My nails of recent times have been getting comments absolutely everywhere I go because they are so 3D and mostly a lot of questions. Especially from librarians and old ladies! Here are some thoughts:
Gels are the besttt because you apply one coat of nail polish and it WON'T chip. It will NEVER chip! No bottom coat or top coat needed, it will just be perfect. The issue is, the gels themselves are not great because they grow out. This is only tolerable if you're cuticles are tidy, but some salons don't bother doing them, like the one I go to in Manchester. I can't time the need for new gels for whenever I go home so I've been getting my gels redone up here at Uni and my cuticles look messy, which makes the nails look messy. They also don't always get the size of the nail right, as gel nails start off with a plastic bit stuck on first. Like you can see in this photo my index finger gel is sliiightly off centre because it might have been stuck on a bit wonky, or maybe your nail grows unevenly naturally.
I use nail glue to stick on my eBay gems and flowers, but this does take a lot of trial and error to stop the glue sliding off, dripping off, drying instantly, and not taking to your nail art. Also the base of your gems need to be totally smooth so they can be stuck down well. I sometimes get fed up with glue and use a topcoat to stick on gems while it's still tacky, but for big bits it doesn't do the job.
The nail art doesn't ever bother me or get in the way or caught on anything. The only danger is flicking a gel nail which hurts your nail underneath! That hardly ever happens though. I really want a break to let my nails breathe a little but just don't want to have simple nails! I may break next time I have exams. My nails underneath grow fine but they are not very strong.
And you don't need any skill to do nails like this. Mine are quite messy and uneven as you can probably see! I always end up doing them at night or when I'm just about to wash my hair, so they are not perfect. No one notices from afar though.
Sometimes just sticking on things can look a bit random and a bit off. Tips are: keep at least two nails with the same style or the same art and keep as little as possible on the index finger because it's always the smallest and less elegant finger. Your ring finger can handle a lotta stuff, and it's good to put something big on the middle finger as that ends up being the biggest and longest nail (or at least on me) so you want to minimise it. I've had rainbow nails this week but usually I pick a bunch or soft or strong (or cool/warm) colours, around four most of the time, and stick to those.
Don't put a topcoat over gems because they ruin the surface and will cloud gems, making them a shiny bump rather than a glinting diamond.
I haven't found a good way to actually get gems off and right now I use nail clippers to ping them off or sometimes file down small gems. Once you stick things on, you'll never get them totally smooth again.
It's payday on Friday so I miiight get mine redone this weekend, not sure! It's an expensive habit but once you know the salon and nail technicians, they'll knock the price down for you! Prices are different in different cities so check in your own area, and at the moment I'm going to a salon at the moment in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, opposite Coffee Republic (who do the best white chocolate hot chocolate!) but like I said, they aren't as great as home!