Difference Between Natural Manicure & Gel Polish Manicure

Gel polish prevents chips, smudges and smears between manicures.

Photo: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Meticulously manicured nails can help pull together any outfit, whether it’s a cocktail dress, business suit or jeans and a tank. Today’s manicure options can be a bit overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with the different techniques. If you’re looking for a low-cost option to get you through a few days, a traditional manicure tops the list. But if you need a manicure to last for the long haul -- and you don’t mind dishing out the extra dough -- a gel polish manicure is your perfect match.


Preparing nails for a traditional manicure is quite simple -- and can even be done at home if you know what you’re doing. The nails should be trimmed and filed into a smooth, even shape. Cuticles are pushed back and removed if they’re looking ragged. After soaking the nails with moisturizer for a few minutes, wash and dry the hands. The preparation process comes to an end by brushing a clear base coat onto the nails and allowing to dry. Trimming, filing, shaping and cuticle care also are important for gel manicures. However, the nail technician might use an electric file instead of a manual one. A special solution is wiped onto the nails to remove residue and a clear base coat is applied to your nails. To ensure best results, use the base coat included in the line of products offered by the gel polish brand you are using.


Once the base coat dries, roll the polish bottle gently between your hands to warm it up and mix the polish. As you pull the brush out of the bottle, remove the excess polish from the bristles by pulling it past the lip of the bottle. Apply one stripe of color down the center of the nail, from cuticle to tip. Without re-dipping the brush, repeat the same motion to cover the sides of the nail. Once nails have dried, a second coat of polish and a clear shiny top coat are applied. Allow at least 30 minutes before touching the nails. Traditional polish takes about five hours to dry completely. The gel manicure process is a bit more complex than the typical manicure. Because professional stylists are trained in the proper procedures, you're more likely to get the best results if they do it. Gel polish is brushed onto the nails and allowed to cure, or bake into the nail, between each coat. To cure the polish, the hands are placed under an ultraviolet (UV) lamp. After the final curing time, the manicure is finished. Gel polish does not need time to dry and remains smudge-free even if you dig your hands into your purse immediately after they emerge from the UV lamp.


Traditional polish tends to start chipping or peeling within three or four days of application. Applying a new layer of top coat can help eliminate chips and maintain shine. However, you’ll likely need another manicure within a week. Gel manicures tend to be more durable than traditional polish manicures. Even if you work with your hands or wash them a hundred times a day, gel polish should not chip for several weeks. In fact, the only reason you'll need a new manicure is the new nail growth showing near your cuticles. Gel polish remains shiny, seamless and smooth for up to two or three weeks, depending on the brand of polish used.


Once your traditional manicure begins to wear off or chip away, removing the remaining residue can easily be done at home. All you need is a non-acetone nail polish remover and a few cotton swabs. Simply soak the swabs in the polish remover and gently rub against your nails until the polish is gone. A trip to the salon is necessary for gel polish removal. While there, the nail technician soaks your nails in a special chemical formula. The chemical should only come into contact with your nails, so you shouldn’t have to worry about skin irritation.

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