Beauty Tips and Tricks

Nail Nuances

What You Need to Know Before You Get a Gel Manicure

15 Nov, 2016
By BeYou[tiful]
Ever since exploding onto the beauty scene a few years ago gel has totally dominated the manicure world. While gel manicures have a reputation for being super glossy and long-lasting, they've also managed to get a not-so-good name for themselves, namely for the UV rays used in the process and the damage they do to your natural nails. Some people swear by them while others wouldn’t dream of going near a coat of gel.
 
Unlike regular polish, gel manicures last long and are hard to remove, so we’re here to help you educate yourself before taking the leap.

Salon Gel Manis

First of all, what can you expect from your gel manicure? The process is pretty similar to your usual manicure in that a coat of nail polish is applied to your natural nails, but they use a special gel formula and then your nails are placed under a UV or LED light which 'cures' the gel formula (giving it the non-chip quality the gel manicure is famed for). Your nail technician will add some cuticle oil for moisture and you’re good to go!
 
The formula dries instantly so you can say goodbye to smudging your nails as soon as you reach for your purse to pay for your mani. Your nails will look chic, shiny and (best of all) chip-free for 10 days to 3 weeks where you’ll have to return to the salon to have the gel removed (you can also read on to find out our step-by-step DIY at home method).
 
Sounds good, right? Now we've got all the benefits of this lustrous, long-wear miracle mani, let's discuss the downsides.
 
Related Article: Want to Find the Most Awesome Nail Shape for You?
 

The Dangers of UV and LED Lights

Who doesn't love saving money by perfecting your own manicure skills at home? The main reason salon based gel polish isn't attainable from the comfort of your couch is the LED or UV light used in the process. Sure, some die-hard gel fans have invested in their own but most of us will have to go into the salon every time we want to treat our fingertips to something special.
 
UV rays are known to be harmful to the skin, causing damage that can present itself as wrinkles or dark spots. Now that we're in the era of skin care and have shunned tanning beds for tanning spray, the idea of exposing your hands to harmful UV rays seems like a crazy thing to do, and for this reason many salons have started using LED lights instead. It's important to note, however, that LED lights are still on the UVA spectrum; they just work faster so your skin is exposed for a shorter length of time. Glamour comprehensively covers some of the issues related to UV light here.
 
Whatever light is being used, it's important you take care of your skin. Exposure to UV rays is proven to cause signs of ageing and no one wants premature wrinkles on their fingers or dark sun spots appearing on the back of their hands. We recommend wearing fingerless gloves and applying a layer of SPF50 before putting your hands under the light. Two great high SPF options are Bionike Defence Sun Stick SPF50+ and Bioderma Photoderm MAX SPF50+.
 

Watch Out for Nail Bed Damage

The strength and durability of gel polish also creates a problem for your natural nails: they are deprived of oxygen and can become thin and brittle underneath. The process dehydrates and weakens your nails and many women end up damaging their nail beds after a gel treatment.
 
There is a middle-ground if you're committed to the gel look though; give your nails a three-week break in between manicures to breathe and recover. Better yet treat them to an IBX treatment (available at Sorbet) toughens up your nail plate, fills in grooves and puts everything in place for you to grow healthy nails.
 
Want to know the pros and cons of Gelish vs. Shellac?  Gelish is a pure gel while Shellac is a hybrid nail enamel. Find out a nail technicians view here.

Gel Removal Can be Difficult

Another case of gel polish's strength being its weakness: the product is long lasting but this means it's harder to remove. While gel manicures can last up to 3 weeks it is dependent on how fast your nails grow and you should keep an eye on your nails yourself to judge when it’s time to take them off, because the longer you keep them on the more damage they could be doing to your nail beds.
 
Take a look at your re-growth: once the layer of gel is around 5mm from your cuticle it's time to soak it off. No matter how tempting it is never, ever pick your gel polish off. You will almost certainly peel off layers of your nail plate too, causing damage that will leave your nails weak and flaky (plus your next manicure won’t last as long on top of a weak nail bed).

 
While the salon pros will be able to handle stubborn removals better than you, it's not totally impossible to remove your gel yourself. You will need a nail file, cuticle oil, cotton balls, acetone, foil and a cuticle stick.
 
  1. Use the nail file to file away the top layer of gel. Try Dis-Chem Glass Nail Files.
  2. Acetone really dries out skin so before applying it apply nourishing cuticle oil around your nail bed. One of our faves is Mavala Cuticle Oil.
  3. Soak (and we mean soak!) a cotton ball in acetone and place it on your nail.
  4. Cut a piece of foil about 5cm x 5cm and wrap it around your finger so that it completely covers your finger and holds the cotton ball in place.
  5. Repeat with all of your fingers and leave them on for 15 minutes.
  6. Gently remove each foil finger, massaging the cotton ball on the nail as you go to remove the polish.
  7. Whatever polish hasn't simply fallen off can be gently scraped off with the cuticle stick (Dis-Chem Cuticle Sticks are perfect for this job).
  8. Use the nail file to buff away any leftover bits of polish and follow with another layer of cuticle oil.

Gel Nails Made Easy

Many brands have developed products for those who want the gel finish but don't want to pay through the nose for it, or go into the salon to get it done or removed.
 
Products like Sally Hansen's Gel Miracle range have a colour coat and a top coat that mesh together to create a durable and shiny finish similar to a salon gel mani that you can remove with normal nail polish remover. These products don't last as long as the real deal but are a good middle ground to save you time and money.
 
Related Article: 9 of the Most On Trend Summer Nail Colours You Should Try
 
 

Take the Leap

If you’re sick of chipped polish, having to reapply your polish every few days and want a super high-gloss look that will last you longer than a regular mani then gel might be just the thing for you.
 
If you take preventative steps to prevent UV damage, give your nails time to rest in between manis and commit to constantly applying cuticle oil, then a salon gel manicure shouldn't cause any huge damage to your precious nails. Take into consideration that although your little trip to the salon doesn't seem very long it all adds up. Exposing your skin to UV or LED lights and your nails and fingertips to a product as harsh as acetone is bound to affect you negatively so you should space your sessions out, allowing your hands a bit of a holiday in between manicures.
 
Still not convinced? Take a gel-based product, like the gel range from Essence, for a spin!
 

Shop Your Products Now

Our shopping partner is Dis-Chem

Bioderma Photoderm Max SPF50 Cream

BioNike Defence Sun Stick SPF50

Dis-Chem Cuticle Sticks 12

Dis-Chem Glass Nail Files X3

Dis-Chem Nourishing Nail Polish Remover 300ml

Essence Gel Nail Polish - Sweet as Candy 05

Essence The Gel Nail Polish Top Coat

Mavala Cuticle Oil

Sally Hansen Miraclegel Nail Polish - Birthday Suit 110

Sally Hansen Miraclegel Top Coat

Softi Cotton Balls Economy

Speedy Gel 6 Watt LED Gel Polish Curing Lamp
Tell us what you think or need help with
There are no comments for this post
 Security code
ASK US
X
NEED SOME HELP?

Do you have a beauty problem that’s really bugging you? Ask our experts now

Full name:
Email address:
Your Problem:
ASK US