As someone who has identified as a chronic nail-biter for most of her life, I am (arguably) too invested in manicure culture. And I’m not talking about like, which mosaic design should I spend 4 hours and $98 getting licked on by kittens at Paintbox. I’m talking about the heavy-duty tools that transform my fingers from shredded nubs into somewhat respectable lady hands. In college, it was more about getting cool, claw-like nails for marking my territory the backdrop of latte art Instas. But at this point in my series of increasingly random jobs career, I’ve realized it’s a little gross to go in for a handshake when your nails look what can only be described as “freshly chewed.” Whatever reason you’re doing it, here are the pros and cons of various high-tech manicures.
SNS Powder Dip
SNS powder dip is not an artificial nail. It’s a different way of applying polish. Instead of painting on a liquid, the color comes from pigmented powder. Your nails will either be dipped into small containers of powder or the powder is painted directly on. You’re finished off with a top coat, and then—and this is my favorite part—you’re done. Totally dry, no UV light or 20 minutes under the regular dryers that still end with you ruining a nail as you walk out. This is meant to last up to three weeks (longer than gel), and it’s meant to promote nail growth. (The powder itself apparently has various vitamins or nutrients that do that; who knows what I believe.)
The biggest issue with powder dip right now seems to be that it’s only recently come back in style. So it’s hard to find a place that does it, and almost impossible to find a place that does it well. As for whether it’s better/worse for you than gels? While it’s promoted as a healthy alternative, most experts agree that it probably does the same amount of damage—just a different kind. Ultimately, my results were pretty good in some ways, and awful in others. Cons: it cost $45, they dipped my nails directly into the jars, and the color peeled off after a week and a half. Pros: the peeling process was super satisfying, I had zero chips, and my nails did grow back longer than ever. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat—but only at a different salon.
Acrylic nails are nothing new, but their popularity in mainstream culture has changed a lot in the time I’ve been alive. As a 90s baby, I spent my teenage years thinking acrylics were tacky. I spent my college years clicking “Follow” on every Kardashian’s IG and getting acrylics once a month. Ah, how times change. While acrylics have many cons that I will outline in a minute, I can tell you right now that if you want Kardashian nails, you are going to need to get acrylics. Full stop. I don’t care how naturally long your nails are already (and did I mention I hate you?). If you want that long, skinny “stiletto nail” shape preferred by our unofficial royal family, you shouldn’t try to impose that on your natural nails. They will break, one at a time, and your nails will not grow back evenly for six months.
Acrylics, on the other hand, are pieces of plastic glued on to your natural nail and then filed into whatever the f*ck you want by what I think of as a miniature power drill (and what probably has a different, real name). The process will be very long, especially if you want the acrylics to be a feasibly human length (think 90 minutes minimum). Acrylics will also kind of shred your real nails underneath, as in they’ll look terrifying and swamp thing-y when the nails first come off. I’ve found it’s nothing a strengthening clear coat and some cuticle oil won’t fix, but I wouldn’t recommend months of back-to-back acrylics with no break. So, cons: time-consuming, often pricey, requires fills every 2-3 weeks, and will have an unpleasant effect on your nails. Pros: this is the best your nails will ever look.
I’m assuming most of you know what gel manicures are. They’re the more expensive option to regular manicures, with the bonus of walking out with dry nails that will (allegedly) last longer than regular polish. Gel extensions, on the other hand, are an alternative to acrylics. The extensions themselves (the thing that is not your nail that you are attaching to your nail) are made of the same gel as gel polish, and you pick a size and shape to have attached to your natural nail, same as acrylics. Rather than being glued on, the gel extension is bonded to your nail using (surprise!) more gel. LED light then apparently bonds all this together, and voilà, you have a gel nail addition to your nail.
I’ve never personally tried gel extensions, because (con #1) I’ve found it even more difficult to track down than powder dip. However, I’ve seen it on friends and I think this has potential to be the best nail trend yet. I’ve never been crazy about the process of acrylics (the chemicals are good for no one involved, least of all the nail technicians). And somehow putting glue and plastic on top of my natural nails feels like something I should’ve left behind in middle school. That being said, I’m not about to give up the dream of having long nails I can loudly drum on countertops when I’m annoyed. That’s the right of every American. So, if gel extensions actually cause less damage to all involved? I’m on board.
(Sidenote that gel extensions are certainly the most expensive option on this list, since you will actually have to go to a bougie place to get them and pay bougie prices.)
