Just Gellin’ The Skinny on Gel Manicures

Gel manicures have a bad rep. They’re still pretty new and, while there are many devotees to the trend, there are many naysayers as well. I was one of those naysayers until recently. Though I had purchased and used gel nail polishes many times before, I had been holding off on getting a professional gel manicure, fearing it would destroy my already weak nails. What I loved(and still do love) about gel nail polishes is that, when it’s time to remove them, they peel off so easily. Not only is that not the case with full-on gel manicures, I was under the assumption that it would damage my nails beyond repair. I thought that the removal process would be long and painful(which is still my assumption about acrylic nails). Just a couple of weeks ago,though, I decided to face my fears and see what a gel manicure was really like. I was tired of chipping my beautiful french manicure only a day or two in and weekly salon visits aren’t realistic for me.

The salon I went to was nice and clean and the manicurist who helped me was very friendly and had tips to share with me during the appointment. I was surprised at how many layers were necessary and was also a little annoyed at needing to place my hands under the LED lamps after every coat. The process took longer than I expected and cost quite a bit more than a regular manicure(about $25 more than what I usually spend). What I did like was how it was instantly dry and I didn’t have to worry about ruining it on the way out, which is definitely something I’ve done before. I found out pretty soon that while gel manicures are almost indestructible, it’s no match for a knife after I accidentally chipped some polish off of my thumb while preparing dinner. I was worried the manicure wouldn’t live up to my clumsy ways. However, one coat of glitter polish to distract the eye from the one chipped spot I had was all I needed and the rest of my manicure stayed perfect for just under two weeks.

When it came time for the removal process, I was once again nervous. My manicurist had given me a kit with everything I’d need to do it at home(getting it done in the salon would cost another $7) and told me, step by step, what I would need to do. I used an emery board to sand down the first layer of polish, then soaked cotton balls in nail polish(one without acetone), placed them over my nails and wrapped them with foil( I needed my mom’s help to finish my right hand) then waited about 15 minutes. The polish is supposed to slide right off afterward but I still had to rub some of it off with cotton balls and few nails needed a few extra minutes to soak. After trimming them, filing them down, and applying cuticle oil, my nails don’t look so bad.

Now that I’ve experienced a gel manicure and done some research, I realize it’s not as bad as myth may have it. It won’t be a regular thing for me but I do see myself getting more gel manicures in the future. If you’ve been thinking about doing so yourself or if you’ve already done it and want some tips on how to keep your nails healthy, read below for some tips I’ve picked up during my gel manicure experience.

Tip #1
Go to salons that use LED lights instead of UV lights, which can have negative effects on your health.

Tip #2
Keep the removal process safe. Whether you do it yourself or have a professional do it, make sure it’s done right. After being soaked in nail polish for 10-15 minutes, the polish should either peel right off or crumble in which case you would rub it off with polish soaked cotton balls. Scraping should not be necessary.

Tip #3
Find a polish with small amounts of acetone. Though one-hundred percent acetone is recommended for the job, it’s not necessary and using it can cause more damage to your nails. Do what I did and use SKINFOOD’s Grapefruit Polish Remover mentioned in Food for Thought.

Tip #4
Don’t over indulge. There are many misconceptions about the gel manicure trend, but damage to the nails is a possibility if you indulge in the trend too often or don’t use proper maintenance. Try to space out your appointments and stop getting gel manicures altogether if you notice serious damage.

Tip #5
Hydrate your nails. Apply cuticle oil or a thick cream immediately after removing the polish and in between appointments.

Dionne Evans

Dionne Evans, the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of HBS, is a graduate from Marymount Manhattan College with a BA in Communication Arts. She has been a professional writer for over 7 years and loves everything food, beauty, and travel related. For more information on Dionne, visit:

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