Colored Gels May Be the ‘Cure’ to Slow Drying Polish

Use gels for long-lasting color

<p>Illustration/Elsbeth (1990)</p>

Ask Terri Myers, a nail technician in Garden Grove, California, what her pet peeve is and her eyes light up, her hands start flying, and she excitedly recites anecdotes about clients who cannot get as far as their cars without smearing their nail polish. It seems like some clients will never leave, she says, because they ruin the polis once, twice, and sometimes even three times before she can close their car doors.

“I make sure they write their check and have their keys out before I even open the polish bottle,” she says. “But once I’m done polishing their nails, they brush their hands on their clothes, knock them on the table, or realize they want something out of their purse and reach in without thinking.

“I use products to speed drying time and electric nail dryers, and for the most part they work,” she says, “But some of my clients, no matter what I do, won’t wait until their polish has time to harden, and I end up re-polishing their nails. It’s very frustrating.”

The situation is just as frustrating from the client’s perspective. You never realize just how dependent you are on your hands until your motion is restricted for an hour or two.

You can’t change your clothes, get into your car, or reach into your purse. Most women cope with the situation and are happy to accept help from the technician; and the majority of clients at least get out of the salon without a polish catastrophe. Once home they read, watch TV, or pursue another low-risk activity until their polish fully dries.

Other clients, however, are women on the run. Their appointment is during lunch hour, after work and before a big night on the town, or crammed into an activity packed Saturday afternoon.

So what do you do, tie the client to a chair? Although you may have considered that option, there is another choice available.

Colored gels add strength and reinforce the natural nail. They can also be used over gel, acrylic, or wrap extensions. UV light-cured colored gels are applied much like polish and are cured under an ultraviolet light. After a thin top coat of clear gel, the client has dry, colored nails with a high-gloss shine that lasts for weeks. The process doesn’t require much more time than applying nail polish and can be maintained with a fill every two weeks. If the nail surface becomes dull or scratched, just reapply a clear coat of gel and the freshly manicured look returns.

Ana Noa Smith, a nail technician who recently moved to North Carolina, uses colored gels for pedicures. “I don’t have to deal with wet polish and they can put their shoes right back on. When I use regular polish they can’t wear shoes for quite awhile, which can be a problem.”

Colored gels, says Smith, don’t chip and pedicure clients only need a fill every month or so, depending on how fast the nails grow. The gel should, however, be inspected regularly for signs of lifting.

Only recommend colored gels to clients who don’t change polish colors often. Once gel cures, you have to rough the surface and soak the nail in acetone to remove the gel. You can, however, cover light colored gels with darker shades by buffing the surface to thin the existing overlay and applying a new coat of colored gel. The lighter color will not bleed through.

Clients can choose from a rainbow of colored gels, says Yvonne Nissen of A Perfect Ten in Boerne, Texas. And if they become bored with the color, or want to match a special outfit, they can apply nail polish over the gel surface. The client may return to the colored gel anytime by removing the polish with non-acetone polish remover. The gel will not absorb the polish’s pigment and the surface remains smooth and shiny.

The technicians we spoke to say they charge no more for colored gels than they do for clear gels because the products and technique are the same. And, as a bonus, they save time because they don’t have to polish the nails. Once the gel cures, the client washes her hands, digs out her own keys, and confidently leaves the salon.

What you charge gel clients for the service depends on your area. “You know what you’re worth and what your area will allow,” says Karen Davis of House of Beauty in Newport Richey, Florida. “You can’t price yourself out of the business, but you also can’t give it away.”


If you use clients’ nails as a miniature canvas to create artistic scenes and designs, gels won’t disappoint you. You can create an airbrushed look and myriad other designs the first time you use gels.

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