What You Need To Know Before Getting Gel Nail Extensions

The beauty industry is a limitless world of creativity, including with nails. Nail art is a unique way of trying new designs, colors, and styles to fit any looks you love. It's another form of self-expression in our arsenals. The nail industry is always evolving, too, with styles to fit your natural nail or create an artificial nail at any length. In fact, artificial nails can be dated back to ancient Egypt. It's said that Queen Cleopatra would have her nails made out of porcelain powder, glued on, and then colored. Egyptian women would also make their nails out of ivory, bone, and gold. What you know as acrylic nails today have actually been around for less than 70 years (via B*tch Media).

The most popular style of artificial nails is usually acrylic. In 1957, when a dentist named Dr. Frederick Slack broke his nail, he experimented with different materials and chemicals from his dentistry office to create an artificial nail over his broken one. About 20 years after that, Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, founder of CND Beauty Supply, invented the nail powder system used today for acrylics (via Nail Superstore). Since then, many variations of artificial nails have come about. Gel nails were introduced in the 1980s. Unlike acrylics, hard gels last longer and are a trendy new way to get stylish artificial nails.

How do gel nails work?

Gels come as they are named: in gel form. This gel is placed on top of the natural nail and cured (hardened) with a UV light, whereas acrylics require liquid, powder, and air drying. Gel nails are offered in soft and hard forms. Furthermore, celebrity manicurist Gina Edwards tells Refinery29 that soft nails can be soaked off, but hard gels may be a little bit more difficult to remove. However, hard gels are sturdier and longer lasting. "Most of the time, a form is applied underneath the natural nail. Once that adheres, hard or structure gel is applied all over the nail from the tip to the cuticle and then cured under a lamp," Edwards explains. The rest of the process, she says, will be just like any other manicure. However, because of the different materials, you can expect your nail application to last anywhere from one to two hours. Length, shape, color, and nail art all create a careful process during gel nail application.

Many people have been choosing to get gel nails because it is also considered a safer alternative to acrylics. "They're considered a healthier version of acrylics especially because they don't have the powder or harsh chemicals like methyl methacrylate and toluene," nail technician Trenna Seney tells Byrdie. Because of this, it is important to find a nail technician who is experienced in gel nails, particularly someone with good reviews who you can trust.

Gel nail durability

Gel nails are known for their durability. Depending on how you use your hands, gel nail extensions can last anywhere from two to five weeks. Like acrylics, they can actually also be filled once your natural nail begins to grow. Removing them may be a little bit more challenging, though. There are a couple of methods you can try such as acetone soaks or filing. LeChat Nails educator Syreeta Aaron tells Allure that you can wrap each nail in an acetone-soaked cotton ball. She says you can use foil to wrap it all together, but it may take as little as 15 minutes or as long as an hour. 

Another method you can try to remove the nail is by filing it down, but professionals warn that you need to be careful trying this. "You can file the gel extension down by 80 to 90 percent, being extremely careful not to file into the natural nail," Orly nail artist Brittany Boyce tells Allure. "If you're getting this done at a salon not by the person who applied your gel extension, let the technician know in advance that it's a gel extension. Otherwise, they might file too hard thinking it's acrylic."

Depending on the length, color, or designs you are looking to get done, choosing which method to do comes down to your personal preference. Whatever look you're going for, this is a trend that everyone can try and have fun with.