Everything You Need to Know About Gel-X Manicures

November 03, 2023
Jessica Harrington
By: Jessica Harrington | Makeup.com by L'Oréal
Close-up image of a hand with long brown and nude manicured Gel-x nails

Chances are you’ve heard of — and probably have tried — a standard gel or acrylic manicure. Gel nails are popular due to their ability to stay looking great for a week or more without chipping or breaking, while acrylics give you the appearance of long, perfectly shaped nails with the same long-lasting abilities (and then some). Though pricier than a regular manicure, gel and acrylic nails are often worth it for the long-lasting effect. After all, when you get a cute new mani, you don’t want it to chip the next day. 

There is, however, a downside to faux nails. The state of your natural nails when you take them off can be seriously diminished (read: dry, brittle, weak and more susceptible to breakage.) That’s where Gel-X comes in. Gel-X manicures are a fairly new type of nail treatment that give you the strength of gel and the length of acrylics, minus the damage to your natural nails. Ahead, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about gel-x manicures.

Meet the Experts

What Is a Gel-X Manicure? 

“Gel-X is a full-coverage soft gel extension service,” says Park. “Invented by Aprés Nail in 2017, Gel-X allows you to create beautiful and durable extensions easily and quickly.” According to Gerstein, Gel-X is “a full-coverage gel that has already been sculpted while off of the hand to create a full nail extension with gel when applied.” Since the Gel-X nail extensions are pre-formed to your preferred length and shape, the application process is quick and easy. A Gel-X manicure gives you the best of both worlds in that the extensions are strong and long-lasting, but they can also be easily soaked off using acetone the way you would remove normal gel polish, says Park. 

How Does a Gel-X Manicure Differ From Acrylic Nails?

When it comes to a Gel-X manicure, both the application process and the actual extensions themselves differ from acrylic nails. “The difference from acrylics is that this is an already pre-done nail that soaks off every three to four weeks,” explains Gerstein. “You don’t need to apply, then cut and shape like you do with other nail tips or extensions.” 

Aprés Gel-X extensions are applied with Extend Gel (no glue) on the natural nail and filed down to the desired shape, while acrylic nails require the use of an acrylic monomer/liquid or acrylic powder on a nail form or tip and can be filled every two weeks. This makes Gel-X a great option for people who are sensitive to fragrances. Since there is no monomer required with Gel-X extensions — only soft gel polish — you don’t have to deal with the strong scent that comes with the acrylic manicure process. 

Gel-X is also different from regular gel nail polish. “Most soft gel is like the name implies — too soft to create lengthy extensions,” explains Park. “But with our patented soft gel formula, we apply both an incredible amount of heat and pressure during our manufacturing process which chemically alters the gel into something 10 times stronger and harder than in its liquid state, all while still maintaining its ability to be easily soaked off with acetone.” 

How Long Does a Gel-X Manicure Last?

According to Park, a Gel-X manicure can last anywhere from two to four weeks. Of course, as with any manicure or nail extensions, the proper prep, application and care affect the longevity of your mani. 

In-Salon Application of a Gel-X Manicure 

For the best results (and the wellbeing of your nails), we suggest heading to the salon to get your Gel-X extensions done by a licensed nail technician.

Step 1: Prep Your Nails and Apply the pH Bonder

Prep your natural nails the way you normally would for a manicure, then apply a layer of the Aprés Nail pH Bonder. This is the first layer of the Gel-X nail and it dehydrates your nail plate, ridding it of any oil or residue that could affect the application.

Step 2: Apply the Acid-Free Gel Primer

“Next is our Acid-Free Gel Primer to create a tacky layer for the gel to adhere onto,” says Park. This helps the Gel-X nail better adhere to your natural nail. It guarantees more comfortable wear than acid-based primers, which can cause nail sensitivity or soreness.

Step 3: Apply Extend Gel and Cure With an LED Lamp

Once you’ve applied your primer, it’s time to go in with the Extend Gel, “the soft gel lynchpin that adheres the Gel-X Tip onto the natural nail,” says Park. Be sure to use just a thin layer of the Extend Gel at this step. Then, cure your nails for 30 seconds in an LED lamp.

Step 4: Etch Your Gel-X Tip Mechanically or Chemically

“Next take your Gel-X tip and etch the underside of the tip to allow for better grip,” explains Park. “You can do this either with an e-file or with our Gel-X Prep, a dustless way to chemically etch the underside of the tip.”

Step 5: Apply the Gel-X Tips

Finally, you’re ready to place the tips on your nails.”After etching, apply a bead of Extend Gel to the underside of the Gel-X Tip,” says Park. “Then, apply the Gel-X Tip at a 45 degree angle onto the nail and flash cure.” 

Step 6: Cure Your Nails

Once you’ve added all five Gel-X tips to one hand, cure the hand for 30 seconds in an LED lamp. Repeat these steps with your other hand. Park notes that if you’re still unclear on the process, all boxes of Aprés Nail Gel-X Tips come with a QR code to a video tutorial for how to apply them. 

How to Remove a Gel-X Manicure

Step 1: File Off the Nail Color

Start by filing off any top coat and nail polish you have on the Gel-X extensions, as well as most of the Gel-X tip. If you have especially long extensions, you can cut them down first. 

Step 2: Soak the Nails

“Take a cotton ball, soak in acetone, apply it on the nail and wrap in foil,” instructs Park. You’ll want to leave your nails soaking in their foil wraps for 10 to 15 minutes. This process may seem familiar to you, as it is the same process by which you soak off regular gel nail polish.

Step 3: Unwrap and Gently Remove the Extensions

Once 10 or 15 minutes have passed, you can unwrap your nails and remove the extensions. The gel should have lifted during the soaking process, so you can gently push the lifted gel off of your natural nails.

Gel-X Manicure Ideas

Negative Space Nails

We love negative space nails, which is when a colored design is juxtaposed against a clear or neutral base. In this example, the nail artist used a chic brown polish color for her design. The nails are almond-shaped Gel X extensions. 

Jelly French

This spin on the nostalgic, ’90s-inspired jelly trend is so creative. The main nail color is a solid violet shade while the French tips are translucent jelly purple. At Makeup.com, we’re obsessed with any creative take on the classic French mani. If you’re not ready to try Gel-x nails yet, Essie Cyber Society is a similar striking purple shade to the one in the photo.

Flame Hearts

These red and white flame heart nails are nothing short of fierce. Another spin on French tips, this mani has a neutral base to let the bold tips steal the show. The nail tech used Stiletto Long Gel-X Tips to achieve the dramatic length.

Bandana Print

How cute are these pink bandana print nails? They give us throwback summer camp vibes in the best way possible. We’ll definitely be trying this look ourselves when the weather gets a little bit warmer.

Tiny Hearts

Tiny red hearts and white polka dots against a nude base complete this oh-so-sweet manicure. We especially like the upside down heart tips on each pinky finger. Here, the nail tech used Short Almond Gel-X Tips.

Floral Accent Nail

Nothing says spring like a pastel floral accent nail with yellow, pink and white flowers. We also love the candy green shade used for the rest of the manicure. We’re adding this photo to our spring inspo mood board ASAP.

Deck of Cards

This manicure inspired by a deck of playing cards is so creative and clever! The ring fingers on each hand are adorned with a black Ace of Hearts card, while the other nails are nude nails with black French tips.

Monochromatic Yin Yang

A yin yang design is a simple, statement-making nail art option. This example has extra eye-catching details, like the monochromatic pink color palette and the use of hearts instead of dots for the yin yang nails.

Photo: @_nailsbyjenn;  Additional Reporting By: Jordan Julian

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