This Thing Rules

I'm obsessed with these gel manicure 'stickers' that are all over Instagram

A salon-quality manicure, no skill required? Yes, please.

Manicured nails in UV lamp. Rays cure gel polish. Small nail art and manicure business.

It finally happened: the Instagram algorithms got me. After months of scrolling past the same targeted ads for long-wear gel nail polish “stickers” that promise to leave you with a salon-quality manicure, I finally caved and ordered a few. And you know what? I’m obsessed with them. Let me explain.

We all have that one little thing we cling to in order to maintain some sense of normalcy, no matter how rough the going gets. Maybe it’s a skincare routine or that (mythical, I’m convinced) habit of getting dressed for the day even if you’re working from home — for me, it’s doing my nails. Be it an at-home job with drugstore polish (my usual) or the occasional pre-pandemic treat of hitting the salon, nothing quite gets me feeling like a well-functioning human the way a good manicure does. My life? In shambles. My mani? On point. It’s just got that way of elevating your entire state of being.

But when you’re chronically ill and chronically busy, anything that requires the slightest bit of upkeep can at times feel tedious or even daunting. Add a pandemic to the mix and you might start wondering, why bother? This is where I was at, up until midway through this summer when I finally clicked that extremely persistent ad, went to the store’s actual website, and let the sea of nail art take me.

Vanity Table, the South Korean beauty site advertising all over my Instagram feed, carries Ohora gel manicure kits that boast absurd simplicity for something that achieves two-week wear time: just stick them on your nails, trim to fit, and bake them under the UV lamp. There’s no wet stage whatsoever, meaning no smudging risk at any point of the process and no way to mess them up even if you’re terrible at painting your nails — because you’re never actually painting anything. But don’t make the mistake of shrugging these off as press-ons, this is the future.

Ohora kits sit at about $11 to $17 apiece. Each comes with three full sets of gel strips (as in 30 individual nails!!), meaning you’ve got backup if you mess up and rip one or need to touch-up a nail or two later on. Buyers qualify for a free UV lamp with purchase, but if for some reason you choose not to get that and don’t already have one at home, Ohora’s ultra-compact lamp costs just $18.

The key to the gel stickers’ performance is a semicure design, according to the company. They’re “made of real liquid gel but only cured by 60 percent,” leaving the remaining 40 percent up to the UV lamp to handle. They’re sturdy but flexible right out of the box and harden onto your nails under the light. I was skeptical, but it turns out this works beautifully. Unlike with a typical polish where precision is critical, you can be pretty haphazard about Ohora application and still end up with a great manicure. I say this having applied each set — I’m on number 5 now — while watching TV and only half paying attention to what I was doing.

Gel stickers are great if you have pets that stomp on everything you do! No more cat hairs messing up your manicure. Here's mine after one week.

My hands can be pretty clumsy at times thanks to inflammatory arthritis and I still managed, no problem. And they really do last. Each set has survived a full two weeks at least, only getting minor chips, if anything, in that time — and trust me, I am not careful. This simplicity also makes them perfect for anyone who desires cute nail art but can’t actually do a good job of achieving that on their own. There are tons of styles, from solid colors to more intricately-detailed designs and even some flashy gemstones here and there. Did I mention they have pedicure sets, too? If you’ve been dying to get creative but lack the skills, this is your chance.

Gel stickers might not overhaul your self-care routine if going to the salon is something you genuinely enjoy, but it’s a great stand-in during these pandemic times. And for the rest of us who prefer to just do the job at home, it’s a game-changer.

I may exist almost entirely in loungewear now and haven’t put on makeup more than four times in the last eight months, but come hell or high water, this manicure will be popping.