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Filling You In | Gel Polish

Filling You In | Gel Polish

good manicure can make all the difference in projecting a professional and polished appearance. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about gel manicures: the safety of the process has been questioned (that lamp, the ingredients) and there seems to be confusion about the difference between gel polish and gel nails. So let’s demystify this approach to doing digits and help you make a more informed decision about how best to next beautify your fingers and toes.

What Are Gel Nails?

Gel nails enhance your own nails by extending them from the tips of your natural ones. The type of gel used is considered “hard form,” and although it still requires using an ultraviolet (UV) or light emitting diode (LED) lamp to cure the product, it cannot be easily removed. (Removal is done by filing off the product.)

When Should I Consider Gel Nails?

If you want to capitalize on your own good nails simply by making them longer (and you are able to keep up with the necessary maintenance required), gel nails are a good option. Just remember: the process includes re-balancing or “filling” your nails every two to three weeks, and the product is not completely removed.  Rather, product is added to the existing gel to rebalance the look and structure of the nail enhancement.

What Is Gel Polish?

Considered a “soft gel,” gel polish has been on the market for about 5 years and its benefit lies in its staying power: Manicures and pedicures can last a strong three weeks, depending on the product and application technique. It is applied in a salon setting by a licensed nail technician. Like gel nails, gel polish also requires a removal service.

Manufactures such as OPI, Shellac, Gellish, and Essie all have systems with only slight variations in application technique. Most notably is what’s called the “curing lamp.”  Depending on the manufacturer, “curing” is accomplished by a UV or an LED lamp shined on freshly done nails, which sets the color. Designed with ease of use in mind, gel polish is packaged in a nail polish bottle similar to typical polishes you’re used to seeing at salons and buying for home consumption.

What’s The Difference Between Typical Nail Polish And Colored Gels?

Although the chemical makeup is proprietary to each company, colored gel polish is basically gel with color pigments in it. It also contains a special chemical that requires the use of either a UV or an LED lamp to complete the curing process (traditional nail polish dries easily in open air). However, drying nails the old-school way often leads to dings or smudges, and a clear up-side to a gel manicure is its curing process. Once your polish had been applied, you place your hands under the lamp to activate the “hardening,” if you will. Each layer of polish gets cured under the lamp so that by the time the top coat is cured and cleaned, you can do anything from pulling your keys from your bag to running your fingers through your hair!

So far, gel manicures seem pretty great. What could possibly be wrong with a manicure that practically dries on command?

Despite gel polish’s contemporary colors selections and nearly indelible shine,some people don’t care for the removal process, which can take up to 15 minutes and includes the use of acetone or acetone-based removers. But as with any process, there are good and bad ways to navigate gel polish removal. Less desirable is completely immersing hands in pure acetone. More desirable is moisturizing the cuticles with cuticle oil before applying cotton pads with gel polish remover on them. These pads can be incorporated with foil that is used to wrap around the finger and be used specifically where there is polish. As opposed to acetone immersion, the individual nail process can be sped up further by wrapping the hand in a towel or with the use of plastic gloves to retain body heat.

Are UV or LED lamps harmful to your hands? Do they cause cancer?

There are few differences between lamps besides physical appearance and the type of bulb being used, but one major difference is time. A UV lamp can require up to three minutes of curing time per step, depending on the product while an LED lamp clocks in as few as 30 to 60 seconds.

The big question, however, is how UV light relates to skin cancer. Although some doctors have reported the use of gel polish-curing lamps as a major factor in developing skin cancer, more recent and thorough studies prove otherwise. The Markova Study (2012) states that UV lamps are safe for use for 250 years of weekly gel manicures (!) and that LED lamps are safe for 769 years. Clearly, the risk is minimal.

No matter what you prefer—gel nails, gel polish, UV, LED or old-fashioned traditional polish—it’s important to note that when it comes to gel anything, your nicest looking and most professionally performed gel manicures will be received at a licensed salon, by a licensed nail technician. Your best approach to fabulous gel color manicures is to find a technician who proudly displays their certificate of completion in a gel manicure course. (FYI, all major manufacturers give classes and certifications in gel manicure products and application. It shouldn’t be hard to find a technician who fits the bill.)

So, yes: Now that you’re armed with information you know that you can safely enjoy the benefits of high-gloss, long-lasting gel manicures as long as they’re completed by a licensed nail technician. While you’re at it, you might even consider enjoying a little nail art as well! Nails grow, right?

– Shannon Rooney

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