The Definitive Guide to Gel Nails


Gel Nails

Gel nails have become the main alternative to conventional nails polishes.

Traditional nail polish is so easily prone to breaking and chipping, and gel nails are much stronger. The acrylics and other hardening agents used in conventional nail polish can only adhere to the nail for a limited period of time. As excess oils in the nail bed build up, polishes used for conventional manicures simply lose their grip on the nail and begin to peel and chip.  Gel nails solve this problem.

Gel nails are far more long-lasting than conventional nail polish. The thinner formula tends to be far more flexible and durable than traditional nail polish. Gel nails can also be an alternative to acrylic extensions.

The real advantage of gel nails is its durability. Salons generally guarantee gel nails will last up to two weeks compared with regular nail polish which will only last for 2 or 3 days. The unique process and chemical composition of gel nails make them far more durable than regular polish.

Professionals also state that one of the virtues of gel nails is how well the product goes on, and how easily it can be removed. On this article, we will go a little more in-depth about them.

What is a gel manicure?

Gel nail polishes are made of stronger ingredients than traditional nail polishes. They are more flexible and offer a much greater shine and gloss. A gel manicure is a two-phase process. After the initial application of the gel, the polish is cured using ultraviolet or LED light. This second phase is what hardens the polish directly onto the nails.

A gel manicure really comes in two different types. There are soft gels which are primarily an alternative to acrylic polishes. These offer a gentle and natural nail polish that will shine for about two weeks. Soft gel nail manicures resist chipping, peeling, and cracking.

Hard gel manicures are more involved. These are gel manicures, but they produce an actual nail extension. Again, these are alternatives to acrylic and polymer extensions that are more prone to breakage and chipping. Given the durability and resistance to cracking and peeling, the gel nail extension is definitely an improvement from traditional extensions.

The gels are sculpted as extensions in the same way as traditional extensions. They just last longer.

As the gels are exposed to ultraviolet or LED light, the chemicals in the gels are activated and form dense strong bonds over the nail. This process causes gel nails to adhere to and harden. The process is further cured in oxygen to enhance the chemical reactions.

In either case, soft or hard gel manicures require a professional application that involves a curing process.

The way gel nails work is the gel itself contains reactive chemicals which form strong bonds as the gel is cured in the salon. As opposed to traditional polishes and extensions which are made of complex bonds, gel nails form the bonds on the nail itself.

The science of gel nails can get complex, but the differences between gel nails and traditional polish are the way the polish hardens onto your nails.

Traditional nail polish contains polymers which solidify as they dry. Gel nails form these polymers on the nail with the curing process. By forming the complex chemical bonds on the nail itself, the polish functions in a more natural way in relation to your nail beds.

The active curing process makes for the strength and long-lasting durability of gel nail manicures.

The key difference between a gel manicure and a traditional manicure or extension are the active chemical reactions which form the gel polish or extension.

The latest innovation in gel manicure is a product put out by a company called Gelish. This combines the best of liquid and powder acrylics with LED hard gels to form what is called a “polygel.”.

These can be sculpted onto your nails for an overlay which will work as an enhancement or it can be fully sculpted for nail extensions.

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How do I make my gel nails last longer?

Obviously, once you have invested in your gel nails you will want them to last as long as possible. Gel nails will by their nature last longer than standard manicures. However, there are some important steps you can take to maintain the shine and flawless color of gel nails.


Just like the rest of your body, your nails and gel polish will require daily hydrating. Use the top of the line cuticle oil at least once a day. Ideally, apply cuticle oil at night. This will allow your gel nail applications to soak up the nutrients from the cuticle oil without disturbing the process with work and other activity. If your nails just tend to be flaky, you will need to be especially vigilant about hydrating your gel nails.

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Protect Your Nails

Many of the common activities of daily life are in fact quite damaging to your nails. Something as common as washing the dishes can do tremendous damage to hands and nails. Use gloves when washing up. Avoid any and all chemical exposure such as cleaning chemicals or even perfumes and other scents. Even some of the cleansing products for skin care can be damaging to nails, particularly gel nail manicures.

Leave Them Alone

This seems obvious, but many of us have a tendency to pick at our nails or even chew nails. These little habits can destroy the gel nail manicure and cause chipping and peeling. This is especially important for gel nails because the more you pick at the polish, the thinner your natural nails become. Avoid picking at your new gel nails.

Do Not Cut Your Nails

If your nails grow especially fast, you may feel the need to trim or cut your nails between salon visits. Unfortunately, this will break the bonds on gel nails and cause them to begin peeling and flaking. Avoid cutting or filing your nails after a gel nail manicure.

Your Nails are Not Tools

It is second nature for a lot of us to use our nails as tools to help open cans, cardboard boxes, loosen tape—any number of tiny tasks we encounter every day.

In order to maintain your gel nails, you need to avoid these things. These kinds of things always stress the nails, and this can loosen or break the seal of a gel manicure. These may seem like little things that your nails are naturally suited for, but they are a serious problem for the life of a gel nail manicure.

Just remember: Gel nails are not tools.

Other things to consider include making sure you do not leave the polish on too long. Gel nails are a marked improvement over traditional manicures, but they do need to be removed within the recommended period of time. Go to a professional for proper removal of gel nail polish. Professionals all agree that removal requires special care. Also, any good thing can be overdone. Getting back-to-back gel manicures is simply not good for your nails, and it will diminish the overall benefits of a gel manicure.

A professional manicurist who has a thorough knowledge of gel nails will be able to give a full list of ways to properly care for your gel nail manicure. Making sure you go to a salon with staff who are properly trained in gel manicures is really your best insurance for maintaining your nails.

Is Gel Nail Polish Safe?

Gel nails are an obvious improvement from traditional manicures. With the longevity of as much as 4 weeks, the business of gel nail manicures has grown to an $800 million industry. Because the process of gel manicures involves things like complex polymerization directly on the hand and exposure to UV light, people have begun to wonder about the safety of gel nails.

Health care professionals have expressed concern over the UV curing phase of gel nail manicures. Prolonged exposure to direct UV light can damage skin and even damage DNA in skin cells. This has been linked to premature aging of the skin and even cancer.

However, there has not been a direct study of the dangers of gel nail manicures. The simple fact is, doctors are not sure if gel nail manicures present any real dangers. The chemicals used in gel nail manicures are widely considered safe for use on human skin tissue.

The amount of exposure to UV light in the curing process, while certainly potentially dangerous, has not been linked to any actual problems in people who undergo these treatments.

The best advice on offer from professionals in the industry is to make certain to get your gel nail manicure at a reputable and professional salon. Trained manicurists know exactly how much of the gel to apply and just exactly how long the UV curing time requires.

Another potential danger of gel nails is that the gels can cause thinning and weakening of the nail. One study from the Miami School of Medicine used ultrasound to examine nails and found that gel nail manicures did cause the nail to become thinner. However, doctors were not completely certain if it was the chemical composition of the gels or the extended acetone soak required to completely remove the gel polish.

Wrapping things up

Gel nails continue to grow in popularity. The industry is predicted to see nothing but growth in the foreseeable future. It is no wonder gel nail manicures are a booming part of the salon world. They are far more long-lasting than a traditional manicure. Gel nails are fairly easy to maintain. And with a professional application, gel nails will outshine any of the conventional polishes.

That gel nails can work as a great manicure and as a complete extension indicates that gel nails may well surpass conventional manicure treatments.

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