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4 Women Honestly Review Gel-X Manicures (+ 23 Nail Art Ideas We Actually Tried)

It’s been nine months since my first Gel-X manicure and let me tell you: I’m never going back. Dips? Acrylics? Extensions? Regular gel? NO MORE FOR ME, THANK YOU. So today, I wanted to share a little bit more about Gel-X (you know – what it is, how much it costs, how long it lasts, the pros/cons) buuuuut I also wanted to bring in a few familiar faces to share their opinions and experiences. (If you’re the type of person with the dexterity to paint your own nails, we’re also sharing 21 different shots of our actual manicures – maybe we can spark some of your creativity! And, if you’re like, “uh, nails aren’t for me,” there’s even a picture of a real-life horse in here! Why? You’ll find out! Anyway, something for everyone!) Let’s start with the high-level overview, yeah?

Basically, Gel-X is a press-on nail that cures like gel (read: your nail technician will size up your hands, glue on a nail of your preferred shape/length, and your ~new nails~ will be firmly attached for about a month after you shove your hand under one of those UV lights). Once everything has cured, your technician will proceed as normal – polish, art, lotion, oil, an occasional full hand model photoshoot for their IG, etc. – and when you’re finally ready to come back in a few weeks to switch things up, the removal process is the same as it would be for any standard gel manicure.

Gel-X nails are flexible (so they won’t snap in half when you jam your hand into a wall, or a counter, or your car, or some other place, as regular humans are wont to do). They’re also really lightweight, especially when compared to acrylics, and they look natural – or, uh, as natural as neon cow print nails can look, at least.

More than anything, though, I’ve found that Gel-X nails just make me feel really, really, really great. There’s something kind of fun and visceral about clacking away on something, you know? But this isn’t just about me – three other EHD gals have hopped on the Gel-X train, so I wanted to grab their unbiased opinions, too. I’ll check in with you below (and I’ll spill the details on my average spend!), but first…let me throw it over to the queen of nail art, Veronica.

Veronica

When’d you start trying out Gel-X? My first Gel-X manicure was in June of 2021, because I wanted to do something special for my birthday, and since then it’s been a nice once-a-month self-care routine during the pandemic. 🙂

Had you invested in nails or nail art before (e.g. gels, acrylics, press-ons, etc.)? Before Gel-X, I had gotten gel on my regular nails and tried press ons / glue ons, but those only averaged about 2 weeks max.

Was there an adjustment period to Gel-X? Not really. Gel-X is better for your nails than acrylics, but your nails do thin still because of them being sanded down in the process.

What’s your preferred shape and length? I go back and forth between getting somewhere between an almond and stiletto shape and a square shape. I usually keep them short-medium length because of my job (photographer who works on her computer most days, or is dealing with equipment when I’m on set).

How long do your appointments take? Appointments take between 1.5 – 2 hours.

How long do your nails stay on? I’ve never had a nail fall off when getting Gel-X, and I usually get mine done anywhere between three and four weeks because my nails grow out pretty quickly.

How do your nails feel? My nails feel good, not like they are being ruined or anything, but they are thinner for sure since starting Gel-X! Although, my nails have always been on the thin side.

Is there an average cost? The place I go to is on the more expensive side (between $90-100 before tip) because I found a nail tech I really love and trust, but I know a salon that a pal of mine has gone to and it’s around $65 starting price. It really just depends on the salon, but I have found it’s important to go somewhere you feel the techs are able to take care of your nails in a healthy way. 

Where do you get your nail art inspiration? I use Pinterest and Instagram for nail inspo and have saved boards on both. Two accounts I follow on Instagram are: Nia Ho & Vivian W and the other saved posts have popped up on my explore page. 🙂

Any pros and cons? I’m not a professional, so I can only speak to my personal opinion lol but pros – if you want something that will last without having to worry about chipping, breaking, or touch-ups, then the Gel-X is a great option.

Cons – it can add up and get expensive depending on how often you get them done and it’s important to get them taken off in a salon so you don’t ruin your nails trying to do them yourself. 

Ryann

When’d you start trying out Gel-X? I started October 2021.

Had you invested in nails or nail art before (e.g. gels, acrylics, press-ons, etc.)? Years and years ago I used to get acrylic nails but I hated it. More recently I was a press-on nail gal but only for special occasions.

Was there an adjustment period to Gel-X? Oh yeah. At first, I felt like I couldn’t do anything with long nails but I got used to it pretty fast. Typing was very hard at first (I looked like this).

What’s your preferred shape and length? I get the medium length and almond shape.

