It’s safe to assume that nail art in all of its forms is here to stay. And while everyone isn’t into crazy colors and designs, elongated nails a la Kylie Jenner and krew (sorry, we had to!) are more popular than ever. Equally as intriguing are the too-good-to-be-true, long-lasting effects of gel manicures. Who wants to deal with chips anyway? Beyond aesthetics, however, both treatments can wreak havoc on your delicate nail beds, cuticles and hands.
“Regardless of what manicure you choose (gel or acrylic), your weekly routine trip to the nail salon weakens your nail plates through dehydration, making them frail and thin,” explains Static Nails founder Alexis Irene. “Your hand as a whole also becomes dry, damaged and affected by things like UV lights. Once you remove the acrylic and gel that’s when you will see the real damage — discoloration, infection, dryness, frail, brittle nails, chipping, slowed nail growth, fungus and even the loss of a fingernail.” Um, yikes?
Since you have to remove your acrylics or gel nail polish at some point (keep them on for three weeks max!), we tapped three nail experts to help you revive your nails to their previous glory.
Scale Back Your Service
We support #selfcaresunday just as much as anyone else, but consider getting a regular mani instead. “By getting gel/acrylic nails every two weeks, it highly suffocates the nail plate and the nails are unable to breathe naturally,” shares celebrity manicurist and owner of As U Wish Nail Spa Skyy Hadley.
“Gel or acrylic nails are often so heavy that they typically put an indent on the nail plate,” she adds. “It increases the likelihood of damaging your nail bed as when you take them off — and it will take a long time to grow out.” As a preventive measure, Hadley recommends applying Sally Hansen Advanced Hard As Nails to counter the effects.
Understand the Removal Process
A cheap deal on a mani-pedi may be just that — cheap. “The proper nail care to remove gel or acrylics is by soaking in acetone,” shares certified advanced nail technician and owner of Waterless Medi-Pedi & Nail Spa Letisha Royster. “For gel nails, soaking should be for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes. For acrylic nails, soaking can be a minimum of 45 minutes.”
“A telltale sign [your technician] is performing a removal incorrectly would be if they are using clippers or nippers to remove gel/acrylic application, can’t soak off nails and/or over-filing the nails to get the gel/acrylic application,” she adds.
Let the Pros Handle It
The experts warn against handling the removal process yourself. “Do I recommend it? No,” explains Irene. “It’s always better to go to a professional and research the person you are going to see as well like you would a doctor to make sure the manicurist is a reputable one to help limit the damage.”
“Buffing is beneficial on natural nails to give a natural shine,” explains Royster. “However, buffing can be bad for your nails when it’s done too often and too harshly on the nail. It often causes the nails to become dry and brittle.”
Hadley agrees. “You don’t necessarily always need to put a nail polish on after, as with gels and acrylics you can use and do buff and shine,” she adds. “It will help get the nails back in shape, yet still look like you have something on your nails.”
There’s No Such Thing as Over-Moisturizing
Get used to it — lotions, oils and creams will be your new BFFs. “Keeping hands moisturized is the key to maintaining healthy nails,” shares Royster. She suggests clients rely on essential oils, such as jojoba oil or lemon oil to strengthen nails and repair dry hands. “Also, keep your nails short until the nails become healthier.”
“You should always keep all around your cuticles and hands moisturized. Using a cuticle oil and/or Vaseline cream will help,” adds Hadley. She’s a fan of both Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil and Sally Hansen Color Therapy Nail & Cuticle Oil, both of which contain natural ingredients.
Take Care of Your Cuticles
You’ve got to love the skin you’re in. “Your nail beds and cuticles are what’s important — they’re made of living tissues,” explains Irene. “That’s why ditching gels and acrylics altogether is the best option. Oftentimes it is the removal process that causes the majority of the damage.”
“You cannot save your nails while you have gel or acrylic on, but you can help restore and better your hands overall by using a strong cuticle and hand cream,” she adds. “I swear by Dior Crème Abricot Fortifying Cream For Nails. [Plus] taking nail vitamins like cod liver or fish oil (sounds delicious, right?) or vitamins can help grow your nails, hair and better your skin after taking regularly.”
Ditch Polish for Press-Ons
To maintain healthy nails, you may have to resist the urge to go back despite the long road ahead. Irene suggests trying on an occasional pop-on nail as an alternative. [Editor’s Note: Try Static Nails’ reusable versions.]
“Most ‘acrylaholics’ love pop-on nails because they come with all the benefits of gels and acrylics without the damage when removed properly,” she explains. “They are also way cheaper than salon manicures and less time-consuming.”