How cheap is too cheap when it comes to nail art? 

Beauty comes at a price, and sometimes that price can cost tens of thousands of yen (or hundreds of U.S. dollars) for certain services. That’s why our Japanese-language reporter Yui Imai has never been to a salon to get her nails done in gel, despite a longstanding desire to do so. It’s just too expensive.

In fact, she usually does her nails at home, using either liquid polish or polish strips, so when she spotted a hardening gel nail option at 100-yen shop Daiso, she was excited to try it. If it supplied salon-quality nails for just 330 yen (US$2.33), she’d be set!

The product is officially called “Gel Nail Stickers”, and there are many different designs, including some in beige and pink that would be appropriate even in an office strict about nail colors. There are even ones for toenails!

Yui decided on this pink-colored plaid design for her nails. They come in different sizes, so she selected size Large.

The package contains the gel nail strips in a light-protected aluminum package together with a wooden stick for pushing cuticles and a nail file.

Yui referred to the product page on the Daiso website here to make sure she did it correctly. The first step was to prepare her nails by wiping them clean, pushing down the cuticles, and using the file to shape them. After that, she had to choose the size of the sticker that best fits the size of each nail. The trick is to align the stickers on the sheet up with your nail and pick one that’s slightly smaller.

Yui aligned each nail strip to leave a slight gap of about one millimeter (0.04 inches) between the bottom of the sticker and the cuticle line.

Any extra bits can be removed by folding it toward the palm, carefully aligning it to the shape of the nail, and using a nail file to shave it off. The sheets are soft when applied, so it’s much easier than it sounds.

When you’ve got all the nails done, the next step is to use a UV LED light for 30 seconds to harden the gel. They will also harden in natural light over two hours.

Then it was done! Yui was delighted by how smooth the process was. Though her handwork was slightly crooked, she really appreciated having the chance to give herself a gel manicure with an elaborate design for just 300 yen. She loved how cute it looked!

Naturally, the most important question is how long does it last? When Yui does her own nails with regular polish, they usually chip within two to three days, and when she uses stick-on polish, it sometimes comes off within the first day in the shower.

But Daiso’s stick-on gel nail lasted through four days of regular cooking, laundry, and showers without a problem. Unfortunately, on the fifth day, the polish on her left thumb got a massive chip that gradually worsened, and then the paint on her left index finger and right middle finger also began to peel off. That was when Yui decided to take it off.

Getting the stick-on gel nail polish off was easier than she’d expected. All she had to do was slowly peel it from the cuticle line.

Apparently, if it doesn’t peel easily, you can use the wooden cuticle pusher to slowly push it off or apply hand cream to make it easier, but Yui didn’t have any issues removing hers.

All in all, Yui would say that this Daiso product is super convenient, since all you have to do to get a gel manicure with complex designs is stick it on and firm it up with UV light. Yui really appreciated how they lasted longer than regular stick-on or liquid polish. Plus, one set is only 330 yen(after Japan’s 10-percent sales tax), and you really can’t beat that!

The downside is that they don’t have the same plump look as salon-quality gel nails, and though you can cut the stickers with scissors, there will probably be occasions when the sizes just don’t fit. But Yui thinks they’re perfect for when you want to decorate your nails for just a few days. Plus, they don’t require any fancy tools besides a nail lamp, which also can come at a decent price, depending on where you get it from.

If you’re shopping at Daiso, perhaps looking for a good method for storing rice or a mini washing machine, you might want to pick up a set of their gel nail strips and see how you like them. If nothing else, the cute designs will draw you in!

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