BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Having sparkly nails is kind of the bane of my existence. The more sparkles, the better. Of course, the problem is, painting your nails takes time—especially when it seems the world against you and your sparkly glam game is ruined in a moment’s notice when it chips from doing the dishes. Or you know, just living life. And I don’t need to tell you that it’s expensive getting your nails done all the time, especially if you’re living on a budget (and I mean, who isn’t?)
While I don’t think having my nails painted to an impossible perfection is at all necessary—I do enjoy having fun nails. I mean, who doesn’t like a sea of a thousand stars glittering on your fingers? Basically, I just like looking like a ‘80s dance club, OK?
That being said, I don’t have a lot of time (I’m a full-time staffer writer who teaches poetry workshops and works as an editor at three different magazines/presses in my spare time…), nor do I have a lot of money to spend every week on manicures (hi, rent). Even if I did, I probably would feel too uncomfortable spending a ton of cash on my nails, considering I could be doing other useful things with it (like donating money to good causes, like RAINN).
However, I recently figured out a way to limit the amount of time and money on doing my nails by buying a gel manicure nail set. It seems extravagant, perhaps, but it’s actually the opposite. This is how:
I bought a LED nail lamp (currently on sale for 10.99, but retails at 25, which is still not bad considering a typical gel costs around $30 without tip).
Then, I bought a pack of six colors by Yaoshun, which costs $28.99. There are 10 different color packs to choose from (if you want matte colors, for instance).
So, if you do the math, in total, I spent about $50 (with shipping) for the polish and LED light, which is only slightly more than an average gel manicure, so I’m automatically saving more money, especially since I can make a gel manicure last between 2 weeks and a month, depending on how harsh I am with my nails (and how dedicated I am to fixing it).
If you want to get really fancy (and save time), you can use nail stickers and decals, and just put the clear coat over it.
To apply gel manicures, the steps are easy:
1. Apply the base coat. Put your nails under the light until the timer goes off.
2. Apply the color coat. Then, do the same with the light timer.
3. Apply the top coat. Repeat with light timer. I usually do this twice just to make sure the color is dry.
4. Dab a cotton ball with alcohol, and then rub each nail with it. The alcohol seals the gel, so don’t forget this step, or it’ll be tacky and not dry.
5. Enjoy your nails.
That process usually takes a half hour or less, which is perfect to do if you’re watching TV. I do this, so I forget that I’m doing my nails (and don’t smudge them) and it’s a great way to multitask, since you’re sitting down anyway!
Joanna C. Valente is the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, Xenos, and the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault.