Salon Manicure Choices – What’s the Difference? Gel Nail Polish

There are so many amazing nail treatments available now! In this series we’ll review the professional manicure systems for use on natural nails on the market today. Here we continue our series on selecting the perfect natural nail manicure system for your needs, exploring the pros and cons of gel nail polish.Make a Splash collection beauty shot

Gel Nail Polish

But first – did you know that gel nail enhancements have been around since the 1980’s, but just didn’t have the break out success back then that they were in the early 2000’s?

“At the time, the manufacturers of gel lights and the gel itself had not joined forces, not yet recognizing the need to precisely match the intensity of the light to the photoinitiators in the gel… ­using the wrong light or applying too much gel caused a burning sensation on the client’s fingertips. ­Additionally, education on gel application was limited, leaving nail techs in the dark about the product, and home-use ­systems were introduced around the same time, damaging the reputation of salon-use systems by ­association. By the end of the ‘80s, many companies had pulled their gel products from the market.”

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Then, in the late 1990’s and early 2000s, the gels that we think of today, with improved formulas over what was available in the previous decade, began to emerge. About 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine a nail services menu without gel services on the list. According to the 2018-2019 Nail Big Book, 90% of salons responding to the survey offered gel polish services. The only other service offered as frequently among respondents was manicuring, also at 90%.

Some of my most enjoyable moments as a nail tech have come from seeing the amazement on clients’ faces when they pull their hands out of the lamp for the first time, and I begin wiping the inhibition layer from their fully cured gel polish manicure. With big eyes, they usually ask something like “Are they already dry?” and I tell them that they are free to do whatever they need to do. They can hardly believe that it’s OK to reach for their keys and walk out of the salon without sitting for awhile to let their manicure finish drying.

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Besides this revolutionary speed in finishing a manicure, I love how long gel polish stays on clients’ nails. Even clients who are really hard on their hands typically get more than a week out of their manicure.  Personally, my nails have grown out to the point that it’s bothersome before my nails begin to chip or peel.

Unfortunately, gel polish’s greatest strengths are also a cause for it’s greatest weakness (in some clients’ eyes): the soak off process for removal. And, since it takes so long to remove, clients who get tired of their polish color in less than a week might find the wear time and soak-off to be a negative.

While gel polish might not be for everyone, it certainly fills a need for many people. Ready to try for yourself?

Some professional brands to find in the salon are:

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  • Gelish – If you’re a regular reader, you already know I highly recommend Gelish brand products. I’ve been using these products in the salon and personally for almost a decade now with nearly flawless results.
  • OPI Gel Color – Many techs love this gel polish from a trusted brand.
  • CND Shellac – this may be the quintessential gel polish now due to genericization, though gel polish should be called by the correct name and brand used should be obvious to clients.  Using inferior products can lead to service breakdown and, if it happens frequently enough, a downgrading of the professional service.

Easy-to-find beauty store brands are:

  • Gelish Mini – the same great formula as the full-size Gelish, but in smaller amounts for personal use (fewer manicures)
  • China Glaze Gelaze – to make things even easier, this brand requires no base coat; only top coat.
  • FingerPaints – this is the Sally Beauty house brand, and has been around for several years.

You can also find one-step, no-cleanse gel polishes (no base or top coats required), and the latest development in gel polish systems – peelable base coat. I can’t vouch for any of these products personally yet, though I would be willing to test them out:

  • Gelish UNO – By Gelish MINI, this is a is a DIY, instant manicure. Brush on polish and cure – no basecoat, topcoat or cleansing is required.
  • Maniology Peelable Gel Base Coat – intended to be a temporary, peel-off coating for natural nails, to be painted on and removed easily later.

I personally love gel polish.  It’s one of the greatest inventions ever, in my opinion. What about you? Leave a comment below! Is this your favorite natural nail manicure product?

 

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Salon Manicure Choices – What’s the Difference? Hybrid Nail Polish

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There are so many amazing nail treatments out there! In this series we’ll review the professional manicure systems for use on natural nails on the market today. Here we continue our series on selecting the perfect natural nail manicure system for your needs, looking at “hybrid” nail polish.