How long do your appointments take? If I am getting a Gel-X removal plus a new set it usually takes an hour and a half.

How long do your nails stay on? The longest I have gone between appointments is 4 weeks and they were still holding on!

How do your nails feel? My actual nails feel a lot stronger than they did when I used to get acrylics. I think the Gel-X is a lot more gentle on your actual nails.

Is there an average cost? With tip it’s between $100-150 (when you do designs versus a solid color it’s closer to $150).

Where do you get your nail art inspiration? Instagram or my friends!

Any pros and cons? Pros: I feel put together even when I am wearing sweats. And I get compliments all the time. :’)

Cons: If the technician cuts my actual nails too short before putting the Gel X on as my nails start to grow out it can be painful because my nails start to grow into my nail bed (it’s gross I know). But the easy fix to this is to tell your nail tech not to cut your actual nails.

Jess

When’d you start trying out Gel-X? October 5, 2021 (my birthday:)).

Had you invested in nails or nail art before (e.g. gels, acrylics, press-ons, etc.)? I went a couple of years getting gel manicures all the time when I worked in restaurants because it was the only kind that actually lasted. Getting a regular mani at the time was like throwing money directly into the trash. Then a few years ago I got a gel manicure with a design for the first time and my god I loved it but wasn’t able to afford it on the regular. This go around however was my first time EVER getting “fake nails”. My mom gave me a hard no when I wanted those french tip acrylics in middle school. I guess being like all the other cool girls wasn’t a good enough argument. 

Was there an adjustment period to Gel-X? Lol yes. I felt like Edward Scissorhands but less proficient for at least a week. I remember the next morning trying to put on my leggings thinking “I don’t think I can dress myself. This nail thing is a LIFESTYLE!” I was mainly afraid of them ripping off which is apparently a VERY normal experience for newbs like me. But then when I got my second and now with my third, they just feel like my normal fingernails.

the 2nd set that felt too wide (they also were a little shorter to be fair)

What’s your preferred shape and length? I love an almond shape and medium length. I don’t know if “medium” is a technical term but I want them to look longish and elegant but still want to be able to you know, type. I will also say that the physical gel-x shape is I think called Stiletto (not the tip shape but fact check me on that). Basically, I like the nail to look slender. The second set I got (the green one above) felt a little wide for me. Just something to think about if you are going in for the first time or if you want a different look.

How long do your appointments take? Eh, 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the design. The first time is the shortest since they don’t have to remove your old set.

How long do your nails stay on? So far about six weeks. BUT I have chosen designs where the “background” is clear or “natural”. Why that’s a good idea if you want to stretch out your mani is that the grow-out is less noticeable than if I had a solid color.

How do your nails feel? Ok, so the plan is to have my real nails grow long enough to where I can just go back to gel manicures and they are almost there (except one stupid one that broke so not sure if I need to wait until that one grows back). That being said, you can see my real nails when I flip my hands over. It’s not the prettiest if I’m honest but I’ve got goals. So when you go, you have the choice to keep your natural nails long or cut them short so you really can’t see them ever. How do my real nails feel you ask? When the fake ones get shaved off, they feel oookay. Look, it’s a sacrifice. I don’t know if it’s possible to have perfectly healthy nails and do anything beyond a regular manicure. All I know is that for now, I love having my nails done and fun for six weeks at a time. 

Is there an average cost? $105 + Tip (I usually give $30 because they do such a great job and they are literally painting art onto my hands).

Where do you get your nail art inspiration? Pinterest and Instagram. I have folders that I save to. But also Beyonce was my last inspiration so look at those celeb nails too! Veronica also shares accounts she loves which is so fun and very sweet of her. We go to the same salon too!

Any pros and cons? Pros: I LOVE my nails and they make me feel sexy, powerful, and put together.

Cons: It’s not cheap and I know that my real nails aren’t living their best lives. Oh, and activities like bowling and putting on necklaces are hard.

Caitlin

When’d you start trying out Gel-X? Got my first one on May 19, 2021 and I never went back.

Had you invested in nails or nail art before (e.g. gels, acrylics, press-ons, etc.)? I used to spend a bunch on standard gel manicures with full art – that’s the one beauty splurge that I really loved – but I had a really bad habit of picking it all off, which (a.) made my hands look kind of gnarly and (b.) was not great for the health of my nails.

Was there an adjustment period to Gel-X? For me, no. I was used to having longer nails so other than the constant fear that they were going to pop off, they felt totally normal to me.

