Tuesday, February 21, 2012


How Gel Nail Polish Changed Manicures

I like to paint my nails. Crazy colors, glitter, rhinestones, I'm into all of it. And knowing this, starting about two years ago, certain friends of mine who have began pushing me to try this new kind of nail polish they were in love with: gel nail polish. By now you've heard of this. Gel nail polish is applied at the salon where they "set" the polish under a UV light. You stick your wet nails into a glowing blue light box and a few minutes later, voila, your nail polish is perfectly dry and hardened.

When converts talk to you about gel nail polish, they say a lot of the same things about what makes it so revolutionary and awesome and why you're crazy if you're not already on board. My mom like the gel because, "When you leave the salon the polish is dry and strong. I always seem to bump one of my fingers when I'm getting the car or fiddling with my keys." My friend Sarah agrees, "you can't beat the fact that it's immediately dry and I can walk out of the manicure place without having to stare at the wall or an old Ok! magazine for 20 minutes waiting for it to set."

The other argument they make is that it lasts forever. Early adopter Anaheed says, "The very first time I got a CalGel manicure I was instantly an intolerant snob. Leaving the salon I was like, "Why does anyone even GET a regular manicure?! I will NEVER UNDERSTAND." I mean why would you paint your nails with regular polish, which chips off in a day or two if you're me and constantly typing/cooking/washing dishes, if you can have GLORIOUS NAIL ART that stays perfect for two or three WEEKS and you can do anything, even play a guitar without a pick, if you can play guitar in the first place, which I cannot, and it never, ever chips."

Are you sold yet? That is inevitably what they want to know after these impromptu product pitch presentations your friends have generously given you: "Sounds perfect, right? It will probably literally save your life. Why are we still talking? Why are you not calling the salon this very second to make an appointment? What is WRONG with you? Can't you hear me!? I am talking in ALL CAPS!"

But I was not stirred. It was half "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and half "I'll get around to it." So, finally, a few months ago, along came a real reason to give this new technology a whirl: I was moving across the country in a truck. I knew I'd be doing some damage on my hands for a bit there with the packing, so chipless polish would be nice. Plus, spending a week or two in the cab of a truck and stopping only for food and sleep didn't really mesh well with a frequent mani-pedi habit, so I thought the time was right. I got my first gel manicure and immediately began to sort the world into "us" versus "them, only I was on the "them" side: I hated it.

"Quelle horreur!" you would say if you were my friend who loved gel nail polish and was also French. Here comes a probably-not-very-convincing but very true list of the things I didn't like. First off, you can't see the actual color of the nail polish before it goes on your nail. Because the polish reacts to light, the bottles aren't clear so you're kind of guessing that the color of the plastic the bottle is made of or the sticker the lady is showing you will turn out the same color on your nail, and in my case it was a little less vibrant than I was hoping for. Not a huge deal, but a minus for sure. Also, when I got mine done, they didn't take as much time doing the soaking and cleaning and filing and massaging part of the manicure, I assume because setting the polish under the light for three minutes after every coat is a little time consuming. It's possible this was a problem specific to my nail place, so if for some insane reason you're headed to get some gel polish put on right now, hopefully your place won't rush through the pampering.

The two biggest problems I had with this stuff, though, came at opposite ends of my experience. The first happened while I was still at the salon. After they applied the top coat they were like "Okay, you're done. Go home." It felt... disappointing? I didn't want my manicure to be over, I guess. As opposed to my mom and my pals, I don't mind sitting around afterward waiting for my nails to dry. I think I even enjoy it? It's "me" time, or whatever; a forced half hour of stillness in the day, or at least a wonderful excuse to sit and read gossip rags. Without it, I felt a little short changed.

And then, after three weeks with the same nail polish on, the other thing I hate about gel nail polish was that THREE WEEKS LATER I STILL HAD THE SAME DANG NAIL POLISH ON. To me, a chip in my polish is just an opportunity to grab some wine, turn on a DVR'd episode of  Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee and hang out with myself and some paint.

It also sucks that, unless you want to spend a ton of money buying a home setup, you are forced to go to the salon when you want a change. Doing my nails at home is one of my favorite past times. And that is when it hit me: gel nail polish is for folks who have issues with regular polish and manicures. Like any invention, gel nail polish fills a need, but you have to have that need in order to want the thing to be invented in the first place. To each his own nail polish.

Now that I have completely crapped all over them, I will tell you the ONE cool thing — to me — about gel nail polish. This is an amazing beauty secret my friend Julie revealed to me when I asked her why she loves stupid gel nail polish so much. Ready? Julie says, "the gel doesn't come off with regular nail polish remover, so if you're into DIY nail design like I am (dots, stripes, etc.), then you can do a design on top of the solid gel manicure, then take it off and change it up the next week, without messing up the underlying color. I love it!" Okay, fine, me too.

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor, advertisers do not produce the content. This post is coming to you from MiO. Change your water. Change your day. What do you want to change?

151 Comments / Post A Comment


The biggest reason I have for not trying gel nails is that I cannot imagine the agony of going more than a week without cutting my nails. How do you people do it? If mine are longer than a millimetre it’s pure torture.


@gobblegirl Though to be fair this is also why I don't spend money on regular manicures, either.

raised amongst catalogs

@gobblegirl This is also my thing.

Katie Heaney

@vanillawaif Thirded! How do people let their nails grow longer than their fingertips??


@gobblegirl I hate having longer nails too, and I feel like mine grow out really fast. I did a really awesome splatter manicure a few weeks ago, and kept it on for two weeks (insanity), and actually ended up cutting my nails with the polish on, but by the end there was a lot of naked nail at the nail bed. It looked terrible!


