When it comes to our manicures, we vacillate between two personalities. If we're feeling reserved, we request short tips, filed square with a light coat of Essie Ballet Slippers. Other times, we can't bring ourselves to pick just one colour, so we go with 10 shades of neon on an extra-long stiletto shape.
Typically, getting the latter look requires help from extensions — our nails don't grow into coffin-shaped tips overnight and, even if they do, our natural nails would break off within minutes. Luckily, there are many ways to get instant length, including acrylic powder and press-on tips, but another celebrity-favourite option is the Gel-X System by Aprés Nails. Fans of the product like how natural the extensions look and feel, which is also why it's a popular pick for celebrity manicurists like Mar y Sol Inzerillo. She's been using the system since 2016 on herself and her famous clients, including Janelle Monáe, Elle Fanning, Candice Swanepoel, and Ashley Graham. But before you hop on the Gel-X bandwagon, we broke down everything there is to know about the system, ahead.
What are Gel-X extensions?
Gel-X extensions have the malleability of a soft gel polish and the length of a press-on or glue-on nail. "[The extension] is made out of gel polish," Mary y Soul says. "It's applied directly on top of your full natural nail and can be cut and shaped to your preference."
Unlike acrylic or hard-gel extensions, Gel-X tips don't just sit at the tip of the nails. Instead, they cover the entire nail bed from cuticle to free edge. The system comes with various sizes of full-coverage tips, which allow you to customize the ones you use based on the size and shape of your finger. You can also pick from short, medium, long, stiletto, coffin, round, or square shapes.
Once you've selected the shape and size of your nail, your natural tips are prepped with a pH bonder and nail primer. Then, your nails get one coat of Extend Gel polish (which is included in the Gel-X kit) and are cured under a LED lamp. When your natural nails are cured, it's time to secure your extension. This is done by adding more of the Extend Gel polish to the inside of the tip (the side sitting on your nail) and curing it with the LED lamp.
You can get a Gel-X Nail System from Aprés to DIY the extensions at home. Or, you can go to a local salon that offers the system. Either way, a full set will cost you upwards of $100.
If you walk into the salon for a fresh set, prepare to designate at least an hour and a half for extensions. Plus, add more time if you want to add gel polish on top. You don't have to use gel polish with Gel-X nails though. "For the MET Gala this year, I used extensions on Candice Swanepoel under a nail polish from Defy and Inspire," Mar y Soul says. "For the 2018 Met Gala, I also used a Revlon colour on Ashley Graham after applying Aprés extensions."
How long do Gel-X extensions last?
If you're looking for a new nail technique that won't chip when you wash the dishes or peel off within one week, Gel-X nails will quickly win you over. When installed correctly, the nails can go up to 3-4 weeks without any lifting, meaning no raised edges or chipping off. You may notice some growth at the base of your nail after wearing the extensions for over three weeks, but that's also an indicator that it's time to get your nails removed or redone (more on that ahead).
Are Gel-X extensions safe?
With any nail enhancement, there's a possibility of damage to your natural nail. However, Mar y Soul considers Gel-X a safe method for lengthening your nails. "So far, I haven’t seen any damage from Gel-X nails, but gel is gel," she says. "If you pick off your extensions you could cause damage to your natural nails." It's why removal is, hands down, one of the most critical parts of the process.
How are Gel-X extensions removed?
"The extensions are made of gel, so you would remove them the same way you would remove a standard gel manicure," Mar y Soul tells us. On her clients, she uses an electric file to break the top barrier before soaking the tips. To minimize damage, you should seek professional removal of your extensions (if you can), but if you have to do the deed at home, Mar y Soul recommends the Gel Removal Kit from Red Carpet Manicure. "It has everything you need to remove them yourself at home without damaging your natural nail," she says. But, whatever you do, don't rip off your tips. That can weaken the natural nail underneath.