Gel Nails: Chip-Free Cure or Trendy Gimmick?

Nicole Scherzinger wearing Bio Sculpture nail Polish

It’s the simplest girly pleasures that give us the most delight — like a fabulous pedicure in a flashy color with a cheeky name to match. Take our recent pick: “Going Incognito,” the emerald green polish from Essie that we just chose for our toes.Sadly, when it comes to manicures, we usually resort to the safer,Essie's Going Incognito Nail Polish

chip-friendly classics such as Essie’s Mademoiselle — a classic, soft pink that always looks, well, polished. We look longingly at the deep crimsons and other brights that barely make it one day without chipping through all the hand-washing, dishes, box opening, art projects with kids and the biggest nail ruining trap of them all: the pesky clasp on our Chrome Hearts bracelet, which practically mocks us as we get near it with a freshly manicured nail.

Admission: We can’t even get out of the salon without smudging our nails before they dry and enduring the eye rolls and tongue clacking of the technicians whom we have to sheepishly go back to with the evidence of our impatience.

Shellac Gel Nail Polish

Shellac Gel Nail Polish

But over the past year, there has been a new whisper at the nail salon that is getting much louder: Gel Nails, a UV light-set polish with the promise of a no-chip, two-week pretty manicure. Uh, sure! The various brands of gel nail polish which you may have seen at the salon include Shellac by CND, Bio Scuplture Gel, OPI’s Axxium Gel Nail polish and more.

But, always happy to guinea pig ourselves for the sake of fashion and beauty, we took a little “business” trip to Hands On Spa (a little haven of calm and superior cleanliness) on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills to try the gel nails for the first time. Hands On uses the Bio Sculpture Gel, which bills itself as the inventors of color-gel nail products.

Most importantly, Nicole Scherzinger won the coveted Mirrorball trophy on “Dancing with The Stars” last year wearing Bio Sculpture #74, Real Red, so how could we not try it!

The first bonus of the gel nail application is that you get an actual manicure, unlike acrylic nails which subscribe to the “tear you down before we build you up” practice of basically sanding down your nail bed first.

The gel, however, is simply applied as a polish and cured a couple fingers at a time under a little UV-light box for a few minutes.

UV Nail Light For Gel Nails

After they are cured, they are utterly and completely dried. Like, dry, dry. Really. And shiny. And because it’s essentially a polish applied over your nail, there’s nothing odd and fake looking about it. This may disappoint the likes of acrylic-loving Desperate Housewives and Jersey Shore types, but never fear: They, too, can actually apply the gel polish over acrylic talons.

We settled on Pinotage, a rich burgundy color that is named after one of our favorite wine varietals from the wine country of South Africa (Elmien Scholtz, the founder of Bio Sculpture Gels hails from South Africa). We wanted to bring home a crate of the wine when we were visiting the stunning wine region years ago, but alas it was a touch cost prohibitive. So, naturally, a nail polish is the next best thing.

Our skilled technician, Yayoi, applied the gels with the precision of a Japanese archer and sweetly endured our relentless, highly detailed questions:

“Is it really dry after you take it out of the UV light?” Yes
“Like totally dry?” Yes
“No chip?” Yes
“Really?” Yes
“You swear?” Yes
“Sure?” Yes. (Smile.)
“Care Bear swear?”

Yayoi was unfazed.

The result: Holy Mirroball! We are believers! We are cured — literally! Over the course of two weeks we did dishes, cleaned an office, a garage, opened cans just because we could, scraped tape off of boxes and happily clasped and unclasped — and clasped again — the Chrome Hearts bracelet with the impossible closure. And not a single tip was damaged or altered in the process.

Now, before you go thinking that we have been swigging the gel nail KoolAid here at FTD (We may have had just a shot or two…) here are the drawbacks:

•    The price. Expect to pay double your usual manicure rate. But remember: You get two weeks out of this (Think cost/wear

OPI Axxium Soak Off Gel Nail Polish

OPI Axxium Soak Off Gel Nail Polish

•    Say goodbye to the quickie manicure and polish changes. This manicure takes twice as long to put on and longer to take off, because the gel polish has to be soaked off for about 15 minutes. (But, it is every two weeks….)

•    You won’t have any chips, but you will be able to notice nail growth from the top of the nail.

•    If you have favorite colors in your favorite nail lines, you’re going to have to find the closest options. OPI’s version, however, offers some of the brand’s most popular colors. (Essie: When will you join the party with your fabulous colors and fun names?)

•    Your hands are being exposed to UVA light. Although the amounts are small, it’s always good to be informed. And if you’re really worried, bring along a little sunscreen.

Of course, we will absolutely be heading back before fashion week in New York. Flawless nails for the whole time we are there? We can’t resist!

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Author:Michelle Dalton Tyree

Fashion Trends Daily is the brainchild of Michelle Dalton Tyree. She is the former West Coast Retail Editor for Women’s Wear Daily, Fashion Editor for The Japan Times, and founder of former L.A. luxury boutique Iconology. Michelle is frequently quoted about fashion retail trends in major media outlets such as NPR, KPCC, The Inside Source and the New York Times. She has developed content for many luxury brands and retailers and has written for Allure, Worth Global Style Network, Footwear News and other media outlets.