Hospitality Insiders

Why is it that gel manicures look perfect for weeks on end but the second they hit their expiration date, they look horrendous? You want the polish gone but you’d rather not make the trek down to the salon — and you know that peeling it off will be the death of your nails. The good news is you can remove gel nail polish at home without ruining them.

While you’re preparing for removal, it’s important to keep in mind proper steps should be followed to prevent any harm to your nails.

“There are several things that can happen when gel polish is not removed properly, but the most significant is damage to the nail plate, It’s something that needs patience and care to protect the integrity of the nails.”

Tracylee Percival

For the next step, you’ll need 100% acetone. If you only have a diluted form of acetone — like a remover with acetone and added scent, glycerin or oils for hydration — soak the gels for twice as long. And consider setting a timer for 10 to 15 minutes, or keep a close eye on the clock so you don’t soak your nails too long. Acetone is extremely dehydrating. When the skin isn’t protected, or when soaking too long, this can cause the skin to become dry and nails too brittle.

Choosing a manicure you’ll still love to see on your fingertips two weeks post-appointment comes with a laundry list of choices: funky nail design or solid color? Round or squoval nail shape? And the most fraught manicure choice of them all: shellac nails vs. a gel manicure?

Shellac nails and gel nails are crowd favorites for semi-permanent manicures. They’re both used by top nail artists and they’re both known for low-chip, long-lasting quality. But there’s a few minute differences that make shellac nails a better fit for some manicure lovers out there. Allow us to clear up the differences between shellac nails and gel nails—so you have one less thing to decide ahead of your next manicure.

Where shellac nails lost a half-point for chipping, they earn extra points back for a breezy removal process. Shellac nails can be removed with by a manicurist within five to fifteen minutes—without scraping, thanks to a special acetone-based remover made specifically for shellac polishes.

Gel nails aren’t known for stress-free removal. Peeling off a gel manicure can do serious damage to the surface of your nails—so it’s more common to have gel nails removed at the salon via a good, long acetone soak and scrupulous filing.

If you can’t make it into the salon for a professional removal, there are some at-home hacks for taking off a gel manicure. These DIY strategies, however, lose to shellac nails in a polish removal race.

As someone who can’t grow out their nails without breaking at least two of them along the way, I get jealous whenever I notice someone’s long, perfect, almond or square-shaped nails. 

While some people are blessed with naturally strong nails, the ones I long for are often credited to the magic of acrylics. This faux nail method is ideal for those of us who want long nails, but can’t or maintain their ideal nail length or shape on their own. However, they’re not exactly effortless: Getting acrylic nails comes with a price tag, and the upkeep does, too. Additionally, acrylics can damage your nails if they’re done wrong. 

When you’re getting a full set of acrylics, the nail technician will usually put on tips, or use nail forms to achieve a more natural look. It’s safe to get acrylics as often as you wish, but research nail technicians in your area so that you’re sure you go to someone who is properly trained and experienced in applying them. 

“Acrylics should be removed by soaking each nail in acetone until the acrylic is soft enough to remove gently, iIt is best to have a professional remove them to avoid damage to your nail bed.”

Ritha Marks

That was just the beginning of a massive popularity explosion. Within a few months, everyone I knew was extolling the virtues of gel — how long it lasts, how it resists chipping, how it stays beautiful through the rigors of even the most extreme polish-punishing scenarios. But like every seemingly too-good-to-be-true beauty craze (remember Brazilian blowouts?), the creeping discussions of the downsides were inevitable. People were worried the arduous removal process could damage the nail bed, were concerned over the UV polish-curing lights contributing to skin cancer and complained about the hassle of having to go to a salon for gel instead of quicker, cheaper DIY options.

One of the big question marks that drove some gel fans away was the fact that early gel formulas used UV lamps to cure and harden the gel into its magical shell-like state. In an age when tanning beds are fast going the way of the dodo, the idea of giving your fingertips a concentrated dose of UV light was a skin-care nut’s nightmare. Some argued that the added UV exposure was minor for the average salon-goer; others said that any amount of fingertip tanning was a health risk. The debate helped inspire the nail industry to move away from classic UV lamps toward faster-curing LED — but that switch may have been more of a matter of re-branding than a major technology revolution.

Removal has always been a sticking point on gel manis (quite literally speaking). Modern gels, known as soak-off gels, are typically removed via a soak in 100-percent acetone, whereas older versions required files to bare the nail. Unfortunately, some salons give the two formulations the same treatment, utilizing files and other tools to speed the removal of soak-off gels. 

Few things are more personal—and yet, also universal—than nail polish. Everyone has something that calls to them, whether it be a classic (Topless and Barefoot, Big Apple Red), a color all over Instagram (slime green), or a dark and moody hue (navy, deep wine) that’s as sophisticated as it is cool. More times than not though, it’s easy to find yourself reaching for the same old bottle every time you set foot in a salon. Sure, having a signature is great, but why not branch out? The best place to start: Going with the most popular nail colors of the moment.

Looking to the runways is a great indicator for fresh color inspiration, but if you want to know the top-trending shades right this minute, there’s no better place to look than the salons across the country. We checked out local hot spots from Seattle to Boston, in search of most popular nail colors going into 2020. Take a cue from this list the next time you book an appointment.

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