I’ve been a fan of gel polish since my manicurist first brought out a little blue light box more than a decade ago and said, “You’re going to love this.” She was right. With long-lasting wear and no dry time, I don’t have to sit impatiently waiting for polish to harden, worry about chipping, or lug nail paraphernalia on vacation. For all gel’s perks, there is one thing I’m not a fan of—how my naturally long nails turn thin and brittle, and break afterward.
After recent back-to-back gel manicures (something I don’t normally do) left my nails paper thin and down to stubs, I vowed I was breaking up with gel for good—until my next vacation when I couldn’t resist gel’s charms. But two finds have changed my life (OK, at least the life of my nails): Butter London’s new Quick Slip Cuticle Oil ($22), P.D. Quick Dry Conditioning Drops ($18), a dry oil serum that conditions cuticles and accelerates dry time (more on that in a minute). Using both products post-gel was a game-changer—not only did my nails stay strong and not break, they (gasp!) actually grew longer.
Because gel polish and the acetone used for removal dry nails and cuticles out, it’s essential to add moisture back in—in fact, it’s a misconception that you should let nails “breathe” and shun products after gel removal because nails have porous surfaces that need hydration, says Christine Doan, a Los Angeles-based nail artist and licensed cosmetologist.
'Think of it as a honeycomb versus a wafer cookie. The honeycomb is porous but filled with the honey itself. If you were to pull out the honey over time, the wax will harden and dry making the shell more prone to damage and breakage with any impact,” says Doan. “A wafer cookie is another example, because it is fully dry and if you were to accidentally cause impact to it, you'd be more likely to experience damage.”
To keep nails hydrated, the Quick Slip Cuticle Oil contains the humectant glycerin along with sunflower, jojoba, and coconut oils, emollients that help support the skin barrier. “Together these ingredients moisturize the cuticles and the skin around them,” says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD. “The health of the cuticles is important because they help to seal the transition zone between the skin and the nails.”
The P.D. Quick Dry Conditioning Drops hero ingredient is rosehip oil, which contains anti-inflammatory fatty acids, and vitamins A and C, all of which moisturize, hydrate, and give an antioxidant boost, says King. The oil also contains vitamin F, which is not a vitamin, but a term used for alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, moisturizing fatty acids that replenish the skin’s barrier, she explains.
“Vitamin F may be particularly helpful for those with skin conditions characterized by an impaired skin barrier function, which is a common issue with dry cuticles,” adds King.
A post-gel game changer
After my recent gel polish removal, I used the Butter London cuticle oil as Doan recommends—at least once a day, especially before bed, following up with hand cream. The tiny brush applicator makes it easy to target your cuticles without the messiness of a dropper and though rich in oils, its texture is nongreasy.
With one use, I fell in love with the conditioning drops—after polishing, you use the tiny dropper to apply a touch of oil mid-nail, and voila, your nails are on speed-dry. The drops not only made dry-time super short (great for people like me who can’t sit still), they added a beautiful layer of shine.“I apply the drops a couple of minutes after I finish my manicure—top coat included—and they’ll be dry to the touch almost immediately. After five or 10 minutes, you can go about your day naturally,” says Doan.
I honestly could not believe the difference in my nail and cuticle health post-gel manicure thanks to these products—gone were the usual breakage and brittleness, replaced by strong nails that kept growing. While I’m happy (and relieved) I don’t need to break up with gel manicures completely, with such amazing results, I’ve embraced the products not only for post-gel use, but to show my nails TLC every day.
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