After our initial love affair with gel manicures, many women began questioning whether the long-lasting nail treatment is more trouble that it’s worth. In addition to using skin-damaging UV light to seal the polish, many are finding that their nails and cuticles are suffering big-time when they try to remove the polish and wind up peeling it off–along with parts of their nail.
As an alternative, some nail salons started offering a treatment they call the “gel powder manicure,” the “powder gel manicure” or the “acrylgel manicure.” According to Nancy Reagan, CEO of Bella Reina Spa, the application technique typically goes something like this: one coat of a sticky gel polish is applied to the nails. Next, they’re dipped in powder and, sometimes, cured under a UV or LED light. The technician may dip twice in the powder.
Now we’re all for alternatives, but upon further research, this new option may not be much better for your nails after all. Without the infamous “A” word being thrown around in the nail salon, because acrylic has a bad reputation for fungus, Reagan says you may simply be getting a fancier version of an acrylic manicure. Rather than a safer gel manicure, you may simply be paying for thin coats of gel with acrylic powder. “Some of the powders are extra fine, but the powder is acrylic,” she says. “Some [technicians] will even tell clients that the powder is calcium, Vitamin E and good for the nails.”
The biggest problem with acrylic powders, Reagan says, is that if someone is chemically sensitive to them, the slightest amount of acrylic is going to cause their lymphatic system to go into overload. And, of course, aesthetically, they can do a number on nails, causing the same kind of dryness and breakage associated with gel manicures.
Some brands, like NexGenNails, boast that their manicure is a healthy alternative to acrylic, but they still do use acrylic powder or methyl methacrylate. The difference, says Mike Le at NexGenNails, is that they don’t use other chemicals that are found in the process of creating acrylic nails. “Nail primer, which is used for adhesion, is pretty much acid, and that is why it burns when applied,” Le says. “Then, there is the liquid monomer which is used to shape the acrylic. That’s the liquid that is usually blue in color and has a very strong odor–that is why most salons smell so bad. With the dipping process we have eliminated the two main bad ingredients in artificial nails.”
The powder gel nail manicure may not be a “true” acrylic or gel manicure in the traditional sense, but it’s important to know that acrylic powder is still being used on your nails. Fortunately, some companies, including NexGenNails are striving to make theirs a healthier alternative.