While acrylics and gel nails are arguably the most popular, there is another nail art trend that is much kinder to your nails than other professional treatments. That is polygel nails.
Look, you're either one of two people: the person who considers their nails an essential part of their look, OR the person—like yours truly—who maybe has their nails painted once a month...and most of the time, it's a shoddy DIY job with chips and dings galore. Few types of manicures can please both crowds, but I think we may have found a winner in polygel nails.
Today, in this post, let us introduce you to this modern nail polish formula-polygel nails. From what it is to how it compares to gel nails and acrylics, we're sharing what to know about Polygel nails so you can decide if it's a fit for your next manicure.
What Are Polygel Nails?
Polygel nails were originally created for nail techs; however, to our delight, they are now available for us to buy. Essentially, polygel is a nail extender gel that combines acrylic powder and a thick clear gel. While the process of application is very different from what you have at a salon, the overall result is very similar. It gives you the durability and finish of an acrylic overlay or extension, but the flexible application of a gel.
Unlike acrylic powder used in salons, Polygel comes premixed in a toothpaste-like tube that you can apply directly over your nails to build an extension or form a natural overlay. For the untrained wannabe nail tech (like myself), Polygel has a putty-like texture that allows you to shape the gel but won't set until it's cured under a LED lamp (so feel free to make as many mistakes as you'd like).
Polygel colors are typically clear, pink, and white but this can be mixed with gel polish to create colors. Or you can simply create nail art on top with gel polish or regular nail paint.
Gel Nails VS Acrylics VS Polygel Nails
Confused about the differences between gel, acrylic, and Polygel manicures? See below for some basic comparisons.
- Gel Nails
Gel nails are different from acrylic nails as they are not an extension of your natural nails, instead, they are a polish that can last for up to 2 weeks. Gel nail polish is applied similarly to that normal polish, but instead of leaving the polish to dry, it is cured under a UV light. The result is a glossy, chip-free manicure! Gel nails don't tend to damage your natural nails as much as acrylics, however, they still do have some negative effects.
Gel polish can be difficult to remove, and the process involves soaking your nails in acetone and buffing off the polish, which can make your nails weak and dry. We recommend that if you do like getting a regular gel mani, make sure to keep your hands and nails moisturized in between, to try and combat some of the effects.
- Acrylic Nails
Many people choose an acrylic manicure if they're looking for longer nails. Plus, they are thick and sturdy with less breakage to the natural nail, To apply, an acrylic powder called monomer must be used. Some experts and clients are wary of the strong-smelling monomer dust that is released into the air when acrylics are applied.
- Polygel Nails
There are two main similarities between Polygel and acrylic nails. Just like acrylic, Polygel enhancements don't usually need to be removed, the nail growth area can simply be filled-in with more Polygel. Secondly, Polygel nails can also be applied on top of a nail form and sculpted to create an extension of the nail, just like acrylic.
There are also several ways that Polygel nails differ from acrylic, and Polygel manicures tend to outshine acrylic nails for these reasons. It has the strength of acrylic but is lighter, stronger, and flexible. Because of this, Polygel nails are less likely to break off. Plus, as Lim points out, Polygel is easier to apply—it doesn't require the tedious mixing of powder. Finally, Polygel is odorless and no chemicals are released into the air with the application.
Pros and Cons of Polygel Nails
One of the best features of Polygel is its longevity. As it's a gel-acrylic hybrid, it's more flexible so is likely to last longer than an acrylic extension. However, all good things do come to an end as the gel will usually last around 3-4 weeks before you need infills or an unwelcomed 'snap off' needs replacing.
Polygel can be used to sculpt, overlay, infill, and extend your natural nails and essentially, the result is fairly alike. Apart from a few gel spillages and a wobbly hand with the polish, I was left with a sturdy set of Polygel extensions. So, yes, no matter how unrealistic it seems on the surface, you can actually create nails that pass as a salon job.
Moreover, Polygels are actually better for your nail health than acrylics. The classic gel formula is lighter: this means it puts less strain on your natural nails but is just as durable.
Obviously, the overall savings are the biggest draw here. While the Mylee Magic Extender Gel (the Polygel) is only £15, you'll also need a few add-ons to successfully create the look including a base and top coat, slip solution, dual-ended tool, and an LED lamp (if you don't own one already). However, even if you opt for the whole pro-level kit, which includes the top and base coat, lamp, and a selection of gel colors, as well as the bits needed for the Polygel, you're still saving a huge amount on your regular salon trips.
Unlike acrylics, there is no offensive odor or vapor with polygel nails, however, because polygel nails are essentially a 'hard' gel, they can't be soaked off to be removed.
Polygel nails would have to be filed off. Because of this, there is a certain amount of commitment required. Nails might also be susceptible to similar damage caused by removing acrylics, such as weak nails or a bumpy nail bed.
