A Manicure for the DIYer

Up until a year ago, I could count the number of manicures I had gotten in my life on one hand.  Manicures always felt awkward to me.  I had a childhood friend who went to the nail salon every week with her mother.  I tagged alone once for my first manicure and hated it.  The smell of the chemicals was overpowering and while the manicure itself was okay, the sitting around waiting for the polish to dry and then the ever-so-careful way I had to touch things for an hour after leaving was annoying.  Doing my own nails was so much easier.  I taught myself to do my own French manicures in middle school and almost never went to a nail salon after that. I have strong nails and long nail beds (I didn't even know this until a manicurist told me), so it didn't take much to make my nails look nice.

Everything changed about a year ago.  I got an email from the CvilleSaver (a local version of Groupon or LivingSocial) that offered a deal on a manicure that was supposed to last up to four weeks.  I ignored the deal at first, but Dana at CvilleFashion and CvilleZumba got the manicure, using CND's Shellac polish (OPI makes their own version), and liked it (though it didn't hold up on her beach vacation).  I decided to give the deal a try, knowing that I'd want a professional manicure before the wedding.

The manicure required quite a few layers of polish (I think it's technically called a gel) and between applications, I had to stick my hand in a little UV light box.  When the manicure was done, the light had set or cured the polish so my nails were totally hard and dry.  I went to the desk of the salon and fished my wallet out of my bag as if my nails were wet and they told me it was totally, totally dry.  Silly me.

Shellac manicure, week 1

As a hardcore DIYer, I'm rough on my hands.  I'm always sanding, painting, sewing, or hot gluing something.  I was pretty shocked at how long my manicure lasted while I was working on one wedding project after another.  At one point, someone commented on my manicure and they didn't believe me when I told them that the polish on my nails was three weeks old. 

Shellac manicure, week 2
The other bonus that I noticed is that the layer of hard gel is far stronger than a layer of dry nail polish.  I've bumped and banged my fingers numerous times and haven't had any broken nails while the Shellac was on them.  Now, I obviously don't have this stuff on non-stop.  I've had four of these manicures in a year and leave my nails free of polish otherwise.

The UV light that cures the polish is obviously a bit of a concern, though no reputable research seems to be out there about the danger (or lack of danger) of sticking your hand in the light box.  I tend to wear lotion with sunscreen on my hands and I get a "dry" manicure (meaning no oils or massages), so I hope my hands are protected.

Shellac manicure, week 3
After three weeks, my current manicure is still looking pretty good.  My nails have started to grow, so if you look very carefully at the bottom of each nail, you'll see where the new nail has grown in. The kind of manicure I get (I was recently told that it's an American manicure since the tips are done with a very soft white color) lets that growth come in without being too, too noticeable.  There's been a little debate on the Weddingbee boards about whether French (or American) manicures are dated, but I love them.  I haven't had color on my nails since I was a child and I don't think I'm really interested in my nails be trendy or fashion statements.

Do you get manicures regularly?  Have you tried these new "gel" manicures that use UV lights to cure them?  How will you be doing your nails for your wedding day?


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  3. I love shellac, and it lasts so long!!! :)

  4. I tought myself how to do my own french manicures in high school too!! I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to my nails and I HATE it when the nail ladies miss half my nail when putting on the polish.  So I just got really good at doing my own and used to do them once a week- I would get compliments on my nails all the time becuse I never let them get nasty and was always painting them (ocd much? haha)  I havent done a french on myself in way over a year, but I think I might just have to take out my nail polish tonight and give myself one now.

  5. Jeannine,
     I used to do shellac, but now I go to Ulta and get an OPIgel from Lauren. It's more inexpensive than the shellac, and I think it stays shinier longer. I tend towards a darker nail, so I am not sure if the shine thing is an issue with french manicures.


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