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Gel manicures are an excellent alternative for fashionistas who are looking for durable and colorful nail treatments. Unlike traditional nail polishes, gel nail polish and nail enhancements use cutting-edge technology to create long-wearing nail designs. There are several types of gel manicures that range in intensity and strength. This is an art best left to the trained professional; while kits are available online, gel manicures require expensive equipment and precise application.

Gel Nails

Although more flexible and durable than traditional acrylic nails, gel nails can be applied in a similar manner. The nail is filed and a special adhesive is applied. The adhesive cures for 1 to 2 minutes and thin, lightweight gel nails are pressed on.The gels are stronger than acrylics, and do not yellow or crack as easily. Gel nails come in a wide range of colors, but each time a client wishes to change her nail polish they must be must be removed by a professional manicurist to avoid damage.

Gel Polish

A gel polish manicure delivers the same durability of gel nails by using a specially formulated gel nail polish. Nails are cleaned and buffed and a specially formulated base coat is applied and set under an ultraviolet light for 1 to 3 minutes. A coat of gel nail polish is applied, and again the nails are set under the ultraviolet light to dry. Ultraviolet light reacts with the formula of the gel polish to speed up the drying time and harden the polish. The resulting manicure is extremely durable, lasting anywhere from two to four weeks without a chip. Gel nail polish requires extensive soaking and filing by a manicurist for removal.


First offered by Creative Nail Designs in 2010, shellac manicures combine the ease of traditional polish with some of the endurance of gel polishes. Applied by a manicurist, shellac nails still require time under an ultraviolet light to harden, however the cure time is much shorter, only 10 to 15 seconds. Unlike gels that require extensive filing and soaking to remove, most shellac can be removed by soaking the nail in a solution of 99 percent acetone. Shellac manicures typically last two weeks without chipping, and a professional manicurist is needed to remove the polish.

What to Avoid

Gel nails and polishes require buffing and filing of natural nails to prepare them for the gel. In 2010, overzealous filing and exposure to gel chemicals led to severe nerve damage for one woman. Do not allow your nail technician to mix powders and gels, and do not immerse your hand in any gel preparations. If your nail technician buffs your nails down to the quick, immediately end the manicure session and speak with the manager. Ultraviolet rays, which are used to harden nails, have been associated with skin cancer, so limit your exposure and apply a hand cream with SPF15 or higher to hands prior to a manicure. Wash hands thoroughly after a gel manicure and call a physician immediately if your eyes or mouth come into contact with any chemicals.