When it comes to getting a manicure at the salon, gel nails are a popular choice. Gel nails are made by a three-step process, which consists of brushing a base coat, nail polish, and top coat over your natural nails.
However, if you’ve never had your nails done professionally you might be wondering: How long do gel nails last?
In this article, I cover some key information about gel nails, from how long gel nails last to whether you should give your nails a break from the gel.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Can I just grow out gel nails?
Yes, provided that no lifting has occurred, you can let your gel nails grow out. Lifting is the peeling of the gel, and is down to unskilled application or occurs if the nails haven’t been properly prepared in terms of shaping and smoothing the edges. Lifting can happen as shortly as a few days after the application process.
The reason why you should not grow out the gel if lifting has occurred is that it can damage your natural nails. Peeling can lead to cracking and brittle nails, and it’s important to keep your natural nails in good condition so that they remain healthy and strong.
Over time, gels can damage your nails, and it’s important to take care of your nails between appointments at the salon to ensure that you keep them in good condition.
That being said, if lifting has occurred, gels should be removed properly by your manicurist with a special electric file to keep your natural nails in the best condition possible.
However, if the gel has remained intact, you can grow it out and file the length and the edges of the nail only, with the addition of the tips every now and then.
However, it’s important to note that gel polish is naturally very stiff and difficult to shape with a normal nail file. In most cases, a regular file is not capable of shaping the gel at all due to its sturdiness, so you may find that you need to go to a salon to have your gels removed.
Bonus tip: You might want to take a look at my guide on getting gel nails off. The better you handle this, the easier it’ll be and the less damage you’ll do to your nails.
How long do gel nails last?
When you compare gel manicures to regular manicures, gel nails last significantly longer without chipping. Generally speaking, gel nails last for around two to three weeks.
That being said, how long your gel manicure will last will largely be determined by how well you take care of them. You could have the best gel nail technician in the world, and you’d still chip them if you’re not careful and taking good care of them.
A standard gel nail polish can last anywhere between 5 to 7 days without chipping if you look after them well. Picking at gel polish, however, can harm your nails and will significantly affect how long the gel manicure lasts.
If you pick at the polish and peel it off, you will inevitably damage the gel. Additionally, picking at your nails will also peel away part of your natural nail, rendering it thinner and weaker.
Although you might not initially see the damage that you’re causing, picking gels can strip your real nails, so avoid doing this.
While you have a gel manicure, take extra care with hydrating products such as cuticle oil to ensure that your gel nails last for this period. This is especially important considering once you have your gels removed, you should give your nails a break.
Bearing this in mind, then, you’ll want to take care of them as best as you can during the time that you have your gels on and after your manicure is removed professionally.
How long should you leave gel nails on?
You should remove a gel manicure after two to three weeks maximum to avoid damaging the nail beds and cuticles.
Although it can be tempting to leave your gel nails on for longer, especially if you haven’t noticed any chips, it’s important to remove them after this period of time.
Considering how you shouldn’t get back-to-back gel nails as this can significantly damage your nails over time, your best option is to take care of your nails in between manicures as best as you can.
Overextending your gel nails or getting back-to-back manicures doesn’t give your nails the proper time to repair and can cause your natural nails to become brittle and prone to breakage.
Is it bad to get gel manicures back-to-back?
Have you ever felt like your nails feel weaker, and are more prone to breaking straight after you’ve had acrylics or gels removed?
It’s because they are! Yes, getting back-to-back gel manicures can cause a lot of wear and tear on your nails. While you might like having perfectly manicured nails 24/7, the process can be significantly damaging to your natural nails over time.
Although getting a gel manicure looks lovely, the perfect polish won’t matter if your natural nail is far from its optimum health underneath the layer.
Moderation is key when it comes to getting a gel manicure. While they might be your go-to manicure for a special occasion, such as a wedding or birthday party, there’s no getting away from the fact that getting gels regularly can damage your nails.
This comes down to the fact that getting gel manicures back-to-back can lead to nail dehydration and eventually your natural nails peeling, cracking, and breaking more easily than they used to.
As a result, you should make sure that you are giving your nails time to breathe by spacing out your manicure appointments. Giving your nails a break from gel manicures allows them the time that they need to repair to remain strong and healthy.
Alongside this, it’s important to have a professional nail technician assess your nail health between applications to determine if your nails could do with a break.
Should I give my nails a break from gel?
As is the case with most things, moderation is the key when it comes to booking yourself in for gel manicures. If you’ve recently had a gel manicure, then it is likely that your nails will benefit from a break from gel.
As I’ve discussed, the process of getting a gel manicure can dehydrate your nail. In addition to this, the process to remove gels also requires some thought and consideration if you’re thinking of getting gel manicures back-to-back.
A gel manicure requires a 10-minute acetone soak to loosen the gel that has been bonded to your nails. Acetone is a solvent and desiccates your natural nails, leaving them brittle and prone to peeling.
Additionally, many nail technicians don’t give the acetone a full 10 minutes and use harsh nail files or sanders to scrape off the rest of the gel. This, in turn, damages the natural nail further, making your natural nails incredibly prone to breakages.
It is generally recommended that you take a break from manicures every eight weeks before you get another set of gel nails to allow your nails to properly heal from this process.
It is also important to make sure that you are taking good care of your nails between manicures. Bearing this in mind, between polishes you should apply a moisturizing product, such as petroleum jelly, to your nails and cuticles several times daily. This will minimize brittleness and help prevent your nails from chipping more easily in the future.
What happens if you leave your gel nails on too long?
By overextending gel manicures, you can not only risk weakening your nails, but it also introduces potentially harmful bacteria. This is down to the fact that once the gel begins to lift, moisture can get under the gel which can lead to bacterial growth over time.
That being said, even if your nails look like they’re in good condition after this time period, you should still have them professionally removed to ensure that your nails aren’t at further risk of damage.
Although it is tempting to leave them on for longer to get your money’s worth, it’s important to your nail’s health that you remove your gels after two to three weeks.
It is also worth mentioning that it is always best to get your gel manicure removed by a professional. The process of removing gels can be damaging to your nails, and it’s the safest option to get someone with the right kind of experience to do it for you.
You might be tempted to try to remove it yourself, but your nail technician will advise against this. This simply comes down to the fact that nail technicians are qualified to work with acetone, and you will likely have little to no experience with the solvent.
As I discussed above, acetone is harsh on your natural nails, and you might resort to filing your nails if you become impatient when you try to remove your gels yourself.
Bits to Remember
All things considered, gel nails are a great option in moderation. Provided that you take good care of your gel nails, they last significantly longer than a standard manicure.
That being said, the process of getting and removing a gel manicure can cause a lot of wear and tear to your nails, and over time, your nails can become brittle and prone to breakages if you don’t give them the time to repair. Bearing this in mind, then, it is important to give your nails a holiday from gels regularly.
Better still, you should treat gel manicures as a treat to get every now and then, whilst caring for your nails between appointments.