Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Get Your Nails Did

Top, a Shellac manicure after 12 days.

MANICURES aren’t known for being everlasting. They chip. They smudge. Sometimes a nail is ruined even before you get home from the salon.

Shellac, a soak-off hybrid between a gel and polish that will make its debut on May 1 in 2,000 salons nationwide.

Soak-off gels look like polish but last much longer, in part because they are cured onto the nail with an ultraviolet lamp. The gel must be applied and removed by a professional, and the procedures cost more than the standard ones.

A manicurist paints on a base coat, two color coats and top coat, just as she would with regular nail lacquer. But after each coat, the soak-off gel is cured briefly under an ultraviolet light box, so the client leaves with impeccably dry nails. Goodbye to flip-flops in the snow postpedicure.

Removal takes longer, though, and may be tricky to do at home. Pads moist with acetone or a specially made remover are placed on the fingernail or toenail and worn for 10 to 25 minutes, depending on the brand. Shellac uses wraparound sleeves, which its manufacturer says trap heat so the gel is easily loosened. Sometimes, a manicurist has to scrape off crumbs of gel.

A predecessor product, hard gels, took too long to remove and involved filing, which damaged nails. But soak-off gels, now available in about half the country’s nail salons, are considered an improvement. “This year has been a huge boom in these soak-off gels,” said Hannah Lee, the editor of Nails magazine, an industry publication. “Everyone is coming out with them.”

The downside may be the cost. A Bella Forma manicure costs $30 to $100. Shellac will retail for 50 percent more than a basic manicure. I paid $40 to have an eggplant hue applied and $30 for it to be removed and replaced by a regular manicure. Shellac’s removal entailed wearing acetone-soaked sleeves — which took 10 minutes, as advertised — and notably little sprucing up.


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