Let’s take a peak inside my salon drawers! Here is a quick little guide on my go to products I use in my salon every friggin’ day! Can I just say I’m so excited to be writing this for you, I feel like this is long overdue. What have I been doing?! And for those of you who don’t know me, welcome! My name is Katie Masters aka @nailthoughts and I am a nail artist located in Santa Monica, CA. So I am ready to break down my go to products for you based on so many of your frequently asked questions, I hope this helps!


First things first, I will say that the majority of the colors I use are potted gels! I HIGHLY recommend using potted gels for art! They stay put, the fine lines won’t bleed, and they are very pigmented. HOWEVER, there are a very specific handful of extra finicky colors that I will only use the bottle for (ex. white, black, milky white..). The reason I choose the bottle for those because I find bottled gel makes those extra finicky colors less streaky and go on extra smooth (and fast!) especially if you are doing all over color. So truthfully, there are big time pros and cons for each gel application technique, but both are definitely necessary for your collection! 



The two brands that I use are Presto gel and Kokoist gel. Lately I have been leaning more into Kokoist because I find that the colors are a little bit more buttery and self leveling when you apply them, while Presto is a little bit more sticky and takes a tad more effort to get the streaks out. I know it may seem like a minor difference, but trust me, when I am running behind I find myself recommending only Kokoist colors to my client just because I know I can save that extra 5-10 minutes with application. But of course I like to have a couple brands on deck because each brand brings their own color swatches to the world and you want as many options as you can! Both of these brands can be soaked off! So on that note, here are my like, TOP recommendations  on what you absolutely NEED in your drawer:

Quick note: You can get 10% discount on anything you order off of the website using my code NT10.

  1.  Blackest black and Bluey white 

ABSOLUTELY KEY and 100% necessary to have these always. These are my go to’s for all of my line work. These will change your detail work immensely and it’s always a sad day when I run out of the pot. Like I might as well not go into work until I re order.


Abstract nail art with white and black details


 THOSE are all the juiciest freshest neutrals/nudes that I use all the time as backgrounds for my art. If you want to see some swatches of some of these and a whole list of more color rec's check out my highlighted "KOKOIST" story on my IG. I love all of these neutrals for a couple reasons:

  1. They are sheer so you can layer them up to make them more opaque or keep them sheer for a more barely there, whimsical look without looking streaky!! HELLO. What a dream!
  2. Since they are sheer, I find they are SO fast to put on. Honestly, my biggest salon secret (that is not a secret anymore I guess) is I love putting art on top of sheer neutral colors because those colors are so quick to slap on so I set myself up to have way more time for art. 
*remember you can always use code NT10 for discounts off kokoist products.


nude to coral pink ombre nail art. a nude nail color for dark skin a nude nail color with orange spring time watercolor flower nail art


Protein bond by Young Nails. I use it under every manicure I do. Acts like a double sided sticky tape for the natural nail and the base gel. It isn't acid based as well so it's not harmful like a lot of other bonders. I literally have a subscription for it on Amazon so I never run out, it's THAT important to me. HERE IT IS.



The real tea is in the base coats, right? And if you need to know anything about me, it’s that  I love working with people’s natural nails and growing them with stronger base coats and care. So here are my top three right now that I use:

  1. My latest obsession has been with the brand Luminary . They created these crazy base coats that are SO strong, buildable, AND have a nude color already in them. THREE IN ONE: base coat, builder gel, and color. And I have to admit, when I was first seeing it around, I was a little skeptical like okay, is this like that horrible 3 in 1 shampoo that claims to do everything but is kinda crappy? But ohh I was WRONG. I tried it on myself,  finally, and it felt so strong, so durable, and saved me so much time by bringing it all down to one step. So I HIGHLY recommend having these in your drawer, because talk about saving time in the salon, look at some of the stuff I was able to do from saving base coat and color application time with just ONE layer of the color “Peace” as the base coat AND color:
  2. Spring floral nails with a nude color in the background!Nude color in the background of a gold foil ombre manicure


This base coat/color combo saves me incredible amounts of time for French manis too! Anywho, I would say my top three colors you should buy from them for your drawer is 




But I just gotta say, I own all of the colors and it’s just changed my life for the better.

NOTES: These DO soak off, and they do build up heat under the light, so make sure and warn your clients! They also have a pretty distinct smell that you will either love or hate. I believe the smell is due to an acrylic acid bonder ingredient built in to the formula. Hence why it sticks so well to clients nails. 

