I get so many clients in here asking for fills or fixes or horror stories coming from other places (usually the quickie nail salons) talking about how they asked for gels and then didn’t get them.
Gel is the most popular form of nail extensions and everyone wants to do it. But are you really getting what you are paying for? Here in Thunder Bay many places charge 10$ or more above the acrylic price because it is in such demand. But why? What is really the difference between the 2?
Well to be fair to a chemist they are in the same chemical family its just how they are molecular-ally made up that ends up with pretty much the same desired effect: a hardened resin.
Acrylic nails are a 2 part system where you mix a monomer (the liquid-usually purple) and a
polymer(the powder) that air cures in about 45 seconds. Acrylic is an industry term but you can probably name a bunch of other acrylic things too (the plastic shelving that you hold your nail polishes in, plexi glass, contact lesnes, etc.). Solar nails also fall into this category. Solar nails is a BRAND name by the company CND. It is not its own type of nail. Crystal nails is just clear acrylic.
Everyone believes that acrylic is bad for your nails; this is only partly true. What used to be used as the monomer in acrylic nails was a chemical called MMA (methyl methacrlate). It is banned in Canada. Acrylic nails in sold in Canada have ethyl methacrylate monomer (EMA) in it which has been deemed safe. Acrylic nails still do have smaller molecules so they do stain, and penetrate your nails a bit which is good and bad. Because they penetrate your nails they have a stronger adhesion so it is up to you how you feel about it.
Gel nails are from the “acrylates” sub category. Instead of being monomer + polymers to create the resin: gel nails are a “oligomer” which is somewhere in between.
mono = 1 oligo = a few poly=a lot or as I like to put it:
Gel is made up of the acryl ester resin/urethane acrylates + a photoinitator (starts the curing process from UV light photons). You need to place the gel under a UVA light to fully cure/harden the gel. The chemical family of urethane is known for high abrasion resistance and durability.
LCN is the brand I use and is made with High performance light curing nail resins. The molecules that are in the gel are too big to sink into your nail plate and your skin.
Did you know gel nails work kinda like when you get a tooth filling filled with a UV light?
So the nice thing about gels and why they are so popular is because they don’t damage your nails as much, they don’t stain, they don’t smell and they have a higher gloss. There are several different types of gel, and each line has its own specific qualities. You may have heard of Bio-gel nails. Bio gel is also a BRAND name, they focus on a a urea-free product, many lines have have a bio line for dry/damaged nails that need a boost of nutrients. The downside to bio gel that it still is a soak off gel which contradicts the fact its meant for dry finger nails.
I still do acrylics which here in Thunder Bay, they aren’t that popular anymore but acrylic is still a major industry so when you bring me a pic of nail art 80% of the time the pic of what you want in gel is of acrylic nails. That doesn’t mean that I can’t do it but somethings are just easier with acrylic then in gel, like 3D flowers, and even ombres look cleaner and better in acrylic.
UV Gel Polishes are made up the same way as the gel, but with a thinner consistency so they are not providing the full strength as a full sculpture gel nail.They last between 2-4 weeks depending on the brand, the nail tech and your fingers (oilier nail beds will result in them not lasting as long, same with if you are just hard on your nails).
Most of the time we just call it Shellac nails, but Shellac is a brand name gel polish made by CND. Gel polishes are made by very many different companies, most sculpture gel nail companies have coloured gel as well. The great thing about shellac/gel polishes is that they cure, so there is no pretending you are a little pinchy crab trying to get your shoes, coat and grab your purse after your manicure. It is usually a 5-10$ added fee but it is definitely worth the money.
Make sure you know what you are getting and paying before!