So, You Want to Get Gel Nails?

I talk about my nails a lot here. After 40+ years of crappy nails, the fact that I have nice looking nails with minimal effort on my part makes me happy to share the information and the pictures. Two years ago, I'd read a thread on a message board asking about Shellac, I was curious about the concept of a two week manicure and did some investigation.

Like many of the people who visit my blog, I'm just a consumer-a savvy one. I looked for the good, bad, and ugly about gel nails, because I wanted to get my money's worth. You do, too. My two experiences with acryllic nails left my soft nails weak for months afterwards. I didn't want a repeat. So, today, I share what I know.

Why? Because there is a ton of information about there saying that Gel nails are bad. When done by a TRAINED nail tech, they can be very good for your nail health. Trust me on this one-nearly 45 years of nails that split, peeled and chipped if I looked at them the wrong way and now, they can go without anything on them for over a week without damage.

Consider this a FAQ that was built around what I've heard and the questions others have asked me when complimenting me on the lovely work that Katie does.

Can you do gel nails at home?
You can. Just because you can doesn't necessarily mean that you should, though. Do you change your own oil? Color or cut your own hair? Most of you probably answered those questions with 'no' and that's because you don't know how. The same goes for gel manicure product-it isn't a case of slap a coat of polish on your nail, put it under some lights and it'll be good to go. (Well, it might, but odds are good that it won't.)

A proper gel manicure takes around an hour for a TRAINED nail tech to do. That includes soaking off the old gel, applying a thin base coat, two THIN layers (more if layering) of color, a thin layer of top coat and curing all of those. It includes properly scrubbing the nails and nail beds to remove any oils or acetone residue. Then, a wipe down with alcohol at the end to remove tackiness from the top coat.

Skip any of those steps, cure for the wrong amount of time, or have a heavy hand when applying coats-your nails aren't going to look so hot. I happen to think I'm worth the $30 bucks every two (or three!) weeks to be pampered and get to gab with my nail tech.

You said a trained nail tech? How the heck do I find one?
I went to CND's website and did this:

I entered Lakeland, FL and clicked 'enter'.

Two years ago, it just returned a list of the certified nail techs in your area, now they give you a map. I had my choice of five techs, emailed three because of their hours and locations, then didn't get responses.

Initially, I was turned off by Katie's email address, but when I emailed, she got back to me within a couple of hours. Later, I found that a lot of the day spas in our area tend to hire techs who are allergic to working. Meanwhile, Katie is booked solid every week because she's good and she wants to work!

For OPI, visit their website, then at the far right, select "Where to Find OPI" and enter your zip code to find a salon.

For Gelish, visit Nail Harmony's website and do the same-far right 'Find a Salon':

NOTE: There are other brands out there. I defer to the expert opinion that if Katie doesn't have it, it is not worth buying or having someone put them on my nails. The woman gets herself certified for the products she uses and if she doesn't believe in it, she won't use it. The three listed are the ones she uses and as a result, have been on my nails.

I went to the salon in the mall, they advertised 'gel manicures', but my manicure didn't last any longer. Why?
Why? Simple answer-they weren't using real UV Gel nail polish products. To protect yourself, ask to SEE the bottles. They should be in opaque bottles to protect the product-clear glass/plastic polish bottles means it is not UV product!

If the nail tech won't show you the bottles/hides the bottles they're using on your nails, they're not using UV gel product. This happens more than we realize, and I know I had three encounters with others who complimented my nails and said "I got gel nails,but they didn't look like THAT!" and with each, it was as described above.

Does the manicure really last two weeks?
Your mileage may vary, but yes, these manicures last two and sometimes when I can't see Katie, three weeks. Whenever a manicure gets to about 11 days and starts chipping, it inevitably is the OPI. There is something about it that doesn't agree with my nails. I've had three weeks with no or minimal wear with Shellac and Gelish many times.

That's with a ton of typing daily, cooking, washing dishes, and generally, not babying my nails AT ALL. I don't garden or repair cars, but those are the only two things I can think of that are harsher on the nails and could reduce the length of time they last.

Is there anything special I should do? As with acrylics and silk wraps, the products are mildly drying. Get yourself solar oil and use it a few times a week. Lotion liberally. I love the smell of solar oil, so it gets used fairly regularly.

I got a gel manicure and then I had white spots on my nails? Why?
There are a couple of causes for those spots.

First, your nails are really dry. I mentioned lotion and solar oil. I have only had a couple of white spots in almost two years, and that was because I was too busy and forgot my solar oil routine.

Second, your nail tech may not have been gentle with removing the previous gel manicure. Your nails should soak in the acetone for at least 10 minutes and be GENTLY removed with slight pressure with an orangewood stick. NO metal tools, no Dremels. EVER!

If you need to remove the manicure at home, you need ACETONE to do it. Soak cotton balls, wrap them on the nails and let them sit for at least ten minutes. I read that warming the nails prior to removal helps get the old polish off, but we've never done it on mine. Non-acetone nail polish will do nothing.

How much should I expect to pay?
It depends on where you live and where you get your nails done. Day spas charge a lot more. I get a bargain, honestly. If I divide Katie's rates into two weekly manicures, I should be paying about $10 to $15 more. She gets tipped according to what I think she should be charging. ;)

Can the colors be layered? OPI's cannot, but Shellac and Gelish can. We've come up with some creative stuff because I like variety and Katie likes to play with my nails. I dodged her efforts to give me Easter egg nails, thankfully!

Is it really worth the cost?
That's a question I can't answer for you. For me, though, it is most definitely worth it. I like that I don't have to hide my nails anymore, as well as the conversations that start because someone is curious about my nails. Is there really that much variety in colors? Take a look at the link on the top left. I keep adding colors. The only limits that there really are is that I don't like pink...

I hope that clears up your questions about gel manicures from the average person who has been doing them for a while. I am not paid for any of my posts, I just do them because I like to share what I know. Finally, if you have a question and I didn't answer it, comment and I'll add it to the list.


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