I’ve shared my love for gel manicures before, and after I posted a review of OPI Gelcolor, the team at Red Carpet Manicure asked if I’d like to try out their product. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t!
When I found out that it’s an at-home gel manicure system, though, I was on board right away. Y’all know I’m all about DIY, and I’m all about gel manicures, so it was kind of a no-brainer. The fact that it’s way cheaper than a salon gel manicure didn’t hurt, either. The starter kit is $59.99 on the Red Carpet Manicure site, and claims to contain enough for 20 manicures (albeit only in the one color provided). That’s only $3 a manicure – a little different from the $25 my salon charges.
The only question was whether someone with my shaky hands, bad vision and lack of patience was capable of giving myself a manicure usually only applied by trained professionals. And, well, you’ll see for yourself how that turned out, and you can tell me what you think.
The starter kit comes with everything you need, with the exception of a few supplies that are provided in the $3.99 accesories kit, but I actually had most of those supplies at home anyway.
The first instructions were to push back my cuticles with an orangewood stick.
Then I used a nail file (one of the ones with multiple surfaces) to shape and buff my nails. I was following the instructions, but I’m honestly not sure it was the greatest idea to shape right before the manicure. As you can see, my nails were kind of torn up. I guess I didn’t do a very good job?
Next time, I think I’ll shape with clippers and then just smooth them out with a less-rough section of the nail file.
The first product application was the Red Carpet Cleanser, which was supposed to remove dirt and oil. The instructions recommended using a lint-free pad, but I used a makeup wedge sponge. Then, I brushed on the pH Nail Prep, which went on like a thin liquid and then evaporated right away.
Then, it was time for some gel! This was the scary part, but it really wasn’t so hard. It was basically a clear base coat, except slightly thicker. I was supposed to apply it over the whole nail and over the top edge, but that’s easier said than done. The trick is to get any extra product off your skin BEFORE you cure it under the light.
Because only four fingers fit under the light at once, the instructions recommended applying the base coat and curing the first four fingers separately from the thumb. To save time, I did the four fingers on one hand, then the four fingers on another hand, then my thumbs together. I used my iPhone timer to make sure I was curing for exactly one minute.
When all 10 fingers were cured, the clear gel looked a lot like the base coat you get in a salon – thin but glossy.
After that, I applied two coats of the gel enamel, curing for two minutes between each coat. The color that came with the kit was “Red Carpet Reddy,” which might not have been my first choice, but it’s a nice, bright shade. I believe you can get more shades at Ulta, Fred Meyer and Meijer. You can also buy them on the Red Carpet Manicure site.
The instructions, again, said to cover the entire nail and the free edge, but I just couldn’t get the edge without getting it all over my skin. Other than that, applying the gel enamel really felt the same as applying regular nail polish.
I found that tilting the light made it a lot easier to get all my fingers in line.
The clear sealing top coat went on the same way, with two minutes to cure.
Now, here comes the cool part. Even after curing each coat, your nails still feel slightly tacky. But when you’re finally finished, you apply the Red Carpet Cleanser again, and it just … wipes the tackiness away. I can’t explain it. It’s weird. But it works!
AND – somehow, the cleanser takes the color off your skin, but not your nails. It’s kind of magical.
If you’re sloppy like me, this is key, because nothing else gets that color off after it’s cured. Of course, I tried to get it off before curing, but … easier said than done. No matter – after the cleanser, my nails were hard, glossy and oooh, pretty.
The last (optional) step was to use the Nourishing Cuticle Oil, which comes with the kit, too.
Two and a half weeks later, the color is still hangin’ in there. I have a few small chips, but I’m pretty sure it’s just because I didn’t coat the free edge like I was supposed to.
One main thing I learned is that if you let the extra enamel puddle in the crevice at the edge of your nail, then it will harden under the light, and eventually, it separates from your skin. Then, the edge isn’t really attached to your nail as securely, and it can lift. For me, it was only a real problem with one pinky, and I’ve managed to resist picking at it so far, so it’s still hanging in there.
Overall, this stuff really does work. It lasted eons longer than a regular manicure – I chip even the professional kind within days. And strangely, I have a lot less growth at the base of my nails than I usually get with regular manicures. It could be because I applied right up to my skin. I’m going to remove the gel soon so that I can report back on that process – the starter kit came with special remover – but I think if it didn’t, it would last at least another week.
UPDATE: Click here to read about the removal process!
I think the few issues I had with Red Carpet Manicure had to do with my inability to apply it properly, but that’s definitely something to consider if you’re semi-sloppy like me! However, if you’re an at-home manicure pro, I really think you could nail this. It’s not that hard, and it looks pretty damn good. Plus, it’s just cool to have your own LED light.
Have you ever tried an at-home gel manicure? Leave me comments if you have any questions!
Disclaimer: I was given the Red Carpet Manicure starter kit for free in return for editorial consideration, but everything in this review is my own unbiased opinion.