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Wearing acrylic nails means you'll suffer far fewer breaks and splits than if you go bare-handed, but even acrylics can snap if you whack them the wrong way -- or try to use them as screwdrivers or staple pullers, not that you’d ever do that. Gel top coats that are cured with ultraviolet (UV) light can add both shine and strength to your tips without taking too many pennies out of your paycheck.
Acrylic nails can be created in two ways, according to Beauty Tech Info, a consumer-oriented website featuring articles by expert nail technicians. Acrylic nails can be sculpted entirely out of acrylic powder, with its accompanying liquid painted on over a nail form that is removed when the acrylic hardens. Or a nail tip can be applied with glue, after which the acrylic powder and liquid are applied over the tip and allowed to dry. Acrylic nails are strong, but they can be brittle and tend to loosen when exposed to oils or harsh chemicals. A gel top coat protects your acrylics and helps keep them from lifting.
Gel Top Coats
A gel top coat is a thick, brush-on coat that can be clear, pink or in an opaque color. It is applied like nail polish and then cured under ultraviolet (UV) light. Gel top coats dry very shiny and they are as tough as acrylic nails but much less prone to brittleness and drying out.
A gel top coat is a little bit more flexible than plain acrylics; when done right, the gel top coat gives your acrylics a glossy shine. It is especially pretty when applied over a French manicure. Gel top coats are tough and tend not to lift as easily, which is important if you spend a lot of time with your hands in water, or use harsh chemicals in your work, hobbies or when cleaning.
Some UV-cured gel products can’t be removed with regular nail polish remover or pure acetone. They have to be filed off, which can damage your nails if it is done incorrectly. Adding a gel top coat can add $10 to $20 to the cost of your manicure, as of the time of publication. If a gel top coat does lift, it cannot be repaired, but has to be filed off and replaced.