I’M SO EXCITED FOR THIS BLOG! If you don’t know me, I am Katie Masters aka Nail Thoughts on instagram and I am a nail tech of about 5 years now! Been loving organizing all of my gel stuff lately, ESPECIALLY my at home nail office. Obviously ever since covid shut downs and constantly packing my nail stuff up to go back and forth I’ve had to really get way more organized and real about the actual necessities I can’t be without. And seeing all of your questions come in on wtf you need in your starter nail kits inspired me!
Because I mean I am such a crafty person myself and I know from personal experience when I am trying to start/learn something new, there is nothing more aggravating than when you think you have every supply and you’re in the middle of the process and you don’t have the most important thing. The worst. So let me just help you out here to help prevent that!! So this blog is for all of you at home DIYers, beginning nail techs, or even seasoned nail techs! I ~will~ say this blog is a little more geared towards my at-home DIYer babies out there, but ALL ARE WELCOME, SO LET’S GO!
If you are a nail tech and are still curious about what I use in the salon- this link will take you to the blog for you.
I am going to try to keep things SIMPLE. Like. GEL BASICS. You are about to get the same talk that I gave my best friend who doesn’t do nails professionally at all but who is currently building her at home nail station/collection cause she wants to get better at her own gel nails for funsies. I am going to list items and explain the reason you need it, or if it’s optional! Don’t stress about writing it all down, I curated most of the things in my amazon shop here! Everything else is otherwise specified/linked!
- COTTON- You gotta have this for taking off your polish or gel!
- LINT FREE NAIL WIPES- Why do you need this if you have cotton? These wipes are used to cleanse the nail with cleanser before application (if you used cotton, it would leave lint), it’s also used to wipe the sticky layer off of gel top coat when you are done (again, cotton just leaves too much lint behind and gets caught in things). Also using the lint free wipes to remove your polish and/or gel really sort of…sucks?? It’s weird. It just doesn’t work well.
- GEL REMOVAL CLIPS- No more wrapping your fingies in foil when you are soaking your gel off. It’s too much waste, and honestly annoying!? Right? Just me? These clips are reusable and frankly, SO much easier than foil, especially on yourself. Just get your acetone soaked cotton ball on top of your nails, and clamp down the clips! These COULD be optional if you are filing your gel off with an electric file…but even if I have a client come in and one nail is super lifted, I use these clips to soak it off. It’s worth it to just soak off that nail instead of try to e-file away the lifting and risk hurting the nail. Great for removing gel from your toes too! Highly recommend for all you DIYers out there.
- ACETONE- Need it for getting old polish off, soaking your gel off, etc. Don’t get “Nail Polish Remover”, get acetone!
- ALCOHOL/NAIL CLEANSER- This is what you will need to cleanse the nail as the final step before you apply your gel or polish. Most nail cleansers from big nail brands are literally just alcohol mixed with acetone and some color dye like blue and sometimes a scent. Which can sometimes mess with adhesion a little. So we are going to make things easy and make our own. All you need is 90% (or more) Isopropyl alcohol and pure acetone. Mix in your pump 25% acetone and 75% alcohol and VOILA! Use this to cleanse the nail before the application!
- NAIL BRUSH-This technically could be optional. But this is what I use to clean the nail with. I get the cleanser on it and just scrub the nail with the brush. A lot of techs also just use the lint free wipes with cleanser on it as well! So it’s up to you! I will say, it IS nice to use a brush to get the dust off from gel removal or nail filing.
- CUTICLE PUSHER- Yes you need it. You have to push that skin back to help expose the cuticle and dead skin and make a nice and even cuticle for application.
- NAIL FILES- You have to shape the nails! And use this to get rid of the surface shine of the nail. This is what you can use to help file away dead skin/cuticle off the nail as well if you are a DIYer. Also ,get a few! If you have been using the same nail file since you were 12, it’s time to retire it ;). Nail files fade! You’ll also need a nice fresh nail file for gel removal as well! Here are my fave files. Very smooth on the natural nail.
