I used to be the biggest nail biter and cuticle picker ever, but looking at my nails today, you’d never guess that. I didn’t get over these habits until adulthood, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually began to see the full potential of my nails. Polishing my nails on a regular basis helped me to stop biting, and from there, polishing with gel helped their overall growth and health. I hear a lot of people say that gel manicures weaken their nails, but this has actually been proven by experts to not be the case.
Evelyn Lim, the chief educator at Paint Box tells Cosmpolitan that it isn’t the gel polish that ruins your nails, it’s the poor removal process and not giving your nails enough moisture. Oh, and that whole thing about letting your nails “breath” is a myth when it comes to gel. You can get back to back gel manicures for over a year, and if your removal process and maintenance throughout that year are on point–you won’t see a decline in nail health. The key is to always have a professional remove your gel. Also, be mindful of how long you keep your gel manicures before getting them re-done.
I can personally attest to this because I’ve worn gel consecutively for many months and these babies just keep growing. The weakest they’ve been was when I was lax about moisturizing, waited too long to get them re-done, or tried removing the gel myself. Removing it on my own was a nightmare. If not done by a professional you can risk removing the top layer of your nail, which can take up to 3-months to replenish itself.
Here’s the proper way a manicurist should remove your gel polish:
- File the top layer of the gel polish: They should always gently file away the top coat which seals the polish. This takes away the shininess and makes it easier to soak off.
- Let it soak: They should soak a piece of a cotton ball in acetone, place it on the nail directly then wrap it with foil. This should last at least 10 – 15 minutes to help the gel slide off more easily. To help speed up this process, they can place a warm damp towel over your hands while your fingers are wrapped in the foil.
- Remove: After about 10 – 15 minutes the gel should soak off–but sometimes if you’re using a really long-lasting brand like O.P.I. there may be some leftover. For those, the manicurist can use a cuticle pusher and gently scrape the remaining gel polish off. If you feel her digging too deep or roughly, you may need to soak the polish a bit longer to avoid scraping off the top layer of your nail.
- Buff: To ensure that the gel is completely gone, the manicurist should then gently buffer each nail for a nice smooth finish before beginning the rest of the process.
Help strengthen nails under the polish.
Aside from gel polish removal, when getting a fresh gel manicure–especially for those with more brittle nails, it helps to add a nail hardening or strengthening polish before applying the gel. This acts as a protective layer that helps harden nails for a more long-lasting manicure. It’s important you ask for this additional step, and most salons carry them. In the event that they don’t, you should bring your own. Some good brands are the Gelish Vitagel Strength LED/UV Cured Nail Strengthener, OPI GelColor Gel Nail Polish Base Coat, and Vishine Long Lasting Soak Off Nail Polish Base.
Taking care of your nails at home.
Nail maintenance doesn’t end once you leave the salon. It took me a lot of trial and error, but I’ve finally become better about taking care of my nails in between appointments. Here are few tips to keep your nails looking fresh for the entire two weeks:
- Keep a nail file on hand: If ever I had a snag or a chip, I thought leaving it alone was best, but that just runs the risk of it getting worse. For small hangnails and snags, use a nail file to smooth it out so it doesn’t get caught on something else–leading to more of the nail breaking off than intended.
- Keep your nails moisturized: At my desk, I have a small hand cream as well as some cuticle oil. Cuticle oil is key in strengthening and conditioning your nails to help prevent chipping, breaking and brittleness. Some great cuticle oils are: Morgan Taylor’s The Remedy, Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter, Deborah Lippman The Cure Cuticle Cream, or the Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream.
- Soak them in apple cider vinegar: One of my old manicurists (who left me because she was having a baby, you are missed, Daniela!) suggested frequent apple cider vinegar soaks to strengthen the nails. I did some research and she’s right! The combination of calcium, magnesium, and iron in Apple Cider Vinegar keeps nails healthy, and the malic and acetic acid protect against many nail infections.
- Go in fingertip first: I was notorious for trying to push, open, and pull things with my actual nails. That weakened them and caused them to break off. It takes a bit of practice, but typing, opening things and so forth with the actual skin of your fingers and not your nails is the best way to keep them intact.
Though it seems slightly pricier than a regular manicure, in the long run, gel polish limits salon visits to every 2-3 weeks, saves time, and money. If you’re struggling to achieve any nail growth or improve your nail health, I hope these tips encourage you to give gel a try. It’s definitely been a game-changer for me!