Gel manicures are a fantastic alternative for fashionistas looking for durable, long-lasting and colourful nails.
During a gel manicure a technician will apply gel to the nail, just like a nail polish, or use the gel to attach synthetic nails to your natural ones. This is an art best left to the trained professional; while kits are available online, gel manicures require expensive equipment and precise application.
There are primarily two different types of gel – both of which are available in a wide range of different colours:
- Hard gels are used to create nail extensions – nails that extend beyond the natural nail.
- Soft gels are used for gel polishes and nail overlays – these may also be known as fibreglass or silk wraps.
Both gels are cured or hardened under UV or LED light.
Gel Nail Application
Firstly the Nail Technician will clean your nails, push back the cuticles and file the nail into shape. A base coat will be applied for the polish or synthetic nail to adhere to, followed by several coats of polish.
The gel itself is an opaque white but the nails can be painted a variety of colours. As gel nails can look natural, a clear polish is a popular choice. If you do choose to go for a natural look you should avoid sun beds as it can give the gel a yellow tinge.
To cure or harden each layer your hand will be exposed to the UV or LED light. The thickness of the gel coating has a great effect on the degree of cure. It is much better to use three or four coats rather than one or two thicker coats.
If you are having a nail extension, the gel nail may have a tacky surface layer. This will be removed using an alcohol wipe before you leave the salon.
Aftercare and Removal
After two to three weeks the gel nail will need to be filled in where the natural nail has grown. This involves the Nail Technician filing the nail and removing the colour. You can then choose whether you want just the colour reapplied or have gel added to the new nail growth as well.
Hard gel nails should be removed by filing only, soft gel nails can be removed easily with acetone. Avoid immersing your fingers directly into the acetone as this can damage your skin. Soak a cotton ball or pad in the acetone and apply to the nail for up to 15 minutes. This shouldn’t cause any damage to the natural nail. Don’t try to peel the nails off as this could remove the natural nail too.
The Advantages of Gel Nails
Gel nails can have a more natural feel than other synthetic nails, the gel is odourless and the nails can last for a long time, often as long three weeks. Gel nails do not chip, peel or crack and the polish can be removed easily without damaging the natural nail.
Gel nails also dry quickly under LED light and the nails will be fully dry by the time you leave the salon.
The Disadvantages of Gel Nails
Gel nails are not as durable as other nail extension options and the colours available are limited compared to the plethora of colours available in other polishes.
If you catch your nail extension there is a danger of pulling off the natural nail, which is painful and can potentially lead to an infection.
Gel manicures are more expensive than other manicures and regular maintenance is required to keep them looking their best.
Gel manicures can last for two and sometimes even three weeks. As with many beauty treatments prices vary from £15-£50 depending on location and the popularity of the salon or beauty spa. Find more information about gel nails and where you can get a manicure or pedicure at a salon near you.
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