Gel manicures: Everything you need to know about getting& removing one

Aug. 4, 2020
What is a gel manicure?
Gel manicures can look like your ordinary manis, except they last longer, feel sturdier and works no matter what length you’ve grown your nails to. 
As with normal manis, the process starts with cutting the nails, soaking your hands lightly in water, trimming the cuticles, and then a thorough clean of your hands. When the polish is applied is where things get exciting. Unlike acrylics, which are made with a powder dipped in solvent, your gel-based polish is made from… well, gel. They attach differently too, and require curing under UV light. To do that, your nails will first get coated with a base layer to prep it for the gel. This layer hardens under UV light, so you’ll go through a couple of coatings where the base layer coated onto your nails and your hand is held under the UV light for 30 seconds. Finally, the shiny topcoat goes on and your hand goes under the UV lamp again for another minute, and voilà!
Why get a gel manicure?
Not only do they fit onto your nails no matter how long you’ve trimmed them, like your regular manis, there’s an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to nail art, and you can do almost anything whatsoever – whether it’s a monotone hue you’re after or fancy gemstone art, you’re covered. But the biggest benefit of gel manis is, of course, how long they can last. Typically, they last for two to three weeks, and maybe even four if you’re really careful with your hands. Gone are the days where you’ll have to repaint your nails every three or four days. The application process is also super fast and simple, and won’t take you more than a few minutes at the salon.  
At home vs. salon
There are now at-home gel kits available for you to buy as well. These are no match for salon-quality gel manicures – it’s unlikely you’ll get them to last for a full three weeks, but they do last somewhat longer than a normal manicure – you expect around 10 days. In general, I’d advise using at-home gel kits, unless you have expert level nail skills. After all, you wouldn’t really want a blemish to last for a full three weeks!
How to remove a gel mani
With gel manis, the removal process is just as important as the application process itself. Do not pick at or peel off your gel, even if it’s chipped! Although you may not think of it that way, nail Is actually made of living tissue and doing so can damage your nails and affect future manis from attaching properly. The best way to remove your mani is still to do it at the salon. A skilled technician should not be rushing the removal process. They also shouldn’t file or buff the nail bed to get the gel off, since that can lead to cracking and rough texture. Look out for that – many people miss it because they follow up a removal process immediately with a new manicure. At the end of the day, if the technician has meticulous skill, your mani should feel like it’s fallen off naturally; there should never be a ripping and pulling sensation. If you want to save yourself a trip to the salon or don’t want to pay extra for the service, you can also do this at home. Ask the salon what kind of gel you got, because the removal process can differ from gel to gel. Soft gels should be buffed and soaked off, Japanese gels should be filed down with an electronic file, and hard gels need to be completely filed off before soaking. Other gels won’t require buffing and can be soaked off. Here’s how that process typically looks like:
  • Fill a bowl with 100% acetone
  • Use a light grit file to file down the top coat
  • Soak your nails in acetone for a few minutes
  • Scrape off the jelly-like coat with a cuticle pusher
  • Buff your nails gently
  • Moisturize with cuticle oil and hand and nail cream
  • Extra tips to get the most out of your manicure
    Apply sunscreen to your hands before application. The UV light used to cure the gel manicure can be harmful to the skin and lead to pre-mature aging. You don’t want that, especially if you’re going to get a manicure quite often!
    Find gels with clean ingredients. Avoid ingredients like dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene. These ingredients are toxic at best and carcinogenic at worst. 
    Ensure nail beds are dry. Having dry nail beds ensures that the gel stays on for longer. Dry means no moisture, lotion or oil, since anything that acts as a layer between your nail and the gel can prevent it from sticking on properly.
    Apply cuticle oil in between appointments. Apply cuticle oil between your salon appointments to keep your nails beds and the skin around your nails hydrated and healthy.
    Are you a nail expert or a gel mani newbie? Share your experience and your favourite nail treatment down below!
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