I Regularly Spent $150+ on Manicures Until I Found This $120 Kit That Gives Me Salon-Level Nails Anytime

And it’s incredibly easy to use.

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Nail Art
Photo: Getty Images

I knew the day would eventually come when I would finally have to commit to doing my own nails for the foreseeable future. I've spent a decade paying a minimum of $120 (usually closer to $150) for gel nail art manicures with different artists and salons across New York City. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to find an appointment; many of my usual places are booked up a month or two in advance. Nail service costs also seem to be rising and I'm also not about to spend almost $200 every month to get my nails done, especially in this economy.

But over this decade of getting manicures, I've paid attention to both technique and products. So six weeks ago when I decided it was time to DIY, Aprés Nail Gel-X Starter Kit was the obvious (and only) decision for me. The kit includes four gel application products, an LED lamp, a charger, a nail file, and a set of tips. When it comes to the actual extensions/fake nails, your length options are short, medium, long, or extra long, and come in round, stiletto, coffin, and square shapes. I opted for short round nails. And doing so will be way more affordable than hitting the salon: a starter kit with one box of tips is $120.

According to the summarized insight from many of the nail technicians I went to, this is the preferred system to many for a few reasons. First, it uses soft gel, which unlike hard gel, can be soaked off with acetone. Hard gel, on the other hand, has to be lifted, filed, or shaved off, all of which are all harmful processes to the nail and cause breakage or thinning. Second, because this is a full press-on nail rather than an extension (which is just glued to the tip), your nails will remain strong and grow in unison.

Home Nail Gel Kit

Shop now: $120; amazon.com

My personal DIY experience with Aprés Gel echoes what I've been told by the experts. When the nail comes off, my natural nail is healthy and strong. It's the only way I've ever been able to grow my nails out. With all that said, let me walk you through the process as I learned it from dozens of videos as well as extensive back and forth with the Aprés Nail team.

  1. Prep your nails however you see fit.
  2. Apply the pH Bonder to your nail. (It has virtually no dry time.)
  3. Apply the Non-Acidic Gel Primer.
  4. Apply a thin layer of the Extend Gel to your nail and cure it under the LED lamp for 30 seconds. (The lamp shuts off immediately at that interval, too.)
  5. Soak a cotton swab in acetone and then swipe it on the contact side of the nail, covering any spot that will touch your natural nail. This essentially "files" the inside of the nail which will help the gel adhere better and last longer.
  6. Apply the Extend Gel to the contact area and press the nail down onto your finger hard while curing it under the LED light.
  7. Paint your nails to your liking.
  8. Finish with Aprés Top Gelcoat and cure each nail before curing the entire hand.
Silpecwee Nail Art Manicure Kit

There are endless options when it comes to customizing each individual nail, but my routine has been as follows: I apply two layers of a normal nail polish I already own to the nail (right now it's a discontinued Essie color similar to Ballet Slippers). I wait for it to dry and then I apply the Aprés Top Gelcoat which makes it last as long as gel does. Before I put it under the lamp to cure, I place some flat-back gems I bought on Etsy and Amazon on top. Sometimes I apply another coat of Top Gelcoat on top of the gems to really secure them. That's it!

It may sound like a lot, but really I only spend about five to seven minutes on each nail. The enterprise costs me $130, which is the same price, if not less, than one individual manicure. Although I'm still a novice, my nails last for weeks and I can do them for a fraction of the cost — and from the comfort of my home. I've also received plenty of compliments on my nails, and when I proudly respond "thanks, I did them myself," I'm always met with admiration and surprise.

I honestly don't see myself ever going back to a salon for a nail art manicure now that I'm using the Aprés Nail experience that has given me great nails while ridding me of a source of financial stress.

Silpecwee Nail Art Manicure Kit

Shop now: $10; amazon.com

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