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My Thoughts on Gel Manicures

My own nails! The red I had until yesterday. The gorgeous rich plum (with a glitter nail, too) was done yesterday.

I am extremely careful about the products I use.  I love, love, love having my nails done.  This is the same girl who had to have her perfectly painted fuchsia toenails in tip top shape when I went into labor & delivery with both boys.

I take great care to choose safer brands of nail polish and my own collection consists of Zoya, Essie, Scotch, Priti NYC, and other brands which are 3-free and 5-free. My manicures don't last, though.  I used to spend time every Sunday nights giving myself manicures only to have the polish chip (even with a topcoat) within a couple days. My jewelry tools and supplies frequently would chip and ding my nails. My nails wouldn't grow past a certain point and the sae couple would always break (and then I would sadly pick at them).

When my friend Elizabeth started working at the Spa at Corn Hill, I asked her to please tell me more about gel nails.  I wanted to make sure it wasn't like the experience so many of us had years and years ago with acrylics.  I remember being a naive college student going to spend $10 on acrylics at a random nail salon in the city where the nail techs all wore surgical masks.  My natural nails were nearly destroyed.  They all split down the middle.  They were painful.  It took TWO YEARS to have them healthy again.

I knew I never wanted to travel down that path again. I just wanted to have a long-lasting manicure. I like having pretty nails without spending much time on them.  My gels have been just what I was looking for.

I was a little apprehensive at first. I had read mixed reviews from other bloggers.  I have read about bad experiences from people not having them properly soaked off--or from unsanitary conditions.  I knew I was in good hands at the Spa at Corn Hill and with my friend Elizabeth's expertise in her craft.

I have had two different brands of soak off gel polish used on me -- Gelish and Artistic Colour (which is what Michelle Obama has had on her nails).


I get a full 3 weeks (22 days last time, actually) out of my gels. Honestly, I am quite sure they would last even longer if my nails weren't healthy and growing, but the new growth is visible and my nails needed to be shortened anyway. Elizabeth told me right off the bath to remember that my nails are "jewels, not tools." She is so right. My boys are alwys asking me to separate 2 Legos that are stuck together and I used to use my fingernails. No more. I now say, "Ask Daddy."

When I say my gel nails are long lasting, I also should mention that they are STILL glossy and shiny at the 3 week point.

The Soak Off Process

This is where I see horror stories online. Some people have reported sitting with their hands in bowls of acetone to remove their nails and then have someone filing down the nails and scraping the remaining color off.  Please know that this is NOT the norm and this is NOT how the process is supposed to be!

Each individual nail is covered and wrapped in foil so your skin doesn't get dried out or soaked in acetone. It is a careful process to ensure that your skin is protected. After the 15 minutes, there is no harsh scraping with sharp tools or electric files. It shouldn't be like that. There were a couple little polish flecks that Elizabeth gently removed and she VERY GENTLY took a yellow buffing block (like most of us have at home) to buff my nails ever so carefully before doing a new color.

I looked over my nails carefully and there was absolutely no damage and my nails actually were in better condition.

It is crucial that you find a reputable salon that truly cares about the health and safety of their customers and a highly trained nail tech who doesn't take shortcuts to get you in and out faster.

Curing Comments

When you get gel polish, they need to cure.  I know Dr. Oz mentioned recently that he was concerned about UV lights for the curing of gels, but my salon uses LED lights instead and my nail polish is cured in just 30 seconds.  That is all it takes to completely dry the nail color! Placing the nails under the LED lights is super quick, painless, and easy.

The Nitty Gritty

I cannot tell you this is the safest option for nails. The safest option would be never to put any color on your nails. We all have choices to make--and getting highlights in my hair and my nails done I suppose are things I am willing to do because of how I feel about having those things done. We all make tradeoffs sometimes. I don't wear heels because they aggravate my old break. I can't stand sore feet.  Or blisters. Plus, I am clumsy and have been known to get my heel caught in the sidewalk cracks.  That's why I only wear them about 5 times a year. On the other hand, it is a tradeoff many women are willing to make.

While I cannot say, "Go get gel nails--they are totally safe and green," I can tell you that I am not breathing in the odor of nail polish or nail polish remover every 3 days anymore. We are talking every 3 weeks. As an aside, I do not detect an odor when I get my gel nails done. Maybe it is just me, but it is worth mentioning.

I can also tell you that both Gelish and Artistic Colour are BOTH 3-free, which means there is no toluene, formaldehyde or DBP (containing phthalates).

Would I recommend gel nails?

Yes, an emphatic yes. If you love having your nails done -- and looking like you just had a manicure -- I can recommend these to you. Please be sure to do your homework first, though, and make sure you are getting them done in a HYGIENIC environment. Ask about how they soak off the gels. Go visit the salon to get a feel of it.  Look for online reviews and comments from actual customers. Don't just pick a random nail salon.

Do your research and find a great salon.

Do you have a gel manicure? Have you been thinking about getting them done? Share your thoughts.