How Manicurists Would Like You To Be Acquainted

If you’re a beauty lover on social media, you’re bound to open up your apps at some point and scroll through images of perfectly polished hands with nails that seem to go on for days. Strong nails are not something that is born. To give nails extra length and durability, some people apply gel nail extensions. It also helps polish last longer.

The removal of acrylic nails is difficult and can damage your natural nails. Gel nail extensions are a great option if you want a nail option with the same durability but that doesn’t cause as much damage.

There’s a good chance that many of the gorgeous manicures with embellished tips and tiny works of art you’re seeing online were made possible by gel nail extensions, but if you’re not sure what gel extensions are, how they get applied to your nails, or if they’re safe in the first place, we put together an expert-sourced primer on everything you need to know.


By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be able to decide if they’re right for you to try.

What are Gel Nail Extensions?

“Gel extensions are a form of nail treatment that extends the existing natural nail,”Emma Eskander, salon director, says Gilded RitualNew York City-based nail salon, ”. The salon offers gel nail extensions as well as other manicures or pedicures.

Essentially, they’re exactly what they sound like: a way to rock longer nails, which gives you more surface area for nail art and polish. Gel extensions are pre-shaped nails that are applied on top of your natural nail—kind of like press-ons but a bit more reliable—and secured by a gel. Extensions can be ordered in fashionable shapes such as stilettos or coffins.

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What are the steps to apply gel nail extensions to your nails?

Eskander states that there are many methods to apply gel extensions. However, all of them require hard gels that have been dried to the natural nail. Gel must be long enough to adhere properly. “For one technique, the technician uses a form underneath the nail and then applies a hard gel on top of that to the shape and length desired,” says Eskander. “The treatment is then cured under a UV lamp, which hardens the shape created.”Technicians will take out the old form and polish it. You can also use LED lamps to cure.

Brittney BoyceFounding Father of NAILS OF LA and a California-based nail extension specialist for celebrities like Megan Fox, Shay Mitchell, and Olivia Rodrigo, likes the form technique when used with a product like ORLY’s Builder in a glassThis gives you total control over your final product. “It’s easy to customize the length with them, and there’s a unique role positioning that adapts to the curvature of the nail so it looks very natural,”She said.

Eskander states that there are two ways to apply gel extensions. Pre-formed tips or forms are used to attach the gel extensions to natural nails like a pressing-on nail. While there’s a little less customization in terms of length, this method is just as long-lasting and effective. Either way your technician goes—built or pre-shaped—you’ll start the process like any other manicure, with the filling, cleaning, and buffing of your nails to prep for the extensions.

Orly GelFX Builder – in a Bottle
Orly GelFX Builder in a Bottle
Orly GelFX Builder – in a Bottle

How do gel nails extensions benefit your nails?

According to Boyce, gel extensions are literally more flexible for the end user, giving them a leg up on acrylics insofar as they aren’t as prone to damaging breaks, brittleness, and cracking. They’re also faster to apply than other types of extensions.

Eskander believes that the pros are just as useful. “A benefit of gel is that it allows you to safely grow out your nail by creating an overlay on the natural nail,”She said. “Your manicures also last longer than typical air-dry polish.”

Are gel nail extensions safe for nails?

While there are no serious risks or major negatives associated with gel nail extensions, it’s always a good idea to find a trusted manicurist or nail artist to apply your extensions. Eskander advises proper care and removal to ensure nail bed strength.

What’s the difference between acrylic and gel nails extensions?

Acrylics can be used to extend the length of the nail as well, but most nail artists and manicurists agree that they’re less ideal than gels for several reasons. “The real difference lies in the polymerization process, the density and flexibility of the extensions, and the removal process,”Boyce. “Acrylic is harsher on the nail plate, due to the chemicals used,” adds Eskander.

Because acrylic extensions are more complicated to apply and take off than gel, they can damage nails. “You have to buff the nail a lot more for it to adhere, which thins out the nail,”Boyce. “Plus, the removal process requires electronic filing, which is where most of the damage comes from.”

If you’re looking for any subtlety at all with your extensions, then gel’s probably the way to go. “Acrylics tend to be a stronger, rigid structure,” says Eskander. “Gel is more flexible and creates a more natural look.”

Gel nail extensions can last for how long?

“If done with quality and precision, gel extensions can last up to three weeks,” says Eskander. “At that time, you can either ‘gel a fill,’ which is basically applying gel between your cuticle and the area of nail outgrowth, or you can remove them fully and redo the entire service.”

Eskander states that this depends on whether gel was lifted during grow-out. Boyce claims that the gel lifting can be felt as early as 2 to 3 weeks after your nails are trimmed. That might mean you’ll want to go the fresh service route as opposed to filing.

What’s the best way to remove gel nail extensions?

When removing gel nail extensions, it’s best to have a professional technician service you so you don’t do any damage to your nails. Although gel extensions are often removed using acetone it will still require filing. It’s important to note that different pros fall into two camps on preferred removal processes.

Gilded Ritual, for instance, uses an efile removal method to reduce cuticle and nail exposure to Acetone. Boyce says some products, such as the ORLY Builder in a Bottle, can actually be removed at home in a pinch with foil removal wrappers if you can’t make it to a nail spa.

As a general rule, it’s best to seek out professional removal at the same salon where you got the service, since your technician will know exactly what type of gel product was used and how to best remove it.

The Manicurists’ Secrets

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