I ordered the Mally 24/7 Professional 17 piece Gel Nail Polish System from QVC at the end of August. As a recovering nail biter, I have to just keep my nails painted. I usually only have time to do my nails once a week, so usually by the time I put on a fresh coat, things are looking pretty ragged. So I really liked the idea of having a beautiful manicure that lasts for two weeks without chipping. And I liked that this system uses LED lights, rather than UV. The kit was on special, and I justified it by calling it my birthday gift to myself.
The set arrived surprisingly quickly, and I wasn’t ready to try it yet, so I had it hanging around for a couple weeks. During that time, I read some more reviews, and while most people seemed thrilled with everything, some people (who seemed to have actually used the kit) had some complaints about the products and process. There were even a couple horror stories, and I was pretty close to just packing everything up and returning it. But I decided to at least give it a shot.
Attempt 1: From start to finish, the entire process took about an hour. There are a lot of steps and different products you put on your nails to prepare them. Then you do the base coat, two coats of color, and the top coat. I was not really thrilled with the four color options that came in this kit, but ended up using Aristocrat, which is a kind of beige color, similar to one of my favorite regular polishes. There are other Mally brand options you can get from QVC, and of course there are also other gel polish brands out there. The final step is the top coat, and once that’s on, the manicure is supposed to be good to go until you take it off (and you really have to want to take it off). My only complaint about the application process was that the color on a couple nails got kind of blobby and bubbly, and then was stuck like that until I removed it. There were no bubbles when I put my fingers under the curing lamp, so I don’t know what happened there.
I applied it on a Saturday, and I removed it the following Thursday night, only because my nails had grown out so much that the length was bothering me, and the grown out part without polish looked kind of unattractive. But I had spent the week picking labels off of things, cleaning bathrooms, typing, and living my normal life without any thought of protecting my nails, and they remained completely shiny and chip-free. By Thursday morning the tips were just starting to look like they were wearing off.
Removal was kind of a pain. The first step is to break the seal or remove the shininess from the nails by using a nail file across them. I’d heard some bad stories about this step, so to be a little more gentle, I used the coarse side of a buffer. Rather than soak my fingertips in a bowl of acetone for 20 minutes, I used the “cotton ball” method: soak a cotton ball in acetone, put it over the nail, and hold it in place by covering your fingertip with foil, leaving it on for 15-20 minutes. You can only do one hand at a time, since you need the fingers of your other hand to apply the cotton balls and foil. Then you pull off the foil fingertips and use a tool to scrape the nail polish off, and according to the videos I’d watched, it just comes right off. Well, not in real life. This was another area where I’d heard some horror stories of the top layer of the nail coming off, which of course will weaken nails if done on a regular basis. So to be more gentle, I used a wide wooden orange stick, rather than the metal tool that came with the kit. After spending about 15 minutes on each nail on most of my first hand, I finally gave in and used a metal tool (my own, not the one that came with the kit, which seems extra sharp and scrapey). That worked slightly better, but it did sort of feel like I was scraping off the top of my nail. Then I applied a couple layers of nail strengthener, and moisturized my cuticles very well, because all that acetone is really drying.
Attempt 2: I’d seen something called the “gelly sandwich” technique, in which you use the gel polish prep and base coat steps, then use regular nail polish for the color, and then the gel top coat. People use this method so they can use the colors from their existing nail polish collection, or have more of a variety of colors than gel polish often comes in. However, it was really the base/bonding steps that concerned me about gel polish. So I used a regular strengthening base coat, followed by one of my favorite fast-drying nail polishes. The main thing to keep in mind when combining regular and gel nail polish is that the regular stuff needs to be really dry before applying any gel on top. So even though mine was fast-drying, I waited a few hours before then applying the gel top coat. It looked perfect! A couple hours later, I noticed that the polish on one of my thumbs was really messed up – what happens if the layers underneath aren’t completely dry is that it sort of ripples under the gel layer and causes little ridges. When I got out of bed the next morning, I saw that the same thing had happened, but not as severely, on a couple other fingers. I added a layer of regular top coat just to smooth things out, but it wasn’t really that noticeable. I guess if I try this technique again, I would wait even longer before applying the gel top coat, maybe overnight.
I think this method wore even better than the full gel manicure. The very edges of the tips did wear away a little sooner, but I think that’s because I never do that step where you go back and swipe across the tip. I didn’t take any special care with my nails all week, and did just as much cleaning, typing, scratching, etc. as I did the week before. Everything stayed shiny and chip-free for a full week, and probably could have lasted longer if I weren’t so anxious to see how removal went. It was a breeze! Regular nail polish remover didn’t work (I thought maybe it would seep under the edges and remove everything from underneath), but using the pure acetone from the gel kit took off all layers, immediately. I didn’t even do the soaking thing, I just rubbed it off with a cotton ball like I normally would.
[Edit – 10/7] I tried this method again – this time I did the color at night, and the gel top coat the following morning. I think this gave it plenty of time to dry, and there was no cracking or wrinkling. It turned out perfect! [/Edit]
One other technique I’d like to experiment with would be using gel color and top coat over a regular base coat. Maybe next week, as I’m giving my nails a week off right now :o)
Overall, I’m happy with the kit. Yes, you could buy everything separately and save a little money, but if you’re just getting started with gel polish and don’t know exactly what supplies you need, this makes it very easy. As I run out of things, I will most likely restock them from Sally Beauty Supply, rather than ordering more Mally products from QVC. Also, I wasn’t really thrilled with the polish colors that came with this set. It included two very pale pink shades (one of which I believe is sheer), a bright red, and Aristocrat, the brownish one that I used and liked. However, I looked at the selection of Gelish colors at Sally, and there were way more options. Plus, like I mentioned, you could layer it with any regular nail polish. Mally also claims her kit has one additional preparation step that others don’t, but I think it’s just something that dries out your nails a little more. Probably not awesome for you, or 100% necessary. The light is nice and seems to work well, my only suggestion is that I might add some kind of lip to the top of the opening, so the bright light doesn’t shine up into your eyes when using it. Also, you need to cure your thumbs separately from your fingers because the light isn’t that deep or wide, but I know there are larger ones where you can fit an entire hand at one time. And one improvement they made to this kit since it was first introduced earlier this year was to include a zip-up case that everything fits into, which is very convenient for storage.