Feed Your Gel Manicure Habit Without Wreaking Havoc on Your Nail Beds

Fellow gel nail junkies, stop hurting the health of your nails.
Publish date:
February 29, 2016
manicures, gel manicures, gel nails

For a self-professed beauty junkie, I can be pretty lazy about the maintenance required for a lot of beauty routines (I blame it on both my occasional lethargy and my ADD-tendencies). Though I love some aspects of pampering myself, I also often find myself frustrated with the amount of time needed for upkeep of my hair, skin, and nails on a weekly or monthly basis. I usually play myself podcasts when I’m getting eyelash extensions so I can actually zone out and relax (this is a coping mechanism that I learned the hard way when I couldn’t stop checking my work email with one eye while getting eyelash extensions, and I was scolded mercilessly by my esthetician (seriously though, don’t do that, it’s dangerous and I’m an idiot).

The thing is, however much I get annoyed with the time needed to keep up my more rote beauty routines, I’m always so happy with the results of the appointments. That’s why I was so pumped when I first tried gel manicures almost two years ago. For years my refrain was that I liked changing the color of my nails too much to try a gel manicure, but finally, when I was about to go on a weeklong beach vacation, I decided to give it a shot. Right after my manicure appointment I actually had rush straight home and help my roommate change two of our ceiling lights that had fallen and broken during the day (true story). Even after unscrewing lightbulbs and fixtures for 30 minutes, my powder blue nails remained unscathed. Immediately, I was completely sold.

For the last two years, my lazy-girl beauty ethos coupled with my inherent clumsiness have made gel manicures my go-to. However, there is no denying that recently my addiction has been wreaking a bit of havoc on my nail beds. Thus, in order to allow myself (and any of you guys) to continue a gel manicure habit without hurting the health of your nails, I’ve compiled the following tips on how to keep your awesome gel nails going while still keeping your nails healthy.

Make sure you get your gel nails applied properly...

Though it may be tempting to be super thrifty with your manicures, it’s important to trust that your nail technician is applying your gel nails correctly for the health of you nails. According to Gracie J., a nail artists at Vanity Projects, a luxury concepts art gallery and nail salon in NYC and Miami, “the biggest misconception about gel is that they ruin your nails - what really matters is the quality of the products and the skill of the technician applying the gel. Every brand of gel has their own instruction on how best to use the product, so it is important to pay attention to the manufacturer notes. Regular use of gel will not damage your nails if applied properly and removal is done professionally!”

...and make sure you get them removed properly.

According to my nail technician at Paintbox, a high end nail salon in NYC, “Gel does not damage your nails so long as the removal is done correctly. In most cases gel gives your nails an extra layer of strength which helps prevent breaks and in turn help you obtain longer length if desired.”

My biggest issue with my gels was always removing them improperly often times peeling them off when I was super stressed out, and leaving trails of pink or purple gel polish in conference rooms all over my office. Super chill, Kathleen.

Give your nails a break between gels.

Even if you’re doing all of this correctly, it’s important to occasionally give your nails a break between gel manicures. I alternate every 2-3 gel manicures with a regular manicure to insure that my nails don’t get weak or brittle in any way.

Keep your cuticles healthy.

According to Paintbox, “cuticle oil is key. Keeping your cuticles and nails hydrated will help maintain healthy, strong nails.” I love Deborah Lippmann’s Cuticle Oil, and I’m also obsessed with the olive oil-based secret recipes at Hortus Nailworks in NYC. You can even DIY your own nail treatments with oil olive or coconut oil for a cheap cuticle solution from your grocery store. Gracie J. also notes that it’s important to remember to “"gently push back the eponychium. The eponychium is the live skin around the base of your nail which should never be cut, it serves as a protective barrier for your nails. Hangnails and cuticles (cuticles are the dry dead tissue on nail plate) should be removed for maximum adhesion." In fact, the cuticles create a seal that can protect the health of the nail bed, so unless you’re super into the aesthetic of having them removed, I always choose to just get my hangnails clipped and leave the rest of my cuticles well enough alone.

Try a supplement.

Nail supplements are not just placebos, most of them are packed with vitamins, biotin, and other nail strengthening ingredients that can only help keep your nails tough and healthy. I like GNC’s Hair, Skin, and Nails Formula Supplements (oh, or you can always take prenatal vitamins!).