It's gonna get sappy up in here.
I swear, if I hear one more nail company brag about how their polish gives you “gel-like shine” or “up to 14 days of wear, just like gel polish,” I’m going chop my fingers off completely so I never give myself the opportunity to be let down by these lies ever again.
Oh wait, too soon. Speaking of chopping my fingers off, I almost did two weeks ago. Oops.
The simple truth of it is, is that there is gel polish, and there are polishes that are not gel polish. The only way to get the high shine, long lasting, no-chip effects of a gel manicure is to get a gel manicure.
I know, I’m not happy about it either.
This is not to say that the polishes making these gel-like claims are bad. Not at all! Most of them do give you high shine, and a lot of them do last longer than what you’d typically expect, but are you going to get two weeks of flawless wear? Nah.
There are a ton of things you can do at home, with regular lacquer, to ensure you’ve got a bulletproof mani that will last you days on days. I’ve got my own system that gets me around 10 days of chip-free wear. (Should I write about that?) Bottom line: If you want all the benefits of a gel manicure, you’re going to have to get a gel manicure.
Wow, I just went THROUGH something. I guess I just needed to get that off of my chest.
The great thing about living here, in the future, is that we’re not obligated to drop $50 at a salon every two weeks if we want gels. We can do it from the comfort of our own home! Why spend all that money every month when we can do it in our living room, in nothing but our underwear, watching trash TV, wine buzzed? How’s THAT for a home spa? Problem solved, right?
The thing that keeps me from committing to gel polish exclusively is:
1. I can’t commit to a color for that long. Sorry. What if someone sends me a new collection of colors that I absolutely have to try, but I’m only three days into my gel manicure? I’d feel so trapped! I’m stressed just thinking about it.
2. THE REMOVAL. This may come as a shock to you, but I’m not exactly the gentlest person. I know how to remove gel polish, but that doesn’t mean I do it correctly. The few times I’ve removed the polish myself has left my nails BEAT. All of that soaking and scraping to remove the polish without damaging your natural nail gives me anxiety, so I leave it to the professionals.
But what if the removal was easier? What if all of my wildest dreams came true and I could give myself the salon manicure THAT I DESERVE right in my apartment, and then take it off whenever I wanted without taking my nails with it?
Well, now I can. And I’m freaking out.
I came across the Striplac system by Alessandro International and immediately knew that I couldn’t not try it, but I wasn’t expecting much. The concept of peel-off gel polish that would also deliver the results we’ve come to expect from gel polish just didn’t seem possible. How could it stay chip-free for two weeks and then just peel right off whenever you wanted it to?
I set up shop on my coffee table and went to work. The system is essentially exactly the same as any other salon or at-home kit. You get a double-duty base coat/top coat, a nail color, a file, a cuticle pusher, cleansing pads, and of course, an LED lamp. You know the drill: base coat, cure, one coat of color, cure, second coat of color, cure, top coat, cure, cure again maybe, then cleanse to turn the polish from tacky to hard, and done. No extra steps, nothing out of the ordinary so far.
The kit comes with a classic red polish, but they sent me a few other colors (thank goodness, because I have a moral aversion to red nails) so I ended up using Deep Ocean Blue, an incredible bright, royal blue that was almost a jelly polish, but achieved opacity in two coats. I couldn’t have been happier with the color.
The polish itself was great to work with, so the application was a breeze. After everything was cured and cleansed, my nails looked just like they would have after leaving a salon. You know how gel or shellac polish has a little more body to it than normal polish, so your nail color just looks a little thicker? So does Striplac. Last year I saw yet another drugstore brand saying that their polish had gel-like results, including “voluminous nails,” so I guess that’s a thing now.
So just how well did the peel-off manicure hold up? And did it actually peel right off? Let’s time travel…
~*~*~*~*~*TWO WEEKS LATER*~*~*~*~*~
This manicure lasted longer than two weeks. Seventeen days to be exact. That’s no chips, scuffs, no peeling. The only difference I saw is that the paint had worn off of the free edge.
This has held up better than both at-home and salon gel manicures I have gotten in the past. So as far as the quality of the polish goes, I’m already sold.
But does it peel off? Let’s see.
Alessandro has a Peel-Off Activator to aid in the removal of the polish, but it’s not included in the starter kit. I used it, but I probably didn’t even need the extra help in getting these babies off.
First, just apply the Peel-Off Activator around the edges of the polish.
Wait five minutes, and then gently lift the polish off the nail with a cuticle pusher…
It WORKS. The polish just peels right off!
I sort of expected the removal process to consist of a lot of working the polish off, little by little, removing one little piece of the polish at a time. But no! This works better than I ever could have dreamed!
All the paint on all ten of my nails came off in one piece, in one quick motion, just like that. By the end, I could barely see what I was doing, since I was sobbing tears of joy.
My nails were left in great condition, just a few minor dings, and half of them were already there from just normal wear and tear.
Full disclosure: The polish on my left index finger did pop off about a week in and I had to redo it. To me, that wasn’t a deal breaker because it takes three minutes to redo one nail, and when you’re done, you’re done. No dry time. If I was wearing normal polish and it chipped, I’d redo it, but I’d have to wait for it to dry, which would set me back longer.
IN CONCLUSION: I'm like, wildly happy about Alessandro's Striplac system and would recommend it to anyone that likes gel manicures but doesn't want to spend the money every two weeks. The started kit will run you a hot $159, and each color is $18. Each time I've gotten a no-chip manicure in a salon, I've spent around $50, so is it worth it? You do the math (no seriously, you do the math because I'm not going to.) And knowing I can remove the polish whenever I want makes it all that much more of a value.
Oh, and a bonus: I left all 10 nails on the coffee table to freak out my boyfriend and it totally worked. Thanks, Striplac!
What do you think? Do you get gel manicures regularly? Would you do them from home? Let's chat about it in the comments.
Tynan is chip-free on Twitter @TynanBuck.