@gobblegirl I was a little excited by the gel thing, because I hate chips and am kind of lazy. Then I remembered that my nails generally grow like weeds, and I no longer like to keep them very long, so by the time the next manicure date rolled around they'd be driving me crazy and I'd have this vast desert of unpainted nail at the base. The wax on-wax off ease of new nail art on top of the base color is really intriguing, though.


@vanillawaif Me, too. It just gets hard to do things when my nails are too long and I'm always afraid I'll break a nail or something.

hahahaha, ja.

@Katie Heaney: Laziness. Flagrant, unrepentant, utter laziness. I have been known to let my nails grow to the point of breakage because if they break off then I don't have to cut them, and I am all about efficiency [[shifty eyes]].

Kerri Mercury Morris@facebook

@gobblegirl Yes. God yes! If my nails grow one hair over my fingertip, I feel dirty.


@gobblegirl Same here! I blame my violin-playing childhood. Long fingernails ook me out.

Tragically Ludicrous

@gobblegirl I feel weird WITHOUT some length (not like, crazy length, but some length, like the amount in that picture) to my nails. I kind of like, use them? For opening things and scratching my leg when it's dry and dealing with cats. I'm just used to it, I guess.


@gobblegirl Ugh yes, thank you! I haaaate when my nails are longer than my finger tips!

A girl I work with grows her nails out to an obscene length and never paints them and they are frequently dirty. Like, the part that is supposed to be white is always yellowish and she always has dirt under them. It's so gross! And for whatever reason (coke nail?) she keeps her thump nails SO LONG. I die a little bit every time I look at them.

The worst part is that she knows long finger nails skeeve me out so she is constantly putting them in my face. It's gotten to the point where I want to strap her down and cut and file them down. Is that considered assault or a public service?

raised amongst catalogs

@Katie Heaney And am I crazy, or does it seem like the longer your nails get, the drier your cuticles/hands become? When I keep my nails nice and short, I feel like I am less prone to hands that look chapped and about a thousand years old.

All Mimsy

@all of you
How can you stand to have your nails short?! I hate it so much when mine are short.
I'm staring forlornly at the one nail that broke the week before last, and I feel so gross and dirty, and uncomfortable. I apparently have the opposite problem of everyone in the world, I can only keep my nails clean if they are long. Otherwise they get grimy and gross. Plus it kinda hurts my fingertips to have them short.
Though to be fair I probably will cut them this week, they're approaching the braking point, and if they break they break as far back as they can manage(usually that is just past the point where the skin meets the nail, and that HURTS!).


@gobblegirl I love that I am not the only person who has this! Anything beyond my fingertips drives me crazy...they feel weird and "unclean," somehow. I have had so many people remark on how short and crap my nails are that I really thought I was the only woman on earth who doesn't love long nails and manicures. And, the cuticle thing - when my nails get long they start to kind of dig into the sides of my cuticles, and then in the winter the cuticles get super dry and split open and bleed and it is HORRIBLY PAINFUL. Wish there was a solution to this (gloves all the time?).


@All Mimsy I'm with you, can't handle super short nails. I used to trim my all the way down before I realized that I didn't even like the feeling, or the look, or the anything. now i just file them or only trim them if they get really outs of control.


@gobblegirl Nope, I'm right there with you. I enjoy growing my nails a bit longer (just over the finger...maybe a lil more). When it breaks off my fingertip is soo sensitive and it feels so strange. I HATE HATE HATE having four nice nails and one broken-off stump, so then I usually resort to ripping the others off :[ It's a vicious cycle.

Lately, however, I have been stressed and generally unhappy so my nails have taken a hit. They are noting but torn little nubbins that can only dream of getting painted again one day.

Brittanie Shey

@gobblegirl I've had about four gel manicures in the last few months. My nails grow super fast and I hate when they get long. I just trimmed or filed them.

Because the cuticle of my gel manis is about halfway grown out by the end of week 2, they really only last about two weeks on me anyway, so at that point where I'm getting annoyed with the length (about 7-10 days) I'm already close to having to get a new manicure anyway and not too worried about chips.

I also like to trim them before I go in. Your nails have to be a teeny bit long for the manicure because they wrap/seal the polish around the tips to make sure it stays. But the girls at the salon never make mine short enough, so I do it beforehand.

Anyway, my point is that trimming or filing mine hasn't really seemed to deteriorate the manicure at all.


@Tragically Ludicrous I used to have such bad eczma, and if I had nails even a teeny bit long (like, two milimetres) I would scratch in the night and make myself bleed. So now I always have short nails, and if they get long they do get dirty, because I'm used to having them short so I don't really know how to take care of them when they're long. The longest they ever get is about 5mm, but they don't seem to grow evenly, either. But I don't cut them riiight down. I use them for prying things, too, and cos they're short they're strong. The only time I can't use them for things is the day I've cut them.

I like the way it looks on me, but I can see why people like theirs longer.


@gobblegirl I hate hate HATE having nails that are even remotely long, which is nice because I'm a massage therapist and CAN'T have long nails. But I also have short nail beds and feel like I look like a 7 year-old playing dress-up when I get a manicure, so I very rarely get them.

Better to Eat You With

I agree on every point here. I did the gel thing exactly twice before I was completely bored with it. Also, that hand in the picture looks so much like my hand that it's a little bit eerie.

Anna Jayne@twitter

"To me, a chip in my polish is just an opportunity to grab some wine, turn on a DVR'd episode of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee and hang out with myself and some paint."



