Gel Nails DIY

About a year ago I decided to start trying to do my own gel nails. I used to go to a salon to get my nails done, but having to go every 3-4 weeks at around R300 a shot started adding up. I’ve seen and heard about the Maskscara brand of Gel-It polish and thought I’d give it a go. It was a cost effective option and I’ve had it on my nails before.

First off let me tell you I’m horrible at painting nails. I have hordes of nail polishes but it seems I could just never do it neatly and it never lasted more than a day. So I was super nervous about this whole thing, seeing as you still actually have to paint your nails (and the salons make it look so easy!).

I had a lamp I got when Essence came out with their whole gel-nails-at-home thing a few years back, but wasn’t sure if it would be strong enough. So I decided to just get a base, colour and top coat from Gel-It and see if it worked. Off to the shop we went…

My closest Maskscara store is the one in Bellville. The shop is stocked with absolutely everything you would need. The ladies there are super helpful and will gladly give hints and tips! Good luck trying to pick a colour hahaha, there are hordes! So with my bag of goodies (I can’t even remember the first colour I bought!) I went off to do my first gel polish application!

This is how I do it:


  • Acetone*
  • Cleanser
  • Lint free wipes
  • Nail file
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Buffer
  • Cuticle remover product if preferred
  • Orange wood stick for fixing mistakes
  • Maskscara PH Bond
  • Maskscara Gel-It base coat (I use the new rubber base coat, but also the non-wipe professional one)
  • Maskscara Gel-It colour of your choice (So. Many. Choices.)
  • Maskscara Gel-It top coat (I use the non-wipe one)
  • Nail lamp (I now have this UV/LED lamp, Maskscara sells all kinds and will be able to advise you based on your individual requirements).


  1. Remove all previous polish/gel etc.
  2. Push back cuticles.
  3. Remove excess cuticles.
  4. Cleanse with sanitiser/acetone.
  5. Gently buff nails to remove surface shine.
  6. Cleanse again – it is IMPORTANT that nails are clean of all oils/residue before application.


  1. Apply PH Bond only to tips of nails.
  2. Apply base coat – cure for 30 sec.
    • Apply builder gel (cure for 60 seconds) or strengthening base coat (2 coats, cure for 30 seconds each) if needed.
  3. Apply colour coats – cure for 30 seconds per coat. I usually apply 3 – 4 coats of colour, depending on the opacity of the colour and the intensity I want. Ensure that you cap the free edge of each nail.
  4. Apply top coat – cure for 30 seconds.
  5. Cleanse (even when using the non-wipe top coat).

Voila! Admire your pretty nails!



  • Apply coats up to about 1mm from the cuticle area (maybe start with 2mm if you’re new to gel polish application, just for a few sets to practice).
  • Be careful not to touch the cuticle area/flood the cuticle area with product when applying, as this will lead to lifting of your polish.
  • The key to successful application is working with slow and controlled movements and thorough capping of the free edge of each nail. By capping/sealing the edge you prevent lifting and chipping to a great extent.
  • The more you do it, the better and neater your application technique will become.
  • Gel polish is very forgiving as it doesn’t dry so it’s easy to fix or remove mistakes when you make them. Simply wipe it off with a lint free wipe or remove any mistakes with an orange wood stick.

I have to be honest and say I’ve had disappointments with gel polish application – chipping and lifting sometimes within hours/days and nothing seemed to fix it. It seems I have naturally very thin and soft nails and therefore I’ve now added a layer of builder gel to thicken my nail somewhat and I have better longevity of my polish application.

Once you get the hang of if start experimenting and have some fun! Add nail art, stickers, transfers, accent nails etc. All available from Maskscara.


For more info on Maskscara products have a look at their website, as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages.

* Regarding acetone: I prefer to use pure acetone to cleanse and remove polish. Commercial products usually contain some sort of essential oil etc. for added benefits (strengthening nails blablabla) but these oils can lead to lifting of product after application.

Disclaimer: please note that I am not a qualified gel nail tech. I have a Maskscara 101 Gel-It Application Certificate and do my own nails as a hobby, it’s not my profession. Apologies for any mistakes! This post was also not sponsored etc. in any way by Maskscara!

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