Gel nails are the newer, better competitors to acrylic nails, which used to be the best nail enhancement method around. Demanding for a gel manicure is more like giving water to the thirsty camel. Your nails will always appreciate it with a gorgeous transformation. Gel nail polishes are the health plusses, the natural-looking nail enhancement that makes your nails appear beautiful and grow like they should.
In this article, you will know what gel nails are, their pros and cons, how to apply and remove gel nail polish at home!
In this article:
- What Are Gel Nails and How Do They Work?
- How Long Does a Gel Manicure Last?
- Pros and Cons of Gel Nail Polishes
- Gel Nails vs Acrylics vs Other Nail Extensions
- How to Apply Gel Nails at Home
- How to Remove Gel Nail Polish
- Is Gel Manicure Safe?
- How to Repair Nails After Gel Manicure
- Gel Nail Tips to Know
- Gel Nail Prices at Beauty Salons
Made of acrylic monomers and oligomers, gel nails are an artificial nail extension method, where a liquid gel is applied to the nails to elongate and beautify them.
First, the word ‘gel’ is short for gelatin, which is derived from the Latin word ‘gelatos.’ The Latin word literally means to be ‘stiff’ or ‘frozen’. Gelatus is a form of hydrolyzed collagen, which has a range of uses from the food industry to hair treatment and yes, to manicure.
Also, curing solidifies the gel. This is done by placing the gel-covered fingernails under a UV light or a LED lamp. UV light tends to dry slower than a LED lamp, but this might depend on the type of gel.
While you need light to make the gel solid, this could be advantageous if there is an error in the application. Why? The gel does not dry until it is solidified under the lamp.
A sticky layer is laid over the skin once the gel dries. If a new layer is added to this dried and sticky layer, it bonds easily. When the layers are enough and properly cured, then, a top coat can seal it all, like a final touch of beauty.
Just looking at the final product on your fingernails will make you think differently about gel nails as artificial nails. And that, to some extent, is true. Your nails feel glossy, and the look is natural. The gel nail extensions continue to grow gradually with your real nails like they were born together. Aren’t they, somehow, natural?
Therefore, gel nail polishes work as multifunctional products. They are a natural nail overlay, a special formula for nail extension or growth. And they can fit your toenails as perfectly as they fit your fingernails.
As a woman, lady or girl, you are a complete make-up of what you apply to your body. Gel nail polishes are the perfect addition to your beauty for the natural look; it is easy to rectify before drying and feels glossy at the final stage.
Gel manicures will stay for as long as 2-3 weeks depending on the type of gel. In some cases, the gel nails can last up to five weeks. The difference in the duration can also be traced to how well the gel nails are initially cured.
Five weeks? This extreme duration is about individual maintenance. Furthermore, we should mention that the career of such gel fingernails can determine the duration if they could answer yes to:
- Are you careful with your nails?
- Overall, are you a neat person?
- Do you treat your fingers like you care for them?
The answers should be yes, yes, and yes. And then, when you choose a certain gel polish, your fingers can stay glossy for 2-3 weeks minimum, as the general duration.
Admittedly, your nails might look like morning flowers after a minimum of 3 weeks. They could be claws from cemetery if you are not the hygienic type. But not to fret, we are here to help and would cover that in the later part of this piece. Our tips and guide will give an in-depth detail on what you have to do.
Gel nails are creative options that give the modern woman an edge over her predecessors. She could rock her nails in various coats and overlays and gels, being special, will transform her fingers and her entire appearance. But does that mean gels are one almighty advantageous manicure tool without flaws?
No, they are not.
And that’s why we are looking at the cons along with pros of gel nail polishes, so that you may weigh on a balance and see for yourself the many things the modern woman is enjoying with gel manicures, albeit the cons.
Pros of Gel Manicures
- They look natural.
- They are easier and faster to apply than acrylic nails. After few minutes under the UV light, they are dry and ready.
- If the dose is normal, ultraviolet radiation can destroy bacteria and microbes under the finger.
- Gel nails last longer, from three to five weeks, which is longer than most nail polishes.
- As a technician, gels are good to exact your creative skills. The nails are flexible and can be treated to give outstanding and different appearances or nail designs.
