For Christmas one of my big presents was the Red Carpet Manicure gel polish starter kit and one of the nail polish duos they sell on their site with ‘9 inch heels’ and ‘sapphire and ice’. The set sells for £65 and the duos are £24.95 on their site which you can look around here.T here is a pro set with a more powerful LED light that was sold for £89.95 at the time but it didn’t include some of the other things this one did so adding those on would have put the price up even more.
I’ve been looking at gel kits for the past year as I love doing my nails and trying different colours but it never seems to last that well on me, a week is the top really and by then it’s starting to chip and some colours this really doesn’t look good. I’ve never had my nails done professionally as I don’t have that much energy with M.E. and I sort of feel like if I can do something at home and get a result I like then it wouldn’t be worth the money to me personally. However I have always liked the idea of gel nails so this at home kit seemed like a perfect match. As there are a few out there at the moment I read various reviews and this one seemed to fit with price and the final result. I also got a set of two other colours so I could have a bit of a range to try, I don’t wear red that much so the purple and blue in the set appealed to me and the colours I often choose.
The set includes:
- Prep – sanitizer in a glass bottle with a brush applied like a nail varnish, this is used before the base coat to remove any oils and dry out the nail so the gel polish holds well.
- Structure – gel clear base coat
- LED gel polish – Red carpet reddy, a bright red coloured gel varnish, a nice classic colour
- Brilliance – seal and shine clear top coat
- Revitalize – Cuticle oil used after the gel varnish is applied and set and recommended to be used every day, keeps the cuticles and skin around your nail moisturised. This comes in a nail varnish style bottle with a brush and is easy to apply.
- Purify – Pre and post application cleanser, feels like it’s a mild formula used to clean the nails before application and at the end to remove the tackiness
- Erase – Nail varnish remover
- Portable light – LED light used to cure the gel varnish. It comes with a power cable with a USB end that can either be plugged into the mains with the adaptor provided or used with a computer.
- Instructions leaflet – Instructions on how to use the kit. The only problem I have with this is, although it gives a table for both the pro and portable lamps which have different strengths, in the actual step by step instructions it only quotes the pro times.
The main product for this set is the light itself. Being portable with a USB port on the end of the power cable it can be used with your computer if you wanted or other power sources that work with phone chargers and similar chargers. It isn’t as powerful as the pro version but it’s large enough to do four fingers at once and the curing time isn’t that long when compared to having to wait between coats in normal nail varnishes so with the price difference it seems worth the extra time to me. The power switch is easily accessed and turns on and off without any problems which is good as your nails are tacky from the beginning of the process until you use the cleanser at the end.
There are some things which don’t come in the kit which you will also need. A couple of these are easy to use alternatives from around the house but it’s worth having these all before you start. These are:
- Lint free pads / nail wipes – alternatives are those screen wipes you get for computers and I just used a square cut off an old t-shirt that was smooth and didn’t have fibres coming off
- Emery board – Just for reshaping so not really necessary
- Orangewood sticks – used in the prep and removal, I used my thumb nail in the prep to push the cuticle back but this won’t work for removal. I got these in so many sets and threw them out, now I wish I hadn’t
- Buffer tabs / buffer – Needed for the prep and removal, I can’t think of an alternative to this. I did read on a couple of sites that being very careful with a normal emery board works, I might try this and compare to a proper buffer when it comes to removal
Reading the instructions it seemed simple enough and I was surprised at how quick each step was. The part that took the longest for me was the preparation at the beginning; it says you have to push cuticles back with an orange stick, buff the nail, use the purify cleanser and then the prep sanitizer. The main problem I had was that I don’t have a proper buffer, the only one I have that I think is a buffer is on the stylfile I got in the Tesco advent calendar so I used that. This may not be a problem for most as you probably already have one but if you don’t then this is definitely something that will be needed. I was impressed with the sanitizer, it evaporated as I watched, almost as soon as it hit the nail, which made the process quicker though I’m not sure how good this rapid drying out will be for my nails.
The next step is to apply the base coat and let it cure for a minute before applying the colour for two coats and curing for three minutes in between before using the base coat and a further two minutes curing. I found the best way to do this was by doing the four finger nails on one hand, doing them on the other and then doing both thumb nails at once as I could hold the portable light easily for my thumbs. I did have to contort my middle finger a bit to get them all under the light which wasn’t the most comfortable position but alright for the length of time needed. I did find that I did get a bit of a hot sensation for a couple of seconds with the base coat on a couple of my nails but it went away quickly and just felt a bit like when you pass your hand over a candle quickly rather than anything really painful.
The main worry I had with this whole process was reading the warnings on the different sites and the set itself about getting the gel on your skin around your nails as this is a problem I have with most varnishes. I think it’s probably because of these warnings I was very cautious and found I didn’t get any on my skin though a bit did get on my sister’s fingers as I’m not used to painting someone else’s nails. It was easily removed with the cloth and purify cleanser before it was cured, she decided to leave a bit on when it was cured and it came off easily with the final wipe of cleanser at the end so this is worth knowing. If you did have any warm or tingly feeling with it being on your nails though I would think it would be a good idea to remove this before curing as if it did that on a nail I’d expect it to be more intense when directly on your skin. I might be wrong, I didn’t try it and she had no tingle or warmth anyway so can’t compare.
The colours I tried were the ‘red carpet reddy’ which my sister has on and the ‘9 inch heels’ which I used on myself. The purple is a bright purple or magenta with some shimmer which catches nicely in the light and the red is a very shiny flat, classic red. These are both slightly sheer after two coats though they cover the nails pretty well. The varnish itself is very thin, it applies very easily in thin coats though it can make it hard to get a small amount if you don’t wipe it against the top of the bottle, a little really does go a long way. The main part where it is obvious on my nails that I could have maybe done with another coat are on the tips of a few where I put more varnish on than needed when I was being extra cautious to cap them properly so I have a darker line along the edge. The bottles for this brand are coloured in the shade of the nail varnish rather than being clear glass, I would guess due to UV curing it, and the bottle colours are pretty true to the final outcome for the varnishes.
I have had this on for 4 days and so far I am very impressed with the staying power, it has survived a bath which normally makes my nail varnish peel off and I’ve been using my nails to open packaging on various food and drink things which can make some nail varnishes catch and peel off. I forgot to take a photo on the day I did them but there isn’t much growth since so it’s a pretty accurate picture of how it looked when first done. I did accidentally get a bit of fluff in my thumb nail though it doesn’t really make much difference to the final effect, I’ll have to see if it affects the staying power for that nail.
Overall I’m very impressed, I will be looking at other colours for in the future, and there have been a lot of colours added recently on their site. I think these were added in the past month as I don’t remember most of them being on there when I was looking before Christmas. The colour range was one thing that this brand had going against it but looking at the site if that would affect your decision then I think this has a reasonable amount including lots of shades in each colour and some glitters. I also think that other gel varnish brands would work with the LED lamp as long as they’re designed to be used with an LED light, it’s something I’ll be experimenting when I’ve got used to this.
If you are considering trying out an at home gel nail varnish set then I would recommend this, it’s a reasonable price and contains most of the things you need to get started on your own gel manicure. The things not included are likely to be things you own already and if not can be easily found in any drugstore and are reasonably priced if you buy the value versions of the product, though of course the more expensive versions are also available.