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Why We Love Gel Nail Colors

A beautiful faceDear Audrey,

Every time I go into the nail salon to get my nails done, they try to get me to use gel nail color—but it’s twice as expensive!  Is it really worth all the hype?

You know the same thing happens to me too.  So I decided to do a little digging and find out what the hype is all about.  What you are referring to is Gel nail color or polish—not Gel nails or Acrylic nails which are very different.  Gel nail color is an actual gel nail polish that is put on your nails after they have been manicured.  Sometimes this gel nail color is referred to as shellac.

Gel nail colors are frequently described as a hybrid of the popular gel manicure.  A gel manicure is when a thick gel is placed on the nails, then hardened under a UV lamp and sculpted into a nail with an electric file. Gel nail polish is a great alternative to a gel or acrylic manicure.

The Upside

Gel nail color polish is a colored thick gel polish that is applied to the nails after they have already been manicured.  The color is applied to your already existing nails. Gel nail colors offer long-lasting, chip free shiny color.  The gel color also makes your nails really strong and resistant to breaking between manicures.  Generally it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to have the gel nail color applied at a nail salon or at home, so your time spent in the salon or at home is less than if you were to get Acrylic or Gel (artificial) nails. Sure it may cost more, but most manufacturers’ say their product lasts at least 2 if not 3 weeks!  So instead of going in for a manicure every week, you only have to go in every three weeks.  That’s money saving and time saving!

The Process

I hear you asking—“How is that possible?” Well,  it’s in the polish, the preparation and the curing. Yup, curing using an ultraviolet (UV) light.  The polish is thicker and is applied to clean prepped nails. Each manufacturer has different instructions for their polish, but for the most part, first the nails are prepped, then a base coat is applied, the nails are then cured under a UV light, then a coat of polish is applied and the nails are cured once again under the UV light.  The process is repeated and finally a top coat is applied and then they are cured one  final time.  Once the nails are cured, they are given a quick polish with a soft cloth and you are good to go!  No worries about messing up your nails as you search in your purse for your keys or your phone. 

The Downside

So the big question, is there a real downside to these remarkable nail polishes?  Well maybe.  To remove the polish, you need to break the “seal” that is formed between the nail and the gel polish first. You do that by filing off the top shiny layer of the polish—next you need to saturate a piece of cotton with acetone and place it on top of your nail then wrap it in foil and wait about 5 minutes.  Once you remove the cotton and foil, the remainder of the polish is scraped away. I know some people don’t like the idea of using acetone on their nails because acetone is a very drying chemical that can cause your nail to become brittle and peel after repeated use. However, massaging a moisturizer or cuticle oil into you nails several times each day can help combat the dryness.

Another possible downside is the fact that the polish is cured or set using an ultraviolet or UV light.  Some people consider UV light the equivalent to sunlight and sunlight can cause skin cancer.  However, there is an alternative to the UV light you can use an LED light to set the gel—if you ask around you should be able to find a manicurist that uses one.  Another option is to use fingerless gloves so that just the tips of your nails are under the light.

You Can Do it at Home

And here’s good news: several companies that have come out with do it yourself gel manicure kits!  Now have a chip-free, shiny manicure from home.  While the initial investment might seem a little high, once you purchase the light (I recommend one with an LED light), you really only have to add the bottles of polish and you have what you need to create lovely, chip-free, shiny nails! 

Several companies offer a starter kit that generally includes the light, manicure tools, removers and a bottle of polish. At Westside Beauty Supply we like to recommend ORLY® smartGELS because they are free from DBP, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin and Toluene, and they use an LED light instead of a UV light to cure your nail polish.  You can purchase ORLY® smartGELS in a starter kit or pickup the individual tools, the LED curing light and polishes. 

So now that you know what all the hype is you can make an informed decision about whether or not gel nail polish is for you. If you still can’t decide, come in to one of our stores and ask a member of our trained professional staff to help you figure out what’s right for you.  We’re here to help!

Here’s to shiny beautiful nails!


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