Hybrid Nail Polish

Hybrid nail polish is also called long-lasting or long-wear nail polish, and it attempts “borrow some of the best qualities from both gel and lacquer without needing to be cured” .  It seems the goal in developing hybrid polish was to create a polish that would last as long as UV-cured gel polishes, but applies easily and could be removed as quickly as traditional nail polish. Some brands take this a step further by incorporating oligomers into their top coats that cure in ambient UV light, and become harder over the course of a day or so.

Hybrid polishes were introduced a few years ago, after the gel polish craze evened out, and seem to have been going steady ever since. Like traditional polish, they’re easy to apply in the salon or at home. Some brands make it even easier by requiring no base coat for their systems. However, it’s important to use the correct base (if required) and top coat for the system to achieve the result for these polishes.

Image from Amazon.com

 

Ready to try for yourself?

Some professional brands are:

 

 

Image from Amazon.com

 

Easy-to-find drug and beauty store brands are:

 

 

 

 

I tested the Sally Hansen brand earlier this year. Here’s one of my manis with a color called Shock Wave.

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From my perspective, these hybrid polishes felt like a wannabe gel polish – they fell short on delivering on their promises and, overall, my experience with these was a non-starter.  Leave a comment below with your experience! Is this your go-to natural nail product?

Why you should inventory your nail polish regularly

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A quick story from a recent personal experience: At the salon where I currently work they store nail polish on a wall shelf.  I typically bring my own supplies, but one client asked for a color off the shelf. I had no idea how long this polish had been there, but decided it would probably be fine to use. I proceeded to perform the manicure and sent her on her way. She was my list client of the day, so I headed home a couple hours before the salon actually closed.

Less than an hour after I got home the salon called to tell me that the client had called complaining that her manicure had become gritty. She wanted to know if I could re-do her nails right away, before the salon closed. So I headed back to the salon to see what the problem was. Long story short – the polish I had used was very old, and the manicure had developed tiny bubbles over the hour or so after it was done.  It looked like I had used a texture polish!

So I applied a different color of polish and apologized profusely to the client. I also tossed the bottle of polish in the trash while the client was there, so she could see that we would not be risking this happening again. After I was done, I thought “How can I prevent this from happening again?”. Not only had a I lost time but also money, and caused frustration for myself and the client.

The answer I came up with is simple: inventory the nail polish on a regular basis.  Did you know that the shelf life of Gelish is 18 months?12M

On cosmetics there is a symbol indicating the product’s shelf

life, which usually looks like this:

 

The number will change depending on the number of months of good shelf life. I’m not saying that your gel polish won’t last longer than 18 months, but the expiration date is the recommended length of time in which you should use the product. After that amount of time it’s important to check them before you sit down to use them on a client!

If you find this information useful, here are some ideas for inventorying your nail polish:

  • Record the polish brand, color name and/or item number, and the date you purchased it, into a spreadsheet or notebook. Some people like to do this on paper so they can include a swatch.
  • At predetermined intervals, say every 6 months or 12 months, go through your collection and personally test all the bottles that are approaching expiration.
  • If you don’t know when you bought a polish or other cosmetics, you can try checking the database at checkcosmetic.net or similar sites to find out what the shelf life is of that batch.

If you have any experience with polish expiring or with inventorying your stash, let me know in the comments below!

Battle of the Big Three

The battle of the big three gel polish brands: OPI GelColor versus CND Shellac versus Gelish.

S&M pink comparison

In this photo of my practice hand you’ll see that the nails are painted with (from left to right) OPI nail lacquer in “A Definite Moust-have” for reference on the pointer finger, with OPI GelColor “Strawberry Margarita” on the middle finger, Shellac “Gotcha”on the ring finger, and Gelish “Don’t Pansy Around” on the pinky finger.

For this test I applied two coats of each polish color and did not use a base or top coat on any of these. Let’s look at the consistency of each polish, including viscosity and opacity, application, brush, bottle, and finish for each. We’ll compare all three products to nail lacquer, using the OPI brand lacquer on the pointer as the baseline.  I chose lacquer as the baseline because it is the product that gel polish was purported to emulate when it was first released a few years ago. Note that this is not a wear test; these products were applied directly to acrylic enhancements on a practice hand and there is no top coat. I decided to go with pinks simply because they seem to be a popular choice for many clients.

