I Stopped Wearing Acrylics, And My Natural Nails Got Longer And Healthier Than Ever
I Tried It

I Stopped Wearing Acrylics, And My Natural Nails Got Longer And Healthier Than Ever

Like most teenage girls, my first acrylic nail set felt like a right of passage. I was 17 years old, and it was the morning of my junior prom. I went with a long square silhouette, a lightly colored base coat topped with swirling white airbrushed designs on each fingernail ---a very early 2000-esque homage. After years of only being allowed to wear press-on nails around the house, I remember sitting in the chair, trying my best to hold in the excitement and anticipation of my first professional full set.

From that moment, I was hooked. Throughout my adult life, I developed a love-hate relationship with visiting the nail salon faithfully every two to three weeks.

After years of acrylic extensions, I began to notice how damaged and brittle my natural nails were becoming in between sets. Once the process became too painful and upkeep seemed to be causing more harm than good, I began to seek alternatives that would allow my real nails to grow healthy, strong, and just as long but without extensions.

One day, a friend came back from Paris raving about her latest experience receiving a hard gel manicure while abroad. After hearing her testimony and seeing how long her natural nails had grown in such a short time, I did more research to learn what exactly went into this gel that she couldn’t stop raving about.

Skeptical of the many nail trends and techniques, I became frustrated trying to keep up with the latest innovations, and this seemed to be just another trend. However, fully determined and striving for longer lengths and stronger nails without the awful nail enhancements, I finally decided to give the hard gel a try.

I tried just about everything as an alternative, from gel polish to Gel-X; however, nothing seemed to get the results I was looking for.

After removing my acrylics, I began my natural nail journey with short and brittle nails. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to see major improvements. Within the first 30 days, I saw how fast my nails were growing and how strong they were becoming.

Keep scrolling to see my nail journey from the beginning and why hard gel has convinced me to leave nail extensions in the past for good.

Acrylic Nails - July 2022

Courtesy of Shahirah Ahmed

Courtesy of Shahirah Ahmed

Hard Gel Manicure - February 2023

Courtesy of Shahirah Ahmed

Hard Gel Manicure - March 2023

Courtesy of Shahirah Ahmed

Hard Gel Manicure - April 2023

Courtesy of Shahirah Ahmed

What Is Hard Gel?

Also known as builder gel, hard gel can be used to deliver a protective coating to cover the natural nails, making them feel harder, stronger, and more flexible. This innovative nail enhancement can be molded, shaped, and refilled by being cured or hardened in a UV light rather than through evaporating solvents like acrylic. Hard gel is not gel polish, shellac, soft gel, or soak-off gel; however, you can put gel polish over hard gel for a nice finish and designs if you’re feeling fancy.

Along with more strength and durability, the hard gel is excellent at protecting natural nails, making them less likely to break or crack over time.

According to nailpro.com, hard gel is an acrylic alternative, and you can use hard gel to overlay natural nails, sculpt extensions and repair broken nails. The site also suggests hard gel is perfect for clients who are transitioning from acrylic, who want to strengthen their natural nails, or who have weak and brittle nails that need more support and structure. Also, if you are removing acrylic, hard gel is the best product to provide more support as you transition.

Hard Gel - June 2023

Courtesy of Shahirah Ahmed

The Benefits of Hard Gel

What I love most about the application of hard gel is how quickly I’m in and out of the salon chair. A method that takes about an hour from start to finish, it’s extremely quick compared to the time it takes to apply acrylic. Another bonus of hard gel is that you can fill it in, just like you would acrylic, which is ideal for those of us who rather not soak off our nails every service. Unlike many gel methods, hard gel cannot be taken off by acetone which is one reason it's so durable and why its properties help protect the natural nail.

As previously mentioned, this is also a good service for those who want to grow their natural nails to longer lengths while keeping them strong and healthy, which is why I personally made the switch. Long, healthy natural nails are definitely a flex. Along with efficiency and time, hard gel is also more cost-effective, starting at $70---cheaper than a full set of acrylic nails.

I’m also not booking nail appointments every two weeks because hard gel can last up to six weeks without needing a fill or even getting a chip.

Healthy Nails - July 2023

Courtesy of Shahirah Ahmed

With patience and determination, my nails have achieved my wildest dreams. A year later, my nails are now at a length I thought was only achievable with artificial enhancements, and I couldn't be happier. Hard gel has become a staple in my self-care routine, and I don’t plan to give it up any time soon.

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Featured image by Pavlina Popovska/Getty Images




This article is in partnership with SheaMoisture

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