When it comes to innovations, one might consider the 21st century to abound in them way too much to lean back in a soft armchair and enjoy the sweet fruits of creative minds. But nothing of the kind happens in the world to whatever sphere we look to; just on the contrary the process kicks it into higher gear.
The beauty industry comes to be one of those fields morphed into a testing ground and regularly bringing forth an array of innovative technologies and facilities, one of them being gel manicures. Below, we discuss everything about gel manicures, figuring out the main pros and cons of gel nails and learning how to apply and remove gel nail polish with maximum safety and without any scathe at home!
The modern woman actually has higher demands and accordingly higher is the quality and power of the new offerings made by the leading companies in the world. Gel nails presumptuously outstrip such popular nail techniques as acrylic nails, fiberglass and silk wraps.
The contemporary woman has many irons in the fire, so why not a wee bit facilitate her life providing her with long-lasting, super glossy and polished nails. Let us take a closer look at this new generation nail art technology, trying to draw parallels between gel nails and other nail techniques.
The Basics of Gel Nails
What are gel nails? What is it that should incite us to abandon the traditional, already-so-familiar nail polishes or no less popular durability-guaranteeing acrylic nails and to embrace these innovative formulas?
The term gel or gelatin comes from Latin word ‘gelatus’ meaning “stiff”, “frozen” which is a hydrolyzed form of collagen, a semi-solid, translucent and odorless substance that has lived its long life smoothly passing from the food industry to hair styling to nail enhancement.
Most of the beauty salons, always having their doors open to fashion-conscious women and the hearts – to their needs and demands, have in the long run come to the conclusion that gel nails are the exact final result that any woman has been long looking forward to.
See also: How to Whiten Nails At Home
Gel nails are thin, flexible, feathery light, crystalline clean, nonporous, lifting-resistant and what is most importantly – hyper durable and long lasting up to 2-3 weeks. Nails coated with gel manicures are commonly cured under a UV or LED light within 2 or 3 minutes, unlike acrylic nails that are cured by air.
Gel nails can undeniably be categorized under the list of multifunctional products by their ability to serve as natural nail overlay, tip overlay as well as the formula for nail extension and sculpture. Moreover, this new product can be applied not only on fingernails but also on toenails, in both cases providing the same enhancement effect.
Formally, we are calling gel-based extended nails artificial as well, but if we look at gel nails from a different perspective, we may adopt another outlook. Gel nails look super natural, with a polished and glossy finish and the expression “looks may be deceiving” here works in no way, as the natural nails under gel coating keep on growing in their regular rate, moreover are being strengthened and enhanced through gel formula.
That is why we prefer calling gel nails a nail enhancement method rather than artificial nails.
Drawing Parallels Between Gel Nails and Other Nail Extension Methods
Given that most of the women now are almost always over the moon with the foretaste of having fleshier lips, longer hair and more flawless face than their natural, the craze for nail extension philosophy is not so surprising.
Many a nail technician now offers an array of nail care and extension methods down the pat and among them is the latest effective technology of gel nails that has managed to outpace acrylic, fiberglass and silk wrap nail extension types.
Because of information splash now, it has become somewhat confusing to differentiate between various types of nail extension, but never mind, as we’ll now undertake that intricate process of drawing clear borders between these different notions.
Gel Nails VS Acrylic Nails
Before the emergence of gel manicures, acrylic ones were undeniably number one nail enhancement techniques due to their durability and long-lasting formula. But then those gel nails emerged and a real competition broke out between them. Actually, there are quite a lot of similarities between these two most popular nail extension techniques.
Both can be used not only for nail extension, but also over natural nail as an enhancement mechanism or over artificial nail tips. Both can serve as perfect foundation of the elegant and coquette French manicure and other nail art designs and both are the best companions for any business lady, who is short of time to regularly refresh her fingernails.
But why are gel nails so intensively outriding acrylic ones you may ask?
First and the most prominent difference is that nails coated with gel polish look much more natural with super attractive gloss on it, while acrylic nails may at times doom at their being artificial. However if we speak more minutely about the differences in their durability we can find out that acrylic nails are more long-lasting and stouter and if any single acrylic nail is damaged, it can be easily filled. In case of gel nails, the nail polish should be removed and worked out anew.
