At work I get asked this a lot.
“Can you use normal nail varnish with the Sensationail kit?” Since I’ve had my machine I’ve been doing it as when it was first released in this country the colour selection wasn’t amazing and so if I wanted black nails I had to use Essie’s ‘Liqourice’. But obviously that was me and advising customers is another matter altogether so I always just tell them that I did it but that a) it wouldn’t last as long as a gel colour and b) that I didn’t think it was advised/recommended. Recently I got the chance to actually meet some of the Sensationail team and it was the first question I asked. They confirmed that yes, you can do it, but it won’t last as long as the gel colours do. I don’t mind that really, anything longer than a day (my normal wear time for nail polish) is a big improvement in terms of durability.
So since I’ve been doing it a while I thought I’d give a quick rundown of how I get the best wear time out of ‘normal’ nail colour.
Roughly buffing the nail is a must. It took me a long while actually to realise the importance of this with gel. For ages I was smoothing out all my ghastly ridges and wondering why my gel wasn’t lasting long. So now I bite the bullet, get my trusty nail file, and go over the tops of my nails for a few seconds. TOP TIP: if you’ve just removed Sensationail gel before doing them again then you don’t have to buff them, they’re rough enough already. Then after wiping away the dust I put the gel primer on my nails as normal and leave it to dry.
2) Base coats
This is where I stray from the usual process. I do two base coats of the clear gel firstly to add rigidity to the whole set up, but also to make sure I really smooth out those ghastly bumps and ridges I mentioned. Once both coats have been cured I use the gel cleanser on my nails to get rid of the residue.
3) Normal nail colour
So here I just paint my nails as normal. I find that having the gel as a base makes it easier to paint the nails and seems to help in terms of being able to get a great depth of colour with just one coat. Something about it being a nice blank canvas I guess? The great thing about the gel as a base is if you do cock up a nail or two you can just remove the colour with an acetone free polish remover (the Bourjois tub thing is my fave) and your gel is completely fine and you can just paint the nail again.
So you’ve got three options here; leave it as it is (great if you are just wanting a colour for a specific event), put a regular top coat on it (if you need a little more wear out of it) or finish it off with a gel top coat (my preferred method as I really don’t like to change colour all that often). I have been known to use the gel primer again before the applying the gel top coat to help it stick but I’ve found the nail colour really needs to be set before doing that, otherwise it just seems to dilute it and you have to take it off. Nine times out of ten I just put one more coat of the clear top coat on and cure it. I give it one more wipe with the gel cleanser and I’m all done!
How long does it generally last on your nails?
So I used the above routine (2 base coats of clear, one coat of ‘normal’ nail varnish – the Soigne colour I got in my last Birchbox and one coat of top coat) last week and got a week of wear out of it before I got a sizeable chip in my thumb nail. To be honest, on me, that’s not that much less than what I get when I use the full Sensationail routine.
What if I’m using a great nail treatment and/or don’t want to damage my nails with gel?
Again, there is a workaround, but it will leave you with a colour that just won’t last as long.
If my nails have been in a poor state I have used my favourite, OPI’s Nail Envy as a base base coat before the gel primer as an added layer of protection between my nail and the gel and then just done the gels as normal. Definitely didn’t last as long but when I did remove the gel, I saw a noticeable difference in the health of the nails.
However, since then Sensationail have brought out a whole range of nail treatments to use with the gel colours but I can’t comment on their quality as I haven’t given them a whirl yet… I love Nail Envy just too much.
Do you have any other tips for using your Sensationail?