What to Know Before Getting Your First Set of Gel Extensions

From pre-care to post-care.

Updated 11/04/19

If you're like me, you need all the help you can get in the nail length department. And, if you're also like me, you've likely already tried everything from biotin supplements and religiously applying cuticle oil to incessantly using strengthening base and topcoat in hopes of promoting longer, stronger nails. That's why it's time to talk about gel extensions.

The popular nail technique adds long, durable tips to the end of each nail to provide more room for nail art and polish in general. The only prerequisite is that your nails can't be bitten to the quick. "For a gel extension, your nail needs to have a little length, not a ton but just a bit," says Chicago-based manicurist, Ellegra (a.k.a. Lady Legs). "If your nails are too short there isn’t anything for the extension to stick to."

So, if you have short tips (or the wherewithal to grow them out the tiniest bit), keep reading to discover a nail technique that could very well be the answer to your beauty-inspired prayers.

How to Create Gel Extensions

When it comes to actually creating gel extensions, Lady Legs relies on a couple of different techniques. "I use a nail form, which is basically a sticker that goes under the free edge (the tip) of your nail, and use the form to extend the length of your nail," she explains. "Or there’s a newer product called Aprés Gel-X, which is a full soft gel nail tip that you secure on the natural nail with their extend gel — it's my preferred method of gel extensions.

The Timeline of Gel Extensions

According to Lady Legs, the lifetime of gel tip extensions depends on how you use your hands—for some people, they'll last two weeks; for others, they'll last four to five. "I suggest having a manicure every 12-16 days. You’ll have natural grow out after that time," she says.

How to Ensure Gel Extensions Won't Damage Your Nails

Like gel nails and acrylics, gel tip extensions have a reputation for being damage. However, according to Lady Legs, they're only detrimental to your nail health if they're not removed properly. "Aprés are soft gel so they completely soak off like a regular gel manicure," she explains, noting that intense buffing isn't required. However, like regular gel nails, Lady Legs does recommend getting gel extensions removed by a professional—preferably the one who applied them so that they know exactly which type of gel they're removing so that damage is less of a possibility.

Why Gel Extensions Are Worth It

Much like any other manicure look, the benefit of gel nails is personal. While they undoubtedly create more room for popular nail art, Lady Legs reminds that nails of all lengths can get in on that trend. "The only nail art trend that works better on a clear gel extension is a 'jelly mani' where the polish is sheer," she notes.

Therefore, in the end, she boils it down to one simple question: "Do you want your nails long?" she asks. "Get extensions."

Gel Extension Ideas to Inspire Your Next Mani

01 of 05

Clear Gel Extensions

Easy to wear completely naked or paint over with your favorite lacquer.

02 of 05

Pink Ombré Coffin Nails

ICYMI: Pink ombré nails are the modern update on the classic French manicure. And, hi, we're here for it.

03 of 05

Rose Gold Beauties

These pretty-in-pink stiletto nails are that much more eye-catching thanks to their glittery accent nails. For an even more head-turning allure, consider mixing your metals with rose gold, silver, and gold nail details.

04 of 05

Jade Tips

These gel extension nails are trendy for three reasons: 1) They're crystal-inspired, 2) almond-shaped, and 3) they feature negative space.

05 of 05

Baby Pink Flames

Here's proof that your nails can look fire without being dark and edgy.

A Final Tip

Lady Legs says that some salons have manicurists upselling their gel extensions when they're really acrylic. "Gel comes in a pot and looks thick like honey; acrylic is a powder. Know the difference," she notes. 

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