What’s your preferred shape and length? I started with medium ovals, but I moved into long territory with the set you see above. Scale-wise, I think longer ones look best on my hands.

How long do your appointments take? Removal can take 30-45 minutes and then my new manicure can be another 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how much detail I’m looking for.

How long do your nails stay on? I maxed out at 8 weeks for the holidays – I literally had to cut them like my regular nails because they’d grown out so much. That said, I did experience some lifting on the base of my pointer finger when I first started – this was remedied by bringing it up to my nail tech and I haven’t had any problems since! If you’re doing a lot of schlepping or manual work, I’d highly recommend flagging that before your first set.

How do your nails feel? Good! While I don’t mean to suggest that Gel-X is making my nails stronger, they’re in WAY better shape than when I used to get gel manicures sanded off every two weeks. When my sets are removed, my nails look pretty normal, too – no breakage or thinning is happening underneath the Gel-X nail.

Is there an average cost? I pay a $20 booking fee to reserve my spot and then manicures are $60-100, depending on how crazy I’m getting. Tips are always 20-25% – so basically $100 on the low end, $150 on the high end.

Where do you get your nail art inspiration? NIA!!! My nail tech is LA’s best-kept secret and while I kind of don’t want to share the intel (it’s already hard to get an appointment – she’s popular!!!), YOU MUST CHECK OUT HER INSTAGRAM. I do not know how Nia does not have a million followers – she can do ANYTHING. Seriously, her IG page is filled with a staggering variety and you’re guaranteed to find something inspiring there. SHE IS THE BEST. (I wouldn’t want to spend ~2 hours with anyone else.)

Any pros and cons? Pros: I feel really powerful and kind of intimidating when my nails are done. Shampooing my scalp feels like a dream. If I’m going to spend at least 8 hours a day typing, it cheers me up to see a little party going on at the tips of my fingers. Clinking my nails on glasses makes me feel really happy.

Cons: COST. I mean, when I break it down, I do think they bring me at least $3 of joy per day…but it’s not an essential and if things ever went south, I’m totally aware that this would be the first item cut from my budget. I don’t love subjecting my hands to such isolated UV rays once a month and sometimes I forget SPF before my appointments. Picking up coins is challenging. Working lobster clasps on jewelry is impossible. Nia’s studio is walking distance from my apartment and I get catcalled by a lot of creeps on my way to get my nails done. Despite all this…they’re worth it to me.

Apres Gel-X Nail Extension Kit

If you’re self-assured (I’m not) and want to give Gel-X a whirl at home, you can grab a kit right here. If not, check Yelp to find a highly-reviewed technician near you – if you’re going to splurge, make sure it’s on someone who can deliver long-lasting results that’ll make you smile.

But now I must know – what say you??? Tell me about your nail habits! Show me your nail art! Send me your inspo accounts! (I have an appointment next week and need a jumping-off point if anyone has suggestions.) LET’S JUST TALK ABOUT OUR HANDS. xx

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Lindsay
10 months ago

My very hip niece has these too, so it must be what the cool girls are doing 🙂 But, man, that stilletto shape is an acquired taste. Very “Elvira Queen of the Night” to us moms. How about a follow up post for those of us who still think French tips are pretty bold? What should we do if we want easy, but chic subtle and polished, and don’t chip?

Amanda
10 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay

I’ve gotten very into gel stickers – they’re like a stick on gel mani, and they look way nicer than good think haha. Dashing Diva makes ones you can get st target or Ulta, or you can level up to Manime which is custom fit to your nails. They last about as long as a gel mani but no salon trip and they’re cheaper. I suck at painting my nails but swear by these.

Kathleen
10 months ago
Reply to  Amanda

Yes! I love the stickers! So easy, I add a top coat to mine I think it helps them last longer? I use Dashing Diva and Nails of L.A.

Lauren
10 months ago
Reply to  Amanda

I’m a huge Dashing Diva fan as well. They really last and don’t mess up my nails. I use the Gloss line, but the new Glaze ones look interesting.

10 months ago
Reply to  Amanda

Gel stickers are life savers for me too! They make DIY gel manicures affordable to me and I don’t have to deal with my dominant hand looking messy from using my less dominant to paint it! I like Ohora. If I go to the salon for gel, I might get a week out of the manicure, but with the sticker gel I get at least 2 weeks. I’m an artist and very hard on my hands so that says a lot!

Jenni
10 months ago
Reply to  Amanda

I second dashing diva nail stickers. They are so quick to do and last at least two weeks when applied properly. My years of piano playing cured me from ever wanting long fingernails (nails can’t click) and I still can’t stand it when my nails click on my keyboard at work.

