It didn’t take long for gel manicures–with their glossy sheen and long-wear application–to take the beauty world by storm. Who doesn’t want chip-free polish that can see you through an entire pay period? But sadly, between the damage that removing the gel does to your nails and the risks associated with UV light exposure, the shine may have come off the nail, so to speak.
But what if there was a product that could give you long-wearing polish without all the harsh side effects of a gel manicure?
Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Set ($45)
With all the typing that I do in an average day, my manicures never survive more than three or four days without some chipping. So when a friend told me about Deborah Lippmann’s Gel Lab nail duo, I ran right out to buy it.
The system is fairly simple: You apply a coat of the base coat, and plow that to dry for two minutes. Then apply two coats of your polish, allowing each to fully dry. Lastly, you apply the top coat for a glossy finish.
In addition to allowing each layer to dry completely, you need to make sure that the base and top coats cover every square millimeter of your nail. If you miss even a whisper of an edge, that is where the first chip will appear. So don’t worry about glomming it on, you can always carefully clean up the excess later with some nail polish remover.
For those of us who do the at-home manicure, a product like this is a lifesaver. I do fairly well with my OPI Chip Skip and my Seche Vite Quick Dry Top Coat, but the Gel Lab set buys me at least a few extra chip-free days. Not a full two weeks mind you, but at least a full week. And since I so rarely find time to paint my nails anymore, this product helps me make the most of the times when I do. It’s a bit expensive for a base and top coat, but if you’re saving by polishing at home, I think it’s worth it for a manicure that lasts twice as long.
Also, if you like salon manicures, you might consider buying the Gel Lab and asking your manicurist to apply it for you.
As for lacquer recommendations, my favorite Lippmann shades are Harem Silks Bombay (a glorious purple), Ruby Red Slippers, and her Space Oddity set, containing a greige, a gold glitter and a platinum glitter.
Thanks for sharing this, Belle! I was late to the gel manicure party, but now I swear by it. I haven’t asked my salon yet, but it looks like the trick (if you’re concerned about skin cancer) is whether or not the salon uses a UV light vs an LED light. More info here if you’re curious: https://fashionista.com/2013/03/how-nail-salons-are-reacting-to-the-new-uv-gel-manicure-skin-cancer-warning/
Meaghan @ New York Views and Nike Shoes says:
This is great- I love having manicured nails but hate paying for it. I’ll have to look into it! While on the topic- I just bought Essie Quick Dry top coat and it is TERRIBLE. I am so disappointed! Back to the cheaper brand, I guess!
Can this be used with any Essie/OPI polish or does it need to be used with a specific kind of Deborah Lippman polish?
My weak nails are never all the same size and shape if left to their own devices. So I get clear acrylic nails and paint them with regular polish. No need for uv light, I don’t have to sit there soaking them forever and the whole thing isn’t scraped off each time. I go every two weeks and unless I have a very dark color, the worn polish at the tips is barely noticeable by my next appointment. Even then that’s easy enough to touch up on my own if I want too. I keep them very short and rounded and people often think they’re my natural nails.
Wondering how this would work with the matte finish polishes..?
I use Dior’s Gel Coat. It’s a top coat that finishes like a gel manicure but doesn’t ruin your nails. You also don’t need a special base coat (although I really like the Orly bonder base coat). It works really well and it’s $24. I highly recommend it for ladies who don’t want to spend as much.
For a less expensive option I use Vinylux Top Coat. This keeps me looking like a Kennedy in the hand department for 7-10 days!
Can you use with any nail polish?
You should be able to. It may work a bit better with DL polishes, but it should work with any polish.
I have been wondering about this. Thank you for sharing!
Butter London also has a Patent Gel set that I just purchased but haven’t tried it yet. https://www.butterlondon.com/Gift-Sets/Patent-Gel-Top-Tails-Set.html
Seconding the Vinylux alternative.. my salon offers that for slightly cheaper than Shellac — it is the way to go!
Thirding the Vinylux suggestion! The colors are matched to Shellac, but they have even more shades. I buy mine through a manicurist for cost ($5 for each color and the topcoat. no base coat). Also, it dries top to bottom in eight minutes!
Yael, I also use my Vinylux clear coat over “normal” nail polish I already own. I just make sure to let every coat dry completely.
Is there really no damage done to your nails? That would be awesome if it wasn’t! I never did acrylics because of the damage. I jumped on the gel manicure (and loved them) bandwagon until I saw how they made my nails weak so I stopped them and manicures (can’t give up pedicures!) entirely. (which is huge for me since I was regularly getting them for over 15 years…I used to ride my bike to the nail salon as a kid) The upkeep was too much time and too much money.
The vinylux doesn’t damage the nails. My nails are stronger since using it. The polish cures in ambient UV light (rather than a UV light), so there is less concern about the UV damage. I can’t sing its praises enough!
Favorite color: https://www.amazon.com/139-CND-VINYLUX-BARONESS-Manicure/dp/B00EO8HNR2/ref=sr_1_38?ie=UTF8&qid=1389219045&sr=8-38&keywords=Vinylux
I use the basic Vinylux top coat over “normal” nail polish.
On the subject of nails, Belle, have you ever found a good strengthener? My nails are very weak and chip constantly. I tried a Sally Hansen strengthener and an ULTA brand strengthener, but both did more harm than good.
I file regularly, keep my nails shortish, use cuticle cream nightly and rarely apply colored polish. I like the look of natural nails with only a clear coat. Any suggestions from you or other readers on a clear coat that helps strengthen nails?
If you can’t seem to find a product that works, my mom has found that when she occasionally forgoes meat for a month or two, her nails get much stronger and healthier.
I can’t suffer that much for beauty, haha! I wonder why that works? I’ve heard a lot of strange diet advice about nails, though! One of my mom’s coworkers drinks gelatin dissolved in water every morning to keep her nails strong … yuck.
You might also want to consider taking biotin supplements (5000 mcg is the strength/dosage I took). They are great for hair & nail growth!
I’m a big fan of Gelous Advanced Nail Gel Coat, available at Sally’s Beauty Supplies for about $6.
Ahhh just looked it up, looks awesome. Thanks!