The ugliest 3D gel nails ever

Lesson of the day: Cheap doesn’t mean good!!

I got 3D gel nails in China for, like, S$34 and am now severely regretting it.

We didn’t even know we were getting gel nails. I don’t usually do manicures and I’ve never done nail art or nail extensions, so I know next to nothing about nails.

Minou had done acrylic nails before but only a couple of times, I think.

We walked into this salon in Zhangmutou, a small town in Dongguan, China. I hear that the town is nicknamed Little Hong Kong. It’s where Hong Kong men keep their mistresses cos it’s near enough to Hong Kong and the rent is a lot cheaper there. Haha.

Anyway, we walked into this salon and said we wanted to do nail art.

China salon

They showed us books of pretty nail designs, we pointed at what we liked, and we fixed a price.

Then, instead of doing our nails in this bright and airy place, they brought us to a dingy secluded shop in a corner of the mall which featured a row of ratty, old seats.

China salon

That was still fine. Things tend to be old and ratty in China (at least in the parts I visited). It’s kinda usual and expected.

First, we got a regular manicure treatment. Trimming, filing, soaking, cuticle cutting.

And then the scary thing happened.

Wait, let me introduce you to Sacha (pronounced Sasha) first.


Because I’ll be using her hands to illustrate the next few steps (for the benefit of readers who don’t know how nail extensions work). And you’ll be seeing more of her in my coming posts on my China trip.

Sacha is our new friend whom we don’t see much of because she’s the girlfriend of an old friend whom we don’t see much of because he’s always travelling.

Back to nails!

After trimming our nails short and filing away a thin layer of our surface nails, they paste thick stickers around our nails to act as moulds.

Gel nail extension

They then apply a thick layer of gel all over our nails, extending out onto the sticker to create desired lengths.

(After going home and doing some research, I discovered that gel is supposed to be applied very thinly and not thickly!)

Gel nail extension

The little gel pots:

Gel nail extension

When one finger has been gelled, we have to stuff that hand into a little oven that has little tubes of UV lights, for “baking”.

The nail technician will then work on the other hand. In this way, both hands are being worked on alternately, one in the oven, one being gelled.

Gel nail extension

This looks very scary but looks are the least of my worries. The baking HURTS like a bitch.

After a few seconds in the “oven”, the gel will melt and seep into the nail bed, causing a pain like the dripping of a large drop of hot wax onto your skin, but more severe because the pain lasts longer, about 10-20 seconds, until the gel hardens.

Since each finger is gelled and baked individually, we had to endure the pain 10 times.

Strangely, only Sacha and I had to go through that ordeal. Minou only felt pain on one finger. The rest were nothing to her.

Gel nail extension

After the first round is done and the nails harden, another round of gel is applied. This is quite tedious and I hate the endless applying and baking. I would have gone crazy with boredom if I hadn’t been with friends.


Since both hands are always occupied, you can’t read or play games the whole time!

After two rounds, the gel nails look like this:

Gel nail extension

These are my fingers now.

The nails were originally longer. A LOT longer. I made my nail technician file them down because I think too-long nails are scary.

He was quite reluctant and kept filing little by little, until he stopped at this length and refused to shorten them anymore!

Once the length is right, the sides and surface are filed to even them out.

Gel nail extension

And then the nail art.

This was what I chose:

Gel nail extension

I was deliberating between this and something bling-sparkly, but finally chose this cos it’s cute and the red would be nice for the coming Chinese New Year.

So, the disaster started when my nail technician made the red tips with red gel.

Gel nail extension

I don’t even have to explain. THIS IS JUST TOTALLY WRONG IS IT NOT?

He did one red heart and it looked so horrible, with the tips being wrong and the white hearts being wrong and all, I stopped him from making the rest of the red hearts.

The hearts are made on the spot using these jars of powder.

Gel nail extension

A thin stick is dipped in water, then dipped into the powder to form a tiny ball of paste. This ball is transferred to the nail and then pressed and shaped by the stick into a desired shape.

Another layer of gel is coated over the hearts. Another round of baking (zzzz).

I ended up with clear nails with translucent red tips, which was totally wrong.

I said, the base nail should be pearl white, like in the picture, and the tip should be layered and opaque and not so fat.