Susan
10 months ago

I’m curious to know for those of you with a significant others what your SO’s think. Like, do they accidentally get scratched or jabbed when you are being affectionate? I know you are all doing this for yourself, but do your SO’s find them attractive on you? My honey HATES them. I mainly stick to pedis because of my work but find the art fascinating

Kimberly
10 months ago
Reply to  Susan

My partner loves them. Loves how they look and loves it when I scratch his back with them. It’s super soothing.

Emma
10 months ago
Reply to  Susan

If you’re alluding to actual sex, it will depend on the activity. My manicurist has done manicures where certain fingernails are kept shorter for that reason, and always makes very cheeky captions when she posts those pictures on Instagram. 😂 For cuddling and that sort of thing, it’s never been an issue. And in terms of preference, everyone I’ve been with has been either into it or at least vaguely interested in the cool art. If my partner was passionate about coloring their hair or painting their nails or whatever, I’d happily let them do it even if it wasn’t my #1 choice. It’s temporary and fun to experiment!

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago

Dolittle!! 💗

I do too much lumberjack hard abour in my garden for fancy nails and I certainly can’t afford those.
That said, they always catch my attention when I see them, but I dunno how you actually DO anything with those on your hands. I know someone who wax a PA and used to have really long false nails and she typed like the wind!
It’s taken me yonks after chemo to get my nails strong and gealthy again so I don’t think I’d do it even if it was s gift.

Irene
10 months ago

Really interesting! Excellent writing and photos, too.

i’ve never had a professional manicure – just DIY nail-painting with friends in high school and college almost 50 years ago – but once I went with a friend to her salon and while I waited, I asked one of the technicians to file my nails. It was one of the most pleasant and relaxing experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I can see why people would pay $150 for an hour or two of this.

More about the horse, Caitlin? Is he/she Brenda’s?

Nora
10 months ago

Long nails give me the heebie-jeebies! Anybody with me on that? The few times in my life I’ve painted my nails it makes my palms sweat… I can’t imagine having long pointy nails. Good for you that can though!

Nora
10 months ago
Reply to  Nora

Also have to say I thought the nail photos were really scary. Pretty, but scary.

Alix
10 months ago
Reply to  Nora

Totally agree. Like claws. I get a regular pedi but nails like this are definitely not for me.

Mariele Storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Nora

I love long oval shaped nails… but square, pointed, coffin, etc are a no go for me. All I can think of is how painful they must be.

Dena Stapleton
10 months ago

Anyone remember hard candy nail polish in the pastel colors? When I was in my 20’s I loved that trend! I like the nail art but would not want to wear long pointy nails although I think it’s just my age?? Kind of reminds me of the weirdly skinny eyebrows of the 90’s! Would love to see these on short nails!

Shauna
10 months ago
Reply to  Dena Stapleton

YES! with the matching ring!?!?!

Amy
10 months ago

These nails look fantastic! I thought I might put out a warning for folks interested in trying these to be sure to check that there aren’t work restrictions. I work in Healthcare and because bacteria can grow more readily, we are not permitted to have fake nails or chipped nail polish. Nail polish without chips is ok though.

robin
10 months ago

Any experience or comments from those of us who cook and do a lot of dishes and cleaning?
Gel manicures were always way too harsh for my nails – my actual nails would get very thin by the 2nd or 3rd set which then caused the gel manicures not to last. Would love to hear from anyone who has had similar experiences and if Gel-X is any better.

Emma
10 months ago
Reply to  robin

I cook daily and have no dishwasher (and hate using gloves) so I think I can chime in on this. I use a similar product that sounds like an at-home version of Gel-X where you put on a semi-cured gel sticker and cure it under a light. I find that with proper application water doesn’t compromise them. I’ve never worn them in a pool or in the ocean but I’ve soaked in a hot bath and done dishes a million times. I prefer them over regular gel manicures because I think they’re less damaging, but again I haven’t tried the Gel-X brand specifically.

Lisa
10 months ago
Reply to  robin

GLOVES! A set of dishwashing gloves and a set of household cleaning gloves have saved my nails and hands. Pro tip. 😉

JO
10 months ago

Super cool! Unfortunately, I can no longer do gels/dips or something like this as I work in healthcare and these all trap bacteria. It’s bummer – so I am back to painting my nails every couple of days. But I did find a one coat polish that dries in second.

Cheryl
10 months ago

Anybody using Static Nails or any of the new generation DIY press ons? They’re my new obsession. And after seeing the time and cost associated with Gen-X I can’t say I’ll make the switch.

