This is what your mindless picking is really doing to your nails

While a gel manicure is no doubt the absolute best, having to remove your gel polish can be anxiety-inducing. We know that all of the experts advise we go back to the salon and book in for a professional removal, but we also know, deep down, that the chances of that happening are slim. Because, well, the peel.

Is there any better feeling than a fresh set of gels? When the technician has gone to town on your cuticles, your nails are perfectly shaped and your pretty polish is glinting in the light, nothing can bring you down. Except for, you know, the fact they have to be removed in less than three weeks.

You know the drill. The minute your gels start to show even a hint of wear, the stress kicks in. You know you should go to the salon but time, money and life all get in the way. You sit for a moment contemplating your next move, and before you know it, you’ve become possessed by a Shellac-peeling demon and you just. can’t. stop.

You’re ashamed, upset and angered. Your nails are ruined. But, perhaps if you knew the damage you were really causing you’d be more inclined to resist.

Desperate to break your peeling habit? We’ve enlisted the advice of Celebrity Nail Artist, Jenni Draper to clear up any confusion around gel nails to make sure you know what’s really at stake when you start peeling…

What is a gel manicure?

Unlike normal polish, gel polish is not easily chipped or removed, making it a great long-lasting alternative to your regular colour. Once set under a UV light, your gel manicure shouldn’t budge for 2-3 weeks. Jenni explains: “Gel cures and hardens under a UV or LED light. When it’s completely cured, it creates a chemical bond between the surface of the nail and the gel.”

What are the signs that a gel manicure needs removing?

While gel manicures undoubtedly have a much longer lifespan than your standard mani, that’s not to say they are totally indestructible. Besides the obvious issue of grow-out, gels do eventually start to show signs of wear and tear, usually after a couple of weeks. “The first signs that a gel mani might need removing come in the form of lifting, chipping and regrowth. Everyone’s nails are different so, to prevent any of this happening, I advise booking another appointment after 2-3 weeks,” says Jenni.

What should you do when your manicure starts to lift?

This is where temptation really kicks in. Over time, the bond between your nail and the polish starts to break down, causing the gel to lift away. And while we really do get how annoying it is, we urge you not to start picking or peeling. To help delay and prevent lifting, Jenni says it’s imperative to care for your mani. “Keeping them oiled daily will help prevent the nails drying out and lifting away from the gel too.”

But what about when it inevitably does begin to lift? We hate to say, but you really do need to book another salon appointment. “If your gel has chipped or lifted and you’re not ready for a full removal, you should go into the salon for a repair,” say Jenni. And you might want to think twice before you attempt a DIY job and try fixing it yourself. “If there’s moisture or bacteria underneath the gel that’s lifted and you glue in down, it can trap the bacteria and cause an infection.” Gross.

What happens if you can’t resist the peel?

If you’re the impatient type, it can be all too tempting to peel off the entire gel as soon as it starts to lift. And wow does it feel satisfying once you’ve got started. However, after you’ve peeled off every last trace of gel, the satisfaction soon diminishes and inevitably evolves into pure self-loathing as you look down at your butchered nails. Dry, rough, brittle and weak, your beautifully manicured nails are now merely a memory.

Jenni explains: “Peeling off your gels might feel good at the time, but as you peel it’s important to remember that you’re not just removing the gel, you’re actually removing a layer of your nail. Naturally, this will weaken the nail and is generally where any gel-inflicted damage to the nails comes from – bad removal!” And we’re afraid the news worsens. Once you have committed the ultimate mani crime, there’s little you can do to repair the damage. “Your nails don’t repair themselves. Eventually the damage will grow out but this can take up to 6 months,” warns Jenni.

How should gels be removed?

To help minimise the likelihood of a peeling situation occurring, we advise booking in for a removal while you’re in the salon getting your manicure done. Knowing that you have an appointment for removal booked in helps eradicate any ‘last resort’ justification for removing the gel yourself. “Any reputable salon will do this properly.  Nails should be soaked in an acetone based solution for approx 10 minutes. After this time the gel should lift easily off the nail bed without any force, heavy filing or drilling. Nails should then be rehydrated after removal,” says Jenni.

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