The first UV soak-off gels I bought for home use were from the Jessica Geleration range because that was what was used in the salon I went to. I reasoned I knew the colours very well and knew how durable the manicure would be. I searched ebay for the brand and ordered three colours I’d already experienced (Merlot, Passionate Kisses and Hot Fudge – still favourites), plus base and top coats from a US supplier because they gave the best price, even with postage to the UK.
Since then I’ve tried various other brands, all bought from ebay business sellers. But I still also buy Jessica Geleration because I can check the colours from the rack in the salon and I’d recommend all nail DIY-ers do this as online colour charts can be very misleading. Prices for lookalikes – Blue Sky Shellac, Blue Sky Gelish (copying CND Shellac and Harmony Gelish), Chju, etc – come in at between £3 and £7.50 ($4.50 – $10). All of these are presented like conventional nail polish – a bottle with a brush.
You can buy little pots of UV soak-off gel but then you have to get the correct brushes and clean the brushes (non acetone nail polish remover works well) every time. Having a brush in the pot is loads easier! The first one I had done in a salon, around 2005, was Bio Sculpture Gel, which comes in pots, and I believe was the first soak-off gel available. OPI Axxium also comes in pots.
I find each gel has a different consistency and it’s down to your personal preference which you will like best. Gelish is thick, Shellac thin, Jessica midway. Durabilty is similar between all the brands I have used at home. However, I had OPI Axxium done in a salon on holiday and wasn’t impressed with the quality as it chipped within days. 30 euros and I had to remove it off as soon as I came home! Maybe the beautician’s application skill wasn’t as good as mine!
Durability Although my fingernails are soft and prone to peel, they grow very fast so I get a maximum of two weeks out of a deep shade – the regrowth starts to annoy me – and a bit longer for paler colours. UV soak-off gel is perfect if you have weak nails and remove it in accordance with instructions (ie, don’t peel!) You can paint over with conventional nail polish but you tend to get a ridge at the cuticle end, and it chips easily. I’ve tried putting a UV top coat over ordinary polish – sometimes it works, sometimes it peels off.
TIP Make sure you buy UV soak off gel as the original UV gel needs an industrial grinder to remove!