Everything you need to know about gel manicures

Gel Manicure Guide

What’s not to love about an indulgent long-lasting gel manicure? For glorious shine that is virtually indestructible, you can’t beat them. Their long-lasting high-intensity colour makes them ideal for holidays and special occasions, but also for everyday life too.

What is a gel manicure?

A gel manicure involves a gel-based polish which needs a UV (or LED) light. This light cures the polish, making sure it adheres to your nails and setting it. This setting means that the polish can last for several weeks in pristine and shiny condition. 

They look just like an old-style manicure, the moment you walk out of the salon. You don’t need to worry about smudging the nail polish and they will stay looking beautiful for weeks. It is also suitable for both short and long nails.

You may have heard the term ‘shellac’ when looking into gel manicures. If you’re wondering the difference between gel and shellac – shellac is simply a brand name for a popular brand of gel polish.

Having a gel manicure is a relaxing beauty treatment which you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home, or in a salon. Like old-school manicures, the treatment starts with removing old polish before moving on to shaping and buffing to bring about the perfect shape and look. A base coat is usually applied before the technician applies two coats of Shellac or gel. You then pop your hands under the UV light to dry the polish.

How long does a gel manicure last?

Really, a gel manicure lasts longer than you can actually leave it on! The polish will still look shiny and vibrant. It’s your natural nail and cuticle growth that starts to affect the overall look. This means that a gel manicure is usually said to last a couple of weeks before you want to have it redone. However, it is somewhat determined by how quickly your nails grow.

How long does it take to get a gel manicure?

One of the beauties of having your nails done is that it is a proper pamper treatment, complete with a hand massage which makes you feel blissfully relaxed and beautiful. 

A gel manicure takes just slightly longer than a traditional manicure. To give you an idea, at Secret Spa, our at home gel/Shellac manicures take around 50 minutes, and a standard manicure is slightly shorter at 40 minutes.

Gel manicure vs regular manicure

Most people will find themselves weighing up the different kinds of manicure available at some point. There are pros and cons to the different types.

Pretty much everyone is familiar with regular polish. You’ve spent many an evening painting on a new colour, blowing them dry and then heading out. Regular polish is quick to apply and quick to remove and so you can change your mind as often as you change your outfit. 

A regular polish manicure can feel indulgent, with the cuticle care, buffing, filing and shaping, and not to mention the hand massage. However, regular manicures tend to chip very quickly. Even if you somehow avoid the chips, within a day or two the colour becomes muted.

However, many people love a regular manicure precisely because they can do it themselves, at home.

On the other hand, gel manicures are best done by a professional technician. The bonus is that they are so much more durable and hard-wearing, so they are worth the time they take to do. They don’t chip. You can have striking and inspiring designs done, however, you’ll want to make sure that you pick a suitable design or colour for everything you’ve got coming up in the next few weeks.

If you use your hands a lot, gel manicures are the way to ensure your nails stay looking good.

Pricewise, if you’re going for a professional manicure, there isn’t a huge amount of difference in price. Gel manicures are slightly more expensive, but because you don’t need them repeating so often, they are more cost effective.

Benefits of gel manicure

So, to sum up, the benefits of gel manicure are:

  • It dries extremely quickly; there’s no danger of smudging it on the way home.
  • It’s durable; there’s no danger of chipping it within moments of leaving the salon.
  • It lasts for a couple of weeks, compared to several days.
  • It doesn’t fade or lose its shine.
  • When used with tips, you can use it to extend your own nails whilst waiting for them to grow.
  • It’s an odourless application, unlike standard acrylic polish.

How long should you wait between gel manicures?

It’s tempting to leave your gel nails as they are for weeks on end. However, regular gel manicures with gaps in between will ensure the health of your nails underneath. 

If you get back-to-back manicures then your nails are subjected to a lot of wear and tear, as well as suffocating the nail plate. This results in brittle nails which break easily. A little downtime between manicures is good for your nails.

We recommend having your gel polish removed after 2-3 weeks and then having a break of a week, before having the next application. If your gel nails begin to ‘lift’ before 2-3 weeks (which is unlikely), get them removed then as they can allow moisture to get in and trapped underneath.

How to get a gel manicure off

Anticipating this break between gel applications, it’s tempting to go for self-removal. So, how to get gel manicure off?

At just £8 for an at-home gel polish removal, we really recommend you use a professional. They will gently file the top layer of the polish, allowing the acetone remover to penetrate more thoroughly, ensuring a smooth and gentle removal. They will leave acetone wraps on for several minutes before gently lifting the gel off the nail plate.

Once the gel has been removed, it’s really important to apply cuticle oil. This helps to prevent damage due to dehydration. This is also an important part of gel manicure aftercare, between treatments. 

What else do you need to know before getting a gel manicure?

There are a few other things worth mentioning about gel manicures. 

A gel manicure is safe during pregnancy. However, because they take a little more effort to remove, it is worth doing this before you go into labour, especially if there is the likelihood of needing a C-section, or you could end up with damaged nails.

There is quite a bit of variability between different gel manicures. Choose a professional nail technician from a reputable source. You can arrange your gel manicure in the comfort of your own home with Secret Spa.