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Tough As Nails: The Gel Manicure

Naaila Khan

As far as all things beauty go, is there anything more annoying than ruining a manicure ten minutes after you've just got one? Enter gel manicures, a semi-permanent mani tailored specifically for high flyers and go-getters who don't have the time to constantly touch their nails up, aka you. They're quick, always look flawless and stay glossy for ages.

Hang on to your chipped nails before you make a run for the salon, however; although it's a fairly quick one, a gel manicure is still a procedure and so it helps to know what you're getting yourself into. Here's a quick lowdown.

THE PROCEDURE

A gel manicure is fairly simple and differs ever so slightly depending on where you get it and which brand of nail paint you use, but it generally begins with grooming and shaping the nails before multiple layers of polish are applied and 'set' with UV light between each layer. Now that you know what it involves, let's SWOT analyze this.

Pros

1/4 Strong Game

Gel manicures are so hard and durable that you can forget about the colour chipping. What does this mean? Your nails look super fresh all the time; no more worrying about scuffy nails or wearing gloves while you do the dishes (if you do the dishes).

2/4 Loyal and Lasting

Because it’s cured using UV light, you can expect your manicure to look super fresh and last all the way until your next wax.

3/4 Perfect Look

Gel manicures are the aesthetic equivalent of Cindy Crawford; you can't see the lines, and everything looks and stays flawless for ages; 2 weeks, in this case.

Cons

1/3 UV Scare

So here's the thing about gel manicures; every layer of polish is set with UV light which is, if you remember correctly, the same thing that dermatologists warn you about all the time. High levels of exposure cause premature aging, hyperpigmentation and most importantly, cancer.

Still, experts say that you're only exposed to UV light for such short amounts of time while getting a gel manicure that the risk of cancer from this alone is extremely low, but they still recommend wearing a sunscreen on your hands to protect them.

2/3 Taking It Off

Unfortuntately, you can't really DIY this step. Taking the paint off means another trip to the salon, where nails are wrapped and soaked in acetone for about 15 minutes and then prodded with a cuticle pusher before the polish finally comes off. The problem? Acetone really isn't very good for those nail beds. Though they’re just dead fabric, expect to see some tearing and breaking, or weakened nails at the very least.

3/3 Still Not There Yet

Though you can attempt throwing in a bit of glitter here and there, nail art isn’t big on the gel manicure scene yet; and so there are only so many colours you can choose from. And since most of them come in dark bottles to shield them from light, you can’t really tell if the colour suits you until you actually have it on.

THE REVIEW

There are generally two types of gel manicures, one where the gel polish is applied and then set on your nails and another where acrylic nails are fixed onto your real ones and then painted over with gel polish and cured. I tried the former.

Lasting roughly 45 minutes, the procedure begins with a regular manicure; filing, cutting, and then soaking your nails in warm water with something called manicure shampoo.

Then comes the actual procedure, starting with a layer of dehydrater (a pH bond) which is first applied to the nails to prime them. A glossy gel base coat goes on next; they’re all stored in grim looking dark bottles to avoid exposure to light, so it feels a bit like you don't really know what you're getting until you see the colour on your nails.

Next comes the controversial bit — putting your hands in a toaster-sized UV ray-emitting machine to 'cure' or set the coat for a little over two minutes.

For the first round, I stuck my hands in without any sunscreen and they came out feeling dry, crinkly and, frankly, just a bit exploited. I had some sunscreen handy and put some on, and it made a huge difference; a few more coats of red and a third dose of UV later, it was time for the top coat and the final round of UV.

If you like nail art, you can ask for a bit of glitter, or even have them stick an embellishment or two on before sealing everything in.

And that's it! 45 minutes later, I had the shiniest, glossiest nails of my life, and while I can't say I'm overjoyed about making another trip to the salon for the removal, it's worth it for that moment right after when you reach into your bag to fish for your keys and there's no smudging. Or when a week of typing at your keyboard, lifting things and just generally going about life passes by and they still look fresh as the first day you had them done.

For this alone and for that perfect, 'done' allure, I'd recommend trying one out in a heartbeat.

 

In Bangalore: Play Salon, Bodycraft Salon

In Mumbai: Jean Claude Biguine, Juice

In Delhi: Monsoon Salon & Spa

Photographed by Faiza Sheikh.

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