He said he couldn’t do anything more about the tips and they’re meant to be like that, and as for the base, he layered on even more clear gel while adding sparkly dust to the gel to create a pearl effect.

More baking.

I said I wanted crystals. Partly for bling effect and partly to distract from the unsightly red tips, which he refused to get rid of.

For a start, I told him to add two crystals on the side of each heart. I wanted smaller crystals but this was the smallest he had.

Gel nail extension

I should have stopped here, but the red tips really bothered me. They looked so ching chong obiang I wanted to rip them off there and then but I had had enough pain for a day.

I dictated the design for my fourth finger, the one with crystals surrounding half the heart. And then he took it into his mind to design a stupid flower for my middle finger.

Gel nail extension

I said, “Um.. okay, but I prefer my design.”

So he did the same for my index finger. And then he tried to give me a different stupid design for each other finger.

I was quite weary and despairing by this time and only thought about how I just wanted him to get it over and done with so that I could go home to Singapore to have it all removed.

I let him design the rest of the nails but making him tweak the crystals here and there to make it less ugly.

Right hand:

Gel nail extension

See how his hearts aren’t even facing the same way for both hands! And both ways are wrong, anyway, if you compare with the original design I wanted.

The last to go was my right thumb. I designed this and was quite pleased with it because it covered the red tip quite a bit.

Gel nail extension

A final layer of gel over everything and more baking.

By the time it was all done, my nails were as thick as phone books.

Gel nail extension

So damn ridiculous lah!!

Compare what I wanted with what I got.

Gel nail extension

Uber major epic fail!!!!!!!!!

Now I need to find an experienced gel nail specialist to remove these because I read that improper removal will cause damage to the nail bed.

And gel nails have to be filed down instead of soaked off like acrylic nails, so I’m scared!

My fingers also hurt occasionally now. It’s very mild though, but annoying. Feels like the kind of pain you get when you have a tooth/gum ache, like tingly and itchy and sore at the same time.

All this, and I didn’t even want nail extensions in the first place cos my nails were already long enough for me.


31 thoughts on “The ugliest 3D gel nails ever

  1. Avatar

    Omg, this totally sucks!

    And the position of the white hearts on your right hand is different from your left???


    Better luck with nail art next time at a proper nail place in Singapore!

  2. Avatar

    The picture of what you wanted seems to have come from a japanese magazine… it’s like the difference between “made in japan” and “made in china”!

  3. Avatar


    Oh my goodness!!!! Don’t know what else to say! And that’s one of the reasons why I NEVER get my nails done in China! Have you managed to get rid of them?

  4. Avatar

    @Shu fen – Yup… the positioning is different on both hands. Haha. Totally CMI lah, the nail tech. Somemore he kept boasting that he’s the best and has been doing nails for 8 years.

    @Elyxia – Haha. Lucky you didn’t go with us. :P

    @Kim – Yeah, lol, you can really tell the different between MIC and MIP products!

    @Faith – Nope, I still have the nails! Argh. I dunno where to go in Singapore. I’m afraid I choose the wrong place again!

  5. Avatar

    poor u..

    after reading about your experience..i wouldn’t dare to have my nails done in China :P

    how about going to pinc at bugis junction? just a suggestion.. did my nails there b4…they seem okay.

  6. Avatar

    @Sheylara: Really sorry for your less than ideal experience, but it WAS an entertaining and informative post nonetheless. Thanks for sharing!:) Anyway, the whole episode is a good example of someone (i.e. the nail technician) “making things up as he goes along”…:P

  7. Avatar

    @Eileen – Thanks for the recommendation! But does Pinc do gel nails? I’m afraid some places, while experienced in acrylic, might not do gel nails as well. Especially the removing part.

    @Faith – Huh? You do manicures in Singapore?

    @RN1209 – It’s exactly like how China factories make imitation fashion wear. They tear out Japanese and Korean fashion magazine pages and then replicate the clothes badly, and then sell it to us cheap. And they look kinda similar but something is just wrong with it. :P

    @tiger4 – Disappointment I can handle. But now I’ve got a mess to fix and it’s not easy!

  8. Avatar

    That is.. erm… I’m not sure if Dashing Diva is still around.. last time I saw it was at Suntec… but after renovation, I’m not sure where it relocated to.

