Soak-Off Gel Polish

This is going to be a lengthy review of my foray into the world of at-home or DIY Soak-Off Gel (SOG) polish. I will be updating it as I try new or different products or as I buy more gel polishes.
 
For those wanting to see an in-depth look at the whole SOG at-home process before reading through this page, look to Lulu and Sweet Pea's SOG polish application post, and she also has a few follow up posts about how to take off the SOG polish and do fill-ins.
 
Posts on gel polishes:
FingerPaints SOG Cool Blue Harmony (coming soon)
Gelish June Bride (coming soon)


The FingerPaints SOG Polish Starter Kit includes:
  • Cleanser - an alcohol and acetone mix to use to dehydrate the nail before starting the gel process and for wiping the tacky layer off at the end of the gel process
  • Chip-Free Bonder - used only on the tips of the fingernails (not on toenails) to increase the bond between the SOG polish and the nail (the claim is chip-free for 14 days)
  • SOG Base Coat - used as the foundation for the gel polish
  • SOG Top Coat - used to seal the gel polish as the final layer
  • Cuticle Oil - a mixture of Argan and Macadamian oils (super cute in a little nail polish bottle!)
  • Remover - 100% pure acetone to soak off the manicure once you are done wearing it
Curing Lamp:
  • LED vs UV lamps: There are two types of SOG polish lamps used to cure the polish: LED and UV. There are also some lamps that have both types of bulbs. The LED lamps cure much faster, only 30 seconds per coat, while the UV lamps take several minutes to cure. The caveat is all SOG polishes cure with UV lights, but only some systems are designed to cure under LED lights. If you have some brands that are UV only, or don't specifically say they cure with LED lights, then definitely just get a UV lamp or the combination UV/LED lamp and save some money. If you are just going to use the one system like I am and it works with LED lights, then just get an LED lamp and you will save time in the curing process.
  • Quality vs Price: the Gelish mini 45 LED lamp is more expensive than the FingerPaints LED lamp yet they are probably comparable in quality. A lamp is a lamp, it should do the same function as long as the wattage is similar, so I would definitely recommend trying to get a cheaper lamp, like the FingerPaints one, with a coupon to make it even cheaper. There seems to be no information online about the wattage or something defining the intensity of the FingerPaints LED lamp. I had to look on the lamp itself and it said <12V. I am not sure how to compare the intensity of the LED lamps, since the Gelish mini LED lamp has a value of 45, whatever that random value without units means. The Gelish lamp also says it has 3, 2-watt bulbs in it. The FingerPaints lamp may have more information on the lamp itself, and I will have to look inside it again, but the outside of the box and the information online says nothing about the intensity of the lamp (strange that a company wouldn't give you information to compare their lamp against others, bad marketing). The FingerPaints LED lamp has a very handy 30 second timer, so the light just turns off once it is done, so easy! It is also super compact, the size of a stacked hamburger I would say.
  • Salon vs Personal: There are some much higher intensity LED lamps for professional salon use priced at over $200 or something ridiculous. For instance, there is an 18G Gelish salon lamp for over $200 that cures the whole hand, including thumbs. Based on my first experience with my little mini FingerPaints LED lamp, you don't need to spend that much on a personal lamp. A mini LED lamp at less than $100 works perfectly for at-home manicures. The first noticeable difference besides intensity, and maybe durability since an expensive salon lamp will be used much more than a personal one, is the size. The salon lamps cure all five fingers of a hand at once while the cheaper LED lamps cure only the 4 fingers and then the thumbs separately, they just aren't as deep as the salon lamps. I don't think doing the thumbs separately adds too much time to the application process, and it makes it slightly easier to keep any wet nails from catching lint or dirt before curing. I also have heard that it can be hard to cure the thumbs properly when do the whole hand since the thumbs point to the side when the hand is flat. Doing the thumbs separately with the personal, cheaper LED lamps avoids improper curing and possible impurities getting onto the nail before curing.
SOG Polish Starter Kits:
I chose the FingerPaints kit over the more popular Gelish brand because the Gelish kit at Sally's is $10 more. Now for those that are looking into buying gel polish, compared to regular polishes, both of these kits and their full line of SOG polishes are "mini" polishes. Both the FingerPaints and the Gelish SOG polishes and kit polishes are 1/3 fluid oz., and for comparison the FingerPaints regular polishes are 0.5 fluid oz.

Application:
I followed the at-home gel polish instructions at Lulu and Sweet Pea, and the post was great! I only had an issue with the step where she says to wipe off the tacky layer after curing the base coat. I don't think this step added anything to the staying power of the gel polish, and I actually think it pulled off some of the base coat, leaving pockets in the base coat. I am not sure if she meant to say wipe it with alcohol, but the instructions said to just wipe it off with a lint-free wipe, nothing on the wipe. I have emailed her about it, but I haven't heard back yet about whether it should have had alcohol on it. To test the necessity of this messy, sticky step that got goo all over my fingers, I wiped it off of only the one hand and not the other, so I can compare the durability of the gel polish. UPDATE: after wearing the mani for a full 2 weeks, I can say there is no advantage to wiping off the tacky layer after applying the base coat. In conclusion, unless your own kit specifically says to do so, do not wipe off any of the tacky layers left after curing each layer until you are done with the top coat, then wipe off that layer only at the very end of the process.

Overall:
I love the FingerPaints SOG Polish Starter Kit and LED lamp! I would highly recommend it to anyone wishing to enter the world of DIY SOG polish. I have gotten so many compliments on my nails and I love how I have yet to see a chip and we are on day 4, when I would usually have chips already with regular polish. My nails look even better than when my salon did them with SOG polish a few times. I think if you have the patience to paint carefully and take your time with the SOG polish kit, you will love having such beautiful nails stay chip free for so long! UPDATE: I saw very minor chips on just my index fingers on the sides at day 9, and even then by day 14, they still looked like I had only worn the polish for a few days. The manicure was still ridiculously shiny and there were only minor chips on a few fingers, which is much better than I would hope to see with a normal polish after a few days.

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