Gel Glitter Nails {tutorial}


by Andi

DIY Glitter Nails
You didn't get anything sparkly for Valentine's Day either?!? Well, it is time to take matters into your own hands, or feet in this case, and add some glitter yourself! This gel glitter nail tutorial is quick, easy and will definitely keep your cash in your pocketbook. Your toes will look so sparkly and fun that you won't be able to go anywhere without getting compliments on them, and you won't be able to stop admiring them either!  Today I am going to show you how to glitterify (is that a word?) your toenails, but this process can just as easily be done on your fingernails.

Below is a list of the supplies you'll need.  It may seem like a lot at first glance, but you probably have most of them lying around your house already.  As for the things you don't have, don't fret, they're really not as expensive or hard to find as you might think.

  • Acetone: You can find this at any drug store or grocery store.  Make sure to use pure acetone and not  regular old nail polish remover.
  • Cotton balls: You'll only need a few.
  • A buffing block: To rough up the surface of your nails a little.
  • Nail gel base coat & top coat: These come in two separate bottles (see above), and even though this looks like nail polish, it's not.  Don't be deceived.  Unlike regular nail polish, it will never dry on its own and has to be cured under a UV light.  One of the main benefits is that it lasts way longer than regular nail polish.  It's amazing stuff!  Make sure to buy a base coat AND a top coat.  It can be purchased at beauty supply stores or online.  My favorite Gelish Foundation and Top Coat can be purchased on Amazon for $23.  If you don't want to order it online, check your local beauty supply store. I bet they sell it.
  • Glitter: You can use any brand, any color, and size.  I've found that craft glitter works best; you probably have some lying around anyway.
  • UV light: UV lights come in all sizes and price ranges, but I just use a mini light and it works just fine.  There's really no need to spend more.  I use the Gelish Mini UV Light by Harmony, buy it on Amazon for $17
  • A nail brush: You'll use this to brush off the excess glitter, you can buy it at any grocery or drug store.
  • Rubbing Alcohol: This will remove the tackiness of the gel, also available at any grocery or drug store.

My lovely sister-in-law Michelle agreed to be my foot model, because, let's be honest, I'm talented, but not talented enough to do my own toenails and take pictures at the same time.

Start out with a nice clean canvas.  Wash up (especially if someone else will be touching your feet!), clip your nails nice and short, and trim and push back your cuticles. Use a cotton ball to run a little acetone across your nails to remove any of the natural oil that may be on the surface.

Using a buffing block, lightly buff the top of your toenails.  You don't need to buff so much that you're going to damage your nail, but just rough up the surface a little.  This will help the gel and glitter adhere to your toenails a little better than if you skip this step. Trust me, you'll want these babies to stay on as long as possible!

Next comes the fun part: pick your glitter!  The best part about these glitter toes is that you don't have to use any special, expensive glitter.  You can use regular old glitter from the craft store. I bought this set at Michael's with a 50% off coupon, so this entire set only ended up costing me $12 and it's going to last me forever.  Totally worth it, in my opinion.

This is the gel base coat.  You might be tempted to use it for both the base coat and the top coat, but don't. You really do need both a base coat and a top coat in order for this to work.

Spread a nice even layer of the base coat on the toenails, be careful to not get it on the cuticle or skin around the toenail.

Sprinkle the glitter directly on the wet base coat.  Don't be shy about this step- the more glitter and sparkle, the better.  Make sure to cover your nail's full surface. We wouldn't want any of your natural nail to show through, now would we?

They should look something like this after you've sprinkled the glitter on.  Don't worry about the extra glitter that's on your skin around the toenail.  We'll take care of that later.

Flip on your trusty UV light.  It doesn't need to be big and fancy.  Mine sure isn't!  In fact, it was thrown across the room by my toddler during a tantrum and now the battery compartment won't stay shut, hence the lovely piece of tape holding it closed.  My life as a mother is sure glamorous....

I bought this inexpensive mini light at Sally Beauty Supply for $20 a few years ago and it does the job just as well as a full size light.  The length of time for curing depends on the brand of gel you use, how many watts your light is, etc., but your bottle of gel will have directions on it. For my brand, I cure the base coat for 2 minutes.

Next, take a small nail brush and brush the surface of your nails and the skin around your nails.  Don't worry about messing the glitter or gel up.  Because it's been cured, it won't be wet at all. Running a brush over your freshly glittered nails seems a little scary, but trust me, this will just remove the loose pieces of glitter that are hanging around where they shouldn't be.

Take the top coat of gel and brush a thin coat over all of the glitter.  Again, be careful to not get any gel on the skin around your nails because this could make it peel up. 

Stick those gorgeous, glittery toes of yours under the UV light for a few more minutes. With my brand of gel, it took 3 minutes. 

Then, pull out your trusty bottle of rubbing alcohol with the shriveled label that's been sitting in the back of your cupboard since 2001.  Does anyone really even use this stuff for anything other than doing gel glitter nails?  I mean, really!

Pour some onto a cotton ball and rub it right across the surface of your toenails.  This will remove the tackiness that is leftover from the gel.

And... voila! You're done!  You now have incredibly sparkly toenails that will make you feel happy every time you look at them.  I always have glitter on my toes, even in the winter when they're covered up by socks and shoes.  It makes me feel pretty. :)

After you've had the glitter on for a few weeks (or even a few months- I promise, they'll last that long!), you may be ready for a change. To remove the glitter, just soak your toes in a tiny bowl of acetone for five minutes or so until the glitter and gel start to shrivel and pull up at the edges.  Then, gently scrape it off with your fingernail or one of those fancy nail scrapers. It will come right off!  Removal really is that easy and you won't have any damage to your nails at all.

I'm hooked, I tell you! I know you will be too if you give it a try! Thanks so much for reading, and I'd love to answer any questions that you may have, just comment below!
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  1. These are so cute, Andi! I love having my toe nails done, and I think glitter nails needs to be in my near future! Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. My mom did this to my toes in the summer. I loved it!

    1. It really is so fun! I've done it on my sisters and a bunch of my neighbors.

  3. My sister has done this for me a few times and it really is easy and looks so fun. I always get compliments on my toes when they are like this. I can also verify that it doesn't chip for literally months!

  4. Can I come over and you can do mine?


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