Gel manicures are a staple in many salons around the world. What’s not to love about the long wear time, beautiful glossy finish, and eliminated dry time?
But what really is a gel manicure? What are the pros and cons? It’s safe, right?
We answer all the questions and more, so you can feel confident in your choice of a manicure while you rock your glam nails.
What Is Gel Polish?
The primary difference between gel polish and standard nail polish is the acrylic components inside of the gel mixture that bond together to harden and cure when exposed to UV lighting.
The curing process under a UV light generally takes under a minute to completely harden. There are also some LED lights made as an alternative to UV exposure that can cure your nails in about two minutes.
Benefits of Gel Manicures
Gel manicures are known for lasting longer than other nail polishes. Because the gel is bonded strongly to your nail and is cured in UV light, it is very resistant to chipping. You can expect your manicure to look fantastic and flawless for a full two weeks and beyond.
No Dry Time
Arguably, the greatest perk of getting a gel manicure is that there is no “dry time” where your nails can get smudged or ruined. Once the gel is cured in a UV light, you can have peace of mind knowing you can go about your day and actually use your hands without fear.
Is Gel Polish Rough on Nails?
While gel manicures are usually a great option for pampering yourself, there are some things to be aware of.
The removal process of gel can be a bit rough on the nails. As opposed to regular nail polish removal with acetone, gel requires a thorough soak, and then any remnants will be filed off.
Frequent wear and reapplication of gel on nails can eventually cause weakening of the nails, and lead to them feeling brittle and damaged.
You can usually avoid this by giving your nails a break from gel to grow out and strengthen every few months, or when you see damage start to occur.
Another factor of the gel manicure process that some nail enthusiasts are wary of is the UV exposure when the nails cure.
Usually, the UV exposure is minimal and infrequent, so there is not a large risk here. But you can apply sunscreen to your hands 30 minutes before your manicure, or wear fingerless gloves as an extra layer of protection.
Some brands create their polish with your nail health in mind. SNS Healthy Gelstar is made with healthier ingredients and cures in a safer hybrid UV/LED light. SNS boasts this is ‘the world’s healthiest gel’. It will be available in most salons though you may have to request it.
What to Expect in the Salon
Getting something new done to your nails can be scary if you don’t know what to expect. Here’s what you’ll see happen at the salon during your gel manicure.
First thing’s first, creating a blank canvas on your nails. To do this, all old nail polish will be removed with acetone. Then, cuticle remover will be applied to help trim and push back your cuticles.
Once that’s done, let the creative process begin! Your nails will be filed into your desired shape and length. Your nails will be buffed, rinsed, and get a thin layer of base coat to help to polish adhere and make the manicure last longer.
The base coat will need to spend some time under the light to cure, usually between 30 – 60 seconds. The same thing will be done after every layer of gel polish and for the topcoat.
Finally, a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol will be applied to each nail to remove the tacky texture on the surface for a smooth glossy finish.
How Do Gel Manicures Last?
A quality gel manicure should last you two full weeks.
Keeping your gel manicure on longer than two weeks can actually make it harder to remove later. This is because the gel can still cure and get harder with exposure to UV rays including in direct sunlight.
So, while your nails may look great for more than two weeks, it is recommended to remove the gel at that time for optimal nail health.
How Can I Make My Gel Manicure Last Longer?
Keeping your nails hydrated will allow them to grow stronger and condition them to prevent chipping or brittleness.
You can do this with cuticle oil, applying it the recommended one to two times a day.
Stay Out Of Water
Gel is made to be more resistant than typical nail polish but repeatedly getting your nails wet can still cause damage. During the process of drying after contact with water, your nails expand and contract, which could cause some chipping.
To limit contact with water and extend your manicure’s life, try wearing rubber gloves when washing dishes.
What Is The Difference Between Shellac And Gel Manicures?
There is a common misconception that Shellac and gel manicures are totally different, but this is actually not quite the case.
Shellac is actually the name of Creative Nail Design’s nail product. Their Shellac is a combination of gel and regular nail polish that does not require your natural nail to be filed beforehand.