DIY: The UV-Cured Manicure Edition

We could also call this post, “Sara decides she can do it better herself”!

As a nail polish obsessed individual, this is how I feel after two days of wearing the same colour:



Committing to two whole weeks of one colour is pretty cray cray if you ask me: patience has never been my strong suit. Since I haven’t felt the mood to paint my nails much at all the last few months, I’m okay with not having to bother at all save twice a month (if I decide to even bother). That’s relatable, right?

This story begins after receiving a plethora of peeling professional UV-cured manicures (aka, UV or LED) at salons. I had “the straw that broke the camel’s back” of manicures: I stood in the shower in Mexico peeling off my Gelish that had been chipping like crazy within four days of getting it done. I said to myself “enough’s enough, I’ll do it myself”. The featured image is my hack job trying to cover up the massive chunk that came off pre-trip. Gah.

I can name two light-cured manis that did not peel within a week. One actually stayed on so well I had to scrub it off with a nail file until all of the polish was gone. What gives!

A week after mulling over the “eff it, I’ll do it myself!” cost/benefit, I went to Saskatoon. An extended family member of mine happens to be a nail tech, so I tagged along with her to the beauty supply store. With her guidance, I dished out the $230 for a lamp, 3 coloured CND Shellac polishes, a base coat, top coat, giant stack of lint-free gauze, a bottle of 100% acetone, a shaping file and a buffer. Wowza.

Last Sunday night, I spent an hour and a half doing my nails and watching Gilmore girls. It was pretty nice, actually. It felt more like a science experiment than actually painting my nails. Sounds pathetic because, let’s be honest, it is a little.

A Brief History

UV-cured nail polish technology has been around since the 1980s. The polishes didn’t take off, since the UV light manufacturers and the corresponding polish hadn’t joined forces. Clients’ cuticles were also burning (ouch)…not a good scene. They came back on the market in the 1990s with improved formulas.

The UV polish market has been very successful in the last 6 or 7 years, I suspect in tandem with the explosion of the nail polish market itself.

The Amazeballs Science Behind UV/LED-Cured Polish and Paint

I’m still blown away by the concept of paint that cures under a UV light. It’s been around since the 1960s.

Gel polishes cure because of a free radical reaction when the photoinitiator in the polish’s resin reacts with the wavelengths emitted by the UV or LED lamp.

The easy breakdown:

The polish contains monomers + photoinitiator (which makes it light-sensitive, obvs) = together we get polymerizers. Toss in a UV light, our activator, and boom! Shellac / gel / UV-cured polish!

The photoinitiators decompose into free radicals when the UV light is introduced, and “polymerize”, or cure as a final product on your fingernails.

NSI explains it better than I can. How kind of them!

Skin Cancer?

The UV light to cure Shellac or Gelish-type polishes is often likened to a tanning bed, which, IMHO, is a little extreme since your hands aren’t really under the UV light for more than 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time. This article sums it up nicely in a “you probably shouldn’t worry about it much, but wear sunscreen on your hands if you want to go the preventative route” kind of way. Such was my impression. Skin cancer? Nah.


CND’s formula, the one I’m using, is a clinger (at least for me; I’m sure everyone’s body chemistry is different with respect to which nail polishes stick or don’t stick). These are my nails on Day 1 and Day 6. It applied nicely! I like formulas that are on the thinner side; I feel as though I have better control over them. This brand worked out well for me. It looked translucent with 2 layers of colour, so I opted for 3. It came out a tad thicker than I was hoping for, but for a first time it’s not too bad. I imagine I’ll be getting some practice in the next while.

Day 1 and Day 6

Colour is Blue Rapture by CND Shellac

All in all, no regrets going DIY. If you’re a frequent cured-polisher and intend to save some dollars, it’s definitely worth it to do it at home, bearing in mind it’s a lot faster having someone else paint your other hand while one hand is curing.

Next post: likely something existential to highlight that I am not actually a beauty blogger in the least. Maybe something on how awesome sleep is for you.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lorelei says:

    It is not very long wearing, I think… but the color is very beautiful!
    P.S. If you like cosmetics and cats you are welcome to my blog:)


    1. saranaimo says:

      Are you using CND? I managed to get 9 days out of CND’s Shellac before I got bored and removed it (with nary a chip in sight)! I’ll definitely be checking out your blog 🙂


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