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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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