Right before heading to Europe at the end of March, I decided to get my first manicure using gel polish. I had heard many a story about how delightfully long-lasting the polish was and since I was going to be traveling for about three weeks, it seemed like the perfect idea. Since then, I’ve gained first hand (and ten fingers) worth of experience in the gel game. Here’s my rundown:
THE GOOD: Zero chipping for days and days and days and days and days and days x 21
As soon, and I mean AS SOON, as your nails are done they are dry. Totally, 100% and completely dry. You can reach into your purse to pay and accidentally jam your index finger into your keys without flinching. You can open boxes without smearing. You can cook! You can clean! AND THERE WILL BE NO CHIPPING! It’s complete and utter liberation in the form of high-gloss, candy-colored digits.
A fresh gel mani
One week later: still no chipping!
Two weeks later: still no chipping!
Three weeks: aside from the growth from the cuticle there is not a dent, chip or flake in sight. The manicure looks as fresh as the day it was done.
My three week old gel polish mani...other than the growth at the cuticle level--no chipping!
THE BAD: no #nailart
While we’ve seen an explosion of nail art, unfortunately you can’t achieve those awesome graphic designs with gel polish. At least at my local nail shop they can’t make that happen. I had dreams of a gunmetal gray with french black tips or eggplant with a reverse glitter ombre design dancing in my head, but I was brutally shut down by the manicurists. Womp womp. I ended up working around single-hued digits by adding an accent nail to each hand for some intrigue.
Tangerine polish with yellow accent nails
THE UGLY: the removal
When it’s time for gel polish to come off, you have to get it removed professionally. First the nails are soaked so that the polish lifts off. Then the manicurist takes a tool to scrape the paint from your nails. This process left a lot of unsightly divits and scraping on the surface of my nails. After a couple days, my nails had for the most part returned to normal, but I still didn’t love all of the scraping and chiseling required to remove the polish. Oh, and you have to pay for the removal. Which I’m fine with but it just means that from start to finish I ended up paying about $35 for the mani, which was a bit steep for my liking.
THE HORRIFIC: my nails are mangled.
This past weekend, I removed my second set of gel polish and was absolutely appalled to discover what I found beneath. My nails, which are normally extremely strong and healthy, were cracked and flaking. My entire thumbnail is like a freaking Post-It pad with layers coming right off. I’ve never seen anything like it! No one else should have to see anything like this—it’s extremely unsightly and I’m totally ashamed of what my nails look like. I know that the damage will grow out (sheesh! sounds like we’re talking about relaxers over here!), but until then I have to figure out how to deal with this:
The current state of my nails.
THE VERDICT: I’ll probably do it again.
Oh, I know. Why in the world would I subject my poor nails to gel polish ever again? The three weeks of chip-free glory are, well, glorious! Not only was I not at all worried about my polish coming off, but I was constantly getting compliments on them. I think the next time I do it, I will not keep the polish on for a long time and will wait longer duration between gel polish manicures in an effort to mitigate any potential damage. Until then, I’m going to stick with simple polishes and wait for my nails to grow back to health. The upside: at least now I have an excuse to get into some serious nail art!
Using scotch tape to create geometric designs
Accent nails with regular polish
Reinforcement labels (yes, like those found in the office) to create polish stencils
Have you had gel polish manicures before? What has your experience been? Share in the comments!