When it comes to our manicures, we vacillate between two personalities. If we’re feeling reserved, we request short tips, filed square with a light coat of Ella+Mila Barely Pink. Other times, we can’t bring ourselves to pick just one color, so we go with 10 shades of neon on an extra-long stiletto shape.
Typically, the latter look requires help from extensions — our nails don’t grow into coffin-shaped tips overnight and, even if they do, our natural nails would break off within minutes. Luckily, there are many ways to get instant length, including acrylic powder and press-on tips, but another celebrity-favorite option is the Gel-X Nail Extension. Fans of the product like how natural the extensions look and feel, which is also why it’s a popular pick for celebrities like Ariana Grande, Janelle Monáe, Elle Fanning, Candice Swanepoel, and Ashley Graham.
Gel-X Extensions are also a healthy alternative to acrylics both for the person getting them, as well as the manicurist. While the FDA has repeatedly warned the public about how hazardous the chemicals in them can be many salon still offer them. The FDA has even banned some of the chemicals that can be found in acrylic nail solutions, such as methyl methacrylate, however, due to poor regulation in the nail industry, some salons still use products containing it as well. Other potentially toxic chemicals that can be found in acrylics include toluene and acetonitrile, both of which can cause skin irritation, respiratory issues, and in more serious cases, kidney and eye damage.
Gel Polish is inarguable safer and healthier than acrylics before you hop on the Gel-X bandwagon, let’s discuss it’s own pros and cons.
Gel-X extensions have the malleability of a soft gel polish and the length of a press-on or glue-on nail. The extension is made out of gel polish which is applied directly on top of your full natural nail and can be cut and shaped to your preference. Our Gel-X Nail Extension Service uses the same materials as a Gel Manicure, but the technique can create length past your natural nails, thanks to clear tips that are filed to blend seamlessly with them.
Unlike acrylic or hard-gel extensions, Gel-X tips don’t just sit at the tip of the nails. Instead, they cover the entire nail bed from cuticle to free edge. We offer various sizes of full-coverage tips, which allow you to customize the ones you use based on the size and shape of your finger. While they do come in different shapes — square, round, or stiletto — you can cut and shape them however you want. You can also pick from short, medium, long, stiletto, coffin, round, or square shapes.
Once you’ve selected the shape and size of your nail, your natural tips are prepped with a pH bonder and nail primer. Then, your nails get one coat of a thick, clear gel which is cured under a LED lamp. When your natural nails are cured, it’s time to secure your extension. This is done by adding more of the Extend Gel polish to the inside of the tip (the side sitting on your nail) and curing it with the LED lamp. The clear gel product fills in any of the gaps, making the nail extension even stronger, similar to an acrylic.
Perhaps what’s best about gel nail extensions are how natural they look. It is a better-looking finished product in the end — it looks more natural than acrylics. This is partially due to the fact that we’re able to shape them the way that you want and make them as thin as your real nails. What’s more, they won’t lift the way that acrylics do over time, looking less clunky on your hands.
If you walk into the salon for a fresh set, prepare to spend at least an hour and a half for extensions. Add additional time if you want to add gel polish on top.
If you’re looking for a nail technique that won’t chip when you wash the dishes or peel off within one week, Gel-X nails will quickly win you over. When installed correctly, the nails can last up to 3-4 weeks without any lifting, meaning no raised edges or chipping off. You may notice some growth at the base of your nail after wearing the extensions for over three weeks, but that’s also an indicator that it’s time to get your nails removed or redone (more on that ahead).
Another plus? If you’re using regular nail polish to paint your gel nail extensions, you can remove and repaint them as much as you want without having to worry about getting them filled, like acrylics. You can maintain the life of your gel extensions at home by cutting and shaping them as they grow out.
With any nail enhancement, there’s a possibility of damage to your natural nail over time with prolonged use and improper removal. However, Gel-X is a safe method for lengthening your nails. While we haven’t seen any damage from our own Gel-X nails, gel is gel, and if you pick off your extensions you could cause damage to your natural nails. It’s why removal is, hands down, one of the most critical parts of the process.
There is also the concern of using a UV lamp to cure the polish, but experts say that the risk of malignant cancer because of nail lamps is extremely low, according to WebMD. As a result, many people in in the industry favor gel polish as a way to extend polish life and strengthen nails.
Alternating between non-toxic gel manicures to non-toxic traditional polish, or going bare can help to allow nails to rehydrate and repair.
When your nails are naked, treat them with a strengthening treatment or a nourishing oil, such as Ella+Mila First Aid Kiss or LVX 3 In 1 Treatment.
The extensions are made of gel, and are removed in the same manner you’d remove a standard gel manicure. On our clients we use an electric file to break the top barrier before soaking the tips. To minimize damage, you should seek professional removal of your extensions (if you can), but if you have to do the deed at home, we recommend the Onyx Professional Gel Removal Kit, Teenitor Nail Polish Remover Clips, and that you watch this video. The kit has everything you need to remove them yourself at home without damaging your natural nail. But, whatever you do, do not rip off your tips! That can weaken the natural nail underneath.