@Anna Jayne@twitter I also love my mani/pedi time. I do sometimes splurge at the salon, mainly when all my cuticles and all that weird shit i don't do myself get out of control.


Not being able to change the colour is what has kept me away from gel nails. But I love the idea of chip free, as I've been having manicure issues recently.

The problem I am having with my nails recently is that they take FOREVER to try. I'm talking hours.

I do a basecoat, two layers of colour and a topcoat. All OPI, all relatively new. I give about 20 minutes between each layer and try to avoid smudging for a few hours later. It seems perfectly dry when I go to bed a few hours later, but the next morning I'll wake up with little dent marks (cross-hatch looking things) and less shine. What am I doing wrong? Are my coats too thick? Is there a trick for setting the polish that I don't know about?

Katie Heaney

@PixieSparkle Get Seche Vite fast-drying top coat! It is a miracle thing.


@Katie Heaney ALSO, that probably toxic spray stuff they use in salons really does work. And somehow makes it seem to last longer?


@PixieSparkle Try very very thin coats, and waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit to put the topcoat on. I tend to do my nails at night, like a fool, and so I'll sometimes wake up with the pattern of my sheets imprinted in them. Which is why I often wait until the next day to do the topcoat - that way the colour is for sure dry, and you add the shine back.

Lily Rowan

@PixieSparkle Yeah, too-thick coats would be my diagnosis. And ditto on waiting for the topcoat.


@gobblegirl I do mine at night too, with a proper top coat, and then I have one of the Sally Hansen quick dry top coats that I do in the morning, before driving to work. The more coats, the longer it lasts with no chips, I figure!

hahahaha, ja.

@PixieSparkle: I have the same problem, even WITH the quick-drying drops. I usually paint on color, smudge it within a few minutes, then throw my hands up in disgust and remove the whole thing. That having been said, the drops DO speed up the drying process a lot, but I think I'm still doing something wrong. I've also tried dunking my nails in ice water, as recommended by a Cosmo article I read when I was 14, with lukewarm (hyuk) results.


@PixieSparkle I have been having this exact problem! Like, I would swear on anything holy that my nails are completely dry by the time I go to bed but obviously I'm somehow wrong. I solved it thusly: base coat, one coat, BED. Next day: second coat, top coat. I mean, it works at least?


@PixieSparkle What works for me is a thick layer of vaseline over each toe/fingertip (delete as necessary) and as much care as you can take at least falling asleep with painted surfaces on top of the covers. Whatever you do once you're asleep is, well, you can't do anything about that. In the morning if there are still sheet marks, they can be covered with a thin touch of clear polish or, if the marks are deep, buff them a tiny bit with a block buffer and add a touch of clear where necessary.

There, long-ago beauty school finally comes in handy!


@PixieSparkle Seriously, like Katie said, the Seche Vite quick dry topcoat. Or the INM Out the Door one. Or the Poshe one. They are worth the minor investment ($7-10?), because your polish is dry and bed-safe in 10 minutes tops. Then you can use your normal top coat the next few days just for protection.

Lily Rowan

@muralgirl Question about that: does the underlying polish have to be all the way dry? Because I got some Sally Hansen fast-drying topcoat, and it specifically says to put it over dry polish.

Katie Heaney

@Lily Rowan I really do no base coat, one coat on both hands, second coat on both hands, and the seche vite stuff immediately after. All the dry time it gets is waiting for that other hand, and it still works great.

Katie Heaney

@Lily Rowan also I think it smells really good ???? but that is probably just me.


@PixieSparkle Seche Vite. I am not exaggerating when I say it chanved my polish habits. I used to rarely have the time to do it at home, but SV sets in about 10-15 minutes, so I can do base-color-color, wait a minute, and then SV over the top. I usually use a Sally Hansen base, just because the OPI base made my polish bubble up.


I need to try this seche vite stuff.

what I do is put top coat on the next day. that way, drying time is reduced on both days, and the top coat does a really good job at covering up any little denty cross hatchy things that sometimes happen over night.

Lily Rowan

OK, I will try to remember to try the Seche Vite!

Does Axl have a jack?

@PixieSparkle Sally Hansen Insta-Dry (I think...the one in the red bottle) is seriously the bomb. So much so that I just wrote the words 'the bomb'. I apply it anytime after my polish is not actively sloppy-wet, and it hardens up nicely within a few minutes. I haven't tried Seche Vite so I can't compare there, but it definitely works faster than Out the Door.


@Katie Heaney & al:

Thanks! Lots of good tips here. Where would one purchase Seche Vite? I live in Newfoundland, Canada, so I order a lot from Sephora (or buy a lot when on vacation elsewhere).

Vaseline on the nails sounds like a great way to keep the cuticles moisturized. I like it!


Seche Vite says to put it on over wet nail polish. I don't really do this because it's a pain to paint each finger with color and follow immediately with topcoat.

I will say this though--Seche Vite will shrink back along the edges from some polishes when it dries and the only way to combat that is to be sure to completely encapsulate the polish with the SV (basically make sure the topcoat goes past all the edges of the nail color), and swipe it along the free edge and under the tip of the nail.

Other than that though, it's THE best fast drying topcoat I have ever used (and I used to be a die hard Sally Hansen Insta-Dri fan but quit using it because of bubbling).


@PixieSparkle YES TO SECHE. Oh my god, how are you guys not using a quick-dry top coat? You can get it for like $4.50 at good nail supply places online (victorias, nailsupply.us, etc). I'm constantly painting my nails (swatches, batch tests, etc... I make my own polish), so I go through that stuff like water. Not only is it quick-dry, but it also gives a super shiny glassy finish to everything -- great for smoothing out glitters.

