Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Magic Manicure

 I explore Hybrid gel polishes, which are now becoming the hot topic of conversation in the industry today
I am sure you can’t have missed the recent frenzy which has surrounded the introduction of a brand new service to the nail industry.  This reinvention of the soak off gels and polishes haven't gone unnoticed to even the most remote nail technician in the UK and worldwide.  
An ingenious application which comes in a bottle, has the durability of gel but applies like polish.  This brush on product has already hit the mainstream media by storm and customers are frantically looking for salons that offer the service. Initially introduced to the UK market by CND distributors Sweet Squared in May last year with Shellac, Harmony followed quickly on its heels with Gelish. Having a head start over most other distributors they at present hold the market share.  I was intrigued and wanted to explore more about this new ‘hybrid’ polish and the main question being asked by everyone was ‘which one was the best?’ IBD’s Gelac or Ez Flow’s Gelez, Jessica has introduced Geleration and Astonishing has launched Gelosophy just last month.  As I write this I have noticed NSI’s Pro Polish is now available, Cuccio Pronto, Beau-Nail, NCO Couture Gel Polish, Professionails Gellak, and Artistic Nail design Colour gloss are also available on the market. With more and more different collections hitting the industry almost daily I wanted to present a platform where all the main brands can be seen and compared.
Of course it’s not for me to make your choice or tell you which is the right or wrong one, we all love to work with the products we know, and we use these products because we trust the people behind them to develop the best for us. Every single system I have used has its own strengths and weakness.   I have enjoyed two months of testing, trailing and most importantly wearing all the different ranges of Gel polish out there, and I have to admit I had every intention of writing this article as a comparison. However the more I worked with these products the more I came to realize that you can't pick and choose which is the best. All I can do is bring you, in my opinion, an idea of just what is available so you can make your own choice.

But before I began, I wanted to explore exactly what impact these new gel applications would have on the industry, and if they would affect the current soak off gel and polish markets. I spoke with Samantha Sweet from Sweet Squared who believes that these gel polishes are “creating a new segment in the industry”.  It has to be said I have spoken with a lot of nail technicians who have said that their business have increased because of this revolutionary hybrid of polish and gel. It brings in new clients into the salon who don’t have traditional enhancements but want something longer lasting. The question on most people’s lips is whether they will replace existing soak off gels? Marion Newman says “Hybrids are very similar to the soak offs, however the big difference is that the formulations are easier to get a thin application that looks just like polish. Many using the existing products could not get that ‘look’ without the rounded end, also with the marketing hype it can’t help but encourage clients old and new back into the salon” Marion goes on to say“ this new generation is exactly what the industry needed, bringing a brilliant service to the natural nail market”. In her opinion Marion feels strongly that the industry has spent too long ignoring the natural nail market and concentrating too much on enhancements and nail art. 

 Some nail technicians have suggested these fusion gels will replace standard  polish, but Vicky Richard-Higgins from Florida, USA makes an interesting point “I don’t believe that gel polish may someday replace the standard polish, there is a slight learning curve as far as application being smooth and thin, but this can be quickly learnt, and even if the happy housewife decides to buy her own lamp and do it at home I don’t think it will take away anything from a professional manicurist, any more than standard polish does right now. People still want the professional service, personnel touch and emotional connection they get from a visit to the salon”.    Rebecca Orme from Creative Ten and Nails and Co also doesn’t think they will replace the traditional soak off gels “soak off gels have other qualities, the nail technicians can add shape to flat nails for example”. 

One of the interesting outcomes of launching these new product lines is the effects they have on the smaller salons in the UK, and many have noticed that it has saved their business; increasing turnover to the salon in a recession is impressive in the main because nail technicians, manicurists and beauty therapists are now offering a more cost effective alternative to enhancements and a long lasting polish. Along with the overall increase in turnover many nail technicians such as Michelle Hardy, a Jessica Educator, told me that their clients natural nails have gone from strength to strength Michelle states “I have found that Geleration protects the natural nail and gives added strength’ she also says her clients love the fact they can get up and leave, their nails are still flexible and they still feel ‘real’. The same can be said of Gelac from IBD and Gelez from Ez Flow according to Laura Hughes, Education manager from Grafton’s International. 
My trails were anecdotal, and by no means a perfect test. But I decided the best way to try out these products was to apply them to a range of different clients and get their feedback, I also chose one person, with natural nails and a very hectic lifestyle,  to have a different product applied on each finger. After 21 days we reviewed the results. I tested Gelac from IBD, Shellac from CND, Gelish from Harmony, Gelez from Ez Flow, Axxium from OPI, Seche and Geleration from Jessica. Looking at these products I concentrated on five main areas, which I thought are really applicable when choosing the right brand. Instructions; I really wanted to look at how easy the instructions were to follow. Application; how did the polish/gel apply, Presentation; what does the bottles tell the clients, do they look good, Overall finish, I tested both UV and LED cures and finally Colour.

