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.