Dear Laurel: I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about gel polish and that it lasts longer than regular nail polish, but I am not sure whether or not I want to try it for myself. I am concerned that the gel will damage my natural nails. Is there one brand that is better than another? What is the average cost?
Laura ~ Bedford
Dear Laurel: Gel manicures are the latest rage in nail care and can keep your nails looking fabulously polished for two weeks. There are several gel polishes on the market with the most popular being Gelish by Harmony, Axxium by OPI and Shellac by Creative Nail. The main differences between the three major gel brands are; the color selections, how they are cured and how the gel is removed. The brand with the most selection of color is Gelish by Harmony with over 70 amazing colors to choose from. Axxium is second with approximately 50 and Shellac is third with approximately 24 shades of polish. Like all polish brands, there are some colors you will love and others you wouldn’t dare wear, so it’s important to seek out a nail salon that carries a wide selection of colors to choose from. There is typically no damage to your natural nails, because gel polish does not require any scuffing or filing of the nail bed. A dry manicure is usually performed to take care of unwanted cuticles and then the nails are simply cleaned and dried to prepare for the gel polish application. Most gels require use of a UV lamp to cure the polish to the natural nail. However, they should really be called UVA lamps, because they produce UVA light which is the safer form of UV light. A typical UVA bulb for nail lamps has a lower UVA intensity than sunlight, so exposure is minimal. In fact, you probably get more exposure driving your car on a sunny day than you would get by having your nail polish cured. Harmony’s Gelish polish is the only brand I know of that recommends curing under a LED light. An LED lamp uses less electricity and does not emit any UV radiation; therefore, many consider this a much safer and more desired choice.
The real concern with gel polishes seems to be how they are removed. Most gel polish brands require the nails to be filed and then soaked in acetone for a period of time in order to soften the gel for removal. The exposure to acetone is minimal, however, it is not necessary to soak the entire fingertip in order to remove the gel polish. Shellac actually designed specific “nail wraps” that hold a cotton ball soaked in acetone directly on the nail plate eliminating the need for soaking the entire fingertip. Harmony’s Gelish uses the same technique, yet uses cotton soaked in NON-acetone, as opposed to acetone, and a small piece of tin foil to hold it in place. Non-acetone is considered a healthier alternative to soaking in pure acetone and most gel brands can be removed using this method although most nail technicians tend to use acetone. High end salons may even offer to give you a hydrating paraffin treatment while you are waiting for your gel polish to soak off… this is truly a treat for your hands!
The cost for a gel manicure is different from one salon to the next, but typically runs anywhere from $25 to $45. This is a bit higher than a regular manicure, but when you consider the benefit of having fabulous looking nails for two weeks with only one manicure, it’s well worth it!
Dear Laurel: I have lash extensions and I love them! However, my boss just told me that her professional makeup artist said that they are a very bad idea, because they can cause the hair to coil inside the eyelid and ingrown hairs can form. She also said that bacteria can get in and that the lashes are too heavy for the eye. I love them and not sure if I should quit getting them done because of this information.
Jenn ~ via email
Dear Jenn: I have been performing eyelash extension services since they became popular a few years ago and I’ve never had anyone get an ingrown hair as a result of wearing them. However, your question did raise my eyebrow and I decided to put my investigative skills to the test and research this further. What I discovered is that although there are possible consequences to wearing eyelash extensions, if they are applied safely and correctly, the chances are slim that you would have an issue with them. The correct technique for applying lash extensions involves adhering one individual synthetic lash to one individual natural lash. This one to one lash application does not put too much excess weight on the natural lash. However, clusters of lashes (2 or 3 in a grouping) should never be bonded to one individual lash; they are too heavy for a natural lash and can cause your natural lash to fall out. This improper application can also enhance the chance for ingrown eyelashes (also known as Trichiasis) and in extreme cases, the natural lash may never grow back. Lash extensions should be applied at a distance approximately .5 to 1mm away from the root of the natural lash, never touching the eyelid, and only an FDA approved bonding agent should be used. This will help to reduce the risk of any contraindications as a result of the adhesive getting on the skin or, even worse, in the eye. There are some circumstances where an individual may not be a good candidate for lash extensions. If your lashes are too fine or thin, they may not be able to support the weight of individual synthetic lashes and the adhesive used to bond them. Those with oily eyelids may also want to consider an alternative, because the excess oil may cause the newly applied synthetic lashes to fall off quicker than normal. The application of strip lashes provides a great alternative for those who are not candidates for lash extensions. They are fairly easy to apply and can give a dramatic and glamorous look similar to eyelash extensions; however, they don’t look as natural and only last a few days.
When applied properly, lash extensions are a fabulous way to enhance your eyes. If you are having your lashes applied by a trained professional and haven’t had any issues so far, then it’s highly unlikely that you will. If you love wearing them, relax and enjoy them and keep on batting your beautiful lashes!
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