Monday, September 7, 2015

What Are Gel Nails (aka "Hard Gel")?

Gel nails are an extremely natural-looking enhancement that are thin, clear, flexible, non-yellowing, nonporous and resist lifting. Gel nails can be used for natural nail overlays, tip overlays, and sculpted onto forms, and to help encapsulate a damaged free-edge as it grows out.
Benefits of Gel Nails:
1) Odorless
2) Natural Feeling
3) Thin
4) Flexible
5) Crystal Clear
6) Light Weight
7) Natural looking
8) No lifting!
Myths about Gel Nails:
1) Myth: Gel nails are soooooo easy to do, they apply just like nail polish! Anyone can do them! The truth: "Gel nails are easy to learn, but hard to master".
2) Myth: Gel nails are "lumpy" because you can't file them or do finish work. The truth: Gel nails are non-porous and completely cured, there is no reason not to file them to perfection if needed!
3) Myth: Gels are Healthier than Acrylics. Truth: A long time ago a rumor started that acrylics could cause cancer and it spread like wild fire. Through persistence and education, the nail industry has been able to overcome this misconception; however the myth still lingers. Acrylic chemistry has proven to be non-carcinogenic and similar chemical components are used in the biomedical and dental industries. Both gel and acrylic products are safe if used according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
4) Myth: Acrylics are Damaging to the Natural Nail & Gels are Not Truth: 99% of damage to the natural nail is caused by techs using mechanical force during prep and application. Improper PREP can be done with either gel or acrylic, it is not exclusive to on or the other. The chemistry of both products is very similar and neither damage the nail by themselves.
5) Myth: Acrylics are Stronger than Gels Truth:When gels were introduced to the market, many techs experienced service breakdown which lead to the misconception that gels weren’t as strong (durable) as acrylic. It is important to understand that the breakdown they were experiencing was caused by improper application techniques, not product failure.

Some common mistakes that techs make when applying gel enhancements are 1 - too thin of an application-proper thickness and placement the apex is essential and 2 - using poor quality or old UV lamps or bulbs. All too often techs spend money on high-end gels for optimum performance, then buy the cheapest UV lamp from a no-name manufacturer at a tradeshow. UV energy is of utmost importance in ensuring a complete cure and prevention of service breakdown. Not all lamps, or bulbs for that matter, are created equally. When using gels, it is best to use a high-quality lamp from a manufacturer you know and trust and don’t forget to replace the bulbs every 4-6 months! When applied properly, gel is equally as “strong” as acrylic. In fact, gel can be more resistant to cracking because of its slightly greater flexibility AND the viscosity of gels can make the proper bond more error-proof because the gel will naturally seep into all of the macro-crevices of the natural nail. Acrylic requires the tech to use a mix-ratio to achieve the proper bond. Using too-dry of a mix is a sure way to experience service breakdown with acrylic. No mix ratio is required for gel application.
When I first started in the nail industry in 1999/2000 I came across Gel Nails, which is not something we discussed in school. My Gel Guru at the time was Barb of Nailsplash ( and much of this post is synopsized from her (as well as a few other places). She taught me so much about Gel Nails at a time when gels were just coming into vogue and I am forever grateful to her. She still has so much information out on her site (I have no idea if she is still active in the nail industry unfortunately). I encourage anyone interested in gels to visit her site (be aware she is quite wordy :))