At-Home Gel Manicure Review

First things first ... I have to put this out there.

I loathe -- LOATHE -- chipped nail polish.

I once almost drove my mother and sisters to the brink of insanity on a New York trip because I didn't have time to take off my nail polish before we flew out, and it kept on chipping and getting worse and worse and worse.  Here I was -- in the fashion mecca of the US -- with embarrassingly wrecked nails.  I literally could not stop obsessing (verbally) over finding the nearest place to get a manicure.  Finally Mom just had to tell me to quit it with all of the fingernail polish yappin'.  And a few hours later I got my manicure.  And then I was happy.


And thus, the prelude to my at-home gel mani review.


Before my Monday morning through Thursday night trip last week (to New York, coincidentally), I picked up this Gel Perfect 5 Minute Gel-Color Manicure set.  It normally is around $15 but it was on major clearance for about $4 (first clue).

I was all ... "Hey, this is like getting Essie for half-price -- how bad could it be?"

I normally wouldn't have gravitated toward the red color, but that's the one that was on sale, and I figured it was worth a shot.

The directions are pretty clear, but I read them three times because I was so nervous about screwing it up.  Basically, you start with a clear activator coat, and then you put on the color.  You repeat the process, making sure to clean your brushes (that solution is in the bottle on the far right below) so they don't get sticky.  You also have a folded paper towel ready to remove excess from your brushes.

It was pretty easy, and while I wasn't confident that they were completely dry in 5 minutes, they did seem dry enough. 

Here's a day-by-day collage of how the color stayed on my nails.  Sunday was day 1, and all of these pictures were taken at night.

You can see that after just one day, on Monday, I already had a few chips.  I had just arrived to Rochester and I still had several days left spent with the client.  It killed me to have chippy nail polish through the week but I wallowed through it for the review and also because I just really wanted to see how bad it would get in a matter of days.

Look, I know all nail polish chips, but this claimed to last for two weeks.  HA.

It also lost it's shine pretty quickly.

Sidenote: what cuticle oil do you love, because man, I have embarrassingly dry cuticles in these photos...

Removing the polish on Friday after work wasn't too difficult, but it certainly wasn't as easy as regular nail polish.  Ian got a good laugh at me with acetone-soaked cotton balls on each nail, wrapped up in tin foil.

I was really eager to get normal nail polish back on my nails.

So, am I going to trash what's left in the bottle?  Ehhh, probably not.  I'm a bit of a frugal lady, so I might give it one more go.  But this time -- I will give it a good coat of a good topcoat each day to keep chipping from occuring.

And for now, I've got a new love affair starting with a product I can't believe I'm just trying out for the first time ... Seche Vite!  Hello, lovah!



  1. I used the activator with these instructions.'s+The+Small+Things)&m=1 It worked pretty well for me. I can usually get about 5 days with no chips. The activator reminds me of the nail glue you got in the box of glue on nails ppl used in high school lol. It does try out your nail a little bit so I only use it for special occasions but it doesn't hurt your nails as much as getting the gel nails at the salon.

  2. I'm surprised it started chipping after one day. I would have thought gel manicures would last a lot longer. Thanks for the review. I don't think I'll be trying this.

    And you should try the OPI clear/top coat. That's the one I use and I love it. It is a little more difficult to get off than regular top coats, but you won't need foil like you did with this polish.


  3. There is nothing worse than chippy nails! SolarOil is the BEST cuticle oil. I use it on all of my clients and everyday myself. I also swear by Orly Cuticle Therapy Cream for dry cuticles and hands.

  4. I guess NY and your nails just don't get along :)

    I cannot, for the life of me, keep polish on my nails. I don't even try anymore even though I've heard gel and shellac (are they the same?) really do stay on. I just don't want to go to the extra effort of taking it off so I live with the au-natural look. That said, I was hoping your review would have gone the other way because I probably would have tried it myself. Oh well ...

  5. I use OPI Avoplex cuticle oil and nail envy clear strengthening nail polish! I highly reccomend each!

  6. I paint my nails and they chip the next day even with a top coat. I blame it on washing dishes, digging in my bag, digging in the dirt planting flowers etc.

    Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream is my favorite and it is a good price!

  7. I always have a problem with chips, but since I really enjoy painting my nails, I am okay switching it up every three or four days. Yet, I totally understand the need for something more durable during traveling!

    Have you tried Essie's Good To Go top coat? I am guessing it's similar to the one you suggested above. It adds a great shine AND makes your nails rock hard in 20 seconds flat. It's a serious game changer!

    Cows, Corn, Country Girls

  8. That's terrible!! I got a gel manicure set for Christmas, the kind with the LED light and I love it!!!! I can't stand chipping either and I've worn it 1week plus and it's perfect! Not sure about longer than that though bc I get antsy and need a new color :)

  9. Oh no!! I also hate chipped polish. I wonder if it doesn't work right without the UV lights (or whatever they are called, in the salon). I've had several gel manis at the salon - never tried at home - and they have all lasted at least 2 weeks with zero chipping. Better luck next time?! :(

  10. ICK! I use SensatioNail which I would highly recommend. I have had no issues with chipping until day 7 at the earliest.

  11. Oh my, two coats of regular polish on my nails will last at least 3 days without a chip! After two weeks I wonder if there would be any "red" left on your nails.

    I use Burts Bees Cuticle cream on my nails and I like it. I received a Sally Hanson cuticle oil pen in my stocking for Christmas and I love it. I keep it in my handbag and use it during the day when if I notice my cuticles look dry.

  12. I have been so disappointed by the gel craze! My nails always chip from it and then you can't take it off yourself! I always end up peeling it all off myself which is a long process and leaves your nails gross!

  13. man, what a bummer - i was really hoping this was going to work! i just got gel nail polish at the salon and so far ive been pleased with it. im hoping it doesnt make my nails too weak tho! still have got to get some bio-oil - pretty pumped about that stuff based on your review. have a great week! xx.

  14. That is why I never paint my nails.. because it always chips! So annoying! haha Thanks for letting us know about this one, though! Good to know! :)

    Hopefully it works out that we can meet up this week while you're in Orlando! xo

  15. I HATE chipped nails too! It drives me NUTS! Which is why I've switched to Shellac. Greatest invention ever (but takes forever to take off ha).

  16. I pick at my nails so much and mine seem to chip so easily! Right now I'm just trying to let mine heal. They are so cracked and in awful condition :(

  17. Yikes. That kit is crap. Oh well! Seche Vite is wonderful, but it does freak me out that it says that pregnant women should not use or inhale it... ummm ok, so how bad is it for us non-pregnant ladies. I still use it...

    I use Essie's apricot cuticle oil. It must work well as I use it pretty passively but manicurists always remark on how beautiful my cuticles look (I do not cut mine, just push them back).

  18. I love essie's apricot cuticle oil. Smells delish!


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