It's probably one of the most popular treatments available in the beauty and nail industry at the moment, with high numbers of clients returning time and time again to have their gel manicure re-done and looking fab once again. In fact, research from Mintel reveals that requests for a gel polish manicure increased by 35% between 2013 and 2015!
However poor media reporting has stirred the notion that gel polish damages the natural nail and that UV lamps are dangerous, posing concerns for skin cancer. Something that aggravates probably every expertly trained nail technician out there!
So we decided to answer some of those myths you often hear surrounding this popular treatment, starting with those mentioned above...
Are UV lamps safe?
Yes. Even when operating at the highest wattage, the level of risk posed by UV lamps is very low - and far less than the risk of using a sunbed. Trust me - anyone who knows me knows how I feel about sunbeds, so if there were any risk by using a UV lamp, we certainly would not be using them at Utopia.
I looked into this a few years ago when the media first brought it up. I wanted to know that what we were using on our clients was completely safe, because if it wasn't, then quite frankly I would have stopped offering those services. But after testing a huge amount of lamps at all levels of wattage used, a study found that using a UV lamp for a gel polish treatment once a month (the average time a client would have this done), amounted to the same amount of UV exposure as standing outside for just a few extra minutes a day - something we would never even think about.
However, if it really does concern you, just pop an spf50 on the back of your hands before coming to your appointment.
At Utopia, we actually rarely use a UV lamp, instead opting for the quicker LED lamp to cure our Gelicure gel varnish. LED lamps actually emit a lot less UV than a UV lamp will - and that is because the amount that is produced is converted to white light by the phosphors inside the lamp.
will gel polish damage my nails?
No. Gel polish itself will not damage the nails - the damage occurs by improper application and/or removal, or even negligent care of the nails whilst the gel is on. When applied and removed correctly, gel polish can actually assist in the growth of the nails and enable them to grow healthily and strongly. It is very rare that I come across someone who's nails simply just don't like the product, although I have known this in the past - as I have with nail varnish. But really, very rare. Always listen to the advice given to you by your nail technician on how to look after your gel manicure, and how to remove them.
It is very important that your gel polish is removed correctly according to the manufacturer's instructions, and this is why we do ask you to return to us when it comes to take them off. This is also one of the many reasons we will never remove any nail enhancements that we have not applied at Utopia, as we may not know the correct procedure to safely remove the product without causing damage.
It is also just as important to prepare the nail properly before application. Sadly there is no governing body in the beauty industry, which shockingly means that any person can choose to open a beauty business and start treating clients with absolutely no training and no knowledge of the correct way of carrying out that treatment. This is an absolutely huge frustration of mine and all the girls at Utopia, as well as every other trained therapist I know!! So just to be on the safe side, please make sure the therapist you are visiting is properly trained and - just as importantly - correctly insured.
You can rest in the knowledge that every therapist is Utopia is fully trained in every treatment they offer - never trained in house and always at the correct training academy - and everyone is appropriately insured for every treatment.
is it safe to have gel polish treatments constantly?
Absolutely! Nails don't - and can't - breathe, so there should be no reason to 'rest' in between services unless damage has occurred to the nails by either the nail technician or the client through carelessness. Carry on!
my nail technician mixes different brands - is this ok?
No. Different brands should never be mixed - the base coat, colour and top coat used in a treatment should be of the same manufacturer, as well as any prep products used. Mixing brands can result in a poor finish, and it is likely that the gel can start to lift from the nail and chip. The lamps used in the treatment should also be of the manufacturer's recommendation.
can I have just a 'file and polish' with gel?
No. I am always amazed at the amount of services advertised as just a file and polish with a gel treatment. All gel nail treatments require proper preparation of the nail plate before application to ensure a professional and long lasting finish. I have trained in many different brands over the years, and have never come across one that recommends a simple file and polish. Without the correct preparation, the end result can look bumpy and the lack of prep' will cause peeling and lifting.
