The Gel Nail Extension System That Made Me Swear Off Acrylics Forever

It’s just that good.

Originally Published: 
Apres Gel-X Nails are a great substitute for acrylics.

I​​f you aren't blessed with naturally long and strong nails, then you're already aware that extension systems including acrylics and press-ons are the easiest way to give you that added drama on your hands. But in return, those methods can give you acrylic-damaged nails due to improper application, harsh chemicals, and intense drilling caused by the removal process. But these days, nail lovers are opting for an innovative gel extension system called Aprés Gel-X, which gives length without sacrificing the health of your nails underneath.

Firstly, what even are Aprés Gel-X Nails? It's important to mention that the process — created in 2017 — is the world's first soft-gel nail extension system. Think of Gel-X nails as a sophisticated press-on made completely out of gel. Unlike acrylic nails, which involve placing extensions solely at the tip, Aprés nails cover the entire nail bed, fostering a safer space for encouraging your nails to grow naturally with far less potential for damage. "A key component for me to align with Aprés was its ethical approach,” Kia Stewart, celebrity nail artist and founder of Salon 1209 in New York City, tells TZR. “Safe nail care for the technician as well as the client is huge. The extra bonus is it’s a soak-off system, so it aligns with less manipulation to the natural nail. That’s a top tier priority in my book, since my focus is on maintaining nail health."

Are Aprés Gel-X Nails Better Than Acrylics?

There are a few notable differences when comparing classic acrylic vs gel nails using the Aprés method. Aside from the easy removal process (Gel-X nails soak off with acetone), there's no hard drilling, so nail beds are not irrevocably damaged before or after treatment. However, it's the health benefits that have even the strictest wellness lovers changing their minds about nail extensions. "We all know the signature nail salon smell," Stewart says. "It’s universal. Many people are not aware of the toxins that these environments produce." Those toxins Stewart is referring are formaldehyde and casting resins, found in abundance in acrylic powder.

Draya Michele, actress and founder of Los Angeles nail bar Brand Nails, agrees. She's converted hundreds of her clients to Aprés nails from acrylic, creating a safer space for anyone who steps foot in the nail salon. "It's safer for everyone, including the nail tech," she says. "It uses [fewer] drills and makes less dust, which in turn is better for the nail tech, the other customers in the shop, and for the client."

Are Aprés Gel-X Nails Meant For At-Home Use?

While they present as press-on nail extensions, at-home use of Gel-X nails can be a little trickier, especially if you want the nails to last. Aprés nails don’t adhere simply from nail glue. Instead, they’re applied with a polish adhesive that must be cured with a blue light. "I wouldn’t advise most professional industry products to my clients, but this is safe from my experience for at-home nail care and pretty simple maintaining upkeep," Stewart says — as long as you have the tools for it. However, with at-home application comes a shift in longevity. "If you go to a salon or licensed professional, Aprés can last as long as three to four weeks," she says. "If we look at in-home services done by the consumer, it can be subjective."

Another concern is sanitation, which is why Michele is an advocate for exclusive salon use. "When it comes to cleanliness and proper preparation of the natural nail, you want to make sure sanitary practices regarding workspace and tools are up to standards as far as cleaned and disinfected. In a salon space, it's a safer environment and there are certain rules are enforced regarding sanitation."

Can I Still Achieve The Length Of Acrylics With Aprés Gel-X Nails?

Absolutely. "They offer every shape and length under the sun," Michele says. "We’ve been working [with] Aprés since the beginning, so we’ve seen when they had limited shapes and now we see they have everything. They even have extensions with cut-outs in the nails; the brand is constantly evolving."

Who Are Aprés Gel-X Nails Best For?

Stewart only suggests the system to those who are truly willing to prioritize nail health. "I think if you are going to a salon, the best candidate is someone looking for a partnership for a nail journey," she says. "Aprés is a system, so it has to be maintained, and is an investment (whereas acrylic sets can start as low as $25, an Aprés set has an average starting rate of $75). Many people have transitioned their mindset of nail care by wearing Aprés."

When it comes to the starting length of your nails, nail biting people may want to take it easy for awhile. "The people I don’t necessarily suggest it for are nail biters and people who have short to the skin finger nails," she says. "The extension does need something to stick to, unlike acrylic tips, which can start with any base." Otherwise, if you’re interested in branching out from your traditional acrylics (and maybe trying to grow out your natural nails), Aprés Gel-X nails are worth a try when you book your next salon appointment.

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