Every once in a while here at Daily Something someone asks if I like gel manicures. I believe they are referring to soak off gel manicures, or “paint on” gel polish.
In the past I’ve never really been curious enough about it to try, especially since gel manicures are boasted to last up to two weeks and I change my polish WAY more often than every two weeks. But the appeal of a two week manicure is strong when it comes to travel. Traveling with nail polish can be very inconvenient. Usually I travel with a just few polishes (or a lot when I’m going to a girls weekend—click here to see how I pack polish for travel) and I don’t mind packing the polish. So I never really felt the urge to try gel polish.
That is until I was walking through Target and saw the Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit (not gel polish strips, but the full-on polish). My curiosity was peaked and I thought my upcoming trip to Disneyland would be the perfect opportunity to test it out. Travel is murder on my nails!
I ended up buying the kit, which included an LED light, base coat, top coat, one polish color, 20 alcohol wipes, a small nail file and orange stick, and a small bottle of acetone for removal. I wasn’t crazy about the color the kit came with (Wine Not), and you can buy colors separately, so I bought Back to the Fuchsia as well.
(image from Sally Hansen)
I attempted a gel manicure using the color that came in the kit just to test the waters and see how it worked before embarking on the real deal. This was about a week before my trip to Disneyland. I followed the instructions that came with the kit and application wasn’t too difficult. However, when they say thin layers, they mean thin layers! LOL! My polish was too thick on a couple nails and it seemed to bunch up and crinkle. I ended up redoing those nails a couple hours later because I couldn’t stand how they looked.
Also, the polish seemed to pull away from the tips a bit and it looked that I had tip-wear already. I found some tips online to solve that issue that I’ll have to try out later (keep reading to see where).
And as I predicted in Target before buying the kit, I really hated the Wine Not color. Thank heavens I bought an additional color! You might have noticed that I don’t wear a lot of polishes with shimmer in them? I’m very selective with shimmer polishes. Anyhow, Wine Not had a definite shimmer that I hated. So I got my first try at removal just 24 hours later.
Removing the gel polish was super easy. Nothing more time consuming that removing glitter polish…
You just soak a cotton ball with acetone (100% acetone, not regular nail polish remover), place it on the nail, and wrap a small square of aluminum foil around the fingertip. The foil keeps the cotton ball on the nail and prevents the acetone from evaporating. Wait about 10-12 minutes and check the nail. If the polish doesn’t flake off, put the foil and acetone back on for another 3-5 minutes.
I did all ten nails at the same time and just watched some YouTube videos while I waited. With the exception of some dry skin from the acetone (which I remedied with cuticle oil and hand lotion), the removal was not bad at all.
Second Try & Putting It To the Test
About a week later, I was heading out for Disneyland and needed to try out the gel polish for real. I read up on the application process and got some awesome tips from this message board post. That’s how I learned to “dry brush” after the base coat to prevent the polish from pulling back from the tips. I ended up not needing to do that with Back to the Fuchsia, but as they mention in the message board post, darker colors are more prone to that and Back to the Fuchsia isn’t a dark color.
Anyhow, I applied Back to the Fuschia and headed off the airport later that day. I loved how shiny my nails were and they did feel a bit stronger. I wore the polish for five days until I returned home. Here are day by day photos. Please excuse the different lighting. I took all photos on my iPhone…
I documented only my left hand in photos, but on Day 2 I had a small chip on the corner of my right thumbnail after riding on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Stupid Bobsleds! I put a bandaid on my thumb to stop me from picking at it and later at the hotel I removed the polish and re-applied. Since I didn’t know what I was in for, I ended up bringing the kit + Back to the Fuchsia just in case I need to fix a nail. I’m glad I packed it since I did need it.
I had no chipping or lifting on my left hand at all! I was super impressed…
In full disclosure, I did have to repaint two more nails on my right hand on the fifth day. Before packing up and heading back to the airport, I noticed the polish on two nails were just barely starting to peel up. I know myself and knew I would mess with them on the plane, leaving me polish-less on those nails. So I opted to remove the polish and reapply them before packing my bags.
Once I was home, I wanted a new color. Five days of the same color was way too long! LOL! So I removed all the polish and went back to regular polish.
Conclusion & Nail Damage?
All in all, I think the Sally Hansen Gel Polish is pretty great! As with most things in life there’s a learning curve. As my application gets better and I use it more, I suspected that the wear time will increase. I liked that the polish stayed shiny for the entire time I was wearing it, too.
While I was doing my gel manicure test, I was sharing photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Many people wondered if the gel manicure damaged my nails. I’m happy to say that no, there was no damage. If you don’t buff your nails (or only very lightly buff them—DO NOT use a file directly on the nail, especially the nail file that comes in the kit because it’s much too abrasive), and you remove them using the foil method, there is no damage. I think when people say their nails were damaged by a soak off gel manicure it’s because they peel off the polish and pick at it. That’s how you damage your nails. If you follow the directions correctly, there will be minimal or no damage at all.
I don’t plan to wear the gel polish too often—mostly when I travel. So it’s nice that the price point was fairly reasonable ($64.99). For the cost of 2 salon gel manicures, I got the kit and an extra polish that I can use multiple times. I think it was worth it. :)