To Gel Or Not To Gel?

By on June 15, 2012

Ever since I was young I have loved manicures. I mean loved. I worked all through high school and college, and even then would spend $10 of what I made every week to have my hands massaged and tips polished. For me, it is a simple, pretty affordable pick me up, and I have always felt better and more pulled together with a fresh coat of polish applied. As life started getting more hectic, and my kids’ schedules began to override my own, the weekly manicure was occasionally knocked down a notch or two on the list of priorities. There were times I had to choose between exercise and a manicure, and the sleeve of thin mint girl scout cookies I devoured the night before took over my subconscious and made the decision for me.

Another issue is that when I don’t get regular manicures I become a “picker.” When my nails aren’t polished I destroy my dry cuticles, which looks just as bad as me trying to paint my nails myself. Neosporin and band-aids aren’t a good look, trust me after the umpteenth time I tried to stave off a nail bed infection from tearing at my cuticles. I am gifted in many areas, and manicuring myself is unfortunately not one of them, so I outsource most of my self-maintenance in order not to embarrass myself. After so many failed attempts to trim my own eyebrows, my waxer threatened to fire me because I would give her a bad reputation! But that is another post altogether…

I never liked the look of acrylic nails on me.  I am petite, and they always looked a tad chunky and thick for my hands, as well as the havoc they reek on your nails. When I discovered gel manicures about a year ago, it seemed like the perfect solution for me. Two weeks of polish instead of one? How could I resist?

natural sunscreen with zinc oxide

Gel polish is applied like regular polish with a base coat, two coats of color and a topcoat.  Companies make all of the products, and they are formulated to be used together. The difference is that gel polish has to be cured in a LED lamp or traditional UV lamps that you see in many salons to speed up the drying process. The heat sets the gel, making it dry the minute you finish, another added bonus to gel polish.

The main issue with gel polish is removing it properly. The correct way is to gently file the gel polish with a nail file (just enough to make it rough), soak a piece of cotton in polish remover, put it directly on the nail and wrap a piece of tin foil over the nail, allowing the polish to soak off. This takes approximately 10 minutes. Issues arise when salons try to hurry the process and use an electric file to remove the gel polish. This will harm the nail. After the polish soaks off wrapped in the tin foil, it should be easy for a manicurist to gently scrape away the gel. I do not recommend doing this at home. Even if you try gel and decide it isn’t for you, have it taken off properly at a good salon.

There are a variety of companies that make gel polish, such as the OPI Axxium, Shellac and Gelish. My favorite is Gelish Soak-Off Gel Polish. It has been explained to me that everyone’s nails are different, and you may need to try out a few brands until you find the one that works best on you. I ask for a three coat application, but that is my personal taste, and I think stays better on me with three coats. I also apply sunscreen to my hands before I put them in the UV light. The jury is still out on whether the UV light can be dangerous. Most articles I have read state that in moderation they are fine but better to be safe than sorry, and cover your hands with a towel or apply sunscreen.

Picture after one week with Gelish in Gossip Girl on:

Picture two weeks after Gelish was applied, when it was about to be redone:

I think the results speak for themselves. I would never have color stay on my nails this well for two weeks with traditional polish. I do apply cuticle oil at least once a day, which I also think helps if yours are dry. The only real reason the gel needs to be redone after two weeks is because of nail growth, not chipping or fading. Gel polish also withstands all of the sunscreen that needs to be applied multiple times a day during a Texas spring and summer. It is also perfect for a summer vacation even if you don’t want to commit long term. Try it, and I hope you like it. The verdict for me…IS TO GEL!


Originally posted on Daughter-in-Law Diaries.

About Ali Katz

Ali Katz is a mother of two, an avid runner, and the Creator of Daughter-in-Law Diaries. Here women can interact, share, and gain knowledge of how to better their daughter-in-law/mother-in-law relationship. Daughter-in-Law Diaries offers menus for entertaining with less stress, stimulating topics such as health and beauty, ideas for holidays and family traditions, as well as access to certified therapists ready to answer your anonymous questions....and much more at

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To Gel Or Not To Gel?