Last March, on a visit to see my sister, I asked if we could get a manicure together. Now, she gets gel acrylics, and while I’d only gotten a manicure maybe twice in my whole life, something made me really want one that day.
“Sure,” she responded, “I’m due for a fill!”
This began my obsession with gel manicures, which has continued to this day. Unfortunately, a year is all it has taken to potentially ruin my nails.
When I was around eleven, my mom was still getting acrylic nails. She loved going, and I loved how they looked. I also loved going with her and watching the whole process, seeing everything come off, and then watching the nail technician rebuild a perfect manicure right before my eyes. I felt the same sense of wonder when I started getting my own nails done as an adult.
A few years into acrylics, however, my mom got a horrible fungal infection under one nail, and she had to stop getting them altogether after that. That fact alone made me fear fake nails.
I got a regular manicure for a formal dance, acrylics for prom (which I promptly bit off a few days later) and, for some strange reason, decided that I needed gel acrylics in 2011. I got them filled twice before giving up on them, though, and it took my nails weeks to recover.
I was working in retail and wanted to have nice nails, but this was at the lawn and garden department of my local Walmart. It was hard to maintain them while I was literally playing around in the dirt.
My nails have always been thin and have a tendency to peel and crack. When they get even a little on the long side, they bend forward awkwardly, which leads me to believe I might be a victim of eggshell nails.
Over the past year, they’ve gotten better, as far as the peeling goes, due in part, I believe, to the fact that I quit smoking, started eating better, and I started taking collagen regularly. Nail problems can result from any number of things, like your diet (which, for me, despite my best attempts, isn’t always the best) or any medications you take.
Yet despite these problems, I’ve always loved doing my nails. As a kid, I had such an obsession with nail polish that I would paint my nails, but then take the polish off the next day to paint them a different color.
I can’t say this was exactly good for my nails…but it was fun. As an adult, I’ve been pickier. I’ve learned how to make my manicures last at least a week with gel top coats and by doing my best to preserve my hard work.
But the magic of real gel manicures hooked me. On my nails, they would often last almost a month, and it was worth the investment for something that wouldn’t chip or flake the moment I got my hands wet. For a while, they even seemed to make my nails stronger.
Some of my friends warned me against them and insisted that even though they were still my real nails, the gel process would cause problems (there are lots of arguments both for and against gel manicures).
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I actually started seeing, and feeling, the repercussions of “the lamp.”
For months, I went to the same salon, which was just a few blocks from my old apartment. I never had a problem until I decided to get a pedicure (my first ever), along with my regular manicure.
While I was getting my toes done, they soaked my old manicure in acetone to remove it. Pretty customary, but the acetone began burning my hands.
It didn’t hurt that much, though, so I didn’t say anything…but by the time the technician returned to my nails and got them under the lamp, my cuticles, and the skin under my nails, were on fire. Still, I stayed quiet (why did I always stay quiet?). Maybe my skin was just too sensitive?
At my next manicure, the skin under my nails burned again, and my cuticles were extra dry afterward. I decided to switch salons, thinking that it would fix the problem, so I moved to a nicer place a few blocks away.
The whole time I’d been getting gel manicures, my nails felt stronger and didn’t break as easily, but at the new salon they used a dremel system to fleck the old polish off after soaking. Now, after my many manicures, my nails are feeling gross and thin. They’re also beginning to peel again.
So, I’ve decided to (try to) kick my manicure habit and go back to exclusively doing my own nails. I hope it does them some good, in addition to hopefully saving me a decent amount of money every month.
I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to find when I soak this last manicure to remove it, or if, like last time, I’ll lie to myself and go back to the salon and say, “Last one! Pinky promise.”