And that’s all my wisdom! If you prefer natural-looking nails and yours are in need of some rehab, powder dip is the best investment you can make. If you’re looking for long-term glam that won’t shred your existing nails, write your congressman and tell him we need more nail salons that do gel extensions. (I kid! But not really.) And if you need Insta-worthy claws for an event this week and can’t afford to ball out on experimental new trends, acrylics all the way. Your friends who still call it tacky will eat their words when they see how f*cking good it can look.
Images: Luis Reynoso / Unsplash; Giphy (3)
There are many forms of slow torture out there in the world that I willingly inflict on myself. For example, editing my Bumble profile or listening to Hannah Baker’s extra AF voice for 13 episodes in a row. Also, gel manicures because they are secret sabotage. Don’t get me wrong, gels are necessary for surviving vacation, Starbucks selfies or showing off your engagement ring. They look good AF and their lifespan lasts longer than the Thai food currently rotting away in my fridge rn so it’s not hard to figure out why basics like myself love them. That being said, gel manicures are a trap and you SHOULD NOT FALL FOR IT. Sure, your nails might be living their best life now, but in 2-3 weeks they’ll start to go through this weird phase where they peel and chip and just generally look like shit but you can’t do anything about it because removing gels is more complicated than fucking rocket science. And over my hot, dead body will I spend the $10 removal fee at a rando nail salon. Like, you already get me for my monthly mani/pedi, eyebrow maintenance and bikini wax torture session. You don’t get
my dignity this too.
If you’re like me and you’ve tried—and failed—at home gel removal it’s probs because you didn’t actually know wtf you were doing and/or you were too busy trying to decide if the crimes were especially heinous during a Law & Order marathon. So here’s a guide for how to get rid of your gel manicure without having to earn a degree at MIT or visit one of the one million nail salons in NYC, you cheap asshole:
WHAT YOU NEED
Wine. As much as you can carry. This process could take longer than tonight’s episode of The Bachelorette and you’ll probably need just as much patience for this as you will to listen to all of the fuckboys try and explain their careers as “former athletes” to Rachel.
RACHEL: So, what do you do for a living?
FUCKBOY: Well, I’m a former athlete so
RACHEL AND ALL OF BACHELOR NATION:
Trust me, you’ll want the wine. But, like, in a more practical sense you’ll also need a nail file, acetone, StarPro remover (aka the good shit you always ask your nail technician about and she feigns a language barrier so she won’t have to give up her nail secrets), cotton balls, and aluminum foil. Jesus. Seriously hoping FreshDirect has this shit in their pantry section because I for sure don’t think they carry all of this at the bodega down the street. Don’t you wish you’d just spent the extra 10 dollars to have the professional remove them? No? Well just you fucking wait.
Buff away whatever is left of the top coat of your manicure. Consider this your arm workout for today because this shit is harder to get off than that guy you dated for 3 months who swears “this never happens to him”.
Drink more wine. It’s important to stay
hydrated buzzed throughout this process lest you give up halfway and your nails look even more jacked then when you started.
This is where it gets weird. You’ll need to soak cotton balls with acetone and put them on the top of your nail. Then use aluminum foil to wrap your finger. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you lose all mobility in your fingers. Fun. Soak for 10-15 minutes or when you feel like your skin might peel off your body. Whichever comes first. God, I feel so refreshed and nourished already.
Use a cuticle stick to push the remaining gel off your nail. Theoretically, this should come off pretty easily, especially if you soaked your nails for the right amount of time. If it’s not coming off easily then you fucked up and should probably just commit to drinking the rest of that wine. Once you’ve gotten the rest of the gel off, file your nails to your favorite shape (lol like any of us know how to do shapes and shit) and then buffer to round out any snaggly edges.
Cleanse your nails with rubbing alcohol. Tbh if you replace rubbing alcohol with Champagne then this is legit my strategy every Sunday morning when I wake up and realize all the ways I ruined my life the night before. It’s v therapeutic. Lastly, because your nail beds suck, apply cuticle oil to hydrate.
Congratulations, you’ve now removed your gel manicure. That or you’re just drunk and your nails still look like shit. Tbh it’s probably 50/50. But at least you can feel better knowing that you just spent 30 minutes of your life and $30 of your hard earned money (I’m including the wine and supplies here) doing something that would literally have cost you $10 at a nail salon with a complimentary neck massage thrown in. *chugs wine*