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Switching to Gel Nail Polish. What you need to know.

We get it: You're tired of lackluster, short-lived nail polish. What you want is flawless, chip-free nails that last for weeks on end. And gel nail polish makes this a reality to save you time. It's a decision that makes a lot of sense.

You see, with the global nail care market size of around $13 billion, the industry offers numerous products based on customers' preferences. And given that most consumers seek a nail polish that's not just about the looks but also feels fabulous, lasts longer, dries in a flash, and keeps looking fresh. More often than not, gel nail polish is the ultimate choice. Though gel polish can be more expensive than your average nail polish, the benefits certainly outweigh the couple of the disadvantages (which we'll discuss shortly).

Firstly, What is Gel Polish?

A collection of gel nail polish in different colours

Simply put, gel polish offers a middle ground between traditional nail polish and gel nails. This gel-like formula combines the best of both worlds: the color and application of traditional polish with the long-lasting, chip-resistant finish of gel nails.

If we look at the science behind gel nail polish, we'll find that every type of polish comes with different polymers. For instance, regular nail polish has nitrocellulose that hardens once the solvents dry. In the case of gel nail polish, there are acrylic polymers that get triggered by light. That's why this type of polish requires sticking your hand under a specialized LED or UV lamp for it to cure for just 60 to 120 seconds. That's pretty much the time it takes, and it's often seen as a godsend for those who want nail polish to dry instantly. Plus, it is ideal for any occasion that you can think of.

How is Gel Nails Applied?

A woman applying gel nail polish on her nails

The application process is quite simple and can even be therapeutic. It's like creating a small piece of art!

So, here's what you have to do:

  • Step 1: Key step for success - prep your cuticles. Gently push back cuticles with a cuticle pusher. If you find that the cuticle is difficult to move or stuck on the nail, you may consider using a cuticle softener.
  • Step 2: Shape your nails with a fine grit nail file and gently buff the surface of the nail to remove any shine.
  • Step 3: Clean your nails thoroughly with a nail wipe and cleanser or alcohol to remove any moisture or surface oils. This is important to support a long lasting application.
  • Step 4: Apply primer sparingly to the natural nail, being sure not to touch any surrounding skin. It's crucial to use a primer because it acts as a bonding agent between the natural nail and gel polish.
  • Step 5: Apply a gel base coat. Apply a thin and even layer without touching the cuticle. Cure in lamp (LED/Universal 60 seconds, UV 120 seconds).
  • Step 6: Apply a thin coat of gel polish. When applying gel nail polish it's essential to coat the free edge of your nail if it extends beyond the finger tip. This means gently brush the polish over the tip of your nail, thus sealing the edge. This step helps prevent chipping and ensures your manicure looks neat and lasts longer, giving you the best results. Cure in lamp (LED/Universal 60 seconds, UV 120 seconds). Repeat; apply another thin layer of gel polish. Remember to cure each coat under the UV/LED lamp for the full recommended time to ensure a strong bond. While there's no strict rule on the number of coats, one to three should provide full coverage to achieve a salon quality finish.
  • Step 7: Final step is to seal the application with a top coat to lock in the color and give your nails a stunning high shine finish. Cure in lamp (LED/Universal 60 seconds, UV 120 seconds) depending on top coat and lamp.

It usually takes around 30 to 60 minutes to properly apply gel nail polish, but every minute is worth it.

How Long Does Gel Nail Polish Last?

A person showing their newly applied gel nail polish

It usually takes just 3-5 days (a week if you stretch it) for regular nail polish to last. On the other hand, gel nail polish can easily last up to 2-3 weeks before starting to chip and peel.

However, there are some handy tips to make gel nail polish last longer:

  • Make sure you're using a good-quality gel nail polish brand.
  • Use a base coat at the start and top coat at the end.
  • Don't apply a thick coat. Instead it'll be better to apply several thin coats (preferably 2-3 coats) and ensure proper curing.
  • Apply cuticle oil daily to keep your nails moisturized and healthy.
  • Make sure you avoid washing hands with hot water. And wear gloves when using cleaning products as they contain harsh chemicals\.
  • If you're accidentally chipping your nails, try to fix them fast!

How Do You Dry Gel Nail Polish?

