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It was simply brilliant: a quick salon trip meant you had painted nails to sparkle and enjoy for at least two weeks.
And while many of us have made cack-handed attempts to paint our nails at home, it only takes one bath or sink full of dishes before you remember regular polish is often more trouble that it is worth, scraping, chipping, and flaking in seconds.
Let us then suggest to you, the at-home gel manicure.
We’ve tried several of the at-home gel lamps available, and while usually we would present a list, here, we’re going to cut to the chase and say: the Mylee Gel Lamp is our favourite. A popular brand within salons, use this and you can achieve the best gel manicure this side of lockdown.
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How does the Mylee lamp work?
The Mylee Gel Lamp uses LED light, not UV (as many nail lamps do), which is just as effective for drying polish but not as bad for you - UV lamps will cause premature ageing and sun damage on your skin. Many of the cheaper at-home lamps you will find use UV light, but we’d advice staying away from them, unless you want wizened hands to go with your shiny nails.
The other benefit of an LED lamp, as opposed to a UV one, is that it will dry your nails faster. In the case of the Mylee gel lamp, it sets each coat in 15 seconds. A UV lamp usually takes two minutes.
Within the kit (£90), you get a base coat, top coat, remover, a little 18-watt LED lamp, four gel polishes in their most popular colours, lint-free wipes, preparatory wipes, and gel remover. It’s available here
The prep wipes help to soften your cuticles, so you can use a cuticle pusher to push them back. This is our favourite part of an in-salon treatment. The benefits of taking the time to do it at home are twofold: it will make your final nail job look neater, and it will help your gel manicure last longer.
Next: file them into the shape you like. Here, we tend to just round them close to the fingers, as we’re not particularly skilful with a file, but your talents made exceed ours.
If you can be bothered, buff the tops of the nails - this, much like sanding down a piece of wood you wish to paint, will leave you with a smoother surface to paint.
If £90 is too rich for your blood, then you can buy the lamp on it’s own for £42, here
How to do a gel polish manicure
We don’t want to condescend - if you’re someone who gets their nails done regularly, you’ll know how this works.
Start with a base layer, under the lamp, then as many coats of your colour as you fancy/can be doing with (we tend to go for three, but we’re not great at painting), each under the lamp, then the top coat.
We tend to do ours in the evening as we’re watching whatever the current show of choice is, and it take around twenty minutes from start to finish, but it’s a luxurious undertaking, not a chore. You do, of course, need a steady surface to rest upon (our side table works beautifully).
What you end up with is a gorgeous looking gel manicure that will easily last two weeks. It doesn’t come with any chat from the nail artist (which is a blessing or a sadness, depending on your preferences), but it will leave you with cheerful nails for when you’re setting about your day working from home - nothing alleviates the stress of tapping at a keyboard quite like seeing merry jewel tones on your nails as you strike.
Another thing, just quickly - it comes with a detachable tray, so you can do your toenails too, should an at-home pedicure appeal.
You can, of course, use the Mylee gel lamp with any of the nail products of your choice - including your favourite polishes.
Our pick of the other best nail products to help pamper your digits at home
Mylee Gel Kit Set
One kit, and you get a base coat, top coat, remover, a little 18-watt LED lamp, four gel polishes in their most popular colours, lint-free wipes, preparatory wipes, and gel remover. Pricey, use, but price-per use and you’ll have saved a whole year worth of salon appointments. Just think how much that is.
Gel-Less Super Speedy Gel Manicure Remover Kit
Ingenious. If you’ve ever scraped off the remains of a gel manicure, or soaked cotton wool in acetate and wrap your fingers in tinfoil to soak it off, you’ll know how irritating it can be to remove gel once you’re done. Not so with this - simply dip you finger into a pot with pre-soaked pads, then twist until the manicure is gone.
A life-changing find for gel-lovers.
Margaret Dabbs Nail and Cuticle Serum Pen
Nobody knows nails like Margaret Dabbs, and this serum pen is ideal if you’re neglected your hands too long. Ingeniously designed to make it easy to apply without spillage, this nourishing serum sinks into nails and cuticles beautifully to strengthen them. You’ll notice a difference after five days use, we promise.
Show off your lustrous new nails by taking to your feet with this brilliant foot buff. Professional grade, we found it painless to use, but ideal for exfoliating layers of foot skin thickened by too much running undertaken in sweaty running shoes.
We’ve used ours about 30 times over the past year and still find it sharp as a tack. It is ickily, perversely satisfying - all that dead skin will be banished, leaving baby soft feet underneath. Best used directly after a shower, when your skin is soft.
Chanel Veris Polish - Rouge Red
We would be remiss not to mention our favourite polish. Chanel makes beautiful, pigment red finger paints, in beautiful colours.
This classic red will have you channeling Dynasty realness - even if you’re slouching about the living room in your PJs.