How I Started and What Products I Use


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  • Trips to the nail salon every three weeks can get pricey, especially with each fill costing $40+. 
  • I decided to skip the expense and learn to do my own nail extensions from home.
  • With some full-coverage tips, a starter kit, and nail glue, salon-worthy nails are attainable.

It doesn’t take many nail salon trips for the expenses to add up, and for nice nails to start feeling indulgent. On average, I’ve found that a brand new set of acrylic nails costs upwards of $50, and monthly fills upwards of $30. 

In 2022, I resolved to start doing my own nails from home to save some money. For me personally, it’s a bit more complicated than just throwing on some polish and calling it a day. A nail biter since childhood, I’ve found that I need acrylic or gel extensions to keep me from gnawing off my nails or picking off the polish entirely. 

Here’s how I started my journey to becoming my own nail tech, and the products I like that are easily accessible. 

How I started doing my own nails

Truth be told, TikTok is what inspired me to start doing my own nails. I heard tales of gel nails that last with easy application and had to try them myself. I began by ordering a Beetles Starter Kit; it comes with a UV LED curing lamp, some gel polish colors of your choosing, base and topcoat, plus the tools you need to prep your natural nails. 

In addition to the kit, I bought the necessary products for extensions: full-coverage tips (any brand will do), Beetles Nail Glue, and Modelones Primer

sarah's nail essentials including primer, top coat, nail glue, and a uv lamp

These products are musts for doing your own nail extensions at home.

Sarah Saril/Insider


The process is hard to describe, but here’s how it works. Prep your natural nails (clip, file, prime) like you usually would. Then, you can start attaching your fake nails. After curating the right tips to fit your nail beds, you just apply some of the nail glue to the extension, carefully wedge it on your nail bed, and while holding it there, flash cure it under your UV LED lamp. This is the hardest part: keeping the nail in exactly the right spot while maneuvering your hands under a small lamp. Once they’re all on, you can give all five fingers a solid 60-second cure under the lamp to ensure they’re secure.

side by side process of attaching full coverage gel nails

The glue isn’t very thick, so you’ll need to act fast to prevent unwanted drips. Here I’m attaching some nails I already painted.

Sarah Saril/Insider


From there, you can start shaping, painting, and decorating! This is the fun part.

sarah's nails in front of her nail kit

Here are my pre-painted nails, attached and ready to go.

Sarah Saril/Insider


I’ve bought more than my fair share of polishes, chrome powders, glitter gels, and other embellishments just for decorating my nails. I keep a Pinterest board for design inspiration.

sarah's nail art side by side



Sarah Saril/Insider


Nail art exponentially increases your costs at the salon, sometimes as much as $5 per nail. When doing your own nails, though, you can do anything within your skill level — just remember you’ll need to repeat it on your dominant hand. 

fake nail tips on a nail stand with nail art

I prepared this set for Valentine’s Day this year.

Sarah Saril/Insider


If you’re planning on doing a mostly-transparent design (like French nails), you can even paint your tips before attaching them to your hands. It just needs to be transparent so the nail glue can cure under the UV LED lamp. Otherwise, you’ll need to use normal air-dry nail glue to affix them. I 3D printed this stand for prepping my tips beforehand, but you can buy something similar on Amazon too. 

Though finicky at first, I’m loving working with these tools to do my own nails. I’m in control of my designs, length, and comfort while doing them, and I’m happy with my results. It takes twice as long as a salon visit (every time one of your hands is in the gel lamp, you’re incapacitated), but I get to stay home and hang out with my dogs while I’m manicuring. They also last for quite a while — with proper prep and priming, I’ve had mine carry into three weeks. 

Products that make self manicures easier

As with any hobby, there’s no limit to how many upgrades you can get for your home manicure set up. Polish color is up to your preference and design needs, but some tools I can’t give up include my gooseneck UV lamp, nail art brush kit, builder gel, and MelodySusie E-File

sarah's additional nail products including nail art dotting tools, brushes, a UV lamp, and an e file



Sarah Saril/Insider


The gooseneck lamp makes it so much easier to attach the tips, since you have ample space for both hands to hold your extension in place while the glue cures. I use my e-file to prep, shape, and remove old nails, or to take off designs when I want to change them. If you plan to just fill in nail growth instead of replacing your tips every time like I am, builder gel can do the trick.

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