No-Chip Nail Polish

My nails at 22 days and counting.

Your hands are only slightly less prominent than your face. Using this logic, you’d think that I’d get regular manicures to keep my fingers looking as good as my always-painted toes. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of a nice, simple manicure, but I’m the kind of person that can chip my polish within minutes of leaving the salon. Frankly, I’d rather have bare nails than wear chipped polish.

So imagine my surprise when my nail salon started featuring manicures with Shellac nail color, guaranteed to dry instantly and be chip-free for 14 days. I figured it was worth a try. I mean, chip-free and instant drying? Sounds like a wish that your beauty fairy godmother would grant.

In hindsight, it probably would have been better to read something about it first before trying them, but it was an impulse buy at the salon. It turns out that the polish isn’t exactly nail polish, but rather a soak-off gel that’s cured to the nail with UV light.

Pros:

  • My nails never chipped. In fact, at 22 days, the tips still were as smooth as the day they were applied.
  • The gels dry instantly and don’t require any kind of delicate handling. Go ahead. fish your wallet or keys out of your purse. You’ll do no harm.

Cons:

  • It can’t be removed at home, even with acetone polish remover; my salon didn’t tell me this.
  • Because the polish lasts so long, growth is very visible at the cuticle line; this will be less obvious with light colors than with dark, bold colors.
  • From my experience, it appears that at a certain point (starting around 16 days), the gel polish starts to peel away from your nail. But because the gels are so strong they still appear as though they’re a single, flawless sheet of color as they remain attached to your nail at whatever anchor point they’re still connected to. Shortly after I took the photo above, the gel polish started to peel off completely, and evidently took a layer of nail with it.
  • Within the first 24 hours after polish removal, I broke six nails, three of which broke unusually low and are pretty sore as I sit here and type.

Would I do it again? Maybe, if I really needed presentable, manicured nails; I don’t know of any other way to do it that lasts more than a couple of hours without visible damage. But having said that, I’d make an appointment to have the gel polish removed before it started to peel, probably in the 14-day range, just to be safe. I suspect that professional removal pre-peel would do a better job of preserving the natural nail and result in fewer breaks after the fact.

UPDATE: I wrote a less-than-flattering follow-up post here, then realized that the problem was not the polish, but my salon. The final installment is here, and I’m happy to say that things worked out in the end.

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