A person's fingers placed under a UV lamp

Gel nail polish is a bit different from traditional nail polish because it doesn't air dry. Instead, you'd have to cure it under a UV or LED lamp. This process, known as polymerization, happens when the wavelengths from the lamp react with the compounds in the gel polish, transforming it from a liquid to a solid, durable finish.

By the way, the curing time can vary depending on the lamp and the gel formula you choose, but it typically takes around 30 seconds to 2 minutes per coat. This quick and efficient method is what gives gel nails their long-lasting and glossy appearance.

It's important to note that there's a difference in curing time depending on the which lamp type you use. For instance, UV lamps emit broader spectrum of wavelengths and can cure all types of gel polish, but they take a bit longer to cure gel nail polish. On the other hand, LED lamps have a narrower spectrum of wavelengths and can cure gel polish faster. However, LED lamps are not compatible with all gel formulas. That's why some gel nail polish products are specifically designed for UV curing, while other are formulated for LED curing. Therefore, it is important to use the right type of lamp for the gel nail polish curing to achieve the best, long-lasting results.

How To Remove Gel Nail Polish?

A person removing gel nail polish

While there are many reasons to fall in love with gel nail polishes, the removal involves more than a simple wipe of polish remover. This is because gel polish becomes super strong when it is cured. And since our goal is always to get the best bond possible for long lasting gel nails that also means you'll have to follow some easy instructions to get a simple removal that won't damage your natural nails. Also, please resist the temptation to peel off the gel polish as it will take a layer of your precious nails with it. Seriously, you don't want that to happen! By taking care of your natural nails, you will have a great foundation for the best results with your next gel polish application!

You can have gel polish removed by a professional or you can opt for a DIY gel polish removal method. All you have to do is file off the top coat, soak nail wipes or cotton balls in acetone and place them on your nails. Next, use tin foil or removal wraps to wrap the nails and wait for just 10 -15 minutes. Take off the first foil to see if the product is very soft. If so, gently wipe off the gel polish. You can also use a gel remover tool to assist with the soft product. If there's some polish still left on the nails, soak them in a bowl of pure acetone or rewrap for a few more minutes to get the last of it. Once the gel has been removed, you'll want to give the nails a very gentle buff and a nice cuticle oil treatment!

If you're looking for an alternative to soaking off your gel polish, filing may interest you! Start with a medium grit file and file in a gentle, flat motion only until the color just barely disappears. Then use a buffer to finish removing any small color spots and the base coat. Be careful not to file too hard or at a sharp angle as over filing is easy to do; remember that less is more! Finish by applying a great cuticle oil to your nails and cuticles to keep them flexible and healthy.

How To Treat An Allergic Reaction To Gel Nail Polish?

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction to gel nail polish is "proper application." You see, most allergic reactions happen when gel polish comes in contact with the skin and causes contact dermatitis. It's important to ensure that the gel nail polish does not come into contact with your skin during the application process as repeated exposure can cause this.

Although allergic reactions to gel polish are rare, but they can still occur. If you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as redness or swelling, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

It should be noted that allergies are more prevalent among personal and new users due to improper and inexperienced application. Care must be taken to avoid skin contact of any kind, at all times. In addition, gel polish that is not fully cured can also cause contact dermatitis due to repeated overexposure.

Why is My Gel Nail Polish Peeling?

A person cleaning a dish

There can be several reasons why your recently applied gel nail polish is losing its high shine finish and peeling fast. Some of the most common culprits behind this problem include:

  • Your nails weren't properly prepped before applying the gel polish. This includes not cleaning of the nails thoroughly, using a dehydrator and properly gently etching the nails.
  • You applied a thick coat of gel polish which will cause the nail not to fully cure. Please remember that thin, even coats with curing in between are key to a long-lasting gel nail polish.
  • Regular exposure to hot water and cleaning chemicals.
  • Not moisturizing nails regularly with cuticle oil as it helps prevent the nails from drying out.
  • You're not following the recommended curing times for each layer of your specific gel polish.
  • You're using an old curing lamp.
  • You unintentionally start biting your nails. Also, some people have a habit of peeling nail polish. We totally get it...but please avoid doing it.

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