Nail polish that stays gorgeous for weeks on end is here.

Many people are wondering “What is gel nail polish?” This specialized product has become the biggest trend in manicures. Sometimes these gel nail polishes are called a 2 week nail polish or even a 3 week nail polish. This can sound too good to be true, but it is not just a fairy tale. Imagine getting a manicure, paying about 50 percent more than normal and spending an extra 30 minutes or so longer than average at the salon, but having the result be shiny and chip free for weeks. Even better, the way these products cure under UV or LED lights means they are dry instantly. Polish companies have given you this product by combining two different types of nail products, typical nail polish and long-wearing gel.

Gel Nail Polish Benefits

Gel nail polish hybrids give you chip-free shine that lasts for two weeks or more. Most of the polishes do not need any buffing of the natural nail and can even help protect your nails against chips and snags. Some specific products like Shellac by CND and GelFX from Orly also have other benefits geared to help keep your natural nails healthy and strong underneath the nail gel polish.

Once a good idea is born, many people try to copy it and make it their own. It is important that you avoid mixing different brands in the same manicure, because each brand has their own protocol to make sure their product performs at its best. Avoid any nail technicians that mix brands to make sure the product you choose has its best chance at making your nails look amazing for weeks on end.

Products and Their Differences

Here is the low down on some of the most popular gel polishes you can find.

One of the very first products on the market was Shellac by CND, and this product is still one of the best sellers. Shellac offers over 30 colors and the colors layer well to create your own custom nail look. The formula has “tiny tunnels” in it and if you follow the company’s directions and apply their Solar Oil twice daily that oil can penetrate through those tiny tunnels and keep the natural nail underneath the nail gel polish hybrid hydrated.

Hand and Nail Harmony’s Gelish product is another one of the first products on the market. Gelish is available in over 70 colors, though the colors don’t layer as well as the Shellac colors. This product does need buffing the natural nail before application of the base coat, which makes it slightly different from many other products on the market. Professional nail technicians have also noted that this product is a bit more challenging to remove than some of its competitors.

OPI is known for having a strong presence in the consumer nail polish market, but they also have the specialized options for professional nail technicians with Axxium and GelColor. Both of these nail products are different variations of gel polishes, with Axxium being the older product that applies like craft paints instead of nail polish, and GelColor is the product that is more like traditional nail gel polish hybrids in both application and removal. Axxium has a bit of a bad rep with professionals because it takes up to 30 minutes to remove, while similar products from competitors take only a third of that. GelColor takes the more standard 10-15 minutes to remove and comes in 30 of the best-selling OPI shades.

Perfect Match by Le Chat is one of the first gel polish products that offered matching standard nail polish so users could touch up their nail color at home. This was one major downfall of some of the original products like Shellac and Gelish and many of the newer gel polish products offer matching nail polishes you can use to touch up out growth and any possible chips between manicure appointments.

Orly, the brand that brought the world the French Manicure, pioneered a new type of gel polish hybrid called GelFX. The GelFX top coat is acetone resistant. To remove GelFX you have to break the seal of the top coat by buffing it with a nail file, much like other brands like Gelish. This means that for anyone who handles acetone on a regular basis, like professional nail technicians, the GelFX is a perfect choice so they can actually keep their gel polish on longer. Orly also infused the line with vitamins that they claim help keep your nails healthy and strong. Like OPI, Orly focused their gel polish product on existing best-selling shades so you can touch up your manicure anytime between visits to the salon.

Where to Find Gel Nail Polish

All of the brands and products highlighted are professional-only, meaning you must have a nail technician license to buy and use the products. Many suppliers will allow other licensed beauty professionals to buy them as well and you can find some of the products available for sale on the open market, even though the companies do not sanction these types of sales. The main reason these products are used only by professional nail technicians is complexity of the application and the specific directions that vary for each brand and product. The products are cured using UV or LED lamps that dry the polish down in minutes or even seconds, but because each brand is different it is important that professionals handle this process.

When looking for a salon to get a gel nail polish applied, ask the providers how long they have used the products, if they follow all the brand’s protocol for application and how many colors they have of each specific brand. If they only have a few colors, that means they probably do not do much of this type of service. One helpful tool is the salon/technician finder available at CND’s website. Any nail technician who offers the brand’s Shellac product can be listed on the company’s site, so make sure you still call and ask questions about the technician’s experience.