Therefore, for one-off nail extensions or overlays, it's best to go for a soak-off solution that can be easily removed.
How Much Do Polygel Nails Cost?
The price for Polygel nails will depend on the type of Polygel application. While a full set or sculpted extension application may range from $55 to $150, a fill-in typically doesn't exceed $80.
What Do You Need for DIY Polygel Nails?
If you're attempting to do polygel nails at home, you first need supplies. Attempting the process without proper tools can be both frustrating and potentially damaging to nails. Here's everything you'll need to successfully pull off a set of DIY polygel nails at home.
A Polygel Nail Kit
There are many great kits available online with a variety of color options; choose a top-rated one that works for your budget and style.
Dual Forms or Nail Forms
These are depending on your preference. Both are a shell that is placed over the nail to sculpt. One of the biggest differences between the two is that dual forms are multi-use and nail forms are single-use.
Base Coat and Top Coat
These are two staples you should use whenever you DIY a manicure, as they aid in prepping and sealing the nails.
An LED nail lamp helps to cure the nail, a.k.a. harden the polish. The strength of an LED light is a little bit more intense than a UV light and will help the product last longer on the nails.
A Sculpting Brush (with a Spatula)
You want to use a designated gel sculpting brush that has a square angle tip — think of it as a paintbrush.
This is used to wet the brush so the polygel doesn't completely adhere to it.
How to Apply Polygel Nails at Home
These steps can vary based on the instructions in your kit; adhere to them carefully for the best results.
1. File your nails. This helps smooth any ragged edges so you start with a smooth surface that enhances lasting power.
2. Choose the dual or nail forms that fit your fingers. This is an optional step, as you can also overlay the polygel on natural nails. If you do use a dual form, your kit will likely come in different sizes. Some shapes are curvier or flatter than others, but try to match the form with your nail accordingly. "For a more natural nail look, match the dual form to the nail bed and cuticle line," Gonzalez-Longstaff advises.
3. Apply your base coat and cure it under an LED light. The amount of time underneath the light will depend on your kit, but a good rule of thumb is 60 seconds.
4. Dip your brush in the included slip/alcohol-based solution. This is an important step, as it allows you to move the polygel around on the dual form (or natural nail) without the gel excessively sticking to the brush.
5. Squeeze polygel on the dual form or nail. Using your brush, spread the polygel on the dual form evenly and sculpt it into the desired shape.
6. If using a dual form, press the polygel-coated dual form on your nail to adhere.
7. Cure your nails underneath the LED light to set the polygel.
8. If using a dual form, remove it.
9. Cut, file, and shape your nails to your desired look.
10. Apply the top coat and cure your nails under the LED light one last time.
How to Remove Polygel Nails with Acetone?
Filing polygel, starting with a 150-grit nail file (or 180-grit) and a 100/180-grit buffer to remove length and product, then gradually increasing to a 220/280-grit buffer to smooth it out. But you can also use acetone to remove polygel, similar to how you would with gel. If your polygel nails are past their prime, watch this video tutorial, grab your gel polish remover tools, and follow the step-by-step tutorial, here:
Clip off any length. If you used polygel to create nail enhancements, use nail clippers from your manicure set to trim off the extra length.
File down the majority of the product on top of your nails without filing the natural nail. If you built up the nails really thick, this will help save you some time with the soak-off.
Soak 'em. Dip pieces of cotton in acetone and wrap each nail with the cotton. With nail clips or small squares of foil, wrap your nail to hold the cotton in place while the acetone breaks down the polish underneath. Queue up Netflix, because this process could 45 minutes to an hour.
Scrape off the residue. Once the acetone has softened the product underneath, use a cuticle pusher to gently scrape the remaining residue off. Don't force it! Repeat steps three and four until the product has loosened up enough to gently scrape away.
Apply a nail treatment. With all that filing, soaking, and scraping, your nails, and cuticles will likely need a little TLC with cuticle oil once you're finished.
Different shapes of nails are all the rage right now. Instagram is the ideal place to browse through all the nail shapes for inspiration! Polygel nails are perfect for those who love stilettos, squares, ovals, and coffin shapes. They are a great choice for any kind of fake nail enhancement because they can be easily modified and shaped.
The formula provides strong, pliable, lightweight nails that are as strong as acrylic nails and less irritating to natural nails. You'll be sure to reduce breakage and brittleness between appointments. Removing Polygel isn't as difficult as removing acrylic nails. There is no soaking, just filing, and they come right out!
If you've been dreaming about the perfect manicure that doesn't require experimenting with ratios, mixing, or monomers, then Polygel nails are exactly what you have been looking for. So have a try, you will fall in love with them.