Hi, fellow beauty lovers! A few months ago, I wrote a post about my experience trying the viral nail slugging trend. I was desperate to bring my weak brittle nails back to life after having my beloved gel extensions on for over a year. (TL;DR: the hack did help!)
The past several months have consisted of me religiously applying cuticle oil every night, applying nail strengthener to my sad nails, and sticking to regular polish in the hopes of getting my natural nails strong and growing long again.
I knew I would reach a point where I would get a gel manicure again — especially since the warm summer months are right around the corner. So I reached out to licensed nail artist Vanessa Cao, to learn more about gel manicures— including the different types, how damaging gel manicures really are, the importance of nail health, and more.
First things first, there is a lot of confusion around gel manicures being a cause of weak, brittle nails — and Vanessa said that this is not the full story.
"I always say that it’s usually not the product that damages your nails, it’s the nail artist or technician that you are seeing. Gentle yet effective removal and prep is so important," Vanessa explained.
"Many streetside salons use acidic primers with their services. That acid primer will sit on your natural nail or under your nail enhancements, and slowly eat away at your nail plate, causing peeling of the natural nail, white spots, and in extreme cases, pain," she said.
If you're unsure what type of primer your nail salon uses, Vanessa said you can ask to see the bottle, as it will usually say if the primer is acidic on it.
Knowing this, I asked Vanessa to explain the different types of gel. Admittedly, when I get a gel manicure, I have no idea what type of gel a salon is offering and putting on my nails. In fact, I didn't even know there was more than one kind.
Vanessa explained that there are two different types of gel — soft and hard. "'Soft' [gel] doesn’t mean that the gel is actually soft. It simply indicates that the product is able to be soaked off by acetone," she said. "Soft gels are also able to flex with the natural nail and absorb more shock."
"Hard gel cannot be soaked off with acetone. Salons typically fill a hard gel manicure instead of soaking it off. If hard gel needs to be fully removed, only abrasives — such as hand files and e-files — will do the trick," Vanessa told BuzzFeed.
For some more context, hard gel is typically used to add length to a short natural nail and is cured under an LED lamp or UV light.