I eventually gave in, though, and started paying for a nail salon again. I went to about a dozen different nail salons over the course of 2 years. Why so many? Because each time I'd go to a nail salon, they would do a good job the first time, but the second time it wouldn't be as nice. I'd give them one more shot - three strikes, in a sense. Then I'd move on to another salon.
When we returned to the mainland, we first went to Georgia. The nail salon I went to in Augusta was excellent. I had no issue with them at all, and I stuck with them for the year we were there.
Disappointing Nail Salons in Virginia
Since moving to Virginia, near Washington D.C., I have been to several nail salons again. The first time, I didn't have a problem with the work that the salon did, but the owner of the salon was a JERK! He would bash his employees in front of customers, he's blame them for everything, and he'd treat them like garbage. I refused to continue paying him money so I went somewhere else.
The second salon was good, but the owner claimed they opened at 9am and would give me an appointment for 9am but he was NEVER THERE! I'd show up on time and have to wait over 30 minutes for him to show up.... that was not something I was willing to put up with.
I went to a smaller nail salon after that, and I liked the woman that was doing my nails. She never complained and she was always willing to TRY something if I requested a design. I had to show her how, but she'd do it no problem. Then... I went one day and the owner did my nails instead. They were overbooked and she said it would be fine. He spent the entire time grumbling about how demanding I am, saying I want my nails done "the wrong way" and then complaining about how I wanted my nails polished. They wouldn't paint the french white on, they insisted on airbrushing it. So I asked if he would do the airbrush a certain way to hide the "line" from the nail tip underneath. He did the airbrush CROOKED on every nail, complained when I asked him to adjust at least a couple of them that were unacceptable for the price, and he filed them crooked and too thick as well. I seriously sat there feeling like I had done something wrong and was being punished for it... WTF?!
So I didn't go back there either. I let my nails grow out and the gel tips and overlay fall off before I had surgery in December since I would need to remove them regardless for the anesthesiologist to have access to my nails. Then after my initial recovery period, I started searching for a new nail salon. I went to a place that had excellent reviews. It was a little more expensive but I decided to give them a chance. The first time, they seemed nice and I really liked the atmosphere, but 5 of the 10 gel nails broke within 2 weeks. All of them had started lifting within the first week. When I went back for my scheduled refill appointment, they didn't charge me to replace the broken nails and said that this time perhaps they will stick better.
They didn't. All of them were lifting by the end of the first week. I decided not to go back. I just can't waste the money when I don't have confidence in the services provided. I will return to their salon for other services, like eyebrow, etc. I use a different salon for my hair. But I won't go back to them for nails.
Doing My Own UV Gel Nails
I decided to return to doing my own nails again. In the past, I did my own Pink & White Acrylic with no formal training. I have natural artistic ability and a unique ability to learn from watching and be able to almost perfectly replicate what I see, hear, etc. My acrylic skills are great, but I want to stick with gel nails. There's significantly less smell - and the smell of a warm crayon is a lot less offensive to the senses than the smell of acrylic polymer. So I needed to buy some stuff...
Nail Products from eBay
I purchased from eBay. A lot of the sellers for gel nails and nail related products are overseas, in parts of China and Korea. It's one of those trial & error situations when buying like that because you don't know if the products are okay, and you don't know if you'll ever even see them. The rating system on eBay is tricky because if a seller has 80,000+ ratings, they could have hundreds of negatives and neutrals but still look like they possess a 99.5% positive rating. I check the most recent feedback and see what people have said. I also try to stick with sellers that have fewer feedback like I'd choose one with 1500 ratings over one with 50,000 ratings even if they both have a 99.5% positive feedback score.
I also know that shipping is SLOW from China and Korea, and that it's best to order from as few sellers as possible so they combine shipping.
I ended up ordering from about 6 sellers and the total cost me about as much as two trips to my most recent nail salon. I received one order right away but it was shipped from New Jersey. The seller's feedback showed negative reviews for the UV Lamp, saying it's not shipped "new" and the bulbs are broken on many. I ordered the lamp, which included 4 bulbs, and I ordered a set of 5 extra bulbs just in case. The order, which consisted of multiple eBay "Buy It Now" purchases, included the lamp, extra bulbs, a round wheel of clear rhinestones, a round wheel of pearlized colored bead decorations, 2 round wheels of 1.5mm colored rhinestones, a set of gel brushes and a set of 10 colored striping tape for nail art. I didn't try the extra bulbs but the lamp worked perfectly, in brand new condition, with the 4 included bulbs.
The UV Lamp was in the manufacturer's box, I removed it.
Looks nice, huh?
Those little narrow boxes are the extra bulbs I purchases. Everything was wrapped beautifully, with care, in thick bubble wrap.
