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Gel Manicure Guide — Is Gel Nail Polish Bad for Your Nails?

Who wouldn’t want a manicure that lasts and last, stays shiny, and dries in seconds flat? It’s no wonder gel manicures are all the rage. But what exactly is gel polish made out of, anyway? Is it safe? And how long do gel nails last?

We investigated and got expert answers to the most common questions that manicure enthusiasts are asking. Read on for the ultimate guide to the gel manicures and polish.

What exactly is a gel manicure?

Gel polish is made up of acrylic monomers and oligomers that bond together when placed under UV light. This process is called curing, and in a matter of seconds, the once-liquid gel turns into a hard, chemical-resistant coating. You can also use an LED light, but that will take two minutes to cure, whereas a UV light only takes five to 45 seconds.

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Can gel polish dry without a UV light?

No. Gel polish is completely unlike regular nail polish and needs to the UV or LED light to form a hard layer.

How long do gel nails last?

On average, gel nails last two to three weeks.

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What’s the average cost of a gel manicure?

$25 to $45.

How do I make my gel nails last longer?

Making your gel manicure last is as easy as leaving your nails under the lamp a little longer. “If you under-cure the polish and you don’t give it enough UV light, then the polish won’t firm up enough,” says Randy Schueller, a cosmetic chemist and a cofounder of thebeautybrains.com. “It is theoretically possible that if you spend a little more time under the light, you will get more bang for your buck in terms of durability.” If you have the time and your nail technician is cool with it, pop your hand back in the lamp for an extra round and your manicure will stick around longer.

Are gel manicures safe?

“There are some studies that suggest too much UV light from manicures can lead to skin cancers, but other studies have dismissed that,” says Schueller. A 2015 study published in JAMA Dermatology concluded that the risk of developing skin cancer from UV manicures is small but that consumers should use physical blocking sunscreens or UVA-protective gloves to limit the risk of carcinogenesis and photoaging.

How do I remove gel nail polish?

Thanks to its chemical resistance, gel polish can’t be easily wiped away with acetone and must be filed and/or literally soaked in acetone for several minutes to loosen the hardened gel from the nail. It’s a bit of a process, but it’s so important to remove gel nail polish the right way rather than just picking it off.

Will gel polish hurt my nails?

The good news is that gel nail polish itself will not hurt your nails. Picking at gel polish, however, can harm your nails. If you pick at the polish and peel it up, you will inevitably peel away part of your natural nail, leaving it thinner and weaker.

Can I just add a gel topcoat over regular nail polish and get the same effect as a full gel manicure?

No. According to manicurists, this is scientifically unsound. Here’s why: Regular nail polish isn’t fully dry for 24 hours (it might seem like it is, but deep inside, the solvents in regular nail polish are still drying). So, if you request a top coat of clear gel polish over regular polish, all you’re going to do is trap the wet polish, which may lead to a mess.


More manicure info:


Now check out all the ways you can remove traditional nail polish:

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