At Utopia, our Gelicure treatments always include correct preparation of the nail plate, and we will never perform a gel treatment without doing so. It may take a little longer, but trust me - the end result will be far better, and the results will last a lot longer.
can I have a full pedicure with gel application?
Of course! There's just a few points we need to consider when doing this.
When soaking the nail plate, it will start to expand - ok, you won't notice it, but it does. Applying gel over a freshly soaked nail will result in the gel lifting from the nail plate and peeling once the nail plate starts to shrink back to normal.
With this in mind, at Utopia we do a sort of...backward pedicure. The nail plate and cuticles will be correctly prepared, and the gel polish applied. After this, we will then soak the feet and proceed with the rest of the pedicure. Just remember that this all takes extra time and the gel is a more expensive product, so expect to pay a little more for this service.
what's the difference between hard gel, soak-off gel, gel polish and gel polish hybrid?
Ok, so this can get confusing. There are many products out there that have the word 'gel' in, but all are actually different.
Hard Gel is (I think) the original gel product and consists of a gel in a pot - coloured or not - that is applied with a special brush and cured in a UV lamp. These are often better for building up a broken nail or adding length to a nail plate, and require buffing into shape to get the smooth finish. They also do not soak off, and so have to be buffed off the nail to be removed. This can also be a lengthy way of removal. When I first trained at college, this was all that was available, and so we were trained in this - LCN to be exact.
UV Soak off Gel was created as an alternative to hard gel, but is a self-levelling version which is applied in the same way and cured under a UV lamp. Think Bio Sculpture.
UV Soak off LED/UV Gel Polish is what we use at Utopia. These are self-levelling products, applied like a standard nail varnish but that wear like a gel. Depending on the product and manufacturer, these products can be cured under either a UV or LED lamp - sometimes both - and are all soaked off. A much quicker removal process.
Gel Polish Hybrid is a product that claims to have the fast dry time, glossy finish and long lasting wear of a gel, with no UV or LED lamp required. They are removed easily like a standard nail varnish and work by a natural light-activated top coat that blocks light exposure. While it dries on it's own, the top coat hardens top protect the colour underneath.
can I not do this myself at home?
Well technically, yes. These days there are many home versions of the gel polish and UV/LED lamp kits available but personally, I am not a fan. As mentioned before, correct application and preparation is paramount for these type of treatments and so simply applying it at home will not give the same finish and lasting effect. These lamps generally use a much lower wattage than professional lamps also, and incorrect application can not only cause damage to the nails, but even cause infections to grow on the nail plate. I have seen this many times and sadly, we are unable to help if this is present.
The ease of purchasing these kits for home use has also seen an increase in the amount of unqualified people offering these services to clients - another reason to check if they are properly trained and insured. Remember, if your 'nail technician' is not trained, and damage or infection occurs, they also will not have valid insurance - so please think twice.
can you guarantee the life of my gel varnish?
Unfortunately not. Yes, all products will have an average length of time that the gel will last, but this will not be the case for every client. Most products can last 2 weeks, some 3 and occasionally even up to 4 weeks or more - but every client is different and every lifestyle choice and natural nail will have an effect on the product.
Naturally very oily nails can find that the gel polish doesn't last as long and can start to chip - equally, very dry and peeling nails can find that the gel will not adhere properly and can also start to peel or chip a little quicker.
Heavy-handed jobs and lifestyles can also affect the length of time a gel varnish will last, as will the products used whilst wearing the gel. Prolonged use of chemicals can start to soften the gel, causing it to lift and peel from the nail, and being very heavy handed can also affect how long it lasts. Even some products such as sunscreens can affect the gel.
So to put it simply - everyone is different, and while we can say to you that on average our Gelicure treatment will last between 2-3 weeks, we cannot guarantee this. So just because your Mother's nails lasted 4 weeks, doesn't mean yours will!
So there you go - a few myths dispelled and a bit of interesting info. Enjoy your Gel Manicure!