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Manicures and Artificial Nails: An Overview

From silk wraps to gel nails, the options for the nail junkie are numerous. Here is a brief overview some of the best-known services.

Gel Manicure

Gel manicures are as popular the cat’s meow these days, and they look glossy and last longer than your traditional salon manicure. A gel manicure is a coat of colored “gel” that basically emulates the look and feel of the natural nail; gel polish creates an artificial nail coat on your nails, similar to acrylic nails. The composition of a gel manicure varies but it is typically made with a monomer liquid and a polymer powder: both react with one another to form long strands of artificial nail.Typically, a gel manicure needs to be cured under a UV light. There are also gel manicures available without the UV drying option (these use activators to dry the nail to form the resin).

Typical gel manicure services include: a two-week soak-off gel polish (typically by OPI Axxium); French manicure, which is essentially a pink and white full set of gel nails (pink nail bed and white tips); clear set (clear nail bed and tips); and maintenance fills. Fills are usually done two weeks after your gel manicure, to fill the new areas of the nail because of nail growth. Fills are less expensive than getting a completely new set. It’s important to ask the aesthetician if the removal process with acetone is included in the price of the manicure.

Pros: A manicure that lasts a long time, typically more than two weeks. After you cure your hands under the UV light, your nails are ready!

Cons: Gel manicures tend to be expensive ($65 per for a basic gel manicure is not uncommon) and most types require drying your nails under a UV light which can dry out the nail. If you opt for a Gelish, CND or OPI gel manicure, you need to go back to the salon to soak your nails inacetone to get the polish off.

Acrylic(Fake) Nails

Acrylic nails, like gel nails, are fake nails in the sense that paint is not applied directly onto your nails. Rather, a mixture of a particular powder and liquid is applied to the nail and the result are long, artificial-looking nails (the mixture dries once exposed to the air). It’s easy to paint them as you would with regular nails, and include nail art or French manicures. These are best suited for those who are unable to grow their nails or who have unhealthy nails.

Types of acrylic nails include: French Manicures (healthy naturally pink nails with white tips); colored tips and nails with gel sealers; Full Set (nail bed and tips); Overlay (a powder and liquid applied on top of pre-existing acrylic nails); and Fills (filling in the exposed areas after nail growth, typically after two weeks). A “Pink Full Set” means the nail bed and tips will both be the pinkish, natural nail color; a “Pink and White Fill” means the tips will be white and the nail itself will be a natural pink. Since several salons have various types of acrylic options other than the basics, it is best to ask the aesthetician theprecise outcome (ask her to show you a picture, if possible). Some prefer fiberglass nails (using a powder by OPI) instead of the acrylic mixture. If you see the term “Crystal Tips” or “Crystal Nails” on the menu, it refers to clear acrylic, gel or resin nails.

Pros: Acrylic nails are long-lasting and the polish will almost never chip off. Also, removing the polish from acrylic nails is easy with acetone nail polish remover, and women can choose between long and short nails.

Cons: Many women believe acrylic nails will damage the natural nail, since it is a mixture of strong liquid and powder. Because of the nail growth (a healthy diet increases nail growth), the nails have to be filled regularly, otherwise the new raw nail bed will be exposed.

Silk Wraps

Silk wraps actually take pieces of silk, linen or fiberglass and glue them onto the nail plate in a specific size. Salons use a special glue to perform silk wraps,so that the glue will not damage the natural nail. The idea behind the wraps is to add strength and often, length to the nail. Choose silk wraps if you want to add length to your nail, and opt for crystal tips to give a jazzy, more blinged up appearance (most often, salons will use Swarovski rhinestones).

Types of silk wraps include: Full Set (these can come in the Full Pink, Pink andWhite Tip varieties); and Fill-Ins. Like the acrylic and Gel nails, the wraps need to be filled in because of periodic nail growth.

Pros: Silk wraps make the nails stronger, and they leave the nails virtually unscathed. This is a great option for those whose nails are weak or cracked. It is a kinder option than the acrylic nail.

Cons: The removal of wraps is definitely best left for the technician, and you’ll need to revisit the salon to have it professionally removed.

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