And yes, Pixie, correct -- don't put it on over dry polish. It won't set properly. The whole point is that it penetrates ALL your (slightly wet) polish and dries the whole shebang rock-hard in minutes. Like, dry to the touch in less than five, and dry enough to fold laundry and make your bed in ten.

If you really want to commit, buy the "pro kit" for like $18-20 (regular .5oz bottle plus a big 4oz to refill it with), and a bottle of Restore (a thinner you add a few drops of when your seche gets too thick and stringy, which it'll do when it gets around halfway empty). MIRACLE GOO IN A BOTTLE.


i had the same experience when i got a gel manicure! People kept complimenting how fab/perfect my manicure looked, but I was so bored with it that it just made me think everyone around me was nuts.
but i might try it one more time with that DIY nail art idea in mind!


As a former Gel Snob who just BRISTLES at the thought of a chipped nail... guhhhh especially in a dark color NEVER.... I finally quit because a) um, hi, $40 every two weeks WHAT and b) it was drying the holy hell out of my nails. My nails are a bit splitty to begin with, and I thought that this would allow them the opportunity to grow out past their splitty phase and all would be golden. WRONG. To get the stuff off, you soak your nails in acetone. For like, a while. And then all the UV light. And so that the gel wouldn't peel off with my nail, they would kind of gently peel the peelies and make the whole thing worse. And this was with the 3-free (Toulene... something... formaldehyde? idk.) formula which is supposed to be less damaging.

So basically, they look great when done, but kind of like a bad drug habit you have to keep going back for more. More. More.

Anyway, long novel written for one conclusion: GEL MANICURES: RUINERS OF NAILS.


@liznieve So glad you said this; I was just about to ask about the after-effects of this manicure. Any time I use polish on my nails, they get super thin and splity. This is satisfying to the biter/picker in me, but is clearly bad for my nail health. I was hoping the CalGel would solve all my problems (nail and otherwise of course), but it doesn't sound like it. Thanks for the info!

Bed Monster

@liznieve Yeah, this is one of my major reasons for never trying it. I hate 100% acetone nail polish remover because it's entirely unnecessary, and I also have nails that peel really easily despite being strong/able to grow well. I feel like this stuff was created in an attempt to offer a slightly better alternative to acrylics since they use a "gentler" formula, and you don't have to worry about fungal infections since you're not adding anything but polish to the nail. I don't really think they're THAT much better, though. They have to use acetone to about the same extent that they would use it when removing acrylics.


@Bed Monster But they don't have to grind up the surface of your nail like they do when applying acrylics. The one time I got acrylics I looked like I had some evil nail fungus or something until the whole length of my nail had grown out.


Thanks everyone, this is EXACTLY what I've been wanting to know. The dark side of gels!


@smaryal : I found that my nails were fine after one gel manicure--I think it's with frequent use that the splitting really comes into effect.

I think gels are wonderful for special occasions, or for when you really need to look polished (ha! see what I did there?) and don't want to worry about chips in your manicure.


@liznieve Eesh. My nails peel from REGULAR polish (the only way I can keep them from bending and peeling is to moisturize them compulsively and keep them short), so I think they would just dissolve if I tried this.

Bed Monster

@catfoodandhairnets That's true. Gels are better in that sense! I just don't think that gels are that great if you have dry/weak/peeling/splitting/all of the above nails. The acetone baths are just too harsh.


@liznieve: This is why I only get gels several times a year, when I'm going to business meetings and can't risk chips. You can almost hear your nails in the hot removal bath shrieking "Aah! Help me!"


@Bittersweet "hot removal bath"

D: D: D:

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@liznieve When I had gel nails there was no hot removal bath? Just some kind of remover-soaked cotton ball bits under pieces of foil, and then I had to stick my hand under the UV light again.
Removing the gel and having it re-done every three weeks or so for about three months made my nails WEAK, but I didn't notice it until the last few weeks, and I got free OPI Nail Envy from my nail salon when I had my last gel manicure removed.


@liznieve YES. I got gels before a trip abroad (because daaaahling, I couldn't be bothered with chipped nails while traipsing all over the Continent!) and they were gorgeous - but after they were removed, my nails went through a three-month phase of breaking reeeeally short and painfully. Never again.


"Here comes a probably-not-very-convincing but very true list of ." List of what???


@figwiggin Also "the other thing I hatee about gel nail polish."

I promise I'm interested in this story and am not just looking for typos!


@figwiggin Looking for typos is one of my favorite past times.

Jane Marie

@figwiggin fixed! sorry and thank you :)

Lily Rowan

I am excited to feel free from having to try these, now!

Although my current nails could use a little touch-up already, and I think I did them on Saturday.


@Lily Rowan I'm impressed they've lasted that long. I think 48 hours is the longest I've ever gone without chipped polish.

Lily Rowan

@Ophelia I actually do better with longer nails, I think -- I'm not always jamming my fingers into things. But really, my polish doesn't tend to chip much, more rub off at the edges. And I almost always use quick-dry polish now! I don't know what my secret is.

Bed Monster

I'm 100% in agreement with you, Jane. One of my friends loves gel manicures to pieces, but she's the kind of girl that wants her manicures to look top notch all the time. She does like colors aren't your run of the mill red and nude, but she's not into nail art or anything like that. She also doesn't mind having to go to a salon every time she wants to get it removed/re-done.

