Since the invention of nail polish, women around the world have tried to find a way to make their manicures last longer. Chipping polish, and weekly or bi-weekly trips to the nail salon, can make keeping up a manicure time consuming and costly. New versions of manicures promise weeks between salon visits and chip-free color, without damaging your nails.

Clear Gel Manicure

Gel manicures can reshape your nails and help to strengthen them, all while maintaining your polish for significantly longer than a regular manicure. A technician buffs down the entire nail and paints very thin coats of gel over them, drying each coat under a UV dryer. For a French manicure, the colored tip is applied with regular nail polish after one or two coats of the gel, and then the look is topped with an additional coat of gel. To achieve a colored manicure, several coats of gel are applied, with each coat drying before the next is painted on, and then traditional nail polish is painted over the gel. This type of manicure tends to last for about two weeks.

Shellac Manicure

Shellac manicures, created by Creative Nail Design, are a hybrid of gel manicures. For this type, technicians use a colored gel, providing a chip-free manicure for up to 14 days. First, the technician rubs alcohol over each nail and applies a specialized UV base coat, allowing it to cure under a UV dryer. Then, two coats of gel nail polish are applied, followed by a clear gel topcoat. As with the traditional gel manicure, each coat is cured under a UV dryer before the technician applies the next coat.

Maintenance and Removal

Gel manicures, while considered healthier for nails than acrylics, require about the same amount of maintenance. Every two weeks, you will have to go back to the salon for a rebalancing, where new growth is covered in new gel and the entire nail is buffed with a rotating file to remove any bumps. With a shellac manicure, the gel and polish is simply removed every two weeks and you start the process over again. Both gel and shellac manicures need to be removed with acetone. Traditional gel manicure removal requires another trip to the salon, where your nails will be soaked in acetone until the gel begins to peel. To remove shellac from your nails, the technician will wrap each nail in a cloth soaked in remover.

Health Risks

There are potential risks with gel manicures, mainly due to poor application. Due to the UV dryer used between coats, a technician who applies very thick coats or gets the product on your skin can result in burning. There have also been some reports of the traditional gel manicure causing nerve damage, according to ABC, although many believe that this is due to a less-than-reputable salon applying a cheaper product they claim is a gel manicure. The same has not been found with the hybrid shellac manicure. Other than during the removal process, neither a gel manicure nor a shellac one requires your nails to be dipped in anything, or the technician to mix anything other than different colors. Each product used during the process comes from the company in a bottle. If a technician starts to mix a powder and liquid, claiming it’s a gel, do not proceed with the manicure.