The Horrors of Gel Manicures!

By Jenna

On one foggy October morning, I could hear the eerie sound of a faint rip in fabric. Upon looking down I realized… it was a chipped nail ripping my pillowcase! Did I mention that I got a gel manicure about 4 days before this incident? KILL. ME. NOW. I have been iffy on gel manicures since this point, but that just sent me over the edge. Isn’t the entire point of the gel manicure to stay intact for at least a week? Isn’t the entire point of putting your hands in and out of a UV machine so that you don’t have chips? This gel manicure trend has been replacing nail polish since 2009 and until this year, I’ve kept quiet about my indecisiveness for quite some time. By far, the cons of the gel manicure totally outweigh the benefits – if there ARE really any benefits. Here we go!

1. They say its ‘safe’ and not as damaging to your nails as acrylic. LIES! Manicurists still have to grind down your nail to get the right texture for the gel to stick better. Grinding down until your nail is raw— which doesn’t take much by a hand or electric file— can cause weak, brittle nails that will allow the chemicals to seep in and potentially cause nerve damage. What chemicals you say? Some of the gel nail polishes contain a chemical called methyl acrylate which doesn’t really get along with your skin. This chemical can cause contact dermatitis or an allergic skin reaction where a rash may develop along with annoying itching throughout the day. Because we are always touching our faces, this rash can spread to our eyelids or other places. Already spend $40 on that gel manicure? How about an extra $10 for some cortisone cream to go along with your sexy rash. One more thing on chemicals, remember that one linked to cancer called butylated hydroxyanisol or BHA? Yup, that one is found in some gel polishes too.

2.  The removal process is horrible. Since when have you ever had to soak wrap your nails in pure acetone and foil for 20 minutes with regular nail polish? To remove gel polish, the nail salon will help you soak your nails in acetone for a while or they can grind it off (most manicurists are not able to be so delicate to grind off only the gel part – chances are they will get your actual nail during this at least 6 times). Acetone is an extremely drying chemical on your nails, not to mention it can wreak havoc on your delicate skin. After repeated removal processes your nails can become very brittle and even start peeling. All it took was once for me and my nails have never been in a worse condition. If you’re not an acetone fan, you can always start peeling them off. Once you do that, take a look at the underside of the gel polish and see what you find. The top of your natural nails you say? OH that’s strange, I wonder how that happened. (See #1 for nail filing)

3. Because the removal process is horrendous and you can’t do it yourself unless you have access to pure acetone, you’re stuck with not only the color you picked but the grown out look on your digits for a few weeks. Need to change your polish color for an important event? (Shakes head up and down yes) March right on over to the same nail salon for another gel application where you can get even weaker nail beds. Acetone, 10 minutes later, file down a little more, feel the pain, another 10 minutes of UV light exposure on your hands and VOILA! You have a new nail color that you’re stuck with for another few weeks. By that way, that’ll be another $40 plus tip. Not to mention, they may chip if you aren’t careful.

I’m on to you gel polish….

From this moment forward, I’m saying no to gel manicures. I’m also re-uniting with my massive collection of nail polish and asking them for forgiveness while I nurse my poor nails back to health. I do hope for your sake though that I’m not the only one that sees through these deceptive manicures.

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9 Responses to “The Horrors of Gel Manicures!”

  1. Rebecca Manning says:

    I had the gel manicure done for the first time early last month! Didn’t last a day at my work! Chipped just like regular nail polish would. It is a bit stronger, but not enough to where I’d get it done again. I’m still growing it out with regular nail polish over it! Luckily, I didn’t pay to have it done :P

  2. Jennifer says:

    I, too, have had the “wonderful” gel manicure done only once. As a former nail tech, I kind of figured the process would be what it is, but I had no idea the removal would be such a problem. It is a ‘Polish process’ after all, so who would have figured removing it would be such a pain in the fingers!!! Mine lasted 18 hours. When I do my nails, I can hold a good french for 8 days!!!!!! You can keep the whole gel process. It’s not for me. Cheers!

