The Comprehensive Guide to Gel Manicures: Benefits, Cost, and Duration

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I don’t know about you, but getting a manicure equals a little TLC and self-care; in fact, it can be a great way to show off your personality. Regular nail polish offers a wide range of creative designs and textures, but what happens when you get stuck in between hands-on projects, busy work weeks, and meetings? Getting a gel manicure can go a long way, but before rushing to get them done, there are a dozen tips you need to be aware of and, well, maintenance.

READ MORE: Why “BIAB” Nails Should Be On Your Next Nail Appointment

What Is a Gel Manicure?

A gel manicure, like the traditional one, entails cutting, filing, shaping nails, and cutting cuticles. But unlike regular manis, gel manicures use gel-based polish and UV or LED light to cure and lock it onto the nails. It is more durable than regular polish, staying chip-free for weeks.

Gel manis definitely look like regular manicures but last longer, are glossy during the duration of wear, and provide a sturdier feel. They are accessible to anyone, regardless of their nails length.

How Long Do Gel Nail Polishes Last?

The biggest flex of gel manicure is their long duration. Due to the curing process, gel manicures often last 10 days to three weeks with proper nail prep and at home care. Consider using strengthening base gels like LeChat Liquid Gel Builder ($18) to maintain the manicure’s quality while enhancing wear and extending the manicure’s lifespan.

Make sure your nail beds are dry and free of water, lotion, or oils before applying gel polish. Although chips and damaged nails are still possible, if this happens, it helps to keep a nail file nearby so you can shape the gel if it chips or breaks. Or simply find a polish that is similar to fill in any color gaps if they are obvious and cannot be taken back to the salon.

Cost of Getting A Gel Manicure

Gel manicure prices vary by city, state, the nail tech and what kind of nail art you fancy. In major cities like LA and New York City, they can cost $40 to $60+. Gel polish typically costs $10-20 more than regular manicures, so if your planning a long occasion or have a tight schedule they are definitely worth the splurge.

For top notch nail art your budget should be atleat $100+. Gel removal costs $5-20 depending on location.

How safe are these gel manicures?

Massive amounts of UV radiation are used in gel manicures to permanently embed a unique, light-sensitive gel into the nails. With the wide popularity of Gel manicures, there has been ample of research concerning the effects of UV exposure on the skin and nail damage. It’s not news that long exposure to UV lights can cause series of side effects like dark spots, wrinkles, and cancer, that’s why most nail brands to switch to LED curing due to their lower levels of UV rays and faster result.

Traditional UV lamps have different bulbs than traditional tanning beds, and most nail brands switch to LED lamps for faster curing. However, if you prefer UV lamps for drying, apply sunscreen beforehand, although most doctors agree to always use a sunscreen regardless the curing process.

And like every other product, some gel polishes contain toxic ingredients like dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene, which can be carcinogenic, so be mindful of shopping clean and avoid using gel polishes with harmful ingredients.

Can Gel Manicures Ruin Your Nails?

When done properly, they don’t. Gel manicures don’t damage nails, but improper removal can be a major disadvantage. To avoid this, you should carefully remove the gel polish yourself at home or seek professional manicurists. Ensure nail technicians avoid filing, buffing, or drilling to prevent damage to nail beds during salon manicures, as these practices can cause damage.

If peeling nails is by far too tempting for you, skip gels and allow the nail to grow out. Applying daily cuticle oil is essential for strong nails.

How to Remove a Gel Manicure Safely

Nail beds and cuticles are vital living tissue, so be cautious during application and removal. Avoid ripping them off and opt for safe gel removal at a salon.

To save cost, use a 100/180 grit file, which is readily available at drugstores, to remove gel polish. Use the 180-degree side to take off shine, and the 100-degree side to remove topcoat, builder gel, or nail art layers.

Another method entails filing the nails, applying cotton balls soaked in acetone to the nails, and wrapping the fingertips in tin foil – slow and delicate but very effective.

Once removed, it’s best to apply cuticle oil or serum to your nails to rehydrate them. If switching directly from one manicure to the next, avoid using cuticle oil as it may cause lifting.

Do DIY gel kits work?

It is advisable to avoid using at-home gel kits unless you are familiar with proper nail prep and application. If not done correctly, the gel polish may lift, causing damage to the natural nail.

At-home gel kits can save money on weekly manicures, but they are not salon-quality. To achieve a perfect salon-level gel nail, follow instructions and maintain a steady hand.

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