I'm on your team, though. I, too, enjoy painting my nails at home. Ever since my sister taught me how to paint my non-dominant hand well, I've barely gone to the salon to get my nails done (to the ladies/gents that haven't unlocked this secret yet: rest your non-dominant wrist on the table when you're painting, and try to paint in three strokes! Start with the middle of your nail, and then do one stroke for each side!). I'm one of those crazies who owns a bajillion colors from all kinds of brands, so I get to choose exactly what color I want. I also like that I can do my nails at the last minute if I suddenly decide I want some paint before I go out (this is now especially possible since I invested in the nails inc. top coat and base coat. Seriously, that stuff dries even faster than Seche Vite, and it has the added bonus of not having freaking TOLUENE in it). And like you, I really love that I can watch Real Housewives of Atlanta and drink wine while I pretty my hands up. Next time, I might watch Semi-Homeade, and I may even add one of Sandra's crazy-ass cocktails! Nevermind, I'm DEFINITELY doing that.


I do a gel manicure when my nails are almost long but not quite, and it keeps me from biting/picking them for a week/10 days till they are properly long. I have never needed to soak them. they just kind of peel off somewhere between 3-10 days later. And yes. Once doesn't ruin my nails, but once I got 3 successive gel manicures in about a month and they were gross and peely after that. I have paid anything from $20 to $70 for them. I feel like they last longer when I go to the fancy salon, even though they do it the same and it is the same stuff. Why is that? Am I subconsciously more careful with them when it costs more? These are the topics which consume my mind and prevent me from achieving greatness.


@catfoodandhairnets Do you think if I was on vacation for a week and swimming several times a day, they would just start to peel and be gross?


@punkahontas Probably not. I have used them for vacations. I usually get a week as long as I can avoid picking/peeling. I have never made it to 2 weeks, but it's better than the 2-3 days I usually get out of a regular manicure. The 3 days was a bit of an anomaly and the salon did it again for free :)


@punkahontas Doubtful, you should be fine. I had them over the summer, and (my NYC-self couldn't believe it) actually had access to pool and ocean. And they were fine. Fine! But yeah, just don't get addicted. See: above.


@liznieve Okay, thanks ladies!


@punkahontas I know other have already answered your question, but I thought I'd chime in to say: I had a gel manicure for two weeks in Mexico last year and they stayed perfect the entire time. I was in the pool/ocean constantly. You're good to go! (And I always keep my gel for 3 weeks, is that gross?)


@emilylouise Thanks! I'm someone who is always in the water, if there is water to be in, so that helps. The place I'm going is supposed to have awesome snorkeling right off the beach, so I plan to be floating over reefs for a week straight.

Elizabeth M.

Totally agree with liznieve - after a couple months of gel manicuring and all the chemicals, uv-light, etc. I decided I was done with it - but the result was disgusting, fragile nails that broke constantly and had all these gross ridges and marks on them eww!


I've only very recently gotten into painting my fingernails (toenails always, fingers never...until now), and I generally paint them while stoned and watching trashy TV. That's my sacred ritual.


@tortietabbie this sounds like a promising premise for our next pgh meetup, no?!?


@tortietabbie Toenail polish! It's awesome whenever the weather warms up enough that all my fancy-lady coworkers are going for their open-toed shoes, because they are all totally rocking respectable, sensible manicures and party pedicures.


@madge Oh YES! Maybe a crossover with your make-up party idea? :)


I have now gotten no-chips three tries at three different salons and my result has been the same every time: no chips or smears, but the polish PEELS OFF MY NAILS in three days. Are you effing kidding me? Has anyone else had this experience? I'm sticking to home mani/pedis while I watch Downton Abbey from now on.

Oh, squiggles

@BusyBrie That is weird! They actually warned me not to peel it off because some of the nail would come with it.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional Oh my god! Shudder.


@BusyBrie I have only had this happen once with a gel manicure, and I called and gave them polite heck for it, and asked if they would re-do the nails that were peeling. They did and it was ok. I have noticed that some places sometimes use a grinder or a file to kind of rough up the nail before applying the gel, and I seriously think that makes it stick better. I've talked to other people and it seems to vary - sometimes it sticks for ages and ages and sometimes it peels. But if it does peel, complain! That shit is supposed to be impossibly hard to get off.


@BusyBrie What kind of gel mani did you get? People around here seem to be generalizing about gel manicures (you monsters!!) and hating on them all, but there are different kinds to try. In my experience, Axxium kinda sucks and gets peely really fast and effs up your nails while Shellac is a beautiful gift from god that comes of pretty easily and doesn't mess up your nails so long as you patiently and carefully remove it, preferably while watching Teen Mom 2.


@AmandathePanda if the nail bed is not perfectly clean a true soak off gel manicure will peel. An oily cuticle remover in the first part of the manicure can also cause peeling. True soak of gel polish requires no scratching up the natural nail for adhesion. Acetone is the ingredient that removes all nail polish, like washing your hair without conditioner. Rehydrate your nails and
fingers with quality cuticle oil and lotion. properly applied shellac base and tip coat will slide off your nail after a 10 minute acetone cotton ball soak.


The UV light makes me nervous. I already have the heebie jeebies about those UV dryers some nail salons have, so I'm not signing up for some miracle nail cure that involves shining a lot of UV light on my skin.


@pinecone To make your heebie jeebies even heebier and jeebier, Bob Marley's untimely death was caused by skin cancer UNDERNEATH his TOENAIL, which later spread to his brain! It's hard enough to detect possible skin cancers on the visible parts of your skin - how are you supposed to know what's going on underneath your toenails, too?! I'm never leaving the house in daylight ever again.


Um, so yeah, don't gel manicures increase your risk of skin cancer?

