Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gel Troubleshooting

Something I hear all the time is 'well I tried gel polish (or extensions) before and it ruined my nails'.

Well this is a false statement because I can guarantee that either a) They weren't properly applied or b) They were removed improperly.  In most cases it's b.  People tend to pick them off and ruin their own nails while trying to pry them.

In very rare cases some people can have an allergic reaction where your fingers will turn red and swell, in which case they need to be removed properly asap.  The only gel polish I'm aware of that is hypo-allergenic is Shellac.

Now having said that, gel polish (any brand) cannot be guaranteed to last the full two weeks.  It often does, but there are exceptions and I've even chipped my own gel polish at times for being too rough on them.  If someone experiences chipping or problems with their polish in the first 5 days, I will generally fix it for free unless it's obvious you've picked it off.  It's very easy to tell if you've picked it off by the white marks which are layers of your nail that came off with the polish when you peeled it.

Dead giveaway of a gel polish picker, tsk tsk.

Chipping at the cuticle is almost always caused by improper cuticle removal or getting gel polish on the skin.  Cuticle remover should be used before every application of gel polish to prevent this.  Any polish on the skin should be wiped off with an orange wood stick.  The same goes for gel extensions, lifting at the cuticle is also due to unremoved cuticles.  Most people don't realize that the cuticle is actually a thin layer of skin on your nail plate and it should always be removed before polish application.  What people think is the cuticle, is actually called the eponychium - google it if you want further explanation.

Chipping at the edge is almost always caused by improper nail prep, dirt/oil touching the gel during the manicure or polish applied too thickly (especially base coat).  Proper nail prep should always include a final scrub with Scrubfresh or 99% Isopropyl Alcohol.  Nothing should touch the nails other than the product from that point on - take extra care not to touch face, skin or hair during application as this can compromise the manicure.  Gel polish should be applied thinner than a regular nail polish but not too thin.  The base coat however, should be scrubbed on to the nail plate with almost no product on the brush.

Other causes for chipping and peeling can be from improper care.  When cleaning or doing dishes, gloves should be worn.  Read your labels on cosmetic products and try to avoid mineral oil.  Wash your hands immediately after product use.  Haircolour and tanning oils are especially damaging to your manicure.

The best thing you can do for gel manicures and for your nails in general is use cuticle oil daily.  Try twice a day if you can manage it.  This keeps them moisturized and keeps your gel polish from drying out.  Anyone who wants to maintain healthy nails should always use cuticle oil whether you wear gel polish or not.  Rockstar manicures (glitter) are especially prone to chipping so cuticle oil is an absolute must.  And speaking of Rockstars, as well as french manicures, just an FYI, they do not typically last as long as a solid colour gel manicure.  Don't be surprised if you only get about 10 days of wear out of them.

Gel polish is not indestructible.  I've also found that Shellac doesn't work on everyone.  Generally speaking though I've not had any problems with Gelish (other than Vitagel).  Gelish tends to be a bit harder to remove than other gel polishes but it lasts on my Clients who have problems with Shellac.

Whether you go to a Nail Tech or DIY, it's not necessary to file your nail plate at all for gel polish application.  Gelish instructions recommend to lightly file the shine off but from my experience it's completely unnecessary.  There are times when filing the surface is beneficial but only a light swipe of the file to fix imperfections and 'peelies'.  Peeling nails is one of the rare instances where if you don't file the plate it will continue to peel.  This applies to nail health in general and not just gel polish application.

So with all that being said, if you go to a Nail Tech to have gel polish applied:
1. Don't let them file the surface of all your nails.
2. Make sure they follow all steps, removing your cuticles and cleansing the plate before application.
3. Make sure you can see the brand on the bottles they are using and make sure it's a professional brand. A lot of Salons advertise Shellac but in fact carry another brand of polish.  Sometimes they carry another pro brand such as OPI Gelcolor, Gelish, IBD, Entity One, LeChat, EzFlow Trugel, and Artistic Color Gloss, which are all acceptable brands.  Some notable knock-offs to avoid are Bluesky, CCO and Chu Jie.  If you want to DIY and try those out, have at `er as they are cheapo brands that are notoriously difficult to remove.  However if a salon is using these brands, run the other way!
4. If your Nail Tech hurts you, don`t be afraid to let them know.  If it continues, complain to management and/or leave.
5. If you have any issues with your gel manicure for the first few days, please let your Nail Tech know!  I am more than happy to fix a problem rather than never hear back from you again.  A good Nail Tech should keep records of what was applied to their Client and backtrack to where a problem may have occurred.

Any questions?



  1. I do my own at home and I get around 10 to 14 days out of mine. I use Red Carpet Manicure it is similar to Gelish to get off but it is easy to find in stores, even Mejier carries it.

  2. Mine typically last until I take them off and I rarely get chips or peels but it took quite awhile before I learned to get it perfect every time. Red Carpet Manicure IS actually Gelish - you'll notice they have the exact same colours, same consistency, same odor. RCM is the only drug store brand I will use (just not on Clients). If a diy'er doesn't have access to Gelish at Sally's I would absolutely recommend RCM.

  3. My only problem is tip wear but I'm hard on my nails so I'm thrilled with 10 to 14 days. I've priced Gelish at Sally's and I can get RCM for only $8 at Mejier so I'm very happy with them.