This one is actually little rubber-like roses which I ordered from a different seller. It arrived the same day, I think from California.
Clear and colored rhinestones, and the pearlized beads (flat on one side).
UV Lamp - worked perfectly, all bulbs working when arrived. I ordered a set of 5 back-up bulbs just in case, though.
This was great, but the UV gel I had ordered in a kit from a seller in China. The delivery date was estimated at 11 to 23 business days from the time it was shipped. I completed the purchase on the 18th and it arrived this morning. Let's count together, shall we? June 18th to June 25th .... that's actually 6 business days if you don't count Saturday and Sunday. But seriously... even if you count the weekend, and even if they shipped it ON the 18th, that's a week!!!
This shipment was a 36-piece set that included clear, white, and pink UV gel plus a UV gel primer/builder gel. The brush cleanser and the sticker residue remover to polish the nails after setting under the lamp. A 15-piece set of nail art brushes, a thing of colorful rhinestones, the sticker guides for nails, nail files, nail buffer, orange sticks, OPI cuticle oil, brush-on nail glue, white nail tips, UV topcoat, 36 kinds of glitter in individual jars, tweezers, nail clippers, a dappen dish, a container for cotton... it was a real steal, actually, even if the quality was medicore.
And more glitter...
These tiny beads were originally separated by color in that wheel. They were inside a baggy. The beads spilled out, with the wheel CLOSED,
and the baggy had a hole in it so they were sort of EVERYWHERE.
But they're worth, what? $2? Not even....
Not a big deal. I probably wouldn't have used them anyway.
There was a thing of colored rhinestones, all remained in their spots in the wheel.
The baggy has a mixed collection of shaped rhinestones like hearts, stars, and flowers
in different sizes.
A dappen dish, not really necessary but included.
For cotton, but I probably won't use it.
Buffers and files...
UV Topcoat, gel nail cleaner to shine them after setting,
and brush cleaner to remove sticky UV gel.
Orange sticks, tweezers, nail cutter, brush, and OPI cuticle oil in Lavender.
White tips. I ordered clear tips and mosaic tips from another seller which should be hear soon too.
I will likely wait since I prefer to NOT use the white tips.
15-piece nail art brush set.
Clear, White, and Pink UV Gel from Sina. They are all sealed.
In addition to this stuff, I ordered nail art paints, dotting pens, more OPI cuticle oil, metalic roses, crushed shells in different colors, and more rhinestones in different shapes and sizes. I also ordered a nail art display and a set of 12 UV gels in different colors. I will share pictures of anything I do that might be worth seeing :-)
Sina UV Gel (Lina UV Gel)
The brand is actually SINA but because of the stylized S and poor abilities to recognize script-style letters in this country, a lot of people think it says "Lina"... I know this because I searched for product information and in my searching I decided to try "Lina UV Gel Review" as well as "Sina UV Gel Review" and under "Lina" I saw many more questions, mostly in forums asking if anyone had ever heard of it. In their defense, however, the "S" is a little awkward so it's easy to see where the confusion comes from if you look at it quickly and aren't familiar with a lot of calligraphy styles.
Recognizing it as an S, however, I was able to not only find the manufacturer's website which I posted a link to above (underneath the picture of the UV Gels), I also was able to contact the company and receive information. They did caution me that some eBay sellers provide the external appearance of Sina brand gels but inside is a different product. I will ask them if they seal their gels like this, but either way I will report what I think of the gels when I use them.
There was an OPI gel builder system with clear, white, and pink in it, but it was about 3 times the price. I figured I'd start with this since the set came with so much. If I have to switch, I will likely try OPI or EZ Nails, but I will share my experience with the UV gels and my opinion once I try them.
How Much Money Will I Save?
A fair question! I would typically go to a salon twice a month, right? And each time it would run me $45 to $65 depending on where I went. The most recent salon would cost $60-65 every time. So let's say I spend $65 twice a month on nails at a salon, that's $130 a month. It cost me about that much to purchase all the nail stuff I didn't have, because again, I had only used acrylic before and wanted to use UV Gels. Plus I purchased some nail art stuff including paints, colored gels, decals, lace, rhinestones, etc.
The stuff I bought, however, will last me probably 6 to 12 months. I may need to order more gel but things like the decals, paint, and rhinestones will last a long time for one person. So let's say this lasts me a year with the possibility of having to spend another $20 or so on more gel. I will have spent $130-$150 but saved $1560 for the year (minus the costs so saving about $1400 a year).
This allows me to justify spending money on professionally colored hair haha.... but also gives a bit more freedom for things like adding to my savings account or splurging on a new home fitness program :-)