Roxanne Rholes

@werewolfbarmitzvah I do a lot of projects at home that involve nasty, dirty, oily old mechanical parts. My office, however, is located within a law office, so I have to look sharp for their clients. A few times the grease has gotten so deep under my nails and in between layers of nail materials that all I can do is cut them short and paint them to cover up the damage.

Ever since the first time I did this, I have been totally squicked out by people who always have nail polish on. How do you know if your nails are clean? You can't SEE! What if your missed a spot when you washed your hands? Ugh!


@pinecone you get more uva exposure on the top of your hands driving your car your car to work.


this might be a stupid question but...are gel manicures the same as shellac?

Oh, squiggles

@beanie Is it cured with UV light? Then it is similiar


@beanie Yep. My salon has 3 brands. Opi gel, shellac, and... something else...

Oh, squiggles


1. It is possible to chip it, and then, when you want to take it off at home yourself, it takes forever. You have to soak your hand in nail polish remover for 10 minutes or so, and I felt like I was going to dissolve!

2. Agree about the color choice. Also, I don't think they have any glittery options? At least the salon I went to didn't, and a subtle pearl mixed in a color looks so nice!

3.Yeah, it lasts a long time, but then your nails grow out, and you have a weird half painted/half naked nail thing happening. I doesn't need to last that long!

4. I can see how it would be good for special occasions, like a cross country move, because of how long it lasts. But it does not replace regular nail polish for me!

5. I also got the rushed experience. :/


@Awesomely Nonfunctional Yes on #3. After two weeks, they've grown out and it looks like you need a fill and then you have to go in and pay more to have it changed! Boo.


I'm not a person who gets manicures, because it combines my discomfort at people waiting on me like I'm lady of the manor with my fear of people taking my cuticles away (must guard the precious cuticles!!!), but this description of the gel manicures as an easy no-chip option actually sounded really tempting up until the nail-polish-remover-won't-take-it-off part.

Oh, squiggles

@werewolfbarmitzvah It will take it off, if you soak them in it for soooo long. Which is still a major turnoff.


@werewolfbarmitzvah Haha! General Ripper as a lady, worried about acetone rather than fluoridation.


My friend who loves gel nail polish and speaks French (because she is Swiss) is crazy for the Gelish stuff. I haven't tried it yet because I don't want to store the equipment, but she wrote a guest post about it for me.

I've been thinking about trying one from the salon for my upcoming vacation. Has anyone had a problem with it wrecking their nails?


@punkahontas It does kind of make my nails lousy, but it depends on how often you have it done- I'm currently trying to recover from having a gel manicure after a gel manicure, and getting the previous one removed seemed to be part of the problem. The salon used a grinder to get some of the gel off and I have serious dents and weak spots. One manicure once in a while doesn't mess things up too much for me, as long as I resist the urge to peel the gel off (which sometimes makes the nail flake and come with it).


@AmandathePanda I'm thinking just one time, while I'm away, so maybe I'll be okay. I do have a tendency to pick and peel though...


i heard somewhere the chemicals in it were bad for you? it sounds like it was covered with the peeling and the nail aftershock, but yeah, the removal process sounds harsh, and for a little bit of paint? keep in mind i am a filthy hippie who is weirded out by chemicals in tampons and those always infinity pads, so i'm not really cutting edge.
but yeh, regular polish is fine, even with that LAST SMUDGE on the way home when the nail place is closed and you're taking a bunch of photos tomorrow and UGH. and i like at home polish, i am so awful at it, but it is fun and stinks up the house and makes my husband wonder what i'm burning in the kitchen.
i must look into this viche top coat thing. i am forever chipping to hell the manicures.
plus, my obligatory manic pixie dream girl ukulele playing screws up the manis *rolls eyes at self*


@cc ugh the fucking notorious LAST SMUDGE. Sometimes it's invisible enough that I'm like "fuck it" and then it just quietly irks me until polish change. Other times I decide to re-do it and then invariably muck up a bunch of other nails in the process.

sometimes it's perfect. jk no it never is :'(


Thank you for this. I was at the salon the other day getting some art and the lady asked if I wanted gel polish. I said no thinking it was one of those things that once you do it, you have to do it all the time, like highlighting hair or fake nails.


I am allllll about some nail polish, but like so many of you, I enjoy (a) changing my polish color every 2.5 seconds, (b) would hate for my nails to grow out for THREE WEEKS and not be able to cut them/fill them in/etc., (c) really like doing my nails at home, and (d) nail polish gives me something to pick at that is not my actual nails/skin if I get nervous or bored or whatever. So I think I'm going to be skipping the gels, unless I have some big fancy occasion when I do not want to worry about my nails and such.


I haven't done it because I am a poor, and also because I heard the UV light can give your skin cancer on your hands. And I am TERRIFIED OF SKIN CANCER. I hate like the spring/summer issues of lady mags because there are always so many articles about melanoma, and I get all paranoid and am like I AM COVERED WITH MELANOMAS and it is stressful.


@Megan Patterson@facebook Once, I was on the beach in the Virgin Islands, all happy to be settling into my lounge chair with a stack of new lady-mags, and every friggin' article was about skin cancer! I was paranoid about the sun for the entire trip.


@Megan Patterson@facebook Oh god. OH GOD.

Jane Marie

@punkahontas I love any story that begins with "Once, I was on the beach in the Virgin Islands..." even if it's about skin cancer.


@Megan Patterson@facebook all my moles/dark freckles got cleared at my last physical, but my doctor did tell me to put a little circular bandage on this one of them that my dermatologist once described as troublesome.

luckily it's on the back of my lower calf, so, do-able, but I can just picture paranoid me covering myself in those multi-coloured circular bandaids and trying (and obviously failing) to rock it.