The reason mainly lies beneath their substances. Acryl comes to be a mixture of powder and liquid, while gel is rather a pre acryl state, i.e. more fluid and floating. That is why acrylic substance is so rigid and durable, thereby requiring more intricate sculpting process with a brush, while gel manicure is easily sculpted by itself once a small portion of it is placed on a nail.
Another reason that many technicians and beauty-conscious girls have recently fallen for gel nails, is that they are cured much more quickly than acrylic nails. Your gel nails may be cured within 2-3 minutes under a UV or LED light and keep on going for a long time without any peeling or smudging, while in case of acrylic nails there is no other method for curing than traditional air-drying and accordingly the process takes more time.
Whether it is safe for your skin to put it under UV or LED light regularly is just the reverse of the medal on which we will reflect later.
Additionally, just for your information, gel nails are usually more expensive in price than acrylic ones.
Gel Nails VS Fiberglass or Silk Wrap
Fiberglass or silk wrap is rather to be called a nail enhancement method, as it’s too soft to give a nail any extension. So if gel or acrylic substances are by themselves able to give birth to new nail tips, fiberglass or silk wraps are just overlaid on the existing nail or the artificial tip through special resin to strengthen the nail and to visually make it thicker.
Pros of Gel Nails
• Gel nails are obviously number one samples of natural-looking artificial nails with gloss finish and featherweight feeling.
• Gel nails are quite durable and long-lasting (3-4 weeks) compared to common nail polishes.
• Gel nails in no way damage natural nails if applied in the right way, just on the contrary strengthen thin and crispy nails, never hampering their normal growing process.
• They are cured within minutes under a UV or LED light, so while leaving the beauty salon you will already have super dry and polished nails and will be quite at ease with all your finger touches and gestures.
• The ultraviolet radiation if applied in reasonable dose is able to kill all those harmful bacteria and microbes on your nails.
• Gel nails are very flexible and versatile; that is why when it comes to various nail art designs or popular French nails, gel manicure comes to be the exact substance to work them out.
Cons of Gel Nails
• Gel nails actually are not so durable as we can say about acrylic ones. In case of abrupt temperature change, like for example entering a warm room while it is frosty winter outside, your gel manicure may get damaged, getting some cracks and chips. Likewise, it is advisable not to deal with any chemical substances so as to avoid ruining your polished nails.
• In case of even a single crack or chip on your gel nail, no touch-up will help it; it will just need fresh sculpting.
• There is no dispute that the ultraviolet radiation may kill some microbes or parasitic fungi on your nails but it may at the same time bring forth some serious side effects. The regular ultraviolet radiation contact with your fingers may in the long run engender skin cancer; so to avoid such serious problems, just do not make wearing gel nail polishes your routine procedure.
• Coating your nails with gel polishes definitely requires strong professional skills and utmost carefulness. So, attending a beauty salon, moreover having your private nail technician is a mandatory prerequisite if you are going to try on gel nails, otherwise you may cause some infection to your nails.
Besides, this technology requires having at your disposal a whole slew of tools and products (the UV light is enough) that are way expensive.
Going Deeper Into Gel Manicure
Now that you have a general idea about gel nails, what benefits they may bring to you nails and what side effects should be taken into consideration before applying this innovative substance on your nails, it is high time to smoothly pass from theory to practice, providing you with some general tips on what gel polish to choose and how to apply it at home.
From the very beginning it is worth mentioning once more that when it comes to any chemical substances such as gel polishes it is highly recommended to go to a specialist and avoid any self-maintained testings on yourself – a single misstep and you may ruin your natural nails, afterwards spending huge amount of time and money to repair them.
And one more useful piece of advice from us – if you have healthy nails that easily grow and are pleasant to look at, try to shrink from any artificial chemical substances always keeping in mind that keeping natural beauty is both uber-enticing and useful for health, while for thin and crispy nails gel coverage will work just perfectly.
