Everything you need to know about gel nails
If you’re considering gel nails, you should definitely read this first. As a shellac enthusiast myself, I’ve often ignored negative opinions on gel manicures and the damage they cause in favour of a perfect manicure. I even looked past the fact that after months of back-to-back shellac appointments, I developed a distinct ridge on one of my nails. Not to mention, my natural nails were constantly peeling.
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Eventually, I decided that enough was enough and ditched gel nails for the ones I was born with. Do I miss the look of shiny, chip free polish on my fingernails? Of course! Which is why I spoke to Mavala’s National Trainer, Tracey Winder, to get her expert opinion on shellac and whether you can get a gel manicure without ruining your natural nails.
Are gel manicures damaging to our natural nails?
According to Tracey, gel manicures do have the potential to cause immediate and long-term damage to your nails. “Gel nails do not allow your nail beds to breathe correctly, impacting on the flow of blood and therefore the oxygenation and natural growth of the nail,” she says. The result is a dehydrated nail plate and thinning of the nails. “There is always the risk of infection as the gel manicure can still lift and cause water and bacteria to become trapped under the nail,” explains Tracey. “Not only that, the removal process causes further trauma as nails are wrapped in acetone, which is drying on the nail and skin, and then scraped off – if performed by an unqualified technician, nails and cuticles can be physically damaged and weakened overall.”
How often is too often to get gel nails?
With the appeal of a manicure that lasts for 2-3 weeks, It’s easy to see why so many women are committing to monthly shellac appointments. “To have gel nails applied on repeat will be extremely damaging to your nail health long term and does not give you an opportunity to assess the damage and for the correct treatment steps to be put in place post gel nails,” says Tracey. Although the damage might not be so obvious for those who are lucky enough to have strong nails, Tracey still recommends a pared-back approach. “We would suggest occasional gel manicures if you must, but to try and minimise frequent exposure overall,” says Tracey.
Are the UV lamps harmful?
“Gel manicures are cured or set with UV lamps and any kind of unnecessary UV radiation exposure to our skin poses a risk,” explains Tracey. Even though your nails aren’t under the UV lamp for very long, if you’re getting frequent gel manicures, all of that exposure can add up. “It’s always important we wear sunscreen protection and ask your salon for a full understanding on the types of lamps they use – the industry is unregulated, so it’s worthwhile doing your homework,” says Tracey.
Is there anything that we can do to reduce the damage?
There’s not much that you can do to reduce damage while you’re wearing gel nails, so you’ll have to wait until after they are removed to start the damage control stage. “Strengthening formulas are critical to repairing nail health, hydrating the nail and promoting quality nail growth,” suggests Tracey. While you’re still wearing shellac, Tracey says that the best thing you can do is to avoid picking at your nails. “Apart from the unsightly finish, it can cause trauma on the nail – both physically and through potential infection,” she says.
How can we help our nails recover after back-to-back gel nails?
“The best way is to give the nails down time, to allow them to grow naturally and healthily. I would suggest using a product to nurture the nails, as well as a specific cuticle focused treatment product like an overnight oil,” explains Tracey. Look for a nail cream that’s full of nourishing ingredients such as essential amino acids, lipids and vitamins, to help combat dryness, restore elasticity and strengthen the nails.
Is there a long-lasting alternative to gel nails?
Not ready to give up on your gels just yet? Luckily there are plenty of products available that offer a similar finish and effect to gel nails, without the drawbacks. “Mavala has a Gel Top Coat available that when applied, creates the same dome-like, volumising effect on the nails with shine and longevity to match (7-10days),” suggests Tracey. “It still allows the nail to breathe, dries without a UV lamp and can be removed with an acetone-free remover. By following a precise treatment protocol when doing your nails at home, you should be able to get a week to 10 days of wear and tear with your manicure – that is to treat the nail, prepare for polish correctly and then seal in your polish well with a gel-effect top coat,” she says. Alternatively, press-on false nails have come a long way in recent years and are actually a great way to wear glamourous nails, without any damage.
Do you get frequent gel manicures? What’s your favourite at-home nail polish?