 Over the course of three weeks I compared the life of the product, obviously the fingers which do more, get more wear and tear, and most of my clients said that the index finger, thumb and middle fingers dulled first and lost the colour along the free edge. This generally happened after 9 or 10 days, and they said they could have lived with it for another week.

I think one of the important questions for me, as an educator, was does this product need education. Can an ordinary nail technician or manicurist pick up a bottle and apply, following the simple rules set out by the supplier?  Gelish seem to be the easiest instructions to follow, with a short video on the application and detailed instructions. There is also a video for the Gelac &; Gelez applications. Shellac have a detailed step by step with clear images on the steps, and Seche have a handy little flyer which to has a detailed images and steps plus top tips for applying the polish. But what stands out is  Geleration, the handy little laminated instructions made it easy to follow while actually applying the product, it is something which can be stored away in the nail desk and looks professional when out.  

2.   Application
 I am exploring the ease with which each of these polishes can be applied, from base coat to top coat.  Speed is always the key when you’re a nail technician, and the advantage of the LED cured polish is hard to resist. Although you would have to purchase a special lamp, however the polishes can be applied with a UV lamp. Both Geleration and Gelish have these LED cured polishes, but I don’t know if they actually save that much time, perhaps 5 minutes in total. I also noticed that the colours varied slightly between the different curing. Axxium was the most troublesome for me to apply; this was by far the thinnest of all the hybrids and coming in a small pot, meant an additional brush had to be purchased. However Yvette uses OPI’s Axxium and loves it “I can see exactly how much is left in each of the pots and application is thin, colour even and consistent and the shine is amazing”.  But basically if you can apply a polish then you can apply these hybrids. The one thing I would advise is to practice, the consistencies differ and if applied incorrectly the products will lift and chip. It is important to follow the manufactures instructions.

Which brand stands out to me?  Yes there is a few that really made an impact on my desk and to my clients.  For ease the Shellac colours can be seen clearly but the bottles sizes were smaller.  I love the shape of the Gelez bottles and they felt nice in the hand when applying. They also had a matt finish which looked stylish, although the disadvantage is the labeling with small butterflies matching the colours in the bottles, it became difficult to find the top coat or show off the colours. Gelish has an unusual label, white with a pretty pattern and in style with current trends. Within the label is round hole where you can see the polish colour, Geleration has a similar cut out on a black bottle.  Jessica labeling was simple and clear, what I like is the large S for Start (base coat) and large F for finish (Top coat).  But probably the ones that stand out for me are the Gelac bottles, white with a large printed coloured label, you can clearly see the colours from a distance and surprisingly they match what’s inside the bottle.  Axxium has beautiful little pots which look great on the desk, but a little like a cosmetic range, and something interesting 5 out of my 10 testers said “I thought this was a gel polish, I don’t want extensions”.


For me the best finish was Gelez and Geleration. Gelish seemed thinner and when I applied the Red was slightly more transparent. Shellac had a creamier more opaque look to overall colour, but the application was just like polish. Axxium shine lasted the longest on my trails, with IBD coming in a close second.  This is a hard one to gauge, as it is down to personnel taste and preference, not only was the vibrancy of the colours and transparency taken into consideration, but the finished look of the nails and the shine.  


The range of colours between all the collections are similar, the expected  vampy blacks and trampy reds, to the rose pinks and corals. There are also the pink and whites and the shimmers and glitters. The pallets cover everything a client could want in varying degrees. Ez flow boasts a more expressive pallet, whereas IBD go for the traditional customer’s choice. Jessica has a polish which matches every bottle of Geleration colour, which I thought was great, as an up sale option. Linda Butler tells me her clients make their treatments last longer, buy buying the additional bottle of polish which perfectly matches and paints over the unsightly regrowth after the initial two weeks. Everyone I have spoken too has said there needs to be more colours in the Shellac range, and Samantha Sweet assures me they are on their way. Astonishing also have a limited collection of colours, however they are also introducing another 12 over the next few months as are Seche. Like polish I am sure we will see collections come and go with the seasons and fashions.

This article was publishd in Scratch Magazine; January 2011 issue. this is the first part of my investigation, next month I look at how to market your new Gel polish range, how you can use your gel range to create some design work and more. 

To subscribe to Scratch magazine and receive a great discount visit my website click on the Link (pink box, top right). when you get to the check out it will ask you for a coupon code; insert SAM BIDDLE to receive your subscription for just £25 in the UK. 


Christine A. Ludvigsen said...

Stupid question but did you use all the correct lamps for the different brands of gel polish you tried on? :)

Sam Biddle said...

Hi Christine, oh I don't think it is a silly question. I did use the correct lamps, provided by the different companies. I think it is a good point to make.

vanessa said...

hi sam i was just wandering if when you did this research if you looked into set up costs if so was there a winner?

Anonymous said...

HI, I was wondering if you mix the different brands, I have gelosophy but the colour range is small, I am interested in buying another colour from a differnt range to try but dont wnat to waste my money if it doesnt work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, Did you find any difference in removal time for each brand? Shellac uses the fast (10 min) removal time as a selling point, is it really any faster than the others? Thank you.