Here is their site! I do get commission from that link by the way! 

AND if you want to see a video of me using Luminary, click HERE to see how I use it on my own nails!

If you aren't into the smell of Luminary or the ingredients, here are my other two faves!! 


 This is a great gel for those clients that have really long and strong nails and need that extra layer of strength before the color application so their nails won’t break. It’s a builder gel base coat! I use this on most of my long nail clients now. It almost acts as a hard gel overlay…but with base coat mixed in! You know I’m all about that one less step life!

NOTE: Yes this soaks off.  This is a great strong base coat to have especially if you are e-filing your color off. This base also builds heat under the light so make sure to warn clients. I don't use this base on clients with weaker nails, only clients with strong nails. Weaker nails bend too much and cause lifting.



Dude. They call it mega stick for a reason. I mean what in the hell. When I first used this base coat on myself, I did my own secret experiment and didn't use my usual bonder juuuust to see how well this lasted with just my nail and that's it and SIX weeks later I finally filed my gel off and there was NO LIFTING. AT. ALL. Wtf?? Now I'm like do I even need my bonder? What is this new life?? Highly recommend!!!! I recommend this one for clients with shorter to more medium length nails that are on the more bendy or weak side! This base will flex with their nails causing way less (or zero) lifting. I also build with this base coat too. I build my clients' nails with every base I use.




It's made of just three brushes and I made it to make your life simple. Enough with complicated brushes. If I can live my whole career off of just using three types of brushes, you can too!!

 1. Application Brush -This will make your life with potted gels, HEAVENLY. It seriously floats the gel on giving you streak free application.nailthoughts application brush review


nail thoughts application brush review

2. Smoosh brush- This is the everything brush. This is the brush that helps you with filling in colors, with abstract brush strokes, with blobs of colors, with smearing marble lines. Possibilities are endless!!!! It's a MUST in your brush collection. I promise I'm not even just saying that! 

nailthoughts smoosh brush review
nailthoughts smoosh brush review

 3. Detailer brush- Finally, the detailer brush. The only brush you need for fine lines and details around your smooshes. Use this for splatter designs, fine line details, marble lines, ANYTHING YOU WANT! When making these, I made the brush firmness level the most firm I could to help prevent the brush from swinging out on it's own in the middle of a curved line. It gives you SO much more control that way!!

nailthoughts detailer brush review

nailthoughts detailer brush review


For more information on the brush kit and tips and tricks to using them click here for my whole blog on them! 

To buy the whole kit (plus a cute bag with it) click HERE! You can also use my code NT10 to save money on the brush kit as well! I can't wait for you to try. I hope they make your life so much easier. 



We are almost done I promise! We couldn't forget about top coats! And to be honest, I only use two!



I just love a non wipe top coat. And if you don't know what that means, basically when gel cures, it will always have a layer of uncured gel on top. This is why you gels are sticky until we wipe it off with alcohol. But now there are options for non wipe top coats which means once it's cured, it's done! Highly recommend using this when you are in a hurry or even making press on nails!

NOTES: I tend to cure this top coat for about 60 seconds under my LED light for max shine and curing. This top coat doesn't stain.


This is a top coat that needs to be wiped but this is my second go to as well. It doesn't stain even on hair dressers.  

WOW WE DID IT! You made it through my list! I hope you found it helpful and insightful and as usual, I am always here if you have any questions! I'm sure I will add a part two very soon.

xo, Katie Masters aka Nailthoughts


Maylei Agonoy

This makes me want to expand my potted gel collection 🤭🤭 but I actually LOVE the luminary smell lol. Smells like vinegar and my filipino heart loves it 😆


Omg, the Luminary smell….does anyone really love it? I bought it to try it out and the smell is almost bad enough to put me off using it 😆 especially when filing it! 🤢


Thank you sooo much the insight. Love your work!!!! I follow you on IG! I was the same about luminary but now I am a beliver. This product won my heart. IT FRREAKING WORKS!! Now it is my must have.


I’ve been following you on Tik Tok and now IG, I love your ideas and how you put everything together (I actually love your round shape you do!) I know times are tough but you’ve got mad skills and I can’t wait to see what you post next! 😊


Finally everything gel in one place!! I love this and want to thank you so much for your inspiration and passion! Can’t wait to see what’s next 🥰

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