I fell in love with gel nails earlier last year when a friend invited me to have my nails done by her mobile nail technician, who has now become a good friend of mine (you can follow her on Instagram). I couldn't believe that I was able to rummage around my bag for money to pay her, go home, cook and wash up without the fear of it chipping. And this continued for a good two weeks before I had it removed and a new colour applied. I was instantly addicted!! I looked forward to having them done, planning what colour to go for and it always made me happy.
As we're not allowed to wear nail varnish at college for health and safety reasons, you can imagine my joy at hearing that we were to be given training in gel nails and we would be allowed to keep it on for two weeks!! It's the small things....
The process is very simple. Your nail technician will buff your natural nails to create a slightly rough surface for the gel polish to better adhere to. Several products and layers of varnish will be applied, which will need to be cured (hardened) under a UV or LED lamp in between layers. LED lamps are much quicker and safer, as there has been much talk that UV lamps may be harmful for your skin, so you can be done in 30-45 mins and walk away with rock hard nails.
When I rave about gel nails to friends the most common question I get asked is "but don't they ruin your nails?". I can only speak from personal experience and mine haven't been ruined. In fact, my nails are never as strong and as long as when I have gel polish on them. You may notice some weakness if you have back-to-back gel manicures, so it is wise to give your nails a break every now and then, but it's nothing some cuticle/hand cream and perhaps some OPI Nail Envy can't sort.
The most important thing to be careful with is how the polish is removed, because this is where damage can occur. Most professional nail technicians will take every care to avoid any damage, but only you'll know how your nails have reacted once having them done. The nail polish is buffed to remove the shine, then covered in cotton wool with heavy-duty acetone nail polish remover and wrapped in foil for about 15-20 mins. The polish will then chip and curl off and any remnants will be removed with a manicure stick and nail file. The texture of your nail will feel a bit rough, but will either be buffed smooth if left bare, or covered in more polish.
Popular gel polish brands include Harmony Gellish, Jessica Geleration, OPI Gelcolour, Bluesky, Sensational, Crystal, etc but there are tonnes on the market (some better than others).
Sensational have some great FAQs should you be interested/concerned - see here.
I'm going to be slowly building up my kit and offering these manicures in the near future, but in the meantime you'll be looking at around £20-£30 for a professional gel nail manicure. If you like shiny, long-lasting talons, I'd say it's a treat worth trying!