The biggest names in the business currently are Sally Hansen, Nailene SensatioNail, Kiss Everlasting, Red Carpet, and OPI. Most of these brands sell some type of starter kit, which include all of the products that you need for a few gel manicures, refill kits, and individual gel polish colors. Gels are definitely pricier than nail enamel. Starter kits will be at least $50 (LED lamps are expensive to produce!), and a bottle of gel nail polish will be at least $10. But, at a normal nail salon a gel manicure can cost around $25. The DIY kits are pretty easy to use, so it's a great cost-efficient way to get those elegant gel nails.
- They last 2 weeks with a shiny finish and no chips no matter how much cooking or cleaning you may do - very professional looking!
- No dry time - After you cure the last coat, you're done :)
- The removal process is pretty awful I must say. You have to soak your fingertips in a special gel remover for 15 minutes to loosen up the formula before you scrape it off. Many people claim that gels damage your nails. If you don't remove it properly, it definitely can. It's super tempting to try to rip the gels off before the 15 minutes is up when you see the first sign of peeling. You really need to wait the full 15 minutes and perhaps even longer until there is no longer any polish stuck to your nail.
- The LED lamp does emit UV light, which can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Personally, when I use it, I always slather some sunscreens onto my fingers as a precautionary measure.
- Gels are a thicker formula than regular nail enamel, which means that you have to be a little bit more precise. If you make a mistake, you can't simply wipe it off instantly or clean up around your cuticles with regular nail polish remover. Another reason why you really need to be careful that you don't get any gel on your skin during the application process is that in order to harden, the gel polish is transformed under UV light. If there is any gel polish on your skin, you will feel a slight burning sensation.
Since gels are a relatively new on the market, there is a smaller shade selection available across brands. As I mentioned, gels give you a more professional look, meaning that they are less suitable for funky nail art looks because they come in more traditional colors and in fewer "fun" shades. They are also thicker and a little bit harder to work with for nail art. Many brands are however, branching out and beginning to offer classic nail styles in gel form. Nailene Sensationail, for example, sells French, shimmer, metallic, magnetic,
and glitter gels. Additionally, Sally Hansen produced their famous Salon Effects nail appliques in gel form with their Insta Gel Strips ($15 at Ulta). Basically, they work just like regular gels, but the gel is in a sticker that you stick on your nails. They definitely don't hold up as well as traditional gel polish (they peel more easily). The nice thing though is that they remove with ordinary acetone nail polish remover. And they come in cool patterns and prints that are hard to create with traditional gels.
In my opinion, gels are a cool concept, but I'm just a little concerned about the potential health risks associated with using them consistently. Frequent exposure to the UV light is definitely dangerous and risk of cancer is even stated as a warning on the packaging of gel kits. As with new drugs, we don't know enough about gels yet. I am still a little bit cautious of the formula because we don't know if prolonged use can permanently damage your nails or worse, your respiratory system (due to the fumes). There are already debates as to whether or not gels damage your nails. If you don't remove them properly, they definitely can. Even if you do remove them properly, many people that I've talked to, have found that although they don't necessarily weaken your nails, gels are definitely harder on your nails then regular polishes are. For those of you, who use gels regularly, try a fortifying and conditioning nail treatment between manicures to prevent any potential nail damage. I would recommend being selective about your gel manicures. Personally, I use gels only for my annual beach vacation, where my nails will be exposed to extreme wear and tear from sand, salt water, and chlorine, and I can't be bothered with retouching my them.
I did my nails in Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish in Back to the Fuchsia ($12 on drugstore.com) for my beach vacation last week. It's a really pretty hot pink color. Check it out:
How do you feel about gels?