Are Gel Pedicures Worth It? Read This Before Booking

Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images.
The gel manicure is a nail salon staple. Some of us have zero patience for dry time, while others need the peace of mind that comes with the long-wear service, but whatever the reason, it's undeniably one of the most popular manicure options. But what about its corresponding service, the gel pedicure? Why hasn't this long-lasting option become just as in-demand? Is it an unnecessary add-on to your go-to pedicure or a sleeper hit that hasn't gotten enough attention? We decided to find out.
We spoke to Molly Romah, lead nail technician at Chillhouse salon in New York City. The service's biggest perk? "You don’t have to wait for it to dry," she says. "Plus, it lasts longer, has intense shine, and it's easy to work with if you’re a nail design fanatic." Keep scrolling for all the details.
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How does a gel pedicure work?

Similar to a traditional pedicure, the basics come first: nail shaping, cuticle care, and so forth. Then, just like a gel manicure, each layer of polish is applied to the nails then cured under a LED or UV light device for 30 to 60 seconds. The whole service should take under an hour.

Because of the longer wear, gel pedicures are more expensive, which varies based on location and salon. At Chillhouse, for example, a gel pedicure costs only marginally more than its regular polish service.

How long does gel nail polish last?

In the same way that your regular pedicure typically lasts longer than a manicure, a gel pedi will last about a week or two longer than a gel manicure. Romah says that three weeks is a common baseline, but depending on your lifestyle (swimming, exercising, and shoe choices are all factors), four or more weeks is possible.
It's this reason that R29 senior beauty editor Lexy Lebsack finds the service to be a great option, especially since she took up surfing last summer. "Regular polish immediately gets trashed in the water, but my first gel pedicure didn't chip for over a month," she notes about a pedicure from Olive & June in Los Angeles. "I also find slipping my shoes on right after the service to be a huge benefit, especially in the winter! No more foam flip flops or lugging a pair of sandals with you."
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Are gel pedicures safe?

As with any nail service, you want to chose a trusted salon with knowledgeable staff. Opt for a shop that uses LED lamps versus UV ones to mitigate potential skin damage, advises Romah. "I also love the LED gel lamps because they're faster," she says. "The polish dries within 30 to 60 seconds." However, it should be noted that any light might still be damaging to the skin, so consider wearing pedicure socks.

How difficult is it to remove?

Just like your hands, toe gel polish should be soaked off for at least 10 minutes. It's important that you resist peeling or scraping off the polish, because you can cause damage to the nail bed and cuticles. "The best way to remove gel polish is to soak it off with cotton and acetone," says Romah.

It's also important to remember that removing the polish is best done by a professional, so factor that in when deciding if this is truly timesaving for your lifestyle.
As recommended with gel manicures, taking a break once in awhile can be worth considering to prevent the weakening of your nails. As a 2012 study concluded, gel manicures did, in fact, cause thinning. And when you do back to gel, Romah ultimately agrees it can "be a great way to give your toenails a beautiful, lasting look."