Cons of Gel Manicures
- Specifically, gel nails are not as durable as acrylic. They damage easier than acrylic nails, especially when there is a temperature difference in an environment.
- When the gel nail is damaged, just like a chip or a crack, nothing, except sculpting, can fix it.
- Ultraviolet radiation is believed to be related to skin cancer.
- Experts are required to fix gels on your nails. This is mainly because gel manicures require 100 percent carefulness, so getting a professional to handle the process reduces the chances of mistakes and prevents probable infections.
- Some of the necessary tools for applying gel nail polishes – the UV light, for instance – are expensive.
One golden advice: consult a specialist to apply gel nail polishes on your fingernails.
- If your nails grow easily, you don’t need gels in the first place. Let go of chemical substance like gel manicure – though it is the closest to natural – for your own good. However, if you have thin nails, gel manicure is a good try as it’s worth every effort put into it.
- To reduce the effect of UV lights, fix your gel nails less often.
- Chemicals are not a friend for the gel nails, so stay clear. Or wear gloves, if you can, while you are working with chemicals.
Earlier, we said gel nails are newer and better. They are made as a development over existing and older nail extensions. We shall see how gels fair against other nail polishes.
Gel Nails vs Acrylic Nails
When gels were discovered, just like a new champion in a famous competition, it showed it’s here to reign. With a little sympathy for acrylic, gels rock. But, some characteristics are common to the two types of nail extensions.
The two work as a nail extension and a natural nail enhancement. You can use the two types of nails as the foundation for other nail extensions. For example, your technician can use either gel nails or acrylics as the first lower layer for a French manicure.
The Differences (i.e. Why Gel Rocks)
Simple benefits apply to gel users that acrylic users will miss. Gel nails look more natural and smooth on your nails than acrylic nails.
About their contents, gels are more fluidic because they are made from pre-acryl state. Acryl, on the other hand, is made of a mixture of powder and liquid.
The time you will spend fixing a gel manicure, when compared to an acrylic manicure, is shorter – 2-3 minutes is enough to keep your nails covered in gels. This is because they are not exposed to air to dry them. They are cured under UV light or LED lamp.
But… when you talk about their durability, acrylic nails will shine for more weeks than gels. In addition, acrylics resist damage more than gels. And when gels are damaged, they are not as easy to fix as acrylics.
You will spend more to use gel nails than acrylics. And considering the use of UV light, acrylics are considerably safer mainly because UV light is said to cause skin cancer. Therefore, acrylic nails – though slower to get cured – are safer for your skin.
Gel Nails vs Fiberglass Nails (or Silk Wrap)
Gels and acrylics are perfect for any type of nail extensions. Concurrently, users of the fibreglass are missing out because fibreglass is too soft to add extra length or extension to their nails. They can only lay silk wrap or fibreglass on their natural nails to add thickness to artificial nails.
Gel Nails vs Shellac Nails vs SNS Nails
Unlike acrylics and gel nails, shellac and dip powder SNS nails aren’t used for nail extension, but rather like longer-lasting nail polishes. SNS nail polishes feature a gel base and are considered the safest options, while shellac nails are the next level of standard nail polishes, lasting about a week.
You want to enjoy some of the functions of gel nails and you are ready to apply them yourself. So, you are afraid of mistakes; will you infect your fingernails?
Although we recommended consulting a specialist earlier, fixing gel nails is nothing ‘carefulness’ that a good guideline cannot solve. Now, let’s start with how you can get this right once and for all.
To apply gel nails at home, you’ll need:
- Gel nail polishes
- Primer or bonder gel
We will discuss an overview of three phases of applying gel nail polishes on your nails. As a word of caution, the phases become less suitable for beginners as you go down the phases.
This is the best choice for beginners. You would use one pot of gel and the process would be completed in a few minutes. The lone gel pot will act as a base coat and as the top coat at the same time. This system is gaining attention now for it is easy to apply. But the final result is the least durable.
In this phase, the base coat of liquid substance to be used would be denser. The process is more flexible and consistent, and the result is a more beautiful set of gel nails.
This is for an expert. If you hire a specialist, she will likely use this method to fix your gel nails. First, she will coat your fingernails with primer. She will then apply the gel on it. And finally, she will protect your nails with a top coat.