Three Systems of Building Gel Nails
As it has already been mentioned, gel polish is a perfect example of multifunctionality. The transparent gel polish can be applied on the nails as an enhancement and strengthening method, while the colored ones come to be for trendy appearances. And additionally there is thicker and denser gel substance that is commonly used for nail extension processes.
Whether you are enhancing your nails or making them longer, you need careful compliance with the rules. The leading beauty brands and salons have worked out three systems of building gel nails – one-phase, two-phase and three-phase.
One-phase system is originally perfect for beginners, who want the process of building gel nails to take less time and efforts. So while working with one-phase system you will have one single gel polish pot at your disposal, acting as a base coat (primer or bonder gel), sculpting gel and top coat all at once. This system is obviously outstripping others with its express appliance, but such gel manicures are less durable.
Two-phase system includes a base coat of liquid substance and a sculpting gel that is denser in its consistency and more flexible for better nail sculpting purposes.
Three-phase system is what the high-end nail technicians mostly put into use. After coating the nails with primer and sculpting gel over it, they finish it off with a top coat that comes to play a protective role for fingernails. And important is not to mix them, say, using top coat as a primer or vice versa, as this misstep may also cause some damage to your nails.
How to Choose a Gel Nail Polish
No matter to what extent professional you are as a nail technician, your skills will instantly degrade to zero in case of applying any low quality product. So, it is worth knowing the best nail polish brands so as to provide your nails with the maximum charm and pizzazz. So, what are those brands that have so effectively spread the gel nail craze among beauty-addicted women?
• Harmony Gelish polish is the first ever bottled gel that comes to present a huge bunch of colors, promising to last for up to three weeks. Only licensed salon technicians can purchase these products straight from the brand, while consumers are free to acquire these gel nail polishes only from online independent sellers.
• China Glaze Gelaze is just another popular brand that has played a huge role in the creation and expansion of gel nails. China Glaze Gelaze polishes are available in different colors and more importantly include the base coat in the gel polishes.
• OPI Gelcolor is a new line originated by the iconic OPI nail care brand that is more specialized in nail polishes rather than on gel ones. However here you will also find a handful of gel nail polishes that are available both in stores and online.
• IBD Just Gel, another popular gel nail polish brand, has a wide variety of shades at more affordable prices.
• Sally Hansen Pro Gel offers not only a great number of shades but also some gel nails building supplies and after-gel nourishing creams, oils and lotions thus providing you with full-fledged gel nails.
Gel Nails: Do It Yourself
If you have all the same decided upon building gel nails yourself, intending to save time and money or just trying your forces in the nail enhancement sphere, we are happily sharing with you all those tips and steps that you should take in order to wear smudge-proof and enduring gel manicure over several weeks. So is you are aspiring to make your natural nails longer, then again, come here.
First of all, to build salon-worthy gel nails or to extend them you should have the following products and supplies at your disposal:
1. UV or LED nail lamp
2. Nail files, clippers and block buffers
3. Cuticle pushers
4. Artificial nail tips or special nail forms
5. Gel base coat or primer
6. Gel top coat
7. Any gel polish color upon your preferences
The Process of Building Gel Nails
• First of all prepare your nails by filing them with all kinds of nail files, clippers and buffers and then remove the after-filing dust off your nails immediately after passing to cuticles. You can use special cuticle remover (Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover) around the cuticle area, which will allow for easier procedure of pushing the cuticles off your nail plate using a cuticle pusher or orange stick.
It is also important to remove all the excess oils and debris off your nails, for which it is recommended to apply cotton ball soaked in acetone.
• Apply the first base coat on your nails with a very thin layer keeping 3mm distance from cuticles. If however the gel touches the cuticles, instantly remove it with gel remover before placing the hand under UV light, otherwise it may cause lifting to your nails. Keep the hand under the light for 2-3 minutes.
• Apply the color gel polish again with a very thin coating and put the nail under the light for another 3 minutes. Coat the nails with the second layer of color gel polish allowing for fuller color appearance and again cure them under UV light.
• Finally, apply the finishing top coat, which will protect your nails from any external stimulus and cure them under UV light within 3 minutes.
• What is left to you now is to check if there is any sticky layer left on your nails and to remove it with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton ball. Now, put the finishing touches to your nails by massaging the skin around the nails with special nourishing cuticle oil.
