I have a client who had her nails done while I was out of town. She requested gel nails, however there was no light used. The tech used powder then mixed it with the liquid to make the gel. She was assured it was gel and not acrylic, but no light was used. After the nails were completed, they put a different coat on and used light. Sounds like acrylic with a gel sealant to me, but they told her it was a new way of applying gel. I am very confused. I thought all gels had to be cured under the light.
I really love your question because you’ve just described one of the biggest problems in the professional nail industry — correct terminology. There is a lot of confusion among techs and manufacturers on what to call certain types of products, and what’s worse is that even some state rules and regulations use incorrect definitions and terminology. The problem here is that the term “gel” is applied too broadly in the beauty industry, and includes UV gels and no-light gels. But the “gels” we refer to in the nail world are light-cured. What you had applied was most likely an acrylic or resin and powder.
Cyanoacrylate monomer is the main ingredient in nail adhesives (glues) and fiberglass wrap resins. So in this case, the liquid cyanoacrylate monomer had been blended with an additive that thickens the product into a gel-like consistency. Cyanoacrylates harden upon exposure to moisture in the air and nail plate, so they don’t require light, and sometimes a “catalyst” is applied to speed up the hardening process. But your instincts were correct, this was not a gel.
– Doug Schoon is chief scientific adviser for CND.