Highway to Gel

Gel Nails

Gel NailsThe ever-growing popularity of smartphones and tablets put hands and fingers—and nails—on display at all times, which makes unkempt nails difficult to hide. Luckily, manicures offer a feel-good factor at a relatively affordable price. That is one reason why gel nail services are more popular than ever today. Because of this rapid growth, beauty and nailcare companies continue to look for ways to capitalize on this trend with the introduction of innovative gel formulas and technologies.

Seeing the Light

Many of the recent updates in gels come from the quest to offer healthier options. “Gel polishes require an LED or UV light to dry or ‘cure’ the product, creating a more durable, virtually chip-resistant result and a thicker, cushioned appearance,” says Leena Jain, vice president of marketing at Essie Professional. Traditional gels rely on UV lamps to cure, but many of today’s soft gels are also compatible with LED lamps, which is a major trend in gel nails today. LED lamps not only speed up the curing process (nails typically cure in about two minutes under UV lamps but can cure in less than a minute under LED lamps), but they also give peace of mind to spa-goers who might be hesitant to expose their skin to potentially harmful UV light, an issue that has plagued gel manicures since their inception. While research shows that the risk of developing skin cancer due to exposure to UV light during a manicure is minimal, exposure is still exposure, and for many spa-goers, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

CND’s new Shellac Brisa LED Lamp, for example, features alignment guides for proper hand placement to ensure light exposure only to the nail area and 3C technology, which consists of two light beams for longer wear and shine of Shellac and Brisa formulas and time-controlled pulsing for a precision cure.Gel Nails

Similarly, Essie Gel is cured using the company’s Professional LED Lamp for a safer gel experience. Essie Gel was designed to fortify nails and deliver up to two weeks of color and shine and features a unique keratin-care technology, which helps leave nails in great condition after removal. The professional LED lamp, however, is truly innovative because it boasts an ergonomic design to comfortably accommodate manicures and pedicures; a 360-degree interior mirror finish ensures light distribution, and a time-memory sensor and automatic activation streamlines the process and ensures accuracy. “Another bonus with Essie Gel—all our coveted seasonal color collections are now available in gel formulas,” says Jain.

Consider the Alternatives

LED lamps provide hesitant spa-goers with a faster and safer experience, but some are still wary of the removal process even with new-and-improved soft gel formulas. While filing associated with hard gels is the most aggressive approach to gel removal, soak-off gels can also present an issue if improperly removed. If nail technicians do not soak the formula long enough to break the bond between the gel and the natural nail, it can cause cracks and scrapes on the clients’ nails. CND created a solution to harsh filing and excess exposure to acetone with the new Shellac Brand Xpress5 Top Coat, which provides long-lasting and high-performance wear and is easily and quickly removed using Shellac Nourishing Remover, which contains healthy ingredients to help reduce dehydration of nails and the surrounding skin and eliminate the appearance of whiteness. “While we don’t categorize Shellac Brand as a traditional gel polish, at CND, we have been working in the lab for five years to develop a top coat that offers faster removal time,” says Jan Arnold, cofounder and style director at CND. “By adding Shellac Brand Xpress5 Top Coat to services, removal time can be cut down to only five minutes. With faster removal time, spas can save time and money, and clients are reassured that their natural nails aren’t being damaged with harsh filing or excess exposure to acetone.”

One of the benefits of gels is that the high-shine polish can last for up to three weeks, but that can also be a downfall if spa-goers want to sport a different color in between. As a result, some new formulas, like Orly Gel FX, are now acetone-resistant, making it easy for clients to change their nail color in between services. “Gel FX is acetone-resistant, so if you want to change the color of your gels, you can simply apply a regular lacquer on top of your gel and remove with acetone, while keeping the under layer perfectly intact,” says Catherine Baek D’Ambrosia, director of global education at Orly and SpaRitual.

In addition, to satisfy the desires of many spa-goers who want a long-lasting manicure without the commitment of a gel polish, Orly introduced the Epix Flexible Color system, which can be applied and removed conveniently like regular nail lacquer (no filing or soaking involved)—but it lasts up to a week. Its Flexible Sealcoat fuses with the color to create a durable layer while creating a seal around the edges of the nails to lock in color. It also dries in less than eight minutes when exposed to natural light. “This appeals to clients who want the combined benefits of a gel and a lacquer in one product,” says D’Ambrosia. CND has a similar polish called Vinylux, which is formulated to last up to seven days because of Pro-Light technology in the Weekly Top Coat, which helps to increase durability and prevent chips. Deborah Lippmann also recently introduced Gel Lab Pro, a new and improved professional system that serves as an alternative to gel manicures. The hybrid gel base and top coat deliver high shine and extended wear without the use of UV lamps and can be easily removed with any nail polish remover. They also feature biotin and green tea extract to help nourish nails. Spa-goers can also opt for SpaRitual Gold, a two-step flexible color system, that creates a long-wearing manicure without the use of a lamp or intense removal methods.

