What if I told you there were a manicure out there floating around in the ether that could give you the look of an acrylic nail without the colossal damage it tends to leave in its wake? Yep, you read that right—it exists. Let me introduce you to polygel nail enhancements, a hybrid acrylic-and-gel formula that introduces the best of both worlds.
To get a little more insight on this too-good-to-be-true-sounding manicure, I tapped celebrity manicurist Elle Gerstein (nail whiz to the likes of Blake Lively) to get the details. Keep scrolling for what she had to share.
"Polygel nails are a hybrid acrylic-and-gel formula with the consistency of toothpaste," Gerstein explains. "It applies like an acrylic and gives the nails a more flexible, strong structure that you can sculpt natural nails with." Basically, it takes the best parts of liquid and powder acrylics and fuses them with traditional LED hard gel. The main appeal of polygel nails is that they tend to be lighter than acrylics or regular hard gel but equally as strong, so they last about the same amount of time or longer (typically, Gerstein says, around three to four weeks).
Unlike most regular acrylics, which are pre-shaped, polygel can be applied directly to your natural nail and sculpted into your desired shape. "For some lengths and shapes, I will [even] use polygel to add a higher apex to the nail for added support," Gerstein adds. Most nail technicians start by applying a dehydrator to the nails to help the polygel adhere to the nail better. They then use a base coat to prime the nails and let them dry. After this step, most polygel is applied similarly to hard gel. The nail tech will use a brush to apply a small amount of the polygel to each nail and sculpt it into the desired shape.
Polygel nail enhancements are an ideal, nail-saving alternative to regular gel or acrylics. Regular gel is extremely thin and can cause a lot of damage to your natural nail if you're not careful. Acrylics are great for those who want their nails to appear longer, but their thickness can cause them to break more easily than polygel. That's what makes polygel nails unique—the formula has the same durability as acrylics but is lighter and more malleable.
According to Gerstein, when applied and removed correctly, polygel shouldn't cause any damage to your natural nails. Because it's also so easy to sculpt and shape, you may be wondering if you can try this yourself at home. Gerstein advises, "These products should be applied by experts only and require maintenance for a perfect 10!"
Although it's probably best to see a trained nail technician for this kind of manicure, that doesn't mean you can't learn with proper research. If you are interested in learning and want to invest in your own polygel kit, the internet has your back. Check out the best polygel nail-enhancement kits below.