Monday, July 13, 2015

All About the Gel: Gel Manicures, the Pros and Cons

Today's post is a little long, but informative.  If you're interested in or curious about gel manicures read on.
I was watching one of my favorite YouTubers MissHollyBerries, and the subject of gel polish came up.  Madam Glam was kind enough to send her their gel manicure nail kit containing 2 gel polishes and a LED lamp.  I believe this was a special set because the beginners’ kit sold on their website ( contains a “Magical Pocket led lamp”, one top coat, one base coat and one color coat of your choice.  According to their website, the kit is worth $107.84 but can be purchased for $73.40.  That’s a little pricey, I don’t think I’ll be ordering one in the near (or far) future.  But hers was free so I hope that she gives it a try.  I’d love to see a demonstration.
Recently, I’ve gotten in the habit of using a single coat of clear gel polish as a base coat under my manicures to harden my nails and keep them from breaking and chipping.  I like that I can apply and remove many swatches without a lot of wear and tear on my nails.  But is gel polish really a good choice?  I did a little research to find out some of the pros and cons of using gel polish and I came up with a little information that will change how I use gel polish. 
What is gel nail polish?  Gel nail polish, often called soak off gel, comes in a bottle like regular nail polish.  Usually, the bottles are dark in color so that the gel polish does not come into contact with light.  Gel polish applies like regular nail polish, but must be cured in a UV or LED lamp.  Curing time for a UV lamp is about 2 minutes where curing with an LED lamp is about 30 seconds.  One point for the LED lamp.  Removing gel nail polish requires a 10 to 15 minute soak in acetone. 

Let’s get to the pros and cons. 

The pros.  A manicure using gel polish lasts longer than one using regular nail polish.  I’ve read different claims about how long gel polish lasts, but the consensus seems to be two weeks or longer.  It creates a hard coating over your nails so that they are less likely to break and chip.  They have a glossier shine than regular nail polish and they get you out the door super fast fast. 
Sounds great so far, but we haven’t gotten to the cons, and there are plenty. 

First, gel polishes set by exposure to UV, or ultraviolet light, hence the special lamps.  This is the same damaging light used in tanning beds that we all know have been known to cause cancer and premature aging of the skin.  Although these lamps produce low levels of UV light, it’s not clear whether or not it’s enough to cause significant damage or cancer.  Then there's the problem of nasty chemicals.  One called Butylated hydroxyanisol (try saying that one three times really fast) is commonly used to make gel polishes, and it’s a known cancer-causing agent.  Again, it’s not known how much exposure to the chemical will cause cancer, but it’s wise to check to see if it’s an ingredient in your gel polish.  Another chemical called methyl acrylate (that one I can pronounce) is also found in gel polishes.  It’s not quite as nasty as that other one I can't pronounce, but it can cause an allergic reaction (dermatitis) when it comes into contact with your skin.  Also, using gel nail polish can weaken and thin your nails.  It’s best to buff your nails first to remove the smooth top layer.  Yes, over time I guess that would make your nails weaker.  Last, you have to use acetone to remove the gel.  Acetone is very drying and may cause your nails to become brittle and peel after repeated use.
Still want to use gel nails?  Well, there are a few things you can do to make the process safer. 

First, instead of using the UV lamp, you can use an LED lamp that emits almost no UV light.  It’s safer, and faster than using the UV lamp.  I’m going home tonight and trashing my UV lamp.  LED lamps will run you anywhere from $10 to over $100 on Amazon, but be careful.  Some of the lamps that are advertised as UV/LED are really UV.  So check the bulb before you buy.  I ordered mine from Amazon for $39.95.  If you still want to use the UV lamp, you can use sunscreen after your manicures and wear gloves that have the fingers cut out.  I saw some on Amazon that were specially made to wear when using UV lamps.
To solve the chemicals problem, just check the ingredients and make sure the gel doesn’t come into contact with your skin.

As for buffing my nails, I don’t.  I leave that little step out.  My nails are already thin enough.  Maybe my gel manicure would last a little longer if I buffed, but I’m satisfied with the results. 

Last, When I wear regular polish I use acetone almost daily on my nails.  Changing my manicure is time consuming and anything to make the job quicker is helpful.  So, I use non-acetone polish remover when I have a gel manicure and 100% acetone when I'm using regular polish.  I use plenty of cuticle creams and oils and have no issues with acetone.

So how about you, will you wear gel polish?  Or will you use caution and avoid it?  I’d like to hear your opinion, so comment below.


No comments:

Post a Comment