There are lots of different kits available on the NYK1.com website, so you have lots of choice in terms of what products will suit you, what colours you like, glitter etc. The kit I have is one that's been put together for bloggers to try out, but I'd say it's most similar to the NYK1 gel nails essentials starter kit which costs £84.95 and comes with a choice of three gel colours.
In my kit I have the UV lamp for curing the layers of polish, the top and base coat gels, two gel colours, prep and shine cleanser, acetone, nails oil, lint-free wipes, nail file, metal cuticle pusher tool, orange sticks, buffer, practise wheels, nail art brushes and toe separators. This is everything you need to complete and remove a full gel manicure.
When you come to choosing your gel colours, the list is massive, and there's a lot of choice in terms of finishes. I went for two glitzy polishes Diamond Ballet (pink glitter) and Platinum VIP (silver glitter). I made a bit of a mistake with the silver glitter in not considering that it has a clear base - I think this one would actually look better over a white or nude base, or over any polish colour really. It would be really special over a proper french manicure, but I just gave it a go over my natural nails.
Doing a gel manicure at home can seem a bit daunting as you need a few different products and there are quite a few steps to follow - that's why I'd not given it a go before and think it's better to go for a complete kit so that you won't be lost. The instructions which came with this kit are excellent - they're very detailed and give lots of extra pieces of information which help you make sure you're getting the technique right. They even explain why you need to complete some of the steps, which really helped me to accept that I needed to do everything properly! I was also very tempted to peel the gel off my nails when I wanted to change it until I read in the instructions that it's incredibly bad for your nails to do that, and you should always use the acetone soak off method.
So in terms of the actual steps - firstly you have to file and buff your nails and clean them thoroughly with the prep & shine. You're then ready to apply a thin coat of your base coat - you have to make sure you only get it on your nails and not on your skin and cuticles - and then you cure under the lamp for two minutes (the lamp has a timer). When you remove your hand the gel base has dried hard, but it has a sticky surface - you then apply your coloured gel right on top. I was worried about getting the gel colour to apply smoothly, but I had no trouble at all. Once complete you cure again, and then add another coat of the coloured gel. How many coats you'll need depends on which colour gel you're using and how opaque it is. I did four coats of the silver glitter because I didn't have a base colour, but with the pink based glitter I only needed two coats to get a more opaque finish.
You cure the nails for two minutes straight after each layer of colour, and when you're finished you add a thin layer of top coat before curing again. Each layer needs to be applied thinly, and you should also cap the edge of your nails each time as this will help the gel to adhere and last a long time.
After the top coat layer has been cured you'll find the nails still have a sticky feel - the prep and shine is used again to clean the nails and removed that tacky layer, leaving lovely, shiny, smooth nails.
It took me a good hour the first time, but I was following each of the steps slowly and was being really careful not to get gel on my skin. The second time I gave this a try I was a lot quicker as I was more confident in what I was doing. I'd recommend doing one hand at a time, otherwise you could get confused about which layer you're on!
You can see with the silver glitter manicure that there's quite a gap between the gel and my cuticle. I was extra careful not to get too close on my first try, plus I forgot to push my cuticles back. Also I took the photos after my nails had grown for a week as I wanted to see how well the finish lasted. When I tried the pink glitter gel I was more clued up and managed to get much closer to the cuticle whilst still not touching it. If you don't get a clean edge against the nail you can get lifting of the gel, so it's really important to check for that. If you make a mistake you just need to clean up any gel on your skin before you cure it with a cotton bud soaked in acetone.
I'm so impressed with this kit and I now need to choose which colours I want to order so that I can try some more gel manicures. My favourite thing about doing my nails with this kit is how strong they feel when I'm wearing the gel. I've had no nail breakage whilst the gel has been on, and my nails are growing really long. I know they'd probably break easily again if I stop wearing the gel or go back to regular polish, so I'm going to carry on with gel for now. I also fancy experimenting with some gel nail art - one of the reasons I don't do nail art often is because with regular polish my nails would usually chip within a day or two, wasting all the time I'd spent getting the pattern right!
If you've seen my recent review on the Sensationail kit, I thought I'd just mention what the differences are between the two kits. NYK1 is a salon quality gel which can last around four weeks - Sensationail is a polish and gel hybrid which lasts up to two weeks. Both types use UV / LED light to cure the polish - the Sensationail curing process is faster, as the layers don't need as long under the light. The finish you get with NYK1 looks like a professional, plump gel manicure, whereas the Sensationail finish is more like a super glossy nail polish finish. The Sensationail manicure made my nails feels stronger than a normal nail polish, but the NYK1 manicure makes them feel strong on an indestructible level!
NYK1 Secrets has lots of different starter kits available depending on how many colours you might want, product sizes and extras like nail glitters. All of the products such as the gel colours, top and base coats and prep & shine are also available separately, so you can restock when anything from the kit runs out.
Have you ever tried a gel manicure at home?