So let’s see how they stack up!

First – the lacquer was not too viscous so as to be thick when applied to the nail, but also not too thin or runny.  It was opaque so that the nail was not visible after one coat, but application was somewhat streaked so I applied two thin coats for even coverage. A third coat would have been unnecessary. Application was easy and familiar; the polish applied smoothly and did not flow onto the cuticle or nail fold areas. The lacquer, with no topcoat, dried to a somewhat dull, yet smooth finish.

Of the three gel polishes, I struggled the most with the OPI GelColor application, mostly due to the consistency of the polish. It goes on very thick yet runny, and I had to clean up the nail fold areas with a polish remover pen prior to curing.  As you know, it’s very important that gel polish not run onto the skin, so this is a big minus for me with the OPI GelColor brand. (The runny consistency was not unique to this bottle of polish or this particular color; I used another color on a pedicure client a couple weeks ago, and the polish flooded the cuticle area then, too.) Overall application was smooth but not easy to control because the polish ran.

However, this OPI gel polish provided good coverage with just one coat. I did apply two coats, though, to remain consistent with my applications during this test.  The brush seemed to be OPI’s usual thick brush with long bristles, which we were introduced to as the Prowide brush back in 2008. I really like the OPI brush for nail lacquer application but it doesn’t seem to work so well with the GelColor formula. You can see that there is a bit of shine to the finish of the OPI GelColor, which I’m sure would be enhanced with application of top coat. Cure time is 30 seconds in an LED lamp and 1+ minute in a UV lamp, and it cured fully and smoothly in that time. The colored wrapper on the bottle lid provided a decent idea of what color was inside, though bottle and wrappers on Gelish polish never seem to be a perfect representation.

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The Shellac polish “Gotcha” seemed very thin, almost watery, during application, and I experienced some shrinkage at the tip as you can see in the photo. Though it was thin, I did not have any trouble with the Shellac polish running into the cuticle area.  It stayed where I applied it, just like a lacquer would.  Unfortunately, it had such low opacity that two coats were not enough.  I imagine three coats would be necessary for most Shellac colors, and maybe 4 for the lighter colors like this one. Application and curing were both smooth. The Shellac brush is shorter than the OPI brush, which I found gave me more control during application. Cure time for Shellac is 30 seconds in an LED lamp and 2 minutes in a UV lamp, and it cured fully and smoothly in that time.  The finish was somewhat shiny, which will look even better with top coat.

I tried to use pink colors from each brand that were similar to each other, and with the Shellac in particular thought I was getting a much darker color based on the bottle color.

Finally, the Gelish “Don’t Pansy Around” application, which went on smoothly and easily, was the overall winner for me. Applying it felt the most similar to applying lacquer, of the three. The consistency was not too viscous, so the polish applied like lacquer would. It also was not too thin, so it self-leveled and smoothed out as soon as it was applied. One coat covered the nail fairly well, and the second coat evened out the color nicely. (In my experience a few Gelish colors require three coats to reach an acceptable opacity, but most look great with just two.)

The older style Gelish brushes are shorter than the OPI brush by just a little, and have reasonably wide bristles. Beginning Summer 2017 Gelish has introduced a new brush style, which they advertise as the new gold standard. The brush in this bottle is the older style, and it works very nicely for Gelish application.  The bottle has a small circular window through which the client can get a view of the color, and therefore the color representation is very accurate. However, the clear window in the side of the bottle leaves the polish vulnerable to unintended curing in ambient UV light. It’s very important to store Gelish in a dark area (unless you’ve purchased one of the new collections. The new bottles are designed to extend the life of the polish, using a color callout on the outside of the bottle rather than a viewing window like the previous design).  Like the OPI GelColor and Shellac, the Gelish fully cures in 30 seconds in an LED lamp, and has a shiny finish that is enhanced by applying the top coat.  Cure time in a UV lamp is typically 1 minute, and up to 2 minutes for darker colors.

