Anyone can get a gel manicure, whether you have natural nails (long or short) or want to get tips glued on first. Stacked up against a regular manicure, gels last longer, feel stronger and stay shiny.
Here's how the process works: Like your run-of-the-mill mani, a gel manicure starts with cutting the nails, lightly soaking the hands, trimming the cuticles, and a thorough hand-cleaning. The polish itself is where things get different: you'll start with a base coat layer that primes your nails for the gel, which is a special kind of polish that, instead of air-drying, sets under a UV light. After each coat is painted on, you place your hand under a UV light for 30 seconds. The technician will finish things off with a glossy topcoat that's also set with a UV light.
Generally, a gel manicure can hold up for two to three weeks. Just like with your regular polish, how you treat your hands post-manicure and throughout those two weeks will make a big difference in staying power. If the gels are not chipping, leaving gel polish on for two to three weeks is fine. But like with all lacquer, breaks between manicures are a great way to ensure your nails stay strong and healthy.
One of the biggest myths about gel manicures is that they're bad for your nails. In reality, how you remove gel polish can be damaging. More often than not, it's the removal process that's weakening your nails. The nail bed shouldn't be filed or buffed to get your gels off, as that's how cracks and rough texture can happen. It's not always easy to spot right away because clients often follow gels with more gels or polish.
The major criticism of gel manicures is that the UV lights you put your hands under to set the gel polish can cause premature aging and put you at a higher risk for skin cancer. It turns out there is truth to this. The ultraviolet light emitted from these dryers is actually much stronger than what you would get from sun exposure. UVA light is responsible for both skin aging and the development of skin cancers. If you are going to get gel manicures, it is important to apply sunscreen to your hands for protection.