Gel manicures save students nail polish troubles

While some argue the UV light used to cure the polish can be harmful, gel manicures offer durable and long lasting color that can strengthen your fingernails. (Lauren Nagle | The Collegian)

Ever hated the wait time it takes for nails to dry, or the fact that they chip within hours? Maybe it’s the expensive prices for manicures you despise? Well those days are long gone, because the world of gel nails exists.

Fashionista said gel manicures “are arguably one of the most exciting beauty innovations of the last few years – a mani that lasts for two solid weeks without chipping and doesn’t require any dry time seems downright miraculous.”

You’re able to do gel manicures right at home and get salon results at an affordable price. Brands like Sally Hansen, Essie, OPI and even Ciate have created at-home gel nail systems.

If applied correctly, gel manicures can last up to three weeks without chipping and remain looking as flawless as the first day they came out of a salon. Plus, unlike acrylics, they aren’t as bad for your nails.

“I’ve been getting my nails done for years and I’ve always had trouble with them chipping or me picking at them, because the polish just doesn’t seem to stay on,” Kara Dold, sophomore in hospitality management, said. “Ever since gel manicures came out, I’ve never gotten anything else. It stays on for two weeks and strengthens my nails. I would recommend it to anyone getting their nails done because it doesn’t destroy them like acrylics and stays on longer than regular polish.”

On the other hand, the process of gel manicures is meticulous. Every step in the process is of equal importance. Whether it be prepping the nail with a bonder before applying the base and top coat, or when capping the free edge of every nail so the gel is adhered correctly. Although this process is timely, it does provide chip-free polish that lasts.

“I like gel nails because it doesn’t peel, it makes your nails look healthier (and) stronger along with growing faster, and the color looks more lustrous,” Jackie Malone, freshman in business administration, said.

The New York Times summarized the process of applying gels in the article “Letter of Recommendation: Gel Manicures” by Haley Mlotek.

“In gel manicures … three layers of coating (base, color and top) are applied with painstaking precision,” Mlotek said. “After each, the hand is placed under a special lamp and exposed to the extraterrestrial blue glow of ultraviolet radiation. While regular nail polish, much like paint, needs only time to dry, gel polish is made with ingredients called photoinitiators and adhesion promoters, which require a certain wavelength of light to initiate a chemical reaction that bonds the gel to the nail. If all goes as planned, the manicure can last up to two, maybe three weeks.”

The process has strict rules users must to adhere to that if not followed properly, can lessen the gel nail wear time.

“I like gel nails because they are durable, they stay on for a long duration and make your nails thicker,” Kylee Darger, sophomore in apparel and textiles, said.

Despite all the positives, there are some downsides to gel nail polish. For many, the UV and LED lighting that is used to “cure” the nails in 30-60 seconds is the most controversial. There is much debate on the long-term effects of UV and LED; some say it may lead to cancer, while others like the study “Do UV Nail Lamps Emit Unsafe Levels of Ultraviolet Light?” argue the claim’s validity.

“Unfortunately, inaccurate information can have a long-term damaging effect, even when later disproved,” the study’s authors said.

There are some ways to avoid the long-term effects, such as to put sunblock onto your hands before a gel manicure, according to an article in Fashionista. Many salons also offer gloves to wear while getting your gels done that cover up to the nail bed.

Another option for those who do gel at home is getting a LED lamp. The LED light for nails is, for the most part, harmless; however, as a gel nail polish user I have found that a UV lamp (which costs the same amount as a LED) works much better. LED lamps require battery changes more often and without frequently changing the batteries, nails don’t get cured properly.

Another argument against gel nails is that they leave nails brittle and dry.

The standard way to remove the gel nail polish is to secure cotton balls saturated in pure acetone to the nails with foil, after which the user would file and scrape the gel off. This leaves the nails and nail beds dry.

SensatioNail, however, has recently released a cure for this. Beautezine’s March Hit List noted SensatioNail’s Nail Shield to be a hit. These nail shields, which are applied like a nail wrap, eliminate the harsh acetone removal process. After coating on the gel nail polish, users still get the two-week wear without the damage to their nails. SensatioNail’s nail wraps come with an 88 pack for $8, which is about eight gel manicures, according to Beautezine.

Overall, gel manicures are a versatile invention for those who don’t like salon prices or wait times (like many students), and kits can be found everywhere from Walgreens to Ulta.