- SPONGE BUFFER- As much as I want to make this optional…ugh, it’s not. Yes we use the nail file to file the surface of the nail, but files are usually course! You want to go back in after with the fine sponge buffer to buff away any pokes left behind from the file. I know you don’t want pokey gel! This is also great to get under the nail with after you file to shape too. Here is a great one I love, love.
- LIQUID PUMP DISPENSERS- Listen, this can be optional….but like…not. It’s so worth it to have the little pump bottles! You don’t have to worry about spills, it’s easy to access with just one hand, and talking about our cleanser mixture up there, ta da- you have your own container for it. They are cuter than the large alcohol and acetone bottles too.
- GEL CURING LAMP- Okay so. This one, I am talking to gel DIYers only! Not profesh techs! I linked to an affordable gel curing lamp in my amazon store that I have heard good things about from other diyers (and techs as well). It will be great for your minimal usage once every few weeks at home manis! BUT if you are a professional and doing tons of clients and will be using this lamp multiple times a day on paying clients, I would recommend investing in a really high quality lamp! I personally just get a tad worried and weary of things that seem too good to be true like a $40 curing lamp. I don’t mess around when it comes to my paying clients and I will go straight to the gel company source to buy my lamps and invest so I know I am set for a long time and have no curing issues with my gels! I used the same lamps I invested in that I got 5 years ago with no issues and finally just recently I updated my lamp! Here is the one I use now.
- ELECTRIC FILE- Okay so if you are a DIYer this is optional! E-files are great for like the SERIOUS at home nail tech. Like this is your fave hobby and you love sitting down and learning all things nails. This is what you will use to remove cuticle and also to remove your gel. The thing with e-files though, is the high quality ones can be very pricey, and for the DIY nail tech, you most likely are not down to drop $300-$400 on one. From previous comments and messages I’ve received from nail enthusiasts, everyone seems to agree that this e-file is great value for the price especially for limited use (as in not everyday heavy usage, multiple clients a day etc.) I ordered one in hopes to back up these claims for you and honestly, I am very impressed for a cheaper e-file! I approve. Here it is.
*Same convo as your curing unit however. I wouldn't recommend that one for nail techs who will be using this all day everyday. If you are interesting in investing in an e-file for clients and a LOT of use- here is mine, super smooth, rechargeable (great for house calls) small, and HIGH power.
- ELECTRIC FILE BITS- This is obviously tied with the electric file, which makes this optional as well. So if you are not planning to get an electric file, then skip this! But if you ARE, here are my fave bits:
- GEL BASE COAT- Yes, you need a base coat hehe. Gel isn’t like nail polish! I collaborated with the gel nail brand Kokoist to create three really beautiful base coats that are actually a color AND base coat in one. It saves so much time in the salon because you can apply it and then put a top coat right on top and skip two extra layers of color! These are all very neutral colors, and slightly sheer depending on the thickness of your application, which is great especially for the DIYers out there because they hide your mistakes very well ;) . SO great for toes as well so you don’t have to bend over for too long! Here they are!
- Anything on the Kokoist website you can always use the code NT10 to save yourself a little money too. Below is a picture of Strawberry Milk Base.
- GEL COLOR: Obviously optional if you get one of the Tinted Base Gels since that has color built in! But here is the link to my whole bottled gel color collection ! If you need more swatches, I have so many highlighted stories of them from other nail techs and their clients!
- GEL TOP COAT: No you can’t get away with leaving gel without top coat ;) Here is a link to mine! It is a very thick consistency so it’ll prevent flooding and also help with encasing foils or any art brushes strokes etc! I like it because instead of doing just one nail at a time and curing to help prevent flooding into the side walls, I can do the rest of the hand with no worries! Cure for 60 seconds LED and wipe with your alcohol and lint free wipes! Here it is.
FINALLY- Here is a video of me doing my own nails with my gel and tons of tips and tricks and info for you to follow!
OKAY. There you have it! I made things easy for you and curated some easy affordable stuff in my amazon shop for you so you don’t have to search and guess which ones would be best.
All of the rest of the stuff are linked in each description of my list! Most of the rest of the stuff is from the Kokoist website so you don’t have to order from a trillion different places! Hope this helps but most importantly HAVE FUN!