Are Gel Nails Actually Not That Terrible For You?

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Are gel nails good or bad for you? We wanted answers. So, we decided to consult an expert: MAC Senior Artist Keri Blair. We caught up with the nail guru at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund tea and fashion show, where she gave us the truth about gel nails (it's not what you think), as well as a few other nail-care tips and the 411 on her favorite nail trends of the season.

Gels: Are you a fan?
"I’m a gel fanatic, mostly because I work with my hands so much, so it gives me an opportunity to keep my color and my design on for much longer without me having to think about it. I’m a polish freak, too, but on myself, I really like gel."

We're dying to know — are gels good or bad for you?
"As with anything, you have to have the proper maintenance. Since gel is so long-wearing, it can actually dry out the cuticles. So, you do need to do maintenance at home. You have to put cuticle oil on your nails every night before you go to bed — it’s a must. If your tech’s not telling you that, they should be."

Are there any removal dangers?
"You need to have proper removal. I think this is where we get into a lot of issues; people think it ruins their nails, but mostly it’s about how you take it off. It’s important to take off the shine on the nail, whether you’re using a buff or you’re using remover. You want to soak the nail with a small piece of cotton that’s been soaked in acetone. You want to wrap it in foil and you want to let it sit. What happens is that the acetone will get into the sides of the nail and it will release off of the nail. So, if that reaction isn’t happening properly, it’s going to leave white spots on your nails. Also, you never want to have any pulling or tugging.

Unfortunately, even though it dries very quickly, the removal process takes time and patience. If you’re trying to peel them off yourself, you’re definitely going to create small fractures in your nail bed and tears. Make sure you’re going to somebody who knows how to take them off and has the patience to work with you to remove them properly, and you’ll never have any problems."

What are some color trends for fall and spring?
"For fall, we saw some really interesting deep jewel tones and reds. We saw nudes, obviously, and some really interesting gradient colors — we did some gray gradients, almost like cloudy skies.

And then, for spring — we’re really going to be crushing on corals: pink coral, orange coral, and straight-up coral. I think we’re going to see interesting metallics, as well, whether they’re sheered out or have small glitter particles in them. We’re still going to see nudes, but more like synthetic nudes — colors that are almost like, I want to say A.I. or bionic. And then, we’re going to see a play on textures. There will be a lot of return of the classic French, but with new, interesting twists, whether it’s chevron-shaped or a round shape on the end of the nail or the moon manicures. I think that’s the interesting thing about polish: It’s really got a lot of interesting technologies that are happening."

Can you explain a little bit about the technologies?
"Sure. Some of the things that you can actually do is manipulate how the finish of your polish ends up by playing with the top coat or by mixing top coat into your polish. One of the things I like to do is mix a matte top coat into my polish to create almost like a suede texture, a semi-matte. I think a lot of times people get really freaked out about mixing polishes. As a makeup artist, I don’t give a second thought to mixing, so it’s automatic for me. Or, as a painter, you just mix the color to get what you want. It’s really the same thing for nail polish.

One tip I would give you is when you’re playing with matte, you have to be really careful. Patience is key when you’re dealing with matte texture, because it will really fool you and you’ll think it’s totally dry, and then you’ll hit your finger and you’ve got a big dent. Also, if you’re into mixing and creating interesting colors, you can mix right into the bottle. One thing to remember is you should never want to put any kind of polish or any kind of corrosive liquid into your drain. I think people sometimes forget — with nail polish removers or clear top coats — you never want to put them into the drain.

The other thing to realize about polish: If it’s old, shake it up really vigorously, almost like it’s a paint can at Lowe’s. The more air and the more action it gets, the thinner and easier to apply it becomes. You can really revitalize your polishes by massaging them daily."

Now, about nail art: Where is the trend going?
"With any trend, there are always extremes. Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest have really exploded nail art into a place where everyone’s a nail artist, you know? I think the trend will ebb and flow like everything does. But, for the true die-hards, it does give you ten, tiny canvases to display some of your personality and also have a creative outlet. I think it will always be present — especially since it's become so mainstream — but the degrees of how intense it’s going to be will vary over the next few seasons. Sadly, I don't think it will stay forever, but nail polish always will. Nails have been around as long as lipstick."