She won’t use a primer as a top coat. And you too should take note. The primer comes first on your nails, while top coats are the final finish.
Applying Gel Nails at Home: Steps
Now you know the phases of the gel nail polish application – a clear understanding of your technician. It’s time to apply this at home, you as your technician.
Before we go further, you should know some things. Like we always tell you, we are beautifying the fingers of a queen and we won’t let you miss the steps and ruin the beauty.
What are the tools you will need?
- Cuticle remover
- Nail file
- Cotton pads
- A gel base coat
- Gel nail polishes
- A gel top coat
- LED or UV lamp for curing
- Shape your nails to the desired length and form. Use the nail file to work on the tips to achieve your desired shape(s).
- You can use the cuticle remover to push some skin back. This will make the layer of your natural nails be in shape.
- Use cotton pads dipped in acetone to clean dirt, oil or any other dust on your nails.
- Apply the gel base coat, in a thin layer, on your natural nails. If you are familiar with other forms of nail polishes, then gels should be applied in a thinner layer than others.
- Cure the layers under a UV light or;
- Fetch your color gel manicure and apply in a rather thin layer over the first layer.
- Apply to the tip and the surface of your nails (be gentle and careful.).
- Cure the layer under the UV light again.
- Next coat your nails in the gel top coat entirety.
- Then, cure for 2-3 minutes.
- If there is any tack, dust, dirt or sticky gel on the surface of your nails, remove it with a cotton pad of acetone.
And that – if done as you have read – should keep your nails shining for the next 2-3 weeks coated in nail gels. However, to ensure you don’t make any mistake during the process, here are some tips.
- When shaping, you can file the nails to become round, almond, or any other shape you like.
- The gel nail polishes cannot be shaped after they are applied, so get the filing of your natural nails right. Think of the final results you want and file your nails to look like that.
- Cure every layer perfectly. Let the gel-covered nails spend up to 3 minutes under UV light.
For one, different gel nail polish removal methods work. Anyway, we will show you how the methods work and, of course, how to go about it and get your natural nails back.
Method 1: Soaking
To remove your gel nail polish using the soaking method, you’ll need:
- Bowls (3)
Follow the steps below!
- Warm some water and gently collect in a bowl.
- Pour some acetone into another bowl.
- Prepare the foil and cover the bowl of acetone.
- With the acetone covered, put the bowl in that of the warm water.
- Apply petroleum gel on the skin around the foot of your nails. This can be done with a small cotton pad or you can alternatively use a cotton swab. The gel should not be too much for the acetone to be effective.
- Soak a small cotton pad in the bowl of warm acetone and cover each fingernail with it.
- Alternatively, you can dip your nails in the bowl of acetone. But that is unlikely to be preferable because acetone is irritating.
- Wrap all your nails that are covered in acetone-soaked cotton with a foil.
- Leave the wraps for thirty minutes. Then, remove the wraps.
- As you remove the wraps, let the cotton retain its firm grasp as though you are cleaning off the nails.
- File off the nails and make things look as normal and natural as you wish.
And the gel nail polish should be off by now. You can further clean the nails with neat cotton pads to remove any form of residue from your natural nails. Also, there are more tips below that you should follow.
- What is the purpose of acetone in the whole process? Well, acetone is a chemical substance, which you can use to reduce the adhesive force between the gel manicure and your nails.
- You can use a rubber band to hold the foil over the bowl of acetone.
- Acetone is flammable, so stay away from flame or direct heat. Five minutes in the warm water is enough.
- More, acetone can irritate the skin. Cover the flesh around the root of your nails with petroleum jelly. But don’t apply too much jelly so that acetone can successfully dissolve the gel nail polish.
- Your nails should not be wrapped in the foil for more than 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, you should remove it but if the gel is still intact on your nails, you might want to soak again for 10 minutes.
- Alternatively, you can try another gel nail polish removal method.
- Filing at any stage should be done only in one direction.
- Your hands should not be exposed to too much acetone. Therefore, do not use gel nail polishes almost immediately. Put a week break between the current manicure and your next gel manicure.
Method 2: Filing
This second method does not use acetone; the effort is carried out using a nail file. And the result, if done as specified, will be clean fingernails.
