Understanding Hard Gel Nails By Becky Edwards
What is Hard Gel?
Hard gel has been around since the early 1980s as an alternative to the traditional liquid powder acrylic system. After a slow start, hard gel nails started gaining popularity in the 1990s and
according to NAILS Magazine by 2010 63% of salons were offering a hard gel service.
Hard Gel vs Soft Gel
There is a lot of confusion in regards to the different kind of gels in the nail industry right now. The most popular at the moment is soft gel, also known as gel polish or shellac. These are nail lacquers that come in a nail polish bottle and are brushed on, then cured in a UV or LED light. Hard gel is a form of gel like acrylic that is also cured in a UV or LED light. It comes in a “pot”, has a much thicker consistency, and is applied with a special gel brush. Hard gel is typically clear in color or pink and white for french tips. Hard gel is used for nail enhancements and needs to be filled every two weeks. Soft gel is a semi-permanent polish that has a two week longevity and is then soaked off and reapplied. Soft gels can be soaked off because they have a lower molecular structure allowing acetone to penetrate and soften the gel. Hard gel has a much tighter molecular structure making soaking them off not an option. This also means that soft gel is more flexible and less durable than hard gel.
Hard Gel vs Acrylic
Traditional acrylic is a nail enhancement that cures (hardens) through a free radical reaction when the peroxide in the powder is exposed to the reactive monomer
in the liquid. Hard gel cures through a free radical reaction when the resin in the gel reacts to the wavelengths emitted by either an LED or UV light. I prefer using hard gel over traditional acrylic due to the odor that acrylic emits when the particles in the monomer liquid evaporate. It is a very strong smell that anyone who has ever walked into a nail salon is very familiar with. Hard gel on the other hand has either little or no odor at all. Although they cure differently hard gel and traditional acrylic are actually both part of the acrylic family. They have the same physical characteristics and have very similar end results. This means that acrylic and hard gel are compatible with one another. If you have acrylics on and would like to get a fill with hard gel, go for it! When it comes to removal acrylic can be soaked off and hard gel must be filed off due to its tight molecular structure.
Who is the ideal Hard Gel client?
Anyone who would like to have durable natural looking nails without dealing with the odors of acrylic or the hassle of soaking off soft gel every two weeks. There are also people who are allergic to the resin in traditional acrylic and hard gel is the perfect alternative. Unlike acrylic, gel will stay glossy and retain its sheen instead of yellowing over time like acrylic does. Gel is also slightly flexible. If you are prone to banging your nails and cracking your acrylics, gel is a better option for you. Instead of cracking, gel will flex a little and bend with your nail. Hard gel is an all-around great product that I would recommend to anyone.
Sources: http://www.nailsmag.com/, Milady’s Standard Nail Technology, 6th Edition
Becky Edwards, Nail Technician
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