I have been getting Gel Polish manicures for about 3 years now and so it surprises me that there is still a lot of confusion about the product and how it works. So I would like to do my best to give it a consumer’s explanation.
Gel Polish is often referred to as “Shellac”, just as facial tissue is called “Kleenex” even if it another brand. Shellac is a gel polish product by CND, but there are several other manufactures that make gel polish as well. The most common I have seen is of course OPI came out with a gel polish line that is great because several of the colors are replications of the regular polish line; great if you want matching toes and don’t want to do the gel polish routine on your feet. I have also seen quite often a product called Gelish, and a few others here and there at nail salons.
You are also really starting to see the at home kits everywhere, including the grocery store. I believe there is a Sally Hansen version, Red Carpet at Ulta, Haute by Luminess, etc. These do seem to work; but for the same reason I don’t paint my nails myself, I don’t bother because painting my right hand with my left never looks pretty.
Here are the basic steps that seem to be consistent both at the salon and with at home kits.
- Paint Base Coat
- Cure with UV or LED light for 30-120 seconds depending on the product and light
- Paint 2-3 color coats, cured between coats with the light
- Paint Top Coat
- Final Cure
The product comes out of a bottle just like nail polish and is applied exactly the same. The only real difference is that after every coat you paint on you will cure it with the light.
Many people ask if “Shellac” is fake nails, my answer is no. It does seem to give some added strength to my nails since the gel coats are thick and well bonded to my nails. My nails do grow much longer when I have gel polish on. There is also none of the abrasive techniques used that you see when getting acrylics applied to your nails. They will buff the top of the nail surface to create a better bond before the base coat, but this is done even when going in for a standard manicure.
The biggest benefit to gel polish is how long your nails look freshly polished. I have made it up to 3 weeks without chipping, only going in to get it replace because of the “root” nail regrowth. I will say that the longevity of you gel polish wear is base on multiple factors including: proper application, color, brand, and water(which goes back to application). I will say that Shellac does seem to have the longest wear, with OPI in a very close second. OPI does seem to be a little harder to remove but not bad. I also can tell that some darker colors and colors with strong glitter/metallic tend to remove harder than your pale matte colors as well. Again, not difficult, just after years of using the products you notice little differences. The reason I have used gel polish for so many years is that I am very tough on my hands. A standard manicure is lucky if it last a full 48 hours on me, really lucky! And while acrylic nails made my hands look fabulous and withstood the pressure, I cringed at the dremel tool coming at my hands twice a month. During the years of acrylic nails sometimes my nail bed would get so thin my fingers would ache the morning after getting my manicure. I don’t have the problem with gel polish. I will state that I have heard some people do have issues with gel polish, but I think that can be said with anything.
The second best thing about Gel Polish, there is NO ISSUE with paying for your manicure or getting in your car and driving off! Because as soon as they are finished with your nails they are COMPLETELY dry!!!
The most important thing I want people to know; because it seems to be the biggest misunderstanding is how gel polish comes OFF! You have to soak it off with pure acetone. Most people don’t realize this and get get polish put on their nails, and then damage their nails trying to take it off themselves. Please do not peel the product off, or scrape it off after trying to soak them in nail polish remover. This will just damage your nails. It is usually only $5-10 to have it taken off professionally if you are not going to have it put back on; and please pay a professional, especially if you have never seen it properly done. Removal is included if you are having another color gel polish put on.
I do want to state that I am not a nail professional, just a long term consumer. So many friends have come to me with questions because they know this is the only product I use so I wanted to share; hoping that it will help someone with their decisions process and maybe make someones life a tad bit easier.