@redheaded&crazy Maybe stick little bindis all over yourself instead! Sunblocking AND sparkly!


@Megan Patterson@facebook first time I've ever had a doctor tabulate all my moles! it actually made me feel so relieved. especially since my troublesome one has been on red alert since my early teens. and also especially since i love sun.


@Jane Marie Once I was on the beach in the Virgin Islands and a lady was in the water feeding the fish (pretty deep into the water) and then she swam ashore and the fish followed her. I mean, not all the way onto the sand, but all the way into the pretty shallow water that my ten year old self was playing in, and it was awesome, and I've remembered that for years and years.

In conclusion: the Virgin Islands are the best.


This gel manicure actually seems amazinggg, because I hate doing my nails. HATE. I also hate getting them done, which makes me kind of feel like a freak. I'm pretty girly in every other way, or at least maybe I'm faking it well, but nails are my least favorite thing about beauty maintenance. So I usually just paint them a light, non-descript color that can chip without anyone noticing. And then 2 weeks later I look down, and realize there's no polish left of my nails & the cuticles are all raggedy and the ends are all different lengths.

So yeah, I'm gonna try the gel thing.


I was totally on board with these when I first heard about them, because my polish chips like crazy and I hate chipped polish, but as soon as I heard about how much of a pain it is to take the gel off, I was out. The whole idea of the terrible removal process makes me feel claustrophobic.

Does Axl have a jack?

@thebestjasmine @everyone You don't actually need to go back to the salon to get the gel removed--the foil method works fine. (The foil method being a fancy name for putting some acetone on a cotton ball, putting the cotton ball on your nail, wrapping a piece of aluminum foil around the whole shebang, and leaving it there for several minutes. A separate cotton ball/foil piece for each nail, obvs.)


@armyofskanks this is also MUCH less wear and tear on the nail and surrounding skin than just dunking them in a bowl of acetone to soak.


sort of related: is anyone here into decoden/3D nail art? because i want to go for it but i'm trying to figure out how much of a hassle it'll be to have, like, bows and shit hanging off my pinkies

Chicka Boom

Cosigned: I'm pretty "meh" about gel polish too. At first I thought it was the answer to my prayers, but it's pricey and left my nails in poor condition. I also had one manicurist do an awful job of applying the stuff and I wound up getting all of these hairline cracks in the nails, then the cracks got dirt in them and it just looked horrifying. I still get pedicures, but lately I've just been spending a little time on my nails every couple of days (file, buff 'til shiny, push back cuticles) and they look great without much effort.


As soon as you said up to 3 weeks I was thinking "but, I like doing my nails every few days, it's fun."


I am too much of a recreational polisher to outsource my manicures or accept the idea of having the same color on for 3 weeks. Plus it sounds like gel nails are similar to nail tips in the damage it causes your nails. I've been there and it is not fun, so no thank you.


@Hooplehead hehe recreational polisher.

will include on my CV under hobbies


@Hooplehead It took me so long to grow out the damage from acrylics that, as much as I enjoyed having them, I can't justify the cost or the way they beat up my nails. And gel looks cool, but my BFF stopped getting gels done because they kept coming off in one sheet within a week of being applied. She'd have four perfect nails and then one bare one. The only thing that helped, she said, was using the OPI gel colors, because she'd get the gels done in a color she owned in polish so she could patch the bare nail in an identical color. Also, HAAAY GIRL.

Chicka Boom

@Hooplehead They'll tell you that the removal process for the gel nails (soaking in acetone) doesn't damage your nails, but my nails were pretty wrecked after doing the gel manicures for a bit. Not quite as much as they were when I had tips, but maybe if I had kept doing it. Also, most manicurists will just want to file off the gel polish rather than letting it soak off. (Also, recreational polisher +1!)


@ipomoea HAAAY GIRL! Yes, I destroyed my nails with the tips. I think it took a few months to get nails that weren't paper thin and breaking every time I looked at them the wrong way. And the times they broke off and took half of my nail with them...no fun. @ Chickaboom: anyone who tells you that soaking your nails in pure acetone won't hurt them is a LIAR. That stuff is so strong and so bad for your nails.

Porn Peddler

This...actually almost sounds like something I'd like, except nothing will ever stick to my nails unless they are roughed up with a file. My polish always just peels off in one big sheet. And I am terrible at doing my nails.

I am not cut out to be a girl who does this sort of grooming ritual.

Porn Peddler

@Third Wave Housewife Also, if anyone makes it down here-- a lot of the comments refer to not being able to cut or file your nails for weeks after this sort of manicure but....why would that be? It's not like this polish is going to shatter your nail clippers.

Chicka Boom

@Third Wave Housewife The gel is somewhat thick, so if you cut/filed your nail down the edge would look funky.


@Chicka Boom nah, I do it all the time and it's really fine.


but my only question is how do you ladies use so much nail polish remover without destroying your nails?!

what's frustrating is I have two problem nails that are weaker than the rest - my index and middle fingers. i think both are related to dipping my fingers into contact lens containers. is that crazy? my other nails are nice and strong and these ones always chip so much faster :(


@redheaded&crazy I've been on prenatal vitamins for two years, and it's done wonders for my nails and hair (it also helped me produce a kid that's not a flipper baby, which was a nice side effect). Does the nail itself chip or does the polish chip? If the polish is chipping, try a different topcoat. If your nail is chipping, change up your diet.

