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SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields

I've only ever been for a professional gel manicure once and unfortunately it did turn into a bit of a disaster. I'd never had one before, so when the guys at Meadowhall in Sheffield asked if I'd like to go along to Nails Inc and have a manicure I jumped at the chance. When I got there we realised I probably wouldn't be coming back to have them removed professionally as at the time I lived about 50 minutes away. I also realised I might need to be able to remove it quickly for work purposes just in case I got a period role. So although I did have a clear gel base applied it was recommended that I just had a non-curing gel colour applied and standard top coat. The actual manicure was fine and off I went. It was when I came to remove it the problem arose.

I removed the top coat and colour as usual and then did the whole soaking cotton pads in acetone and wrapping my fingers in foil thing. It was only when I'd finished wrapping the last finger and sat back to watch TV that I realised my skin was starting to burn. So I quickly whipped all of the foil off, ran my hands under some cold water and thought 'Great! What do I do now?' What I ended up doing was picking, scraping and peeling it off. That is what I could get off. Some of it I just had to wait to grow out. This oviously did not leave my nails in a particularly good state and I resigned myself to never being able to have a gel manicure again.

A few months ago I spotted a tweet from SensatioNail looking for people to review one of their kits. I responded saying I would love to but am unable to wear gel manicures because I can't remove them. They asked why and when I explained a few people responded with 'You need nail shields!' I'd never heard of them before but SensatioNail offered to send me their Polish to gel transformer starter kit* and some Nail shields* to try, so I thought I'd give it a go.

SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields

The polish to gel transformer starter kit is a gel manicure kit that can be used to transform any of your existing nail varnishes to proper gel cured varnishes. In the kit you get the UV lamp, a USB and mains adaptor, a gel cleanser, primer and polish to gel solution, a mixing pot, lint-free wipes, a double sided nail buffer and finally a manicure stick. There are two ways to use the set; either the mixing method or the gel top coat method. Mixing means mixing some of the polish to gel solution with some of your nail varnish (in the mixing pot provided) to transform it into a gel varnish you can then cure. The gel top coat method means paining your nails as usual and leaving to air dry and then curing the polish to gel solution over the top as a top coat.

The idea of nail shields is that they form a barrier between your nails and the gel manicure, so instead of soaking to remove the gel you just peel it off like a peel off base coat. This is good for people like me who can't soak off or people who might need to remove their manicure quickly, say for work reasons (again, like me!). If you've ever used nail wraps this pretty much what the nail shields are but thinner and clear.

SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields
SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields

Looking at just the lamp to begin with I was very impressed with it. It's smaller than I was expecting it to be so I don't think storage would particularly be an issue. It has a power cable that can be plugged into the wall or a USB socket, with the latter being useful if like me you often paint your nails sat in front of your laptop. I wasn't sure how you turned it on but you just pop your fingertips inside and it notices their presence and starts itself up. It then flashes after 15 seconds (the time required for the top coat method) and turns off after 30 seconds (time required for the mixing method).

As I mentioned the shields are like nail wraps and you apply them in the same way. You get eight strips with 11 shields on each strip. I have quite slim fingers but did manage to find five shields on each strip that fitted each nail well. That obviously leaves six shields on each strip but I think I would have to get into trimming them down to use the other sizes. So from one pack I can do four full manicures without having to do any trimming.

They obviously can be a little tricky to apply one handed, especially as they attract towards your nail as soon as they get close. To begin with when doing my thumb nail I was a little frustrated that they weren't more square to fit along my cuticle, but then realise I was trying to put it on upside down! But then when it came to my other nails the rounder end was actually more appropriate. You should have clean, dry nails when you apply them and you don't want any air bubbles under them, but I found this pretty easy to do. Like nail wraps you also trim these down by filing down against the tip of your nail. This wasn't particularly difficult to do but I will be talking about this more below. Once they're in place to be honest you can barely tell you have them on your nails.

SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields

First attempt - Curing just the top coat

On my first attempt I applied the nail shields, applied two coats of my chosen nail colour and let them both air dry and then followed this with the top coat that I cured. I wiped the gel cleanser over each nail after curing but something I noticed straight away was how much fluff was sticking to my nails? Did I do something wrong? All was good to begin with but I also quickly noticed that where I'd removed the excess shields at the tip of my nail had left a rough edge. By the following day this was, I assume, starting to peel back slightly and it looked like I had tip wear. After a couple of days the 'tip wear' was starting to look quite bad and as a couple of shields were lifting slightly I decided to just attempt to peel them all off.  

Peeling them off was something I was a little concerned about but they did come off with ease and didn't particularly leave any visible damage on the nail bed. I was also concerned that any cured polish left behind on my actual nail would be difficult to remove but this did come off easily just with some remover on a cotton pad.

Second attempt - Curing just the top coat and tipping

The instructions with the starter kit do recommend 'tipping' each nail (painting over the end of the nail and slightly underneath) but I hadn't done this because I was unsure about removing any cured varnish on my actual nail. Because of the 'tip wear' problem on the second attempt I decided to go ahead and tip my nails with both my colour and the top coat. I also tried trimming off the shields this time but that didn't really work so I used the file again and tried to be as neat as possible. I'd recommend to keep gently filing (just in one direction down over the tip) until the excess shield comes away on it's own rather then giving it a helping hand and pulling it away.

This time I didn't notice any fluff sticking to the top of my nails as soon as I'd done them but a little did stick underneath. Maybe I used more cleanser this time? Somehow though I managed to smudge one thumb nail and the tip went slightly funny on the other! I didn't worry to much though as I wasn't sure how long the shields might last on my nails. The first time I was a bit disappointed that I didn't appear to have the sought after high gloss gel finish, but the second time I did. Maybe again something to do with using the cleanser correctly this time? This time again it only lasted a few days before the shields started to lift around the edges.

Third attempt - Transforming colour to gel and curing colour and top coats

Although I did intend a third attempt transforming one of my existing nail varnishes to be honest I didn't end up giving this a try. There were two reasons for this; one was that I got really busy with a project I was working on and just didn't have the spare time to dedicate to a manicure like that. The second was that I didn't think this would make any difference to the wear time of my manicure because this is based on using the nail shields. If you're using shields you may well have an issue with 'tip wear' and they will inevitably start to lift around the edges within a few days, especially if you put your hands in water, which I'm pretty sure we all do at least twice a day to wash. 

In general I love the kit, but if I'm using it will nail shields I don't think the time it takes to do a manicure is worth it when it will probably only last a couple of days. I guess if you're going for the top coat method it's not much longer than a standard manicure, but you do need to add in curing time. I'm very tempted to very cautiously try applying it directly to my nails and see if I can do something like trim down some cotton pads so there's a minimal amount on my skin for removing. Maybe not just yet though as I am currently in the running for a period role in January!

Have you tried an at home gel manicure kit?

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