Pretty P.O.V.: SensatioNAIL Starter Kit Wednesday 04 April, 2012

Longing for a long-lasting, high-shine gel manicure—from the comfort of your own home? Enter SensatioNAIL at-home gel system, complete with LED Lamp and a line-up of on-trend gel polish colors.

Show of hands: How many of you have gone to the salon for a gel manicure? You most likely chose a soak-off gel polish, which is easier to remove and posited to be easier on your natural nails. Maybe you went once or twice, desiring a manicure that wouldn’t chip or dull with zero dry time, for a big event. When the event was done, you looked at your nails and thought: Now what? Do I have to go back to get them removed? (Yes.) Do I just let them grow out because I am too lazy to go back to the salon to have them removed? (No. But you could. But it’s an ugly process.)

Gel polish manicures require maintenance in that there is a removal process that I think is best served up by the pros—but other than that one minor (or major, depending on your personality and beauty habits) detail, gel nails (soak-off polish and hard) are a godsend for mani mavens. They last long; they don’t chip; they’re high-gloss; they dry immediately so you don’t ding and dent them when you inevitably reach into your bottomless purse for you keys. ‘Nuff said.

So, I’m going to admit something that I probably shouldn’t: I am that person who can’t be bothered with returning to the salon to have my gels properly removed. So when Nailene sent me its SensatioNAIL Invincible Gel Polish Starter Kit, an at-home gel kit, I nearly tripped over myself at the mere thought of the idea. I can do this in the comfort of my own home? While watching Revenge? Sign me up!

 SensatioNAIL Invincible Gel Polish Starter Kit

The Starter Kit is how you ease into the whole process: It contains a mini PRO 360 LED lamp (which is really cute in an odd way) for curing your gels; Gel Cleanser for squelching any oils on your nail bed to better help gel adhesion; Gel Primer, the stuff that makes the gel stick to your natural nail; Gel Base and Top Coat; lint-free wipes to use with the Gel Cleanser; a file; an orange stick; and one Color Gel Polish, which, in my case was Raspberry Wine. (But I also had some other colors on hand, which I used, because I’m not really a red type of gal.)

So, here’s how it works:

First, you want to lightly buff your natural nail bed using the pink side of the file. By doing this, you’ll be helping the gel better adhere.

Second, you’ll apply a squeeze of Gel Cleanser to one of your lint-free wipes (don’t use a cotton ball; you don’t want any little fibers sticking to your nail. When you run out of these lint-free wipes, go out and buy some more!), and clean each of your nails. By removing the nail’s natural oils, you are priming it for better adhesion.

Third, apply a layer of the Gel Primer to each nail and let it dry. Now, if you are the type of person who likes to look ahead, who knows that maybe, just maybe, you might want to remove these gels while not cursing, use this tip: Rather than coating the whole nail in Gel Primer (which is what makes the gel stick to your nail bed), apply it only to the perimeter of the nail bed, leaving the center free of primer. This makes removal a tad easier.

Fourth, you’re getting into the meat of it. You now apply a THIN layer of Gel Base and Top Coat. Now, why did I type in all caps, plus bold, plus italics? Because THIN is key. You want your gels to be thin, not thick, and you are going to be applying several more layers of gel after this. Plus, you don’t want to flood the cuticle area, because unlike regular nail polish, once this cures, it’s hard to remove from skin. My first go at this, I flooded the cuticle area. Trust me: Not good. You’ll also want to “cap” your nail with the Gel Base and Top Coat, which essentially means running the brush over the edge of your nail to seal it. This helps ensure longevity.

Fifth, you cure this layer for 30 seconds in your LED Lamp. The lamp has a little 30-second timer. When you hear it beep, remove your nails. I should also note that I concentrated on my thumbs first, which I cured by their lonesomes, and then focused on my fingers, which can all fit (one hand at a time) in the LED Lamp comfortably.

Now you delve into the color. Again, apply a THIN layer, keeping clear of the cuticle area and skin, and you cap your nail edge. I used a technique taught to me by nail tech Elaine Watson: Push and pull. When you get near the bottom portion of your nail bed, near your cuticle, you gently push the brush toward the cuticle area, but then pull it back. This keeps the cuticle area crisp and clean.

Cure your color polish for a full 60 seconds.

Apply a second coat of Gel Polish Color, and cure again for 60 seconds.

Whip out your Gel Base and Top Coat, and apply a THIN layer. Cap that nail tip! Cure for 30 seconds.

Pump a squeeze of Gel Cleanser onto a lint-free wipe, and run over each nail. This essentially removes what is called the “moisture layer,” revealing that high-gloss shine gels are known for.

Voila! You have yourself a gel manicure. I wore SensatioNAIL in Blue Yonder, a gorgeous midnight blue, during all of Fashion Week. It didn’t chip; it kept its shine throughout. But then came the time to remove it—around the two-week zone. Removal is not entirely pleasant. You first need to buff the surface of each gel using the file’s grey side. Simple enough. Then, you need to soak your nails in acetone. You’ll have to get this from a beauty supply store; regular nail polish remover just won’t cut it. SensatioNAIL suggests pouring the acetone in a small bowl that you then place inside of a larger bowl filled with hot water; this speeds up the removal process. I didn’t try this; removal took a long time. You then use the provided orange stick to scrape away the gel.

SensatioNAIL is for a certain type of person: It’s for the person who doesn’t want to go to the salon; the type of person with patience, who is a DIY type of gal. All of these steps do take some time (they say 20 minutes, I found it to be a little longer)—the same amount of time as it would in a salon, but when someone else is doing your nails, the time passes much quicker. And the removal is a real pain—but I’m of the mind that once you have this part down pat, it could flow a bit easier.

I am the type of person this system is built for. I like processes when I can do them from the comfort of my own home. And the price is pretty nice too: $60 for the Starter Kit that has 10 manicures’ worth inside. That averages out to $6 a manicure (I know math!). Not bad.

And a few more reasons this product does it for me: If you dig nail art, as I do, these gels are the bomb. Mainly because you can start a nail art design right after you’re done with your gel “service;” Since there’s no drying time, it’s ready to go. Also, I’ve found that gels act as an amazing magnet base for nail polish. So, if you want to create longer-lasting manis with your existing nail polish collection, just cure a few coats of the Gel Base and Top Coat (don’t forget to remove the “moisture layer”!), and then top with your favorite polish. (For the record, I didn’t apply the Gel Base and Top Coat over the nail polish color, as I wanted to have the option of changing my polish color often—if I wanted. So I simply used it as a base.)

You can also buy Gel Polish Color separate of the Starter Kit; it’s available in 12* hues (I’m wearing Taupe Tulip in the above image) for $11.99.

Get yours now at

Would you become your own gel polish maven?

Karie L. Frost Signature


* The gel colors are available in 12 hues, rather than the previously published 14. Regrets!


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