For this gel nail polish removal method, you’ll need:
- Nail clipper
- Nail file (finer-grit nail file)
And the steps go as follows:
- Using a clipper, reduce the length of your gel nails as much as possible.
- Use the coarse-grit file to make the edges and surface of your gel nails smooth and even.
- As you file, stop at intervals to remove the dust. A towel or a piece of cotton can do that well.
- The amount of dust reduces as you file towards the natural nail. Stop filing. You don’t want to file your real nails off.
- Pick the finer-grit file and gently make the surface of your natural nails regular and free from the gel.
- File until the gel nail polishes are completely off but with caution.
- Use a minimal quantity of lotion or oil to buffer the surface after you have filed.
- Trimming should be done the barest minimum.
- When filing towards your natural nails, do not file too quickly. If done quickly, you may damage your natural nails.
- Dust will cover your nails when filling. To see the extent to which you have removed the gel, remove the dust frequently.
- When you start seeing your nail ridges, your natural nails are nearby.
- Working gently at all stages is advisable to avoid any damage to your natural nails.
Method 3: The Peeling Off Method
If you hate acetone, and the task of filing rigorously sounds uncomfortable, this is the right choice for you. But it requires you to have patience.
To remove your gel nail polish using this method, you’ll need:
- Patience (*smile*)
- Cuticle stick
- Nail file
- Any form of buff
Stick to these six steps:
- Wait for 2-3 weeks when the gel nails begin to chip off.
- Using the cuticle pusher or stick, gently raise the gel over your natural nails.
- Remove the gel manicure with a pair of tweezers, layer by layer.
- Use your hands to remove any gel nail polish that is left over.
- The same process should be used to remove gel nail polish completely from all fingers.
- Finally clean your nails with any buff, cotton or piece of cloth.
- You will have to wait until the gel nails are peeling off gradually before you can remove them completely. And this is likely to start after 2-3 weeks.
- Do not force off the gel manicure with any tools, cuticle or tweezers. You may rip off your natural nails if you do so.
- Some gel nails might be too tough to remove, so consider using any other method.
One Good Gel Nail Removal Product: NAILS INC. Gel-less Gel Nail Polish Remover Kit
Do you want to get the gel nail polish off your nails by yourself? Are you tired of the hours you spent removing gel nails the other ways? Then, spend less time and effort with the Gel-less Gel Nail Polish Remover Kit.
With a conditioning acetone, it’s designed to make one hand at a time free from gel manicure. And it is formulated without Phthalates (a harmful chemical; more about this later).
Giving you an easy process of gel nail polish removal to rely on while on the go, you should get this one. It’s a better and faster system for removing artificial nails and glitter nail polishes.
For all its benefits, you should consider safety too. So, are gel nails really safe?
Next time in the beauty salon, the technician will let you know gel nails are super glossy and (almost) natural. They are faster for a manicure, and the gel nails are still fine 2-3 weeks later. One thing she is unlikely to mention is the safety. She won’t say the dangers of too much exposure to UV light.
Two things are on the other side of safety in the use of gel nail polishes. First, gel nail polishes are made of gelatin (a hydrolyzed collagen), which is not natural, but rather a chemical. Secondly, fingers are exposed to UV light, which could cause a splinter. Well, this could be avoided if the method of gel nail application is done right.
Pertaining UV lights, many arguments have emerged. Some say, it hastens ageing and causes wrinkles, while some skin specialists say the relation of skin cancer to UV light is a big exaggeration. But one thing is certain – it does promote ageing.
We will like to say the dangers are nothing to panic about. The trick is to set certain breaks between one gel manicure and the next. And the amount of dangers associated with using gel nails will reduce significantly.
When setting breaks between gel manicures, you will give your natural nails room for self-growth and development. Your nails will receive natural oxygen when not coated, so any form of cracking and peeling as a result of gel manicure will be prevented.
Perhaps, the method you adopt in removing gel nail polishes will either make it safe or unsafe. Do you visit or invite a specialist to help with the process, or do you do it yourself? Do you follow the right method, obeying every instruction like the ones above?
