I am a notorious nail biter. The only way I can curb craggy tips and cuticles (like, serious Black Swan-level horror) is to keep my fingernails polished. But salon manicures are pricey and time consuming and when I paint my nails at home, I always smudge them. Enter semi-cured gel nails. Instead of going on as a liquid like a regular gel manicure—which turns glossy and impossible to chip under a UV light—semi-cured gels are basically soft nail stickers that need only a minute of UV light to get that shell-like shine. I tried a few kinds to see if these gellies could be my gnarly nails’ salvation.
First things first: prep work is important.ADVERTISEMENT
You gotta push your cuticles back, use the included alcohol-soaked towelette to remove any oils, and rough up your nails a bit with a file so the gels stick better. But from there, it’s super easy.
I tried Glaze from Dashing Diva first (influenced by the fact that Lana Condor is the “face” of Glaze). They come in a bunch of different solid colors (six shades of white alone) and a few patterned ones, too. For $10 (dashingdiva.com/collections/glaze) you get 34 stickers of varying sizes, enough for two manicures. They’re a cinch to put on and don’t wrinkle. After trimming them to the length of your natural nail with nail scissors or clippers (the hardest part cause my nails are so gd short!), you finish curing them with a small UV-lamp (free with your first nail purchase) that plugs into a USB port. In 45 seconds they are thick and glossy. Choosing the right sticker size is crucial—err on the smaller side—and make sure to press them down firmly all over. A couple of stickers overlapped my cuticle on my first go-round and didn’t properly adhere. Turns out, popping off at-home gels is nearly as satisfying as nail biting.
PressOn’s Nail Gellies ($49 for a starter pack, $16 for a single set of 20 nails, pressonshop.com) work in much the same way. These stickers are thinner, though, and look a bit more natural. PressOn offers fewer solid colors, but more patterns and designs, including animal prints and geometric lines. The process also includes an extra step: a topcoat that goes over the sticker before you UV it. It’s optional, but helps a lot with longevity.
Final verdict: Even when properly adhered, semi-cured nails don’t last nearly as long as a regular gel mani, and they don’t look quite as nice either, since it’s hard to find the perfect size for each nail. But they’re affordable, easy to use, don’t smudge, and gave my cuticles time to heal, which pretty much nailed my reason for trying them in the first place. –Lisa Butterworth
photos: Courtesy of Dashing diva (Dasahing Diva GLAZE); Courtesy of Presson (Presson's Nail Gellies]
This article originally appeared in BUST's Winter 2021/2022 print edition. Subscribe today!
Lisa Butterworth is BUST’s West Coast editor, soaking up the eternal sunshine in Los Angeles. She’s probably eating a taco right now.