 seconds under the lamp. The manicure including drying should take 5 minutes max, then if you add another 5 minutes of prep depending on how much shaping you do, all in all you’re in for 10 minutes tops.

The result

I’d only recently discovered Sensationail when I reviewed their Nailtural Strengthener for Wedding Ideas’ first ever Beauty Awards and loved the strong, glossy finish it delivered. The result with this gel polish didn’t disappoint. With two coats of polish my nails are fully covered, boasting an even, high shine finish. As a gel polish newbie, I was amazed at the efficacy of the LED lamp: nails were instantly dry, with the most professional-looking finish I’ve ever managed to achieve at home. The soft candy pink shade is elegant and subtle, perfect for a groomed, pulled together and feminine look. It would have remained chip-free for a good 7 days had I not bent one of my nails backwards trying to prise a box open. Best of all, this is honestly the fastest and most long-lasting DIY manicure I’ve ever done.

Pale Pink Manicure on hand holding pearls

How to remove

So here’s the snag: although the actual manicure is super quick, the LED lamp is a breeze to use and the result is of a professional standard, removing the polish is not a swift process. If you choose to do this at home, you’ll need to place on each gently buffed nail a cotton ball soaked in acetone nail polish remover (most polish removers are now acetone-free so do check you’ve got the right version, otherwise it won’t break down the gel formula). Then wrap each fingertip in aluminium foil to hold the cotton in place and leave for 15 minutes. The gel should by then be soft enough to be removed with the wooden cuticle stick. If not, it’s back in the aluminium wraps for another few minutes. For further detail Glamour Magazine provides a decent step by step on this. I’m not feeling motivated on this task so I choose the alternative option: heading to my local salon to get the gel removed professionally.

I was truly impressed by the ease and speed of Sensationail’s at home gel manicure kit. For someone who’d never tried gel before it was fool proof and effortless. The effort, however, kicks in when you need to remove the gel. The kit costs £34.99 which is way more cost-effective than visiting the salon say once a month. And you can count the time it saves you versus using standard nail polish which takes longer to dry and needs changing more frequently. The only part I’m not a fan of is the faffy removal process. What are your thoughts on gel? Please leave a comment below to let me know.

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