  3. Maggie vu says:

    I worked with gel since the beginning and I realize there are pros-cons just like everything else. It’s all about moderation and not everyone is a good candidate. Good and experience nail tech is so important! Grind down your nail for gel polish is just plain stupid on the nail tech part. You can remove the shine with buffing and wipe with alcohol. Trim/ push back cuticle. Polish in thin layers. The darker the gel color the quicker is the chipping. Love Gelish from Nail Harmony. Opi axxium is improving but some darker colors still suck..other brand.. Not so much.
    Anyway, long term wear ( months after months) experience dry nail, breakage, and discoloration & thinner nail plate.
    I personally love gel polish, the shine, two+ weeks stay, no drying time. who doesnt want that stuff..:))

  4. Libby says:

    I have been doing my own nails at home with the CND Shellac for some time now and I think it is wonderful! For the price of one acrylic fill I was able to buy the UV light and the products. It is not hard to find pure acetone and I have discovered that the wraps sold by Sally’s Beauty Supply (their brand I think) are much cheaper than CND’s and work a thousand percent better (they actually stay on). And I only have to leave them on for 10 minutes, not 20.

    So far, I’m a happy camper and not spending so much money every month to have my nails done.

    I guess to each his/her own :)

  5. May M says:

    Gel manicure gets a bad wrap based on people’s salon experiences. I’ve never had a gel manicure done at the salon. I have been using Lomasi DIY gel mani pedi system at home. I’m more surprised than anyone but love it. I am in control of the application and removal process. I’m as gentle and careful as can be. It lasts for a couple weeks and there’s a lot of bang for your buck. The 15 minute removal process with acetone is relatively easy. I’ve had great results with Lomasi gel and my fingernails have grown very long with it on. I couldn’t do that before.

  6. Cheryl says:

    I have been doing my own gel polish (fingernails and toenails) at home for nearly a year now, using the Lomasi Mani / Pedi system, with great success. My “DIY” job usually lasts 2 -3 weeks on fingers and at least 8 weeks on my toes. As an added (and unexpected) bonus, my nails have never been stronger!! This kit comes with very thorough instructions for both application and removal, both of which are critical for success and nail health. It sounds like Jenna had a bad experience with an under-trained nail tech. If I (with no training) can do this at home, anyone can!

  7. Emmilynn says:

    I am a nail tech like some of the others and it didnt take long for you to figure out that this was no better for your nails than any of the other systems. I have always explained to my clients the pros and cons, the effects to the nails and surrounding skin as well as to ur bank ballance. Once u start it is a massive financial investment £40 per application, £25 per infill and £10 for removal thats £75 per month where u were haveing a manicure once amonth for £25. People will still want it and will pay it for just always remember ur sunblock if ur in uv light instead of led’s. It ages the skin increases age spots and not worth it for a lasting polish…..

  8. tousledkitten says:

    I’m confused as to why your nail would be buffed at all for a gel polish application, this is totally unnecessary. Unless nails have just been buffed to a supreme shine (the kind you can see you face in, again this in itself is bad for your nails) there is no need to roughen the surface of them. I’d be curious to know which brand you had applied because removal time for most should not exceed 10 minutes and there should be no effort necessary to remove the polish, it should flake apart effortlessly from contact with acetone. If your gel polish application is not lasting a MINIMUM of two weeks (unless you have mutant nails that grow at superman speed) then the application process has not been carried out properly. Either that or you haven’t been given adequate after-care and have inadvertently damaged your manicure as a result but this should be difficult because gel polishes are strong! If you’re concerned about UV exposure then you might want to read the extensive research into this and bear in mind that LEDs still expose you to UV light just in a different way. The other reason applications can break down is if you have flaky, peely or weak nails but this should be identified during a consultation with your nail technician before they go near your nails with any implements. Make sure that they are carrying out full cuticle work (this doesn’t involve cutting half your finger off, fyi) of the whole nail plate, shaping the nails neatly without leaving any rough edges, cleansing and dehydrating the nail plate before application, using reputable products, not over-curing your nails in the lamp (times vary with product and light), applying cuticle oil once your top coat is cured and the inhibition layer has been removed, giving you proper after-care and removal advice and that during removal they are putting no pressure into removing the polish. It should be able to be easily flicked from the nail with the lightest of touch from an orangewood stick. Another common mistake is applying the layers too thickly, each layer should be THIN. Removal will be trickier if they have applied it too thickly. HTH but feel free to ask if you have any questions about proper practices in nail technology. You may find Doug Schoon helpful on Facebook, he is very well informed and extremely helpful.

  9. Lisa Marshall says:

    Gel coat caused a terrible allergic reaction and it looks like I have and feels like 10 ingrown fingernails very painful ! My doc says people with eczema on their hands should not get this type !

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