If you love the look of acrylic and gel manicures but aren’t into the risk of damaging your natural nails, Polygel might be the Goldilocks solution for your mani game. The hybrid polish basically takes the best of the longer-lasting options — aka the endurance and flexibility — but does it without harming your nails as much in the process.
Polygel is a true blend of acrylic and gel nail polish formulas. “It combines the durability of acrylic with the elasticity of the application of builder gel,” says Syreeta Aaron, an educator at LeChat Nails. The durability is impressive, too — a Polygel manicure should last an average of about four weeks, which is longer than most gel extensions. And, despite the polish’s staying power, it actually appears thinner and feels lighter on the nail.
One of the most appealing benefits of using Polygel, though, is how little damage it causes to the nail. “Gel manicures and acrylics can cause trauma and weaken your natural nails, so if you’re looking for a healthier alternative, Polygel is definitely worth considering,” Keesha Clark, owner and designer at Born Noir Nails, tells Bustle.
You don’t even have to hit up the salon for this kind of mani — read on for intel on how to do Polygel nails at home.
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How To Do Polygel Nails
1. Stock Up On Polygel Essentials
First things first: acquire Polygel. Aaron’s favorite is the polish from Gelish, a brand that happens to make things easy with its all-in-one PolyGel trial kit. You can also try the ModelOnes at-home kit, complete with a self-standing UV lamp — and if you’re looking for nail extensions to paint your long-lasting manicure on, they sell those, too.
2. Prep Your Nails (Or Extensions)
Next, set up your workspace as you would for any other DIY manicure. For reference, the majority of the Polygel process is similar to that of regular gel. “Prep the surface of the nail the same as you would to apply gel polish, including applying a dehydrator on the natural nail,” Clark says. “After that, a gel base coat is applied and cured with a UV lamp.” The standard curing time is 60 seconds per layer, but follow the specific instructions of the product you’re using.
If you’re using nail extensions, you’ll need to apply and prep your “form” (aka the extension) before applying your base coat. Once it’s in place, the base works to adhere the length to your nails.
3. Apply Polygel
Now it’s time to apply the Polygel, which Aaron says can be done one of two ways, depending on whether you’re using extensions. For your natural nails: Squeeze a small amount of the gel onto a metal tool, like a cuticle pusher or skin spatula (these make applying the thick polish easier), then transfer the gel onto your nails. From there, brush the polish onto the nail and let each layer set.
For extensions — or “tips” — brush the polish onto your preferred tip shape and length, then set. (This simply means less shaping later.)
4. Shape, Buff, & Cure Again
After your nails have been coated and cured, it’s time to shape and/or buff. This comes after the Polygel because the polish is so thick, says Clark, so it’s easier to work with the final product and smooth out any rough or uneven edges. A nail drill is not necessary, though Aaron adds that one could be beneficial if you are less experienced in manual filing.
Once you’ve achieved the ideal shape, apply and cure a gel top coat, and voila: You’re done!
How To Remove Polygel
There’s no special technique required to remove your mani — Polygels can be removed by soaking your nails in acetone, just like gels. But before you soak, Aaron recommends filing the hard top coat with a file to make the removal process easier. A regular nail file should suffice, though an “E-file” (or electric nail drill) may be necessary if the gel is on the thicker side, she says.
“Once that layer has been broken, soak your nails in acetone and continue to file until the application is completely gone,” Aaron says, noting that you’ll want to be patient and careful during this process. “As far as damaging to your nail plate, the removal makes all the difference,” she says. Whether you're using Polygel, regular gels, acrylics, you’re risking damage to your nails if you peel or tear them off — so give those tips some gentle TLC so they stay healthy and strong for your next manicure.