What Is a Gel Manicure for Natural Nails?

Gel manicures keep up with your busy lifestyle.

Photo: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Gel manicures are the latest trend to hit salons. Girls who get gel manicures keep bragging about them weeks later, and you want in on the action. Traditional gel manicures helped secure acrylic nails, but you can an envy-worthy look on your natural nails with soak-off gel polish. This polish gives your all the benefits of a gel manicure without the damaging effects.


The best thing about soak-off gel manicures for natural nails is their lasting power. They can last chip-free for two or three weeks. Unlike regular polish, your nails are dry when you walk out of the salon with the help of a UV light, which makes the polish shellac-hard. While you wear a gel manicure, you can still use regular nail polish over the gel and remove it with a nonacetone nail polish remover. Plus, the nail tech won’t chew up your natural nails with an electric file. A light buff is all it takes. It can’t get simpler than this.


Nothing is perfect. One of the major downsides of a soak-off gel manicure is the cost, which is more than a regular manicure. Right now, it can be hard to find soak-off gel polish in drug and beauty stores, so you have to go to a salon to make your nails look lovely (you deserve it). It takes longer to apply the gel polish to your nail because you have to cure each coat under the UV light. When you get bored with the polish color, you can’t just chip it off or use nail polish remover to quickly swipe off the color. Since a gel manicure lasts such a long time, your nail growth is noticeable.


After your partner-in-gossip nail tech lightly buffs and files your nails as she would for a regular manicure, she puts a couple base coats of the gel polish on your fingertips and has you dry them under the UV light for one minute. Then, she’ll brush on two coats of the soak-off gel polish in the color you crave before you cure them for two minutes. On goes one more coat of the polish color you choose before your hands spend another two minutes under the UV light. To make your manicure last, the nail tech will paint a sealer on to your nails, start wrapping up her life story and have you cure your nails for another three minutes under the light. When the process is done, you can tip your nail tech and grab your car keys without worrying about chipping the polish.


Whatever you do, don’t try to chip off the gel polish from your manicure, or you will devastate your natural nails. To remove the soak-off gel polish, schedule a 30-minute appointment at your salon. At the salon, the nail tech will buff the surface of the polish and have you dip your fingertips in a bowl of acetone for 10 minutes. Then, she’ll use a cuticle pusher to gently slide the polish off your fingernails. After you see how the pros remove soak-off gel polish, you can do it at home in the future.

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