Here's What To Know About Poly Gel Manicures

The pros and the cons.

poly gel extension manicure


For the better part of a decade, my only major New Year’s resolution was to stop biting my nails and picking at my cuticles. From the ages of 10 to 20, I looked at the resolution as a practical choice. It was solid—not too big of a goal and not too small. Doable, but still a noble cause. I tried everything from professional manicures to press-on nails to sheer willpower. No matter what, though, the second polish started peeling off my nail or I skipped a manicure for a week or two, the habit returned. Today, I’m almost 27 and I know myself well enough to know if I don’t have a fresh manicure the bad habit will return almost immediately, so I try to schedule regular nail appointments whenever possible.

Gel manicures have been helpful in maintaining polished nails for long periods of time (though, of course, the manicure has its issues, too), but once one nail chips or peels, it’s usually less than 24 hours before I’ve peeled them all off. The only thing that has helped me in the long-run? Acrylic nails. They’re nearly impossible to mess up and last for much, much longer than a gel manicure on a natural nail. If done incorrectly, though, acrylics can potentially expose you to a variety of chemicals. What’s more, the risk of exposure to chemicals even exists with perfectly done acrylics, and the process is never particularly cheap. Given all of this, I started to limit getting acrylic nails to a once-a-year treat. Even then, though, sometimes I would leave the salon thinking the nails looked unnatural or too long. When I saw poly gel extension manicures for the first time (on Instagram, where I learn about most new beauty trends), I actually thought they were just very, very well done acrylics.

In some ways, describing poly gel nail extensions as acrylic nails is the easiest description. The process and the materials used in the manicure, though, are actually quite different.

What Are the Pros?

Naomi Gonzalez-Longstaff is a celebrity manicurist and tells me she thinks poly gel is “one of the best nail enhancements” on the market right now. “It is formulated to be flexible like a gel enhancement with the durability of an acrylic, monomer/polymer combo. It offers the nail professional the time and space to really deliver on sculpting and constructing the most architecturally structured nail,” Gonzalez-Longstaff tells me. “It can certainly be used on natural nails as an overlay in creating a natural look. It also works very well when shaping around the cuticle area, designing the most perfect linear construction.”

Meet the Expert

Naomi Ganzalez-Longstaff is an international nail designer, artist, and celebrity manicurist. She's been working in the industry for over a decade. In 2011, she was recruited to work with CND, where she was able to hone her skills with acrylic and gel enhancements sculpturing, as well as continue her work as an editorial manicurist on various shoots.

And the Cons?

Gonzalez-Longstaff also mentions, though, the process is still fairly niche, meaning that many nail artists still have to properly educate themselves on the special technique.

While I live in a major city and was able to find a nail salon that did the technique (and had examples of their work to prove it), it did take a lot of research before I found a place I felt comfortable with. Now, though, there is no way I am ever, ever going back to either acrylics or a regular gel manicure. Poly gel, like acrylics, is certainly more expensive than a gel manicure, but in my experience it lasts almost twice as long. If you get a light nude or pink color, it’s hard to tell when the manicure has grown out a bit, making it last even longer than you might think. If you’ve never had nail extensions at all, the experience of having longer nails may be a bit strange at first, but if you do love a longer nail (or if, like me, you struggle with biting or picking at your nails), then poly gel is certainly worth considering. 

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