For me the clear winner is Gelish on all accounts.  Based on my blog posts one might believe that I exclusively use Gelish and therefore am biased. But I do occasionally use Shellac or OPI GelColor in the salon, and those occasions serve as reinforcement of my decision to purchase Gelish. So, what do you think? Have you had any different experiences when applying these products? Leave a comment below!

 

 

 

Gelish Collections List Updated!

I just updated the master list of Gelish polishes to include the Beauty and the Beast spring collection.

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Photo Credit: Esther’s Nail Center

And, stay tuned over the coming weeks for updates to that page – I’ll be linking all my collection photos and nail design photos to that page so you can not only reference a color name, item #, or release date, but also see the color sample or a nail design using that color.

InCoco Nail Strips review

A couple weeks ago I tried InCoco Nail Strips for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised at how well they worked.

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I bought the full kit of Runway Ready print on clearance (I believe this design now only comes in Accent Finger packs) at Walmart just to give the brand a try. I cleaned and prepped my nails as usual – a key step before applying any nail color or enhancements. Then I applied the strips as directed on the package, which is pretty much the same for any nail strips.  When I peeled these strips off their backing I was happy to find that they’re very pliable and curved with my nails.

After application I added a coat of Gelish Top It Off, and the strips stayed in place for over a week. There was no excess wear and tear when I removed them; I simply had too much growth and was ready for a new set.

What do you think? Have you ever tried these? What was your experience with them?

 

 

Let’s Get Frosty!

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Happy new year!

This is Gelish Let’s Get Frosty over Nailite’s UV gel polish called Sand (which I believe is a retired color).  I used ASP Form-a-Nail nail forms to add a protective layer to my natural nails using Nailite’s Sand, then applied 3 coats of Let’s Get Frosty.  (Note that Let’s Get Frosty is more silver than you see in the photo above; applying it over the colored gel altered the final shade a bit.)

The photo was taken after about a week, so you can see how well these held up. I was really happy with these; I kept them on for about a week and a half, and the only reason I re-did them is that I wanted to have time to do a new set before I go back to work in the new year.

I love my Gelish! What about you? Are you wearing any colors from the Gelish winter or Holiday collections?

B-Girl Style

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This is Gelish B-Girl Style, which is a beautiful pink that reminds me of bubble gum.  On the two middle fingers I used Born Pretty Store Mirror Powder in silver.  It was supposed to have a mirror-like finish, but it didn’t really work for me.  As you can see, it looks like packed glitter rather than chrome, and it left pigment in my Top It Off brush which then transferred to other nails.

This photo was taken a few days after application and you can see it’s already beginning to chip.  I was ready for a new manicure by this point.

With all that said, I do plan to give it another try. I only paid $2 for the powder, so it is worth it even if it only lasts for a couple days.  I also need to practice getting the chrome finish and cleaning off the leftover pigment before top-coating.

On a side note – are you like me, wondering what “B-Girl” even means?  I guess I’m old, but I had to look it up. In this case the B stands for “break”, as in break dancing.  I kinda assumed that’s what it meant, but needed confirmation from the ultimate authority (the internet).

Glow in the Dark Gelish

To celebrate Halloween and Dia de Muertos Gelish is releasing Glow In The Dark gel polish.

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Am I the only one who’s been hoping for some glow in the dark Gelish for years?!?! FINALLY!  This would have been awesome back in the day when I did spinning classes. haha!

I haven’t found this for sale anywhere yet, but I assume Cosmoprof will have it in the next couple weeks. If you find it, please let me know where!

Wish Upon a Starboard

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This color is Wish Upon a Starboard from Gelish’s A Very Nautical Girl collection, which was released in May. I did this set then didn’t get around to taking a photo of it for about a week and a half.  But I wanted to show you how smooth and shiny it still is after over a week.  The color held up so well that I would have left it on if it weren’t for the growth at the cuticle area.  If you are in the market for a tomato red polish, I highly recommend trying to get your hands on this one!

The lines for the French-style nails were hand-drawn with Chain Reaction, from last fall’s Urban Cowgirl collection.