The latest craze in manicures – gel nails – promises nail color that doesn’t chip for weeks, but does it save you money? Below I compare the pros and cons of gel manicures compared to a regular manicure and a do-it-yourself manicure.
I headed to the salon and sat in a chair for one and a half hours to get gel nails, also known as Shellac. Instead of using regular nail polish, the manicurist uses gel polish and UV light to set the color. I chose the berry color pictured above.
She started with a clear gel-based coat and then I had to stick my hands inside the UV nail lamp. She then proceed to add color, making me stick my hands inside the lamp after every coat. She added a gel-based top coat and wiped my nails down with alcohol to prevent the nails from staying sticky.
Pros: There were no chips
at all after two weeks and my nails were still shiny! After three weeks, still no chips, but my nails were beginning to grow out leaving that awful gap near the cuticle.
Cons: It would have been great to retouch them, but this process can’t be done at home. To get the gel removed, go back to the salon. Most will do it for free if I you get another manicure. Being the cheapskate that I am, I pulled the gel off my nails. The colors in the gel collections are limited to light colors and reds. I was told more colors are on their way.
Cost: $35 -$40
Yearly cost for a gel mani every three weeks: $595-$680
Pros: To stay competitive, salons stock the latest colors. This season’s must have color — mint — is everywhere and you can try the color without committing to buying your own polish. Or, bring your own polish to the salon so you can touch up the color at home. You can save money on manicures and pedicures by getting it done by a semi-professional at a beauty school.
Cons: Regular nail polish chips in no time, though it can last for up to two weeks if you live in a bubble.
Cost: $5 – $25
Yearly cost for a mani every two weeks: $130 – $650
Doing your own nails is easy if you have the essential tools: polish remover, nail clippers, a file, polish, and clear top coat.
Pros: You’ll be the only one using the nail clippers and file, reducing risk of infection. You can also be as rough or gentle as you want with your hands – trust me, getting cut is no fun. And you’ll save money by not having to tip anyone.
Cons: Sometimes a DIY manicure just doesn’t look as good as a professional one, but you’ll get better with time.
Cost: $35 to invest in the essential tools. I estimated $8 for nail polish (I like professional brands like Essie), $5 for nail clippers, $6 for a crystal nail file (it’s supposed to last longer than an emery board and it’s less harsh on your nails), $8 for cuticle-softening oil (you can also soak them in water or give yourself a mani after showering). Don’t cut cuticles as it can cause infections. I also estimated $5 for hand lotion and $3 for polish remover.
Yearly cost for a DIY mani every two weeks: $208 if you buy a new polish every other manicure, plus the cost of supplies. If you already have tools and a few shades, this cost will be drastically lower.
Overall, the least expensive option is doing your manicure at home. You can cut down the price by looking for drugstore coupons and deals to buy manicure essentials. Gel nails are the most expensive option, but they last longer than a regular manicure so you save time at the salon. If your nails grow slowly, you can probably get away with wearing the gel polish for four weeks. I would suggest you get it done for special occasions like weddings as it won’t chip and you can’t scratch it off.