The One Sneaky Trick For Growing Out Your Nails

by Teresa Newsome
Asian young woman applying manicure and pedicure at home
monzenmachi/E+/Getty Images

Do you know someone who has been rocking the same gel manicure since gel manicures were invented? Like, it's not just a manicure anymore, it's a part of their body? Well, then congrats, because you've stumbled onto the one sneaky secret for growing out your nails. Kind of. This method involves a gel mani, but it's a specific type of gel mani. One you might not have ever thought about getting.

So picture the gel mani in question again. Those nails, they're right there, proudly rocking it out, long and strong. They're colorful on the tips, then shamelessly naked from the end of the gel ridge down. (Hey, there are a lot of really expensive Japanese manicures that look just like this on purpose, right?) OK, now picture those nails, but with one exception: they're rocking a clear gel mani. Mind blown? Mine was too, when I was first introduced to the concept.

See, gel manicures are kind of like armor for you nails. But not without a cost. They're hard to get off (you know you're not supposed to peel them off, right?) and since they last so long, you're kind of stuck with the same look for as long as you're willing to stand it. But a clear gel mani — you can paint it. Or at least, ignore it better while you grow out your nails. Here's how to do it.

1. Get A Clear Gel Mani

A clear gel mani is just a regular gel mani, but with clear gel UV polish. That's all there is to it. You can get it done in a salon, or you can do it yourself at home with a UV light, a layer of clear UV base coat and one or two layers of clear UV topcoat. The benefit to doing this at home, yourself, is because this method does require a little maintenance, which can mean a lot of trips to the salon. But if going to the salon is what you're into, then by all means...

Sensationail Gel Polish Starter Kit, Pink Chiffon, $25, Amazon

Nail Harmony Gelish UV Dynamic DUO Soak Off Base & Top Sealer Gel, $28, Amazon

2. Get A Hard Gel Overlay

If you want (or need) something even stronger than gel polish, you can get (or give yourself) a gel overlay. Clear builder gel looks like gel polish, but once you cure it under the light, it's hard like glass. It's what techs use when they put on gel extensions. You can use it to add some undetectable strength to your nails. This is the brand I use. It's crazy cheap but works like a charm. If you're into something more fancy, I'll include some others below it. Oh, and a tutorial! You're welcome. Gosh, I love you too. *blush*

Nail Art UV Gel Acrylic Builder, $4, Amazon

IBD Strong Clear Builder Gel, $23, Amazon

The stuff you need starts around 2:25.

Or this:

The videos mention bonder, which you can use, but I just clean my nails really well with alcohol and gently buff away the shine. This may work for you, or you might need a bonder.

IBD UV Nail Bonder Gel, $13, Amazon

3. Get A Good Base Coat

If you just want clear nails, you're done! Congrats! You have officially protected your nails against breaking and cracking like a nail care boss, which will finally allow them to grow! BUT... if you're like me and you need color in your life (and glitter, and lots of it) then you'll want to pain on top of your clear suit of nail armor. That involves topcoat. Topcoat is specifically designed for regular nail polish to stick to it. Clear gel, well, not so much. If you don't cover your nails in a regular topcoat, your polish will probably bubble and streak. No good.

Seche Vite Clear Base Coat, $4, Amazon

O.P.I Start to Finish, $14, Amazon

4. Celebrate With Color

Now that you have a good base coat on top of your gel, the world is your oyster. Here are some fun nail art tutorials for good measure. Remember, we're talking about good, old-fashioned nail polishes here, not gels. Oh and did I forget to mention? When you need to take off your polish with acetone, you're all good because it's not going to take off the clear gel. It might stain it tho, but a quick buff and re-seal with gel will fix that right up.


5. Maintain

If you're going to the salon, you can leave the maintenance up to them. Just keep using hand lotion and cuticle oil like a million times a day (no really. At least after you wash your hands, shower, and before you go to bed).

If you're doing your own maintenance at home with your own UV gels and light, you just need to let your nails grow out until you have too much naked nail to deal with. Then lightly file the top shiny layer so you get a dull surface. Do this to your natural nail too, ever so gently. Then add gel to your natural nail to fill in the gaps. You can do this if you're using builder gel or just gel base and topcoat. When you're done and everything has cured, just file away any mistakes, especially if there's a big bump where the new and old polish meet, then seal everything with a good coat of gel top coat.

Genius! Now you're going to have the longest, strongest, and also cutest nails of anyone you know. And you don't even have to share your secret if you don't want to.

Images: monzenmachi/E+/Getty Images; Giphy (5)