Getting pedi about soak-off nail gels

Posted on April 29th, 2010 by Michelle

The latest nail craze, soak-off gel polish, could make your manicure last two weeks or more without chipping or cracking, but there are some downsides to it as well.

First of all, what exactly are soak-off gels?  Unlike nail gels that add length, soak-off gels look like polish but as each layer is applied (base, two coats of color, top coat), it is dried and hardened under a UV light.  When you’re done, your nails are as dry as the Sahara and as hard as … well, you know.

One of the catches, though, is getting it off again, something you will have to do frequently if you want to change colors.  Soak-off gels are called that for a reason.  Removal, which is tricky to do at home, involves wrapping fingers or toes in pads soaked with acetone or a specially-made remover for anywhere from 15-30 minutes.  We already avoid removers containing acetone, which the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database gives a 5 on its hazard scale, because of potential health risks, so having to soak our nails in it for that extended amount of time raises a red flag.  It’s also something to keep in mind if you change your nail color often.

Additionally, the soak-off gels also may not be a long-term solution for everyone.  Cracks and chips will likely occur when applied to nails that are dry and flaky to begin with, although one brand, Bio Sculpture, earns praise for helping to strengthen weak nails.

Manis and pedis with soak-off gels are also going to cost you more than the traditional paint job, too, possibly 50 percent more, like the Shellac brand that debuts in salons on May 1.  And having it removed ain’t free, either.  You’ll have to do your own dollar-cost averaging to decide if a manicure that lasts longer is worth paying more for.

Despite the arguments against, we do like the idea of a pedicure that could last a month and look as good as it did on Day 1.

And polish makers are hoping to attract women like Michelle, who don’t really think a mani is worth the cost because it’s smudged before they even get home, or their nails grow exceedingly fast leaving that obvious line of demarcation where color ends and nature begins.  There are ways around that though: Some pros suggest going clear near the cuticle and color toward the tip.  Those that have used the soak-off gels note that OPI’s 40 Axxium gel shades have matching lacquer shades that can be used to cover the grow-out.

With about eight different soak-off gels on the market (Akzentz, Bella Forma, Bio Sculpture Color Gel, CalGel, Dashing Diva Gel Life, IBD, OPI and Shellac – all products purchased from salons) odds are they’re offered at a salon near you.  The bigger question is: Are they worth it?

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A short history of cosmetics

150BC Romans use yellow eye shadow.

The Romans preferred to use gold-colored eye shadow which was made from saffron and painted onto the area around the sides and under their eyes. Then they used powdered wood ash to color their eyelids black. This gold color was quite significant at the time because they saw themselves as the rulers of the Mediterranean.