Long, strong, stunningly manicured nails are a dream, and gel nails help achieve that beauty standard. Though gel nails are not harmful to nails themselves, the removal process of the gel does weaken the nail beds. Where acrylics are simply a solvent-laden powder designed to reinforce the top layer of nails, gels are made firm using UV or LED light. Both temporarily make nails strong, but may ultimately damage. With a little care, gel nails can be enjoyed without permanently damaging nail beds, even without a regular trip to the nail salon.

close-up of a beauty therapist filing nail
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Watch the Manicurist

Gels can be cared for at home, but a salon visit is a treat from time to time in order to freshen a manicure. Two tips in particular will help keep nails healthy without foregoing the strong, colorful polish. Watch how the manicurist removes gels to ensure the nail beds are not scrubbed vigorously. Gel nails should easily lift up after the solution is applied. Skip cutting the cuticles as well to avoid infection.

Cut Gel Nails at Home

To trim up nails at home, thoroughly wash hands and cleanse nail tools like clippers with anti-bacterial soap and warm water. Allow nail clippers to completely dry before use. Cut each nail the appropriate length straight across. Follow with an electric nail file at a 45-degree angle in order to smooth the blunt cut into a softer shape. This technique will also help the nail and corners stay strong and minimize breaks. If the cut nail has lost its natural arch, use a nonelectric file to create and mimic the arch. File the sides, and, to keep the bed strong, avoid the edge and corners.

Remove at Home

Gels can also be removed without trouble at home. Home removal kits are available at beauty supply stores, but only a bottle of salon-grade 100 percent acetone or gel remover is needed. This type of acetone is less stringent than the pure stuff. Using a remover-soaked cotton ball or pad, place one on each nail. Wrap the individual nails in aluminum foil, then wrap the hand in a towel. Allow to sit until the gel nail is crumbling or slides off. This may take 15 minutes and up to an hour. Be very careful not to file, scrape or scrub the nail bed. The remover should set until the gel nail can be easily pushed away with a rubber-tipped cuticle pusher.

If purchasing a home kit, avoid harmful, carcinogenic chemicals such as dibutyl, phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde. Keep nails hydrated with or without gel nails. Cuticle oil and cuticle moisturizers help keep nail beds strong and healthy.