Porn Peddler

@ipomoea I'm so freaked out by the hair/nail wonders of prenatal vitamins but...my hair could use the love. Is it just a special blend of like, folic acid and vitamin E and what have you?


@Third Wave Housewife i know, also if my mom catches me taking pre-natal vitamins she will get ridiculously inappropriately excited ("I'm not saying I want you to have a baby ... I'm saying I want me to have a grandbaby!")

but it's tempting to try it! i have kind of a lot of hair to begin with. i was taking iron for a while and that helped too.

it's mainly my nails that split at the tops, my polish actually stays pretty well!


@Third Wave Housewife I've been using the NatureMade Prenatals with DHA. It's extra-high counts of folic acid, zinc, iron, B6, etc. You can also get biotin supplements or just look up hair and nails vitamins.


I think the gel thing is good for people who don't do manicures very often. I got my nails done for my wedding after not having polish on my fingers for maybe three years, and it was nice to have it last longer and not have to worry about it getting damaged at the last minute or whatever. I would get it again for a vacation.


Jane, thank you! You have articulated all of the reasons why gel manicures drive me crazy. I really dislike having a polish on mor than a week, I get too bored with the color after that. Also, I've noticed that most of the gel colors are a very basic array of pink/red/beige that I normally am not interested in wearing.

Rollo Treadway

I'm really disturbed at how the post itself does not talk about the biggest problem with gel nails, and at how only few people in the comments are talking about it: the UV light! I used to buy UV lights at work, and we went out of our way to shield every single one of the UV machines so hands never go anywhere near the lights and no one ever looks at the UV light directly. And this is for pretty weak UV lights. Please folks, blasting your hands constantly with a known carcinogen to look pretty, it's just not worth it.


I use to have acrylic tips, I just removed them after two of them ripped off (yes, it was painful) I now have a simple gel mani on short square nails, which I love, but the cost of it AND the UV lights are putting me off.

@jane : how about a post with step by step instructions on how to do a proper manicure? for dummies like me who do not know what they are doing?

Rebecca K.@twitter

Gel polish straight-up jacked my nails. A only got them through a miscommunication--the language barrier at my salon prevented me from even understanding what was happening (let alone why it cost so much at the end). My nails were finally really health. I didn't even know I had to take it off with Acetone until I read up online. And my nails are now more brittle and splitting than they've been in years! Hated it!


I love gel manicures.

Price is a killer, which is why I don't get them as often as I would like, but I go to a place (Sun Nails in Echo Park for you LA ladies) that costs $35 for a gel mani and regular pedi. It's your average clean-but-not-fancy type spot and totally fine by me. I don't feel like they skimp on the treat-yo-self, but I'm honestly there for the longer term beauty benefits than the mini-massage. (Also, they have a pretty wide range of colors, including sparklies and brights and weirds.)

I have not had a problem at all with the gels damaging my nails. I haven't ever soaked them off with acetone. They just sort of peel off on their own, without taking any of my nail with them. From my cursory investigations) they seem to be as toxic as regular (non-non-toxic) nail polish, and I find that when I do use regular polish, I have to fix them like everyday, exposing them to more nail polish remover and coats of things and general wear and tear than the gels.

The REAL REASON why I love gels is that they helped me break my LIFELONG nail-biting habit. I got them consistently for a couple months, allowing my natural nails to grown out past my finger tips for the first time EVER. Still going strong-- and still getting used to having a TINY amount of length.


I am right in the middle of the fence with gel manicures tbh. love the no chip, long lasting, but no at home removal. I really only get them when I'm going away & don't want to have to worry about chipping nails when I'm overseas.


I had never even heard of gel manicures but reading these 137 comments I'm now convinced they will give me nail cancer :\


I don't like having my nails painted because I've worked in food service since I was a small child (yes, I know, not legal, but small towns and family owned businesses don't give a shit about child labor laws) which has made me weird about the nail thing, my nails feel "suffocated" when I paint them and I usually remove the polish less than a day after application. Also, I hope you guys don't think my nails are "gross" or "unclean" because I grow them longer than my fingertips. They're not really that long, but this comment thread is kind of making me feel ashamed. I use a nail brush, I swear!


Gel manicures forever! I am a complete convert, I can never go back.

Stephanie Rittenhouse@facebook

Hi Jane, with gel you get a 'dry' manicure, no soaking or lotion, moisture affects how the product adheres.


Well, I also agree with you, Jane. I decided to give it a try because I too was moving. Although it was quite handy in the first week, and I agree it did look neat, I got an overwhelming sense of frustration from week 2 on. I couldn't stand looking at it, and felt I was looking silly with that grown portion of my nail showing. Still I wanted to see how long more that would last and to my horror, it did last for 4 weeks! I was so relieved to remove it, that I think I will never, ever, ever try it again, lol. Now every time I enter a beauty shop to look for conventional nail polish, people come ask me if I've tried the gel ones. I look at their nails and god, they look silly, too. The thing is, nails grow. It just doesn't make sense to have half a nail polished when you can easily re-paint it with normal lacquer.

Zeki Yol@facebook

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While I can see the appeal of gel, it's not something I'd personally want to do. I know what you mean when people think 'why doesn't EVERYONE do this!?!', but my reasons are similar to yours in that there's no way I could have the same nail polish for 2 weeks, or even a week and a half. I get bored too easily plus I like trying out new designs with nail art at home, & like you said, chips is an excuse to try out that new design I'd seen. Another thing too is the time & cost associated with it. I'm on a budget, & it's just something that's not a need right now, plus my nails grow SUPER fast-if something stayed on for 2-3 weeks, there'd be a huge gap where the regrowth was, which I hate.

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