“Gell Nails” – Gel 101


“Gel nails” is one of those phrases that has come to have many meanings, depending on a person’s experience, their area and knowledge. Let’s clear up a few things.
Gel nail products are a pre-mixed, gel-like substance that is brushed/sculpted on the natural nail, then cured to a hardened state in a UV gel lamp. True gel nail products are UV-cured because they contain a photo-initiator that reacts to a very narrow, specific band of UV light. They can be crystal clear or have color pigments in them.

The first UV gels were clear, and soon a “French White” for tips and pinks for nail beds were developed, allowing a “Pink and White” look. These were wildly popular as they went with everything, looked clean and fresh the all the time, and the regrowth at the cuticle was not as noticeable. Gel nails started showing up in nail competitions and became much more popular in salons.

It wasn’t many years, though, before nail techs wanted the strength and durability of gels but in more colors. Colored gels were developed and swept through nail salons.

Clients and techs were happy…but not for long. This first version of gels is not easily removed, and changing colors meant a complete take down of the nail enhancement every time the client wanted to change colors. Sometimes this type of gel is referred to as traditional or “hard” gel.

Nail techs clamored for a way to change colors easier, so manufacturers came up with “soak off gels.” Now there are “Soak Off Gels” which come in countless colors. All the advantages of gel enhancements and removable by soaking off the product in acetone.

Soak off gels come in two sub-categories: nail enhancement formulas that are strong enough to sculpt an artificial nail and UV gel polishes which are applied thinly, like polishes, for color only and are not meant to form nail enhancements–just be color that lasts at least 2 weeks, but often longer.

The nail industry has been revolutionized by UV gels and gel polishes just as profoundly as artificial nails changed manicures in the 70’s. Women are now able to have nails that are thin, natural looking in shape (or not!) and shiny and durable for more than the few days a natural nail manicure will last.

Gel nail products are a pre-mixed, gel-like substance that is brushed/sculpted on the natural nail, then cured to a hardened state in a UV gel lamp.

Unfortunately, there are salons out there taking advantage of the popularity of gels by claiming they are using gels (which are more expensive to manufacture), when they are really using a very cheap version of acrylic. When someone tells you they are using gel, but first dips a brush in a liquid and then dips the wet brush into a powder—they are NOT using gels.

Gel nails are a wonderful service when correctly applied and removed. Your natural nails and hands are safe when the technician follows the proper procedures.

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