MKK
10 months ago

I would like to see a male’s response to these new style of pointy nails! I have yet to meet a a male that likes painted nails. I usually hear from guys that “women must do this for other women.” The new style of very pointy nails is kinda of creepy looking to me. However, I love the creativity of the artwork. Cheers to the artistry!

Emma
10 months ago
Reply to  MKK

I know plenty of men who like painted nails, including men who get their own nails painted with both solid colors and nail art. But even if that weren’t the case, I think it’s great that women are doing creative things that make them feel good. This entire world is built around what men desire so everyone else needs to claim some space wherever they can.

Mariele Storm
10 months ago
Reply to  MKK

I always wear red lipstick and long, oval, red painted nails. If a guy was into me, he had to like those, too. I did it for myself because I thought it looked good, not for anyone else, male or female. But fwiw guys always seemed to like how glamorous I was.

Elaine
10 months ago
Reply to  MKK

MKK…
“I would like to see a male’s response to these new style of pointy nails!”
Why? His opinion is irrelevant; it carries zero weight and it does not validate or invalidate the person wearing nail art, or their nail art choices.

“I have yet to meet a male that likes painted nails.”
Step outside the thought that everything a woman does is for the gratification of a man!

“I usually hear from guys that ‘women must do this for other women’.”
Only men who are actively trying to diminish women come out with this kind of rubbish. Suggest you give those guys a wide berth!

Kelcey Bower
10 months ago

I recently tried Dazzle Dry after seeing it on Gabrielle Blair’s stories, and holy heck, it’s amazing. I’m not a nail art person, but I love having my nails painted a solid bright orangey-red. Used to go for gel manicures every 3 weeks or so, pre-pandemic and pre-baby but now I can easily do my own nails at home, and they dry so quickly! I bought the mini starter kit but will be investing in the full size products for sure.

E
10 months ago
Reply to  Kelcey Bower

Same! Better than gel imho because removal is just regular nail polish remover. Just wish they had more color options.

Shannon
10 months ago

You can buy magnetic necklace clasps on Amazon. Inexpensive and work with almost any necklace or bracelet. Might help if you keep the nails up 🙂

Sarah
10 months ago

Looks fun but…
Can we get tips less dramatic?
Jess ones are most likely to go on my body. But I’m not feeling this edgie.

Erica
10 months ago

Best beauty discovery for me in 2021. I love them so damn much. And re cost – my manicures used to get effed up after a few days so getting a manicure every week or every other week is +- what it costs to get these once a month. I’m hooked.

Marian
10 months ago

For me, I got newly obsessed with gel nails this year. I know they’re terrible for your nails so I don’t do it every month, but when I do I can’t stop looking at my hands.

I did discover a polish called Nailtique which re-strengthens your nails after things like gel manicures. I’ve tried every nail strengthening serum, cream, and oil under the sun and NOTHING has worked as well as this. (I use Formula 2.) My nails haven’t chipped in over a month! Just Google it and check out the Amazon reviews, the photos are insane. Highly highly recommend, whether you’re getting gel manicures or not.

MA
10 months ago

I’ve been doing my own nails for a few years now. For a while I was using a dip system but I switched to gel extensions maybe a year ago. I tried another brand but more recently bought the Apres system and it’s FANTASTIC. Yes, there’s a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it it’s great. With other systems I had issues with lifting but I haven’t had any problems with gel-x. Not only that, but my natural nails were not in great shape when I switched to gel-x but now are looking really good. Highly recommend!

10 months ago

Okey this is madness. How can u guys doing this. My nail arts are nothing besides these.

Amy
10 months ago

Try Kiss Impress nails (press on) for about a 2 week wear period, lots of colors, shapes, lengths, etc. Very affordable and each set has more than enough nails for a full set (different widths included). Available online at Amazon, their own website, Walmart, drugstores, etc. Even found them at Marshall’s in the beauty section and checkout line. They are easy to do yourself, inexpensive, and fun.

Shauna
10 months ago

Do they stick up at all? I tried the press on nails and as soon as I touch my hair, little hairs get stuck beneath the edges of the nail (no matter how hard I press them on) and pull like crazy. The nail stickers do it too, as they are getting to the end of their lives, but I couldn’t wash my kids hair at all with the press ons because they stuck up too much and just snagged on everything

Amanda
10 months ago

I love the look/feel of long nails but they are so impractical for typing so much and day-to-day for me. I prefer a short nail and love the Color Street nail “stickers”

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