Sally Hansen Insta-Gel Strips Starter Kit Review

As may of you may know, I’m a bit of a “crazy coupon lady.” So when I come across a GREAT deal, especially on beauty products, I am all over it.

A while back I scored this Sally Hansen Insta-Gel Strips Starter Kit on one of my coupon runs for an absolute steal. The starter kit normally retails around $30-$40 at drug stores, but my braggable price was under $10. Scorrrrreee.

2014-01-26 18.55.34

(the box for “Shell We Dance,” looks MUCH more pink than actual strips)

Now I need to premise this post with the understanding that I am not a nail geek. Yes, I love it when my nails look feminine and polished, but I tend to spend more of my time on skincare and cosmetics and tend to ignore my claws until I find a moment of serious boredom or I have a special occasion I feel the need to be especially pampered for.

I used to be an acrylic nail FIEND, but my habit was tearing up my poor nails and the process was painful, time-consuming and expensive so I gave up my gorgeous acrylic manicures a few months back in hopes of finding a more affordable and less damaging option.

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(the contents of the package: Gel Strips, Nail Cleansing Pads, Nail Buffer, Gel Top Coat, LED Lamp & Instructions)

So when I was going through some old things the other day I came across these Sally Hansen Insta-Gel Starter Kits and figured I would give them a try. Maybe they would be the easy, lovely and affordable option I had been waiting for!

When I originally purchased the kits, I selected two colors: “Shell We Dance” and “Red My Lips.” The “Shell We Dance” color on the box looked to be a light, shell colored pink for those demure, conservative days while the “Red My Lips” showed a traditional vampy fire-engine red stunner shade.

2014-01-26 19.08.21 (Step 2, before buffing)   2014-01-26 19.09.46 (after Step 3)

I was feeling girly so I reached for “Shell We Dance” to try out the kit  and unfortunately, was disappointed by the misleading color depiction on the box. The color is more of a transparent, skin-colored nude with none of the creamy pink tones I was looking for. I tried out one of the strips, saw how colorless and lackluster it was and decided to abandon the remainder of the strips in the shade and go straight for the big guns with “Red My Lips.”

2014-01-26 19.16.35 (Step 2, right before Step 3)

The instructions to the kit are pretty simple to follow, here’s a paraphrased version of what they say in the package:

#1. Prep: Start with clean, dry nails. Use the provided wooden stick to press back cuticles. Use the provided nail file to buff the nails to a desired shape. Use the provided nail cleanser pad to remove any excess dirt and oil. (This step is extremely important as it helps your manicure last longer.)

#2. Select & Apply Strip: Select best fitting strip for each nail. Remove clear plastic cover and peel strip from backing paper. Place strip against cuticle line and press strip to nail. Use warm hands for maximum flexibility and to help mold the strip to the nail. Gently stretch strip for a perfect fit and firmly smooth over entire nail. Run flat side of cuticle stick along edge of strip to firmly bond strip to nail.

#3. Shape: Smooth excess polish strip over nail edge, forming a crease around the edge of each nail. Gently file away excess from nail edge using provided file. This was the most difficult for me! I have short, broken nails so it was a little difficult to get the strip bent around the edge of all of my nails.

#4. Apply Gel Top Coat: Shake bottle of gel top coat vigorously and apply a thin coat to one nail (completely polish free edge of nail and remove any product from the skin prior to curing) and cure for 30 seconds with Mini LED Lamp. Complete this process before moving on to next nail.

#5. Cleanse & Finish: Once all nails are cured with the gel top coat, wipe all nails with nail cleanser pad to remove tacky residue; manicure is complete.

#6. Removal: Saturate a small piece of cotton the size of your nail with Sally Hansen Nail Polish Remover (do not use an acetone free remover.) Place cotton over gel and wrap tightly with a small square of aluminum foil. Check first nail after 5 minutes; the gel should be lifted up off the nail and easy to push off with the cuticle stick. If necessary re-saturate cotton, re-wrap nail and check every 5 minutes. Gently push off gel with cuticle stick. Do not pull gel away from natural nail plate.

Pretty darn easy sounding RIGHT? Well the start to finish process took me about an hour and a half (including the color change fiasco) so it didn’t exactly save me the time it would take to hit up a nail salon. The color payoff was good with the red and the gel made my nails quite shiny, so I did approve of the final product.

2014-01-26 19.29.31 (freshly painted with gel top coat)

I don’t really know how I would say I 100% feel about this product. I did love that I could do this at home and get virtually the same effect of a gel manicure, but the strips were slightly too narrow for some of my apparently large nail beds so there were places that the red strip wouldn’t reach on application. The flip side of that argument is that the gel strips were EASY clean up and no mess was involved. No sloppy clean up on the skin and cuticles and no need for the anxiety of combating my shaky hands for nail perfection.

I wore these red nails for about a week with minimal chipping, so the resiliency of the product was good, but didn’t live up to the two week wear time boasted on the box. Yes, I am a bit hard on my nails and have been told many a time that my nail beds are a bit oilier than the norm, so that might have had something to do with it and I can’t fault Ms. Sally Hansen for those discrepancies.

2014-02-03 21.35.33 (my nails after 1 full week of wear)

All in all, I think the Sally Hansen Insta-Gel Strips have a place in my regimen, but definitely not as an every day option. They are a bit time consuming to put on, the start up package retail price without a large discount is high, the replacement gel strips without coupons or discounts are a bit steep, but the finished product is lovely for a special event or weekend getaway if you are looking for something as a quick solution.

The good news is, Sally Hansen comes out with great deals and coupons on this product all the time, not to mention they update their selection frequently and phase out older colors so next time I will be STOCKING UP on extra gel strips in fun colors and patterns for the special events coming up all year. With 4 weddings, bachelorette parties, bridal showers, baby showers and MY 25TH BIRTHDAY coming up, I’m sure to make good use out of these babies and save some dough on salon costs in the process.

I was a little so/so on this one, but I’ll give it a STRUT (under the right circumstances!) If you can find this Starter Kit on sale (don’t pay more than 15-20 bucks!) and can find the Gel Strips around 7 bucks, I say these are nice to have on hand for special events when you want a fool-proof, flawless manicure. Just remember, don’t expect more than a week of wear per mani.

Have you tried any at-home gel manicure supplies? Should I try another brand? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, thank you all for reading and I hope you’re having an amazing day!

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole