How To Care For Your Nails After Many, Many Gel Manicures, Because It's About More Than Just Hydration

Is there anything worse than leaving the salon after a fresh manicure and immediately smudging your polish as you try to fish out your keys? Probably not. That awful moment is exactly why gel manicures are so popular right now. After a certain age, chipped polish doesn't look cute; it's just kinda sloppy and unprofessional. Right or wrong, we live in an extremely image conscious world that often assumes that appearance reflects competence. Not to mention, doing your nails/getting them done is majorly time consuming. We can't afford to be re-painting them every other day! So it's no wonder that thousands of women are addicted to regularly shelling out $35 for the glossy, chip-free two weeks that shellac promises... even as we continue to have questions about it's overall safety.

Strong nails are healthy nails and, as great as they are, gel manicures can lead to weak nails and other damage. Don't worry, you don't have to swear them off forever! Healthy nails and beautiful polish aren't mutually exclusive, as long as you follow some simple rules to stave off common post-gel woes.

1. Keep Nails Hydrated

Although gel is notorious for causing brittle nails, all polish is severely dehydrating to nail beds so keeping nails properly hydrated should be a top priority for everyone. Nails are made up of layers of keratin (yup, just like your hair) that can separate when exposed to water, air and chemicals making nails brittle. To fill in the gaps, soak nails in vitamin e oil the night before a gel manicure and after removal. This will help protect your natural nails from damage incurred by gel polish as well as speed up recovery time post lacquer. Also, use a cuticle oil every single day (even when nails are naked.)

2. BYOB(ase coat)

Bring a bottle of the miracle pre-gel treatment IBX to the salon and have your manicurist use it instead of a base coat for extra protection. It acts a shield against the chemicals in gel polish, so they'll never actually touch your nails.

3. Keep It Short

Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner both rock the long manicure like nobody's business but keep your own nails filed short when using gel. Why? Gel polish softens nails, leaving them thin and prone to snagging, which in turn can lead to painful broken nails and even infections.

4. Use Sunscreen

While you should be aware of the increased exposure to ultraviolet rays from those drying lamps in between coats of polish, most doctors seem to agree that the odds of the lamps causing melanoma are small. UV rays do frequently cause premature photoaging (think loss of collagen, changes to pigmentation, and wrinkles) so before sitting down ask if the salon has LED dryers available. If traditional lamps are the only option, make sure to apply sunscreen evenly from fingers to elbows about 20 minutes before your appointment.

5. Don't Ever Peel

It's super tempting to just peel off your gel manicure once it does start to chip, but please resist! If you don't feel like hitting the salon, you can remove gel polish at home by opening a window, scraping the top layer off with a gritty file, and then soaking fingers in pure acetone. Remember that acetone is a toxic substance so only leave nails in it for as long as it takes to remove the polish (about 15-20 minutes) and immediately wash hands with warm water and soap. Buff nail beds to remove any residue as well as increase blood circulation and finally massage a thick moisturizer like Aquaphor into cuticles. If nails look particularly rough, try a strengthening treatment like CND's Toughen Up. Most experts agree that nails need oxygen to be healthy so give them a break by avoiding back-to-back gel manicures as much as possible.

Images: @diosmioitskara/Instagram; Giphy