If you’ve ever seen those GEL manicure kits at the drug store and thought “Fifty bucks for a nail polish kit? What a scam!” I have news for you: I thought the same thing. For years I passed by, thinking “I’ll look it up later, online, and see what’s so great about gel manicures.” Now, I’m here to tell you: it’s no scam. IMO, a home gel manicure is as good (or better) than a salon gel manicure.
My very first GEL manicure was when my son gave me a gift certificate to a nail salon as a Mother’s Day gift. To tell the truth, the gift was from Mother’s Day 2013, and I was afraid the salon wouldn’t honor it, if I didn’t hurry up and use it within a year! Over the past few years, my oldest son was suddenly hit with physical and mental illness that required round-the-clock care. Leaving the house for hours at a time, was a luxury I just didn’t have anymore. Which is why I’ve learned to cut & color my own hair. And have gotten pretty darn good at doing my own French Manicures at home. Not to mention, become rather handy at making videos about all this stuff!
Back to the manicure story: For years, I’ve been doing my own “normal” french manicure with regular polish on my short natural nails. (See my earlier video/post French Tips on Short Nails). But when I used my nail salon gift certificate, the salon gave me a gel manicure by default. I didn’t realize what was happening until the final top coat, when the manicurist vigorously wiped my freshly painted nails with a cloth. I was completely taken by surprise … “Wha … what the heck? What is she doing? My nails are still wet!!” It had been years since I stepped foot in a nail salon, but I knew enough to get my cell phone and keys out of my purse before the manicure began. With a gel manicure, I discovered, that’s no longer necessary.
During this maiden gel mani, the manicurist did put one hand under a “light box” of some sort, while she worked on the other hand. In my unsuspecting mind, this was nothing new. Salons have done this for years, usually after the final coat. While they never explained the purpose, I figured it was supposed to make my nails dry faster. In my experience, it had no effect whatsoever on four thick coats of polish, applied one right after the other. Blue light box or no: I still had to TOUCH NOTHING and hold my hands in that odd, universal-sign-language “Don’t come near me, my nails are wet” gesture for hours and hours after a salon manicure. No matter what I did, I usually ended up with a few messed-up nails by the end of the day. You know exactly what I’m talking about, right?
The moment the manicurist wiped my nails off, is the moment my fascination with gel manicures began. It was a pure and complete love for about two or three weeks. My nails were shiny and bullet-proof for almost 3 weeks! How had I lived for years without knowing about this amazing, life-changing process? And then … the honeymoon ended. The Achilles heel of this perfect process finally revealed itself when the space between the color and the cuticle began to show. It looked weird, and I tried to fill it with a regular nail polish in a matching color. Why should I remove the polish when it still looked so perfect otherwise? The effort to fill it was a flop. It looked bumpy and even weirder. I was right back to those days when I used to have fake acrylic nails, and had to go to the salon for a fill every 2 weeks. Yuck.
I decided that nails that chipped in a few days, was no longer an acceptable option. I could not go back, now that I knew the joy of natural looking nails with polish that didn’t chip for weeks. The one BIG negative of a gel polish manicure was the ‘re-growth’ issue. It was a big glaring problem that had to be dealt with. My solution was a home FRENCH gel manicure, because:
1. With only white tips, and little or no color on the nail bed, the re-growth is less of an issue. With a little clear polish touch-up, my home french gel manicure last a full month! The gap at the cuticle simply blended right in. Love it!
2. By doing the gel manicure at home, I was able to make sure the cuticle was fully pushed back before I started. With my original salon gel mani, the manicurist barely pushed them back, which made the gap show up more quickly.
3. By applying the gel manicure at home, I was able control the thickness of the polish. The professional salon application I received was quite thick, which made the re-growth gap very visible. Even without pushing back the cuticles after a week or two, the deep gap between my cuticle and the red polish was impossible to ignore. The home gel manicure kit I used, SensatioNail French Manicure Starter Kit instructs the user to apply very thin coats, which I did. The result was a gel manicure stayed chip-free for almost as long as the professional salon gel manicure. More importantly, it looked better, longer … because the gap was not as noticeable with a thinner application.
To fully understand the French Manicure I applied, you really have to watch the my video included here. I talk about the drawbacks of the white tip stickers. My glowing review is for the SensatioNail Gel manicure in general, meaning a colored polish or with white tips painted on with Nailene’s white gel polish.
I have much more info on this topic, which I am assembling in a few follow-up videos, including:
- Removing the gel polish, which is no small or quick task. It’s the other drawback about gel manicures. As I see it, it’s a necessary evil. If you want polish that lasts for weeks without chipping, it just makes sense that it is not going to be easy to remove.
- Comparison Nailene SensatioNail Gel Polish vs. Sally Hansen Gel Polish. I’ve found there is a big difference.
- Comparison about LED Light curing vs. UV Light units.
Hope this helps make sense of Gel Manicures and why they might be worth your time and money. As a longtime skeptic of gel manicures, I can now honestly say “I am a fan.”