If you aim to remove gel nails yourself, it’s not a bad idea. It becomes unwise if you don’t do it with the right procedure like we have stated. Take two minutes of your time and read again, or invite a specialist.
That is just about removing and not causing a problem for your nails while at it. And when you remove gel nails with foils, some layers of your natural nails will go off with the removed. Sorry!
And what about the chemicals?
To apply or remove gels, you will use chemicals like acetone or any other nail cleanser. When doing this, your nail plates are likely to get dehydrated.
On the surface of your nails, if examined with a microscope, there is a flat cell called keratinocytes. Typically, this is removed alongside gel nail polishes during the removal process.
So, what do you do after the gel manicure is removed?
The solution is nail recovery or repair after gel manicure. Do you want to know what that means? It involves certain activities focused on the best appearance and healthy natural nails after the gel has been removed.
The process and steps are easy to follow. And even you don’t have to have done a gel manicure earlier before you can practice them. They will work for one common good: to develop healthy-looking nails.
- Eat foods that will help the damaged nails recover. These are foods rich in potassium, iron, calcium, vitamins, or zinc. You can easily get calcium from cabbage, broccoli, nuts and beans, while meat, fish, eggs and cheese are givers of protein. Seafood, dairy products, and milk will enrich you with zinc. Fresh fruits are rich in vitamins, and chicken liver is nutritious in iron.
- During gel manicures, the nails should be kept at the shortest possible length because the longer the nails, the higher the risk of cracking and peeling.
- Give your keratinocytes a quality and quantity rest. Adopt a no-gel week (or weeks) for your nails.
- Protect your nails. Wear a pair of gloves when dealing with chemicals (washing and doing house chores as prime examples). Don’t press hard keys, such as your phone keyboards, with your nails.
- Massage your nail beds with healthy oils (apricot oil and jojoba oil are the industry’s favorites) that help blood circulation.
- Keep moisturizing your nails, applying a nail moisturizer every day to hydrate and repair your nails after gel manicures. A fortifying cuticle cream can also nourish your nails.
- Turn to clear nail strengtheners to get back the healthy state of your natural nails.
- A simple milk soak can work wonders on your brittle nails. This is also an amazing natural way of whitening nails at home. Just soak your nails in a warm milk bowl for five minutes and afterwards moisturize them.
When you see a set of gel nails looking radiant on someone’s fingers, you know they have done their homework right. Nothing goes for nothing; you have to get it right to look right.
And you must keep it looking as you want: either bad or good. Good, you know, can be achieved with the appropriate gel nail tips. For our readers who love beauty, we dedicate this to your love – tips that make gel nails as perfect as they can be.
Here, they are:
- Gel nails are not the same as acrylics. Acrylics can come in many colors, but they are not as glossy and natural looking as gel nail polishes.
- Ignore the debatable idea that nails breathe. Nails do not breathe.
- However, it is true that too much UV light is harmful to your health. Like we said, reduce the number of times you get exposed to UV light by giving your nails breaks.
- The gel nail removal process will cause the nail beds to get weak due to some layers of your natural skin getting off with the removed.
- Hydrate your nail beds whenever you remove your gel manicure yourself, using acetone.
- Watch the technician as she removes your gel manicure. If you are familiar with the right process, you can correct her when she’s doing it wrong.
- When you are buying a gel nail polish, watch out for dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde. They are toxic, so put the gel manicures down and pick another without any of the three ingredients.
- During manicures, file, buff or cut carefully; do not cut or cause any injury to your cuticle for cutting your cuticles can cause an infection.
At last, you are ready to visit the salon. You want your nails to look glossy and natural, but what amount should you have in mind?
Honestly, the answer can be rightly determined by your location. But not to fret, let’s suggest a range.
To get your nails manicured with gel nail polishes, you will spend around $20-$50, or $35-$100 at places with higher prices. Stating the type of gel manicure they offer, some salons will get your nails manicured for a starting price of $10, but that depends on the service. Keep the first range in mind when you are ready to visit the salon.
This also depends on the type of tools you are using for your gel manicures. At-home gel manicure costs about $50 but contains everything you need. To have a good understanding of the price charged at a saloon, it would be wise to give them a call. Or, as you please, visit the salon if you are not on a strict budget.
Photos via @be.beauty.studio, Instagram