Have you ever had a fresh manicure smudge the minute you dug into your wallet for a credit card or gotten a chip on red nails zipping up your jeans? Those days are history, thanks to manicures that go bone-dry in minutes and last weeks. If you’re wondering what color polish will rock your paws, whether to opt for a gel or dip powder and which nail shape truly flatters mature hands best, read on! I asked celebrity nail guru Deborah Lippmann, who has her own eponymous line, for tips to go along with my own beauty editor advice. Here’s how to nail your next manicure if you’re:
1. New to gel manicures
Thinking about switching from regular polish to a gel? Lots of women are doing exactly that since gel polish extends a manicure’s wear and shine to two stress-free weeks. Applied just like regular polish over a base coat and “cured” (that is, hardened) with a UV lamp between coats and after a topcoat, gel polish has the extra-strong adherence that sticks to the nail bed (thanks to polymers in the formulas). And yes, it’s more expensive. While a regular salon mani is about $20, a gel manicure is $25 to $50 and polish removal about $10 to $20 — prices vary depending on the salon and location.
The big issue with gels is improper removal that results in damage, so resist any impulse to peel off the polish on your own and head back to the salon.
- Ask for “soak-off” gel polish in the first place, then be sure the nail tech applies acetone-soaked cotton balls wrapped in aluminum foil to each nail for 10 minutes. Avoid using a nail drill for removal, since that will also harm the nail surface.
- At-home gel manicure kits and LED lamps do exist, but let’s be honest, they are complicated and require skill, patience and dedication. (Just see tip number 4 for a safe, long-wear DIY manicure choice.)
2. Deciding between dip powder, gel and shellac
The menu of salon nail options for extended color and shine can be confusing. For example, “shellac” (often referred to as a gel) is actually a trademarked hybrid of regular polish and gel, while gels are pure gel. Gels typically last longer, but shellac soaks off more easily. Dip powder manicures are a next-level option and cost more — $30 to $70 — but there’s a major difference. “Dip powder manicures offer an even longer life span — often four weeks — and no use of UV rays,” Lippman says. In a dip manicure, the nail tech dunks each nail in pigmented powder which is then sealed with an activator and air-dried; it is removed with acetone-soaked cotton balls, similar to gel. To recap: Gel, shellac and dip powder manicures offer flawless, chip-free long-wear color; dip powder does not require UV or LED light to set, while gel and shellac manicures do. Lippman advises that hot water is the enemy of all three. That means any dishwashing or household chores minus gloves and any soaking in a hot tub or even a steamy shower or bath can wreck your mani in a flash. Pampering your hands daily is a must.