A gel manicure is a type of nail treatment in which a nail technician uses gel to bind synthetic fingernails to natural ones and color them. The gel can also be applied over natural nails like regular polish. Though gel nails are generally long-lasting and don't chip, people do have to take special care when removing them, and the application process may be associated with health problems.
During a gel manicure, a nail technician first cleans and shapes a person's natural nails and pushes the cuticles back. He or she then applies a base coat, which helps the fake nail or polish adhere better, and then applies several coats of polish to the nails. After each layer is painted on, the person getting the manicure puts his or her hands under a small Ultra Violet (UV) lamp for a few seconds or minutes to cure and harden it. The nail technician ends by applying a clear top coat to seal and protect the nails.
Gel nails can be painted any color, but many people choose to get clear ones for a natural look. The color generally lasts for a few weeks without significantly changing, but tanning beds can cause a slight yellowing. The gel itself is usually a soft white color, which can enhance the look of a person's fingernail tips.
Aftercare and Removal
Natural nails continue to grow under the fake ones, so a person has to get them filled in after two or three weeks. The process for a filling is similar to that for a regular gel manicure, with the manicurist filing and shaping the synthetic nails and removing and repainting the color so that it will look brighter and last longer. Some people choose just to get the color renewed, while others choose to get new gel to fill in the space where the nail has grown out, near the cuticle. Depending on a person’s lifestyle and length of nails, this treatment usually lasts for about a month.
When a person wants to remove the nails, he or she can either file them off or soak them off with acetone nail polish. Though some polishes are designed to soak off easily, people may need to scratch up the topcoat so that the acetone can get to the colored layers. It's best to hold cotton balls soaked in remover on the nails for a few minutes instead of soaking the entire finger in it, since this can damage the skin. Wearers should never try to peel or pry the nails off, since this can tear off their natural fingernails.
Pros and Cons
Many people prefer a gel manicure since it's odorless, has a realistic look and feel, and is usually long-lasting. Gel nails also don't need lift, polish, or backfills, and when removed properly, don't damage the nail like acrylic nails sometimes do. Additionally, the polish acts as a shield against anything that might weaken or damage the nails, such as moisture or other elements.
Despite this, these treatments tend to be more expensive than other types of manicures, and do have to be maintained to keep looking good. Like other fake nails, if they get caught on something they can tear a person's natural nails off, which is very painful and can lead to infections. Some people also have concerns about the exposure to UV light needed to cure the nails, since type of light can increase a person's chances of skin cancer. The time and level of exposure that would be needed to cause cancer is generally much greater than most people experience during manicures though. Dermatologists recommend that people apply sunscreen to their hands before getting a gel manicure to be safe, and to get these types of treatments in moderation.