“The term ‘gel manicure’ is often misunderstood,” says Dasha Minina, a certified nail technician and founder of strengthening nail care brand Maxus Nails. “There are two types of gel manicures: gel nails and gel polish. Gel nails are an artificial nail enhancement that can be applied over the natural nail and used to extend the nail to make it longer. Gel polish is a colored nail polish in a gel form that is cured under a UV or LED lamp. Gel polish cannot be used for nail extensions. Gel polish itself does not ruin nails. I would blame most of the nail damage due to improper removal, or carelessness.”
In order to reduce the amount of damage that can be done, Minina says she highly recommends removing gel polish at home before you visit a salon because you then have the luxury of giving it enough time to come off of your nail so that scraping doesn’t become necessary. “It’s the scraping of the polish that is still attached to the nail that is ruining the nail plate,” she says. “The natural nail plate is roughly 100 dense packed cell layers, and each time you scrape the nail plate with a metal object (or try to peel the gel polish!) you are removing nail layers, leaving the natural nail plate thinner, weaker and more susceptible to breakage.”
The best thing you can do to remove a gel manicure is purchase pure acetone in a beauty salon shop and soak nails in the liquid until the polish can be removed without a great deal of effort, Minina says. If you must, a wood stick can be used to gentle guide some polish off the nail, but Minina suggests applying oil or moisturizer to the nails and skin surrounding the nails in order to keep the area hydrated.