Okay, so I did it. I got my nails done for free at by my hair gal with OPI gel nails that are soak off polish, not length, just for polish and loved it. After 2 weeks I went back and got it done and paid for it and love them...but just can't afford to keep paying that...
so...I went online and did some research and found places to buy opi gel polish kits (ebay and amazon), but it was expensive-- ($100 and you still need a uv light), and I wasn't thrilled with color choices at the salon (which are the same as found in the kit). So I started looking at all the other companies and found on ebay and sally beauty supply stores the IBD gel nail polish system.
FYI: I got my uv light and all ibd products on ebay--I got a bonder, clear gel, color gel, top coat
The pictures below and the lessons learned by my husband and myself... (yup, he helped me--he used to be an artist and doesn't mind doing nails--does Alexandra's (4.5yr old) all the time)
1st lesson--NEED LOTS OF LIGHT--there is a reason that salons are bright and they have the spotlight at the manicure table! If you can't see well, you paint against your cuticle and edgewall--which we/I did alot. As seen in the picures.
The chips in the pictures and at the cuticles are from me trying to remove the extra gel stuff over my cuticles and the sidewalls.
Secondly--I put on WAY WAY too much bonder. It is really runny and it will roll down to the sides of your nail as it cures and turn out too thick on the sides and attach to the skin and lift lift lift . I found this website info helpful about bonder and how to apply AND a removal system that isn't the normal "soaking" but wrapping in soaked cotton and foil. I will be trying this as a mom with hands is better then one with her hands stuck in a bowl of acetone!
Next, I finally went looking for any more "at home" tips and had forgotten about Utube! Duh. I found a bunch of videos on applying gel polish. Worth looking there.