Designed to Sell

In addition to new and innovative technologies, formulas, and colors, nailcare companies are making it easier than ever for nail technicians to achieve grand designs to enhance the look of gel nails. “Gel polishes now come in a variety of cool colors, and technological developments allow you to get a great nail design and great nail protection at the same time,” says Hiroko Fujikawa, owner of Mars The Salon (Los Angeles). Also, because many of today’s gel formulations are thinner, much like regular nail enamel, according to Jain, nail artists can play a bit more with the color, even create nail art, which in the past was harder to achieve with gels.

According to Chad Conger, director of research and development at OPI, OPI GelColor, which is a removable gel polish that goes on like traditional nail polish, cures in 30 seconds, and can last up to two weeks. It features an “oil-paint viscosity,” which makes creating nail designs easy. What’s more, the company is focused on educating nail technicians on mastering nail designs using OPI GelColor as well as marketing nail art to clients with its OPI DesignScape classes, which are offered seasonally.

According to OPI ambassador Elsa Barbi, popular nail art trends today include nail techs using everything from embellishments, geometric shapes, negative space, and stamping techniques on gel nails. In fact, CND’s Arnold noticed an unexpected clash between gritty street elements and elegant details for a combination of glamour and grunge this past fall. “Nails evoked an edgy narrative with blackened pigments and heraldic ornaments,” she says. “Enhanced almonds in purple and red are deepened and oxidized with smoked pearl and steel finishes.” The trend this winter and holiday season, however, was crystalline essences with icy, glistening finishes. “Shapes ranged from the elegantly slender almond to a naturally subtle square, with shimmer that evokes the glint of sun setting across the snow,” says Arnold.

As more clients discover the benefits of gel nails and as nailcare companies continue to develop new-and-improved formulas, the demand is sure to continue growing. “Gel technology has come a long way since its original introduction,” says Jain. “From the formulas, texture, color offerings, application, and removal, nail companies have created technology that is greatly improved. What we are seeing on the market today is not only a durable nail result but also a safe formula that looks and feels like a regular enamel.”

These companies win hands down for their innovative gel offerings.

1. Amber Products Solo All-In-One Gel Polish: Deliver extended wear, dynamic color, and high-gloss shine with this patent-pending, solvent-free gel. It is available in more than 50 shades, including Berry Happy (shown). store.amberproducts.com

2. CND Shellac Spring 2016 Art Vandal Collection: Art inspired the new shades, including Untitled Bronze, Art Basil, Magenta Mischief, Digi-teal (shown), Mauve Maverick, and Future Fuchsia, which deliver high-performance wear and crystal shine with easy glide-on application. www.cnd.com

3. Color Club Gel Simple Soak: Featuring a non-acetone formula, this citrus-scented soak removes gels in five to eight minutes without irritating sensitive skin. www.colorclub.com

4. Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro: A healthy alternative to gel manicures, the base coat and top coat are infused with 10 active ingredients that deliver the high-gloss and extended wear of a gel without UV lamps, tools, or nail damage. www.deborahlippmann.com

5. Essie Gel Winter 2015 Collection: Made to match a luxurious ski resort, this gel collection of six wintery hues showcases seductive reds, including Shall We Shalet (shown). www.essie.com

6. Gelish Kung Fu Panda Winter 2015 Collection: With a patent-pending formula, this collection includes six long-lasting shades—Extra Plum Sauce (shown), It’s Gonna Be Mei, Kung Fu-chsia, Po-Riwinkle, Tigress Knows Best, and Warriors Don’t Wine. www.gelish.com

7. OPI GelColor Hello Kitty 2016 Collection: A dozen limited-edition gel shades, including Look at My Bow! (shown), celebrate all things happy, cute, colorful, and sweet. www.opi.com

8. IBD LED/UV Builder Gel Intro Kit: Perfect for clear gel overlays and new sculpting techniques, this kit consists of four builder gels including: Clear, Clear Builder, Intense White Builder, and Pink Builder (shown). www.ibdbeauty.com

9. Orly Gel FX Melrose Collection: Inspired by the famous indie shopping mecca in Los Angeles, the spring 2016 collection is formulated without DBP, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and toluene, and features a mix of funky hues, including Vintage (shown). www.orlybeauty.com

10. SpaRitual Gold Flexible Color System: The hybrid shades, including Adorn (shown), feature smudge-repairing technology for a durable, high-shine manicure that lasts up to twice as long as lacquer. www.sparitual.com

Read more on