Many people think of beauty as a one-dimensional concept. ‘treat yourself’ thing that we just can’t go without. Some individuals need to have their lashes trimmed, eyebrows laminated or freshened every 6-8 weeks. For me, it’s a fresh set of nails.
As hard as I try, I’m not much of a saver. Since I was a teenager, I had promised to cut back on the number of trips I took to the salon. Not because I didn’t love to showI did not show my beautiful manicured nails at every opportunity (I did), but because it was a practical decision. I don’t mean practical.
Once I was able to accept that the pace of my nail application had to slow, it was time to search for an alternative. To find salon-worthy nails at home, I explored every option without having to pay salon prices.
Press-ons pinged off like they were never stuck on in the first place; my shoddy DIY attempts at cool nail art were just embarrassing, and regular nail varnish wasn’t enough to satisfy my salon-influenced standards. Every time I noticed a damaged nail, I went back to the salon to have it fixed. ‘who do I think I am’I’m currently lowering my weekly budget to purchase an additional set acrylics.
The salon-like look that only nail technicians can create is my opinion. But, you’d be surprised that with the right tools and a bit (well, a sufficient amount) of time, you can achieve a result that is pretty similar.
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Enter: Polygel nails. These were popular on TikTok at the time I saw them. Although I was initially skeptical, I quickly realized the beauty of DIY manicures. This good? This was made even more enjoyable by my experience in designing at-home nails kits. ‘too good to be true’ feeling.
However, the hype was growing and my bank account continued to fall, so my F.O.M.O. intervened, and I gave it another chance. The results were truly amazing, and I’m not going to lie.
Let’s start with what Polygel nails are.
Polygel was originally created for nail techs; however, to our delight, it’s now available for us to buy. Essentially, it’s a nail extender gel that combines acrylic powder and a thick clear gel. Although the process of application may be different from that at a salon’s, the end result is almost identical. The Gel provides both the strength and durability of an acrylic overlay, as well as the flexibility of a Gel.
The tube that contains Polygel is shaped like a toothpaste, and it’s not the acrylic powder you find in salons. The tube is small enough to be applied directly to your nails, either to add an extension or to create a natural overcoat. For the untrained wannabe nail tech (like myself), Polygel has a putty-like texture that allows you to shape the gel but won’t set until it’s cured under a LED lamp (so feel free to make as many mistakes as you’d like).
Both pros and cons
Before we head into how you use Polygel, let’s start with the pros and cons I discovered while putting it to the test.
There are pros
- My commitment problems with DIY nail kits has led me to think that there is no treatment that can compare to an in-salon one. The same as acrylic nails, polygel can also be used to infill your natural nails and lengthen them. This result was almost identical. With the exception of some gel drips and wobbly manicure hands, I ended up with strong Polygel extensions. No matter the look of your nails, it is possible to make them professional looking.
- Polygel’s durability is one of its greatest strengths. As it’s a gel-acrylic hybrid, it’s more flexible so is likely to last longer than an acrylic extension. All good things have to come to an abrupt halt. You won’t need to infill the gel for more than 3-4 weeks. ‘snap off’ needs replacing.
- Contrary to popular belief, acrylics can be more damaging than polygels. It is easier on nails than acrylics and it lasts as long.
- It is undoubtedly the most affordable deal. While the Mylee Magic Extender Gel (the Polygel) is only £15, you’ll also need a few add-ons to successfully create the look including a base and top coat, slip solution, dual-ended tool and an LED lamp (if you don’t own one already). However, even if you opt for the whole pro-level kit, which includes the top and base coat, lamp and a selection of gel colours, as well as the bits needed for the Polygel, you’re still saving a huge amount on your regular salon trips.
- Applying gel can take a lot of time. The first time I used gel, the final look took about one hour and a half. The overall time spent isn’t much longer than an average visit to the salon.
- The process was complicated and difficult to understand. It’s slightly intricate work, but nothing that a bit of patience can’t solve.
Which are your real needs?
Start by adding some pieces to your home nail collection. If you haven’t already got one, a LED lamp is needed to cure the extender gel into place. While outright they may cost more than a single nail app, they are *much* more cost-effective in the long run: a kit that will last you years falls into the same price range as a few salon trips. If you’re just wanting the lamp, the Mylee Pro LED Lamp is a great option, or, if you’re after the whole shebang, the brand’s Lamp Kit comes with the tools you’ll need to create at-home gel nails (another great money-saving DIY kit to have in your collection).
You’ll also need Polygel, obvs. The Mylee Magic Extender Gels can be used to make acrylic nails look longer and more dimensional. The gels come in a variety of neutral shades – which look beautifully chic on their own — or you can layer a coat of gel or polish on top to add colour.
To make shaping the Polygel easier, don’t skip out on Slip Solution and Dual Ended Tool as it’ll make the process of shaping and extending the gel virtually impossible without them.
Looking for longer nails? You’ll need the Mylee Dual Nail forms to shape the Polygel into a strong nail extension.
What are the steps to apply?
It takes experience to master polygel application. To find the right method, you will have to do practice. In a nutshell, it’s a step-by -step guide to application.
- Begin by shaping your nails. To remove residue, apply the Mylee Prep Polish that comes with your LED kit.
- Allow the base coat to dry for at least 60 seconds under the lamp.
- It’s Polygel time. Choose the color you like and add a little to your nails.
- To shape Gel, use the Dual Ended Brush. The Slip Solution can be used to dip the brush.
- For 60 seconds, cure again
- Then, use a nail file to smoothen edges. Remainder can be removed with the Prep Polish
- Add a thin coat of topcoat to it and allow it to dry for about 30 seconds.
- At this stage, you can use a gel polish instead if you’re wanting to change the colour of the Polygel.
- Use Prep Polish to finish. Voila!
If you’re wanting to extend your natural nail follow the first 3 steps, but instead of shaping the Polygel to your natural nail, press the gel down using a nail form and use the brush to pull out the gel to the length you want. Allow the gel to cure for at least 60 seconds before revealing its extension.
For visual learners, you can see my TikTok Reference below.
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Final thoughts: Are Polygel’s hype and worth it?
My loyalty card for my local salon won’t be punched, it is safe to say. The promise of salon-worthy nails by nail brands was a false hope for me. So, to find a kit that genuinely delivers (even in my inexperienced hands) is something I never thought I’d see come out of the nail industry. I have saved so many trips to the salon with this kit. It also makes my debit cards happier. I don’t think you have any excuse not to give it a go.
You can also use the polygel to create shorter acrylic overlay-like nails if you don’t want a longer extension. There are many options.