WRITERS, BLOGGERS, PROS AND PEEPS WHO KNOW THEIR BEAUTY STUFF
The Truth About Gel Nails
Wed, 21 March 2012 10:06AM
My nails have long been my beauty stumbling block. I religiously double-cleanse, have my hair trimmed, apply body moisturiser and attend monthly waxing appointments (too much info?), yet when it comes to my hands and feet, I’m a bit of a failure.
Which is why I think I’ve become a little bit obsessed about the new breed of gels, which basically fuse the best parts of old fashioned (but long lasting) gel nails and a regular mani or pedi in a fun and fast-working new formula. In case you’ve not yet tried them, the colour goes on just like normal nail polish, but is set under a lamp. It doesn’t end up looking thick and fake like traditional gels but is simply a high-shine, highly pigmented coating for your own nails that lasts and lasts without you even having to try. And as dark shades are de rigueur for the coming season, it’s a lower maintenance way to get the look, as seen on Lauren Conrad here:
However, when I begin waxing lyrical about the treatment to anyone who’ll listen, the same questions keep cropping up. So I decided to gather the facts from a couple of the brands offering the service, OPI Gel Color and CND Shellac*, undertake a few trials, and draw some conclusions. So science-y! If you’re already an addict, you might want to skip the reviews as you’ll know exactly what to expect, and just take a look at “Things to keep in mind” at the bottom of this blog. Maybe you’ve wondered about them, too.
First up, I took my toes to have a CND Shellac pedicure…
- They say: CND Shellac requires no filing of the surface of the natural nail for application or removal, therefore maintaining the integrity of the natural nail.
- I say: True. They dealt with my toenails in much the same way as with a normal pedi – think filling, cuticle trimming, light buffing. Then, after applying a base coat, three layers of colour, and a topcoat, I was good to go in under an hour with totally dry nails.
- They say: An application gives you 14 days of flawless wear on fingers and toes. However, because of the function of the toe compared to the fingernail, the application will wear between four to six weeks [on feet].
- I say: Yep, agreed. I got a good four weeks, at which point the colour on my second smallest toe lifted off, leaving me with one bare toenail. However, as I had quite a bit of regrowth, it was time for them to go, anyway.
- They say: CND Shellac has been designed to be removed in a very safe manner using Shellac Remover Wraps. This eliminates filing on the surface of the natural nail.
- I say: As I didn’t have any of these on hand, I soaked cotton pads in acetone-based nail polish remover, applied them to each toenail, then wrapped each toe with aluminum foil (it was a strong look) and left them on for about 15 minutes while I watched Revenge. Most of the polish lifted off easily and I only had to gently scratch small bits off a couple of toes while following Emily/Amanda’s escapades.
Next, I tried the OPI Gel Color manicure (um, I love my job!)
- They say: OPI’s Gel Color comes in a bottle and is applied like a normal lacquer, and then cures under light emitting diodes (LED) like those used in your TV remote control, for 30 seconds each layer.
- I say: It did feel a lot like having a normal mani – even the bottles of polish look almost identical to regular OPI lacquers, and come in all the colours you love. However, along with the normal nail prep, they did file my nail plate a little before applying the colour. It was speedy, though, and took around 45 minutes start to finish.
- They say: OPI’s Gel Color wears like a gel, yet looks and feels like a lacquer. The application is similar to a normal lacquer, not thick like gels. It lasts up to two weeks chip-free.
- I say: It definitely looked like a normal mani – maybe slightly smoother and a little unnatural, but I really liked the totally opaque and glossy finish. I wear my nails very short anyway, so there’s no risk of them looking fake. I noticed a few chips after about four days of hard wear (think house cleaning, cooking, typing, hosting a party for 20…). A regular paint job would have been ruined. I removed it after one week, mainly because I was ready to change colour, although there were a few tiny chips.
- They say: When you are ready to remove your Gel Color, simply soak it off using OPI Expert Touch Polish Remover in as little as 15 minutes. Apply it to silver foil wraps, leave for 15 minutes, twist and wipe off to remove.
- I say: I followed these instructions to the letter and it was easy-peasy. As with Shellac, there were a couple of bits I needed to scrape off but that was it. My nails felt a bit gritty afterwards though and, a week on, they still slightly do.
Things to keep in mind …
1. Don’t pick the colour off. It’s tempting, I know, but don’t do it. According to the lovely Cherie Pollard of CND, “As with any product you pick off your nails, you will lose nail plate layers, unnecessarily thinning the natural nail and making future application of any polish product more difficult.” She’s right. This can damage your nails much more than any new gel application will.
2. Don’t expect your natural nails to be picture-perfect when you remove the colour. My toenails looked a bit sorry for themselves, but then again, they are rarely without colour so I wasn’t too concerned. My fingernails felt a little damaged afterwards, too. For my part, I’m going to persist with monthly pedis, but probably save manicures for special occasions only.
3. Consider the risks. Some of the brands that offer this treatment use UV lamps to set the colour. Although they rely on UVA rays rather than the burning UVB rays, your skin will still be exposed to UV radiation. It’s something to think about. Do remember, though, that it’s super tough for any product or treatment to be approved for safe use in Australia, so you can be sure that anything available here has been more than put through its paces by the authorities and has had to prove high levels of safety. I spoke to dermatologist Dr Richard Wittal about it, who agreed that the high-dose UVA light could be a risk factor for the development of skin cancer, and it’s important to consider that. However, so is setting foot in the sun every day. For my part, I’m going to continue my pedicures, but will wear sunscreen on my feet in future, just to be sure.
And so ends this War and Peace-style epic on the new gels. Phew.
Now – what are your thoughts? Do you? Don’t you? Will you? Won’t you?
Until next week,
Posted by: Emily Taylor