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  • Writer's pictureAnna Renata

Can gel polish damage nails?

So the answer is no.

Just like the donuts won’t make you fat...... Unless you eat them. (Or you eat too many of them…. or your metabolism sucks.)

So this is a very uncomfortable topic for me as a nail tech but I’m coming to this conclusion and I’m compelled to share it because I think it’s unfair to always blame ourselves or assume it must be the client… when clearly there might be another reason….. like the actual product itself.



The video is a long and very detailed video so please sit down with a cup of coffee (or wine!) and watch it on your desktop because it’s recorded in HD and I’m not sure if you can watch HD on the phone.

I decided to film this video not to poo poo on Shellac or advertise other brands (I’m not affiliated with any) but to maybe shed some light on this subject so maybe we can create some solutions here....

So the first video was filmed back in February. Shellac was used for this application and many before. I soaked it for 10 minutes and you can see how easy the removal was.

No scraping. (Please don't say "metal tools scrape the nail" etc)

You can see product popping off and you can see white spots.

2 weeks later (the client is a regular) I filmed another video of the removal of the Rouge Rite and application of another colour. Again, you can see super easy removal and you can see damage.

The original video is here:

Fast forward 3 months…. and this same client’s nails are way better. No damage.

(Update from June 30th, 2018- I just redid the client's nails again and smooth nails, no damage, despise slightly more difficult removal!!)

What happened?

I’m gonna explain everything while you watch the removal and the manicure part. I included everything that might provide clues.

So at some point this client came in with bare nails because the Shellac peeled off or she picked it off or something.

She probably had the product off for about few days (3-4). I’m mentioning this because I’m starting to see a pattern.

When she came in her nails didn’t have any white spots anymore (because they kind of disappear) when the product is left off for a while.

I didn’t do IBX or anything because we tried it in the past and the nails looked better but upon next removal we were back to square 1

So this time I used different brand, Exclusive Nail Couture. She booked 2 weeks later but had to cancel and came back 3 weeks later.

I was sure she had no product left by then but no, the product was all good and shiny (!!).

Upon removal the nails looked super good but I didn’t film it sadly, I did NOT expect that.

Again I used Enail Couture  and she wore it for 2 weeks.

Here you will see the recent removal. 

I took the top coat off because the product does not remove as easy as Shellac.

Wrapped and waited 10 minutes (I usually add heating pad to help with the removal).

Again. No damage.

What the heck, right?

So what is it?

Well, it’s can’t be my removal! 

When it comes to nail damage who gets blamed? We do.

How does the saying go…..?

“It’s not the product, it’s the nail technician!”

Yes, I have seen lots of damage caused by nail techs. Overfiling the nails, overfilling the skin and so on.

But it’s like our industry is black and white. It’s either the nail tech getting the blame or the client.

It’s either one or the other. Or it’s the client’s nails. 

But here you will see that there can be another reason. 

It’s not my removal (I do not buy the "trauma from scraping when you can clearly see that the product is falling off). I also NEVER see this kind of trauma when client does not wear polish or gel polish even when I use the SAME tool to push back the cuticle, even after they soak their feet before pedicure (so it's not "wet nails are prone to more damage by scraping"). Never ever.

It’s not the this client (same client, same lifestyle) and it’s not “her nails”. Same nails have no damage now.

Product manufacturers say that products can’t damage the nails.

I think they can.

Well, let’s be precise. Not the product itself, but wearing that product (even when applied and removed according to instructions)

I just love when some nail techs show a picture of 1 person with perfect nails after removing product with a caption “gel does not damage the nails, bad nail techs do”

That's like me posting a picture of eating a cake with a comment "Look, I eat this for breakfast every day and I'm not fat"

Good for me, but that doesn't mean that everyone will have the same great results even eating the same amazing cake.

So let's not scream “bad nail techs” or blame clients for picking when we see damaged nails.

Honestly I had clients with large air pockets under the product and upon removal you see lots of damage. Did they hit the nails? Maybe or it’s just normal wear. Even the original Shellac removal you see the product totally pop off the damaged areas. 

So… I don’t think product can damage the nails, but wearing it definitely can!


Let’s think about it.

The product is bonded to the nail, right?

People bang their nails around or just maybe use their hands. Or wear shoes and the nails bend.

That bending and normal wear of the product can cause the damage by putting pressure on that bond. Eventually some products might have a stronger bond to the nail than the layers to each other and wearing the product will pull the layers of the nail up creating little pockets of air that show up as white spots.

Why don’t people see this when they file the product off?

Because the damage is superficial and they will end up removing it with a fine file so it won’t be visible.

The acetone or the remover will dry the nail making the white spots “empty” and visible. Without a soak off I think the white spots are filled with moisture and are not as visible

Some say that the white spots is a dryness from the removal in acetone.

That is not the case. I tested it. Just find a person who doesn’t wear any product on their nails and wrap a nail or 2 with acetone for 10 minutes. Do that every 2 weeks. For a while.

You will not see any difference in the texture of the nail. It’s not the acetone, trust me.

So overall I think obviously it can be the product on some people.

I think it’s complicated because it’s not like I see the same damage on all clients from Shellac.

I don’t but it’s not my removal and it’s not her nails. So what is it? I think some formula’s can be “harder” on some nails. Same goes for nail polish. In fact more so, I think. A lot of people get the white spots or simply surface damage/ rough nail surface on their toes from polish wear. 

And it’s not fungus. I had that happen to quite of few pedicure clients. I had them discontinue the polish this winter. They all have healthy nails now. And I have pictures to prove it haha.

So what are my conclusions? I don’t know….

But I can tell you one thing…. I changed my tune with clients.

When I have clients very concerned with the condition of their natural nails wanting me to promise that my manicures are not gonna damage their nails…. I tell them honestly that I can’t promise them that.

Because when they ask "Is gel gonna damage my nails" they are not asking who and how the damage happens. They are asking for the end result.

So I do tell them that product wear CAN affect the surface. 

I tell them that lots depends on how they wear the product and what their nails naturally are… some are more resilient than others and I can’t tell just by looking.

This goes for gel polish, gel, L&P and even regular polish.

I can tell them that majority of my clients do well. That they won’t experience overfilled nails but if they expect virgin nails after wearing any type of product on their nails for some time I can’t guarantee that.

And I feel that is the truth……

OK, please watch the video and let me know what you think?

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- Are you still gonna use CND Shellac?


- Yes! It's a great product, lasts well and it soaks off very well. Majority of clients do well with it but it does tend to cause some surface damage with long term use for some clients


- Do you think Exclusive Nail Couture is better than Shellac?


- No, I don't. It's just different. There are pros and cons to every brand.

To watch the video click below:

This video is NOT sponsored (no shit, no one will ever ask me for sponsored video after this)

1,073 views1 comment

1 Comment

Unknown member
Jun 23, 2019

This is such a thought provoking video. As a sufferer of white patches, spots and lines I will take a polish break and try a new system. Maybe our nails get product fatigue and need a change.

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