  9. Avatar

    I used to when i was living in Spore. And still go occasionally whenever I come back. I like Pinc and they have one in Causeway Point. And I like the salons by Spa Espirit (Strip), I get my waxings done there.

  10. Avatar

    WaitI forgot to add this, when removing gel or acrylic nails, they normally soak your nails in nail polish removal solution which is quite damaging. Actually, call the salons up before going there to ask if they can remove those gel nails of yours. If you really want to remove them, you can get a bunch of nail files (not the metal kind) and file the top of your nails to remove them. But it would take a lot of time and patience.

  11. Avatar

    OMFG!!! poor u

    how much did u pay for them? they look worse than what a kindergarten kid can do lor


  12. Avatar

    Oh my… how can they do such un-Pro service to you?? if it’s in SGP,i’m sure we complain them until they agree to compensate your loss! in the first place when you realize their service sucks should just walk away or change people to service you..
    May your nails speedy recover!

  13. Avatar

    yikes, sorry to hear about the bad nail job. I never had such a terrible/unpleasant nail job before at the china salon i used to go to (it’s at dongcheng district). gel nail should not hurt in the first place..!

  14. Avatar

    I am going to get gel nails on wednesday.
    I’m abit worried now i have read this ! :I
    My nails are small and sqaure and im pretty sure they will do the designs a diffrent size on each nail.
    I think the nail didn’t turn out that bad (although it could be better :D)
    Reply <3

  15. Avatar

    =O !

    Speaking as a nail tech, I think I can confidently say that whoever done this was inexperienced and proably not even qualified. Its not supposed to hurt when you cure them under the lamp, and the fact it bled onto your fingers while it was curing is even worse…

    I hope you got them off soon!

  16. Avatar

    I have a bad nails story also. For starters, I asked for gel nails and have since discovered (I should have done more research first) I got acrylics. The nail ‘tech’ (I use the term loosely) used a dremel tool to rough up my nails and ground through them near the cuticle. I told her it was hurting and to go easy, but she just smiled. She spoke to who appeared to be the shop owner in (Korean? Chinese? not sure) while she was doing my nails and they seemed quite amused, which made me feel very uncomfortable. She was extremely rough when filing my nails and my fingers were extremely sore and red the next day. You can see blood under a couple of nails at the cuticle where she drilled right through my nails. The floors were not terribly clean and the linens needed bleach badly. I should have just stopped her and demanded my money back. Just an awful experience. And this was in the USA! Maybe they sent your nail tech over here???

  17. Avatar

    just came across this looking at nail designs
    and from what I’ve read i cant believe you went through that!
    I am a licensed nail technician and the curing is definitely not supposed to hurt! if it does then they filed through too many layers of your nail plate.
    as for the thickness they should have filed the gel down to make it look more natural, they didn’t even shape your nails to all look the same and they obviously should have done what you wanted, the customer is always right!
    i agree with Lisa, the person who did them were probably not even qualified. if they even have their license they better think about going and getting re-tested to even perform gel nails.

  18. Avatar

    u had pain?? the guy doesn’t know how to prepare the nail for the gel
    he filed the nail too much
    and man even I an aprendice with NO course can do better nails and plus I never hurted someone that is just stupid filing the nail is just to take the shine off not the nail
    I’m sorry for u girl
    and also carefull with gel and UV allergy can cause itchy and pain and other stuff

  19. Avatar

    NEVER ever do acrylic or gel nails in china. These ladies are not properly trained. I live in china, shanghai for nearly 3 years and still never have been satisfied with any of these salons. Here is one that you should never go to in Shanghai. They wreck your nails making it thinner and thinner. The last time I went, I told the girl to soak my fingers longer so that the gel will peel off, but she said it is long enough and started to use a scraper and started to scrape the gel off. i pulled my hands off, but she insisted to do it her way.

    Gorgeous Nails
    138 Huai Hai Zhong Rd, Unlimited Plaza Room 5F-506

    Chinese Address:

  20. Avatar

    I do gel nails, (in Holland) and these nails … just scared me!
    This is totally NOT the right way, and i hope you get them af really soon.
    I read that it hurt? it is not supposed to hurt, that’s really bad!

    I hope everething is okey with your hands ;o

    (sorry for my bad englisch ;p )

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