I tried these 3D-modeled gel nail stickers from ManiMe and it's closest thing I've had to a salon gel manicure in eight months.
Although I wish I could easily visit a hair stylist, masseuse and a facialist after eight months of quarantine, these days DIY beauty is my new normal. Before the pandemic, I loved getting a gel manicure because it lasts so long and I didn't have to worry about it chipping the next day.
Since gel manicures are a multistep process that requires special equipment and products, most people get them done at salons, many of which have been closed throughout 2020. It's been way too long since I've had a gel manicure, so I was curious about doing one at home, but I didn't take the plunge until I saw the ManiMe stick-on gel manicures on Instagram.
Now, before you roll your eyes at the idea of stick-on nails -- hear me out. These are not your everyday stick-on nails; they're custom-fit gel manicure stickers made to match your own nail shape, which the company does with 3D-modeling and laser cutting.
ManiMe CEO Jooyeon Song said she first developed the idea at Stanford Business School with classmate and co-founder David Miró Llopis. "Prior to ManiMe, I had a background in 3D modeling from a previous role at an automobile design center, which gave me the idea to incorporate this technology. We then decided to laser-cut sheets of gel polish rather than having the gel cured directly on the customers' nails," Song says.
I'll have to admit that I was skeptical that nail polish sheets could look like gel manicures, but once I tried these, I was impressed by how similar the end result looked and felt to a salon gel manicure. Song says the way the nail stickers fit and feel is because the polish isn't "cured" all the way, which keeps them stretchy and moldable as you apply them. In a traditional gel manicure, a UV light is used to cure the gel polish so it becomes rock-hard.
"Because it is 60% cured using a UV coating liquid on an adhesive sheet, ManiMe allows for moldability so the stickers can hug the nail shape perfectly, delivering a real gel manicure look without the harsh chemicals from a salon," Song says.
Before you order your manicure from ManiMe, you have to have your nails "scanned" to get the correct fit. To do this, you just take some photos of your nails and send them off to the company. It honestly amazes me that they are able to build a 3D model based on simple iPhone photos.
"Our computer vision and machine learning algorithm will detect the nail and estimate the shape, size and curvature. Afterwards, each gel sticker is laser-cut to the exact shape of each customer's nail. Our goal is to make it really simple for customers to give us their unique nail size and that's why we only ask for a few pictures with their smartphone," Song says.
To make the process simple, ManiMe guides you through the steps of taking the photos of your nails. In all, you take five photos -- one of your left fingers, left thumb, four right fingers, right thumb and the front of your nails so ManiMe can see the shape and curve.
Once those are submitted, the team reviews them and laser-cuts your stickers, and will ship your manicure in about three to four business days if the photos were sufficient for the 3D modeling. I did have to resubmit a few of my photos after the initial try, but the entire turnaround was still pretty quick.
Gel nail polish stickers have been around for several years, but they haven't been custom-fitted to your exact nails. Normally you have to pick a size that closely matches your nails and trim as needed for a perfect fit. That's what sets ManiMe apart.
At-home gel kits aren't new either, but they require you to paint your nails and cure the paint with a UV light. With a ManiMe kit, there's no painting or curing, but you get the same long-lasting results as a typical gel manicure.
Once the nails arrived, I was excited to see how they had turned out. I realized once I opened the package that it might not be as simple as "peel and stick" like I'd originally thought, so I checked out the company's helpful video walking you through the steps.
I swiped my nails with the prep wipe that comes in the package and used their base coat polish first (not required, but it may help the nails last longer). I peeled and stuck the first nail on and was kinda confused by how long it was. Then I realized they must send them a bit long in case your nails grow in the time between ordering and actually using the manicure.
You simply mold the polish sticker over the nail and it stretches to fit pretty easily. Once it's smoothed out, you fold the excess over the nail edge and you can file or clip off the excess. This part was a bit tricky, but the company's video provides some tips on how to do this without messing up the manicure.
After that first nail or two, I found the process pretty quick and easy -- but it does take some patience, as all good things do. For me, the process was much less stressful than sitting in a salon for hours (even without the pandemic complications).
Finally, I applied the ManiMe top coat which is supposed to help set the manicure and extend wear. The company says to avoid showering or wearing lotion right after you apply the manicure, but once the top coat dried I was good to go about my day.
I was super impressed with the final result and that the manicure really looks and feels like a gel manicure. At about $15 to $25 per manicure, that's still less expensive than a salon gel manicure, which can run you well over $50. They're also supposed to last the same amount of time as a salon gel manicure -- about 10 days according to Song. And with each manicure, you get five extra nails, so if one chips or you mess it up while sticking it on, you have a backup.
My manicure lasted a solid seven days before some of the polish stickers began to peel off. I could have replaced the several that peeled to extend the wear, but decided to go ahead and remove them all since my nails were getting long and needed a trim.
The removal process is pretty simple -- you just peel the stickers off. Most came off easily, but the brand does say you can soak your nails in water if you're having trouble. The stickers left a bit of sticky polish residue on some of my nails, but that was easy to remove with a quick swipe of nail polish remover. In contrast, to remove a traditional gel manicure, you need to soak the polish in acetone or nail polish remover.
Will I give up salon gel manicures for good? I'm not sure about that. But for now, ManiMe's nails are as close to a salon gel manicure I've had in eight months and they didn't come with the risk of going to a salon, which is pretty great if you ask me.