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What Is A Gel Manicure, And Why Should I Get One?

It’s happened to the best of us– you just get your nails done, your purse starts ringing, you reach in to grab your cell phone and CRACK! You hit your finger on your keys and that nail is history.

But now there’s an alternative to traditional lacquer-based nail polish called "soft gel nails". Don’t let the name fool you, there’s nothing soft about these nails. Unlike regular polish which can last a few days before it inevitably starts to peel off, gel nails can last up to two weeks without a single chip or scratch.

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Gel nails started to become more popular a few years ago, and today you can get them at almost any nail salon. You basically have to get them done professionally because, in order to cure the gel, they have to be held under a UV lamp for several minutes. Regular polish just needs oxygen to cure.

Another big difference is the removal process. Gel nails need to be held in acetone for at least 10 minutes, whereas regular nails can be removed with a single application of nail polish remover.

Gel nails aren’t entirely without risk. First, as with anything you do to your nails, you’ll damage the nail and skin if you do them too often, and since gel nails stay on for weeks at a time that’s doubly true for them. They can also hide sores or infections that you’d otherwise notice sooner.

While the gel lasts a long time, it doesn’t last forever and it will eventually start to peel. You might be tempted to pick it off like a scab at that point (sooooooo satisfying...), but you shouldn't. Removing gel forcefully often removes a layer of the nail or sometimes the whole thing.

Some gels use toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl, and repeated exposures to UV lamps isn’t good for your skin either. If you do go for a gel manicure, don’t get them done back to back. Give your nails a few weeks to heal before going under the lamp again. Remember to get those nails removed by a professional rather than your own nail clippers. You could save yourself from something far worse than a chipped nail!

NEXT: 15 Craziest Nail Designs That Will Have You Running To The Salon

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What Is A Gel Manicure, And Why Should I Get One?