The Process of Gel Nails Extension
The gel-orientated nail extension process is definitely more complicated and intricate and holding the process on your own may take you more time and efforts, let alone that the result may not bring you any gratification. However if you have deft hands and some potential to take nail technician niche, we have a pretty concise tutorial for you.
Gel-based nail extension may take two forms – an express version to glue tip overlays on your natural nails and to repeat the same process as with natural nail overlay and a more sophisticated version using special nail forms and sculpting fresh new tips. The latter coming to be more intricate includes the following steps:
• Start from filing your natural nails and mind to leave a little edge so that the form can be placed under it.
• Coat your natural nails with a thin layer of base coat keeping 3mm distance from your cuticles and cure them under UV light for 2-3 minutes.
• Place the form tightly on the edge of your nails and start sculpting the artificial nails with the use of a special brush and gel structure. Cure them under UV light for 2-3 minutes.
• Continue the process by applying the second layer of gel and again cure them under the UV light.
• Next take off the stencil and start filing the extended nails, giving them your desired form – square, rounded or almond-shaped.
• Apply a thick portion of gel on your nails, stretching it from the center to different directions. Hold your palm inside down for several seconds and again cure them under UV light.
• Apply the finishing top coat on your nails; again pass the curing process and polish the skin around the cuticles with nourishing gel oil.
• Now you have a perfect canvas to work out various attractive sights. You can coat your nails with monochromatic color gel nail polishes, you can build classic French tips or maybe you have your heart set on ombre nails.
Some Tips on How to Take Care of Gel Nails
Building gel nails is just the first step; the further process requires more care and attention. When we state that gel nails last up to three weeks, we do not mean that you should lie back and just admire your super polished nails. This is definitely not the appropriate attitude required to keep your gel nails fresh for 3 weeks.
You should follow some extra tips that will provide your gel nails with a longer life.
• Usually, the allergic reaction of your skin to some components is revealed only after you already have your gel nails done. If you notice some redness or itching around the nails, do not hesitate to turn to your technician and if you have built your gel nails by yourself and have no technician yet, then immediately find a licensed one who will figure out the ingredients causing your skin an allergic reaction up to forwarding you to a dermatologist.
• While doing some housework, like washing dishes or something else, wear rubber gloves, as hot water or chemical substances may cause your nails lifting or peeling.
• Once a week make a repair appointment with your technician as the natural nails under the gel keep on growing, which can break the symmetrical appearance of your nails.
• Every now and then apply top coat on your gel nails so as to avoid chipping or yellowing especially when on the beach.
• It is also recommended to use cuticle oils or lotions on the skin around the nails as they need nourishment on a regular basis.
• If a nail is broken, do not try to repair it, as gel nails are not like acrylic ones. They need to be removed and rebuilt anew. So talking to your technician will be the best decision. Likewise, if you have already got bored with that particular color and want to remove it, do not take your own initiative. Study carefully the gel manicure removal process or else turn to your technician.
How to Remove Gel Nail Polish
Removing gel nail polish is not a regular process, either. You will need some special products at your hand. No regular acetone works here and accordingly you cannot hold the process within minutes before going out. That is why you need maximum 30 minutes for removing gel manicure from your nails. Here is what products you should acquire:
1. Gel Nail Cleanser
2. Nail files
3. Orange sticks
4. Aluminum foil
5. Cotton balls
• Start from filing the surface of your gel nails until they lose their sleek and glossy appearance.
• Cut a sheet of aluminum foil into 10 different pieces, large enough to wrap your whole gel nail.
• Soak cotton balls into gel nail cleanser liquid and put them on each of your nails, finishing off by wrapping them with foil pieces.
• Let your hands rest in such a state for 15 minutes, and then remove the foils and cotton balls to find out the gel peeling off the nails.
• With the help of the orange stick softly push the leftovers of gel off your nails and if there are any pieces still adhered to your nails, go over with the same process until all the gel nail polish is removed.
• If you are a beginner remove the gel off your nails working on each hand individually.
Photos courtesy of @nailkaterina