Gel Nail Polish vs. Traditional Nail Enamel

  • Gel Nail Polish vs. Traditional Nail Enamel I essie gel articles


Whether at brunch or work, everyone’s talking about gel nails, gel nail polish—gel, gel, gel! So what’s the difference between gel nail polish and traditional nail enamel? Read on, for the nail experts here at essie are more than happy to break it down for you.

Gel nail polish
Formulated with photo-reactive ingredients, gel nail polish requires curing (or drying) under a light-emitting diode (LED) or ultraviolet (UV) nail polish lamp. The curing process creates a powerful bond to the nail, delivering 14 days of long lasting color and shine. Much like a traditional enamel manicure, most gel nails are applied with a base, color, and top coat.

How does it all work, you ask? Each layer is applied and cured to a hard gel finish via a UV nail lamp, or, as in the case of essie•gel polish, LED lamp. Each layer is formulated to work seamlessly with the layer underneath, making the bond very powerful.

There are a few different types of gel nail manicures you can get (see our Gel Nails 101 article for details!), but lamp-cured gel manicures are most often done in a nail salon.

What makes essie•gel nail products different? First, they’re only compatible with LED lamps. Some UV gel brands require that you cure the color and top coat for 2 minutes per layer – essie•gel is only a 30 second LED cure for the color coat and a 1-minute cure for the topcoat. So, essie•gel delivers a super-fast mani-pedi service. Second, essie•gel polish lasts for up to 14 shiny, happy days. It creates a rich, cushiony shine and a glossy finish that shields nails giving them you the ability to take on your daily activities, without chipping, peeling or looking scratched. And of course, essie•gel comes in over 90 fashion-forward nail polish shades that are uniquely essie. Talk about gel performance that deserves an encore!

Gel nail polish removal
Removing gel nail color is a bit more involved than traditional nail enamel. Here's the step-by-step gel nail polish removal system we recommend to our salon partners and essie nail technicians:

1. Thoroughly saturate an absorbent pad with acetone nail polish remover and place on nail.
2. Wrap nail in aluminum foil snugly. A secure fit is essential for thorough removal. Let soak for 15 minutes.
3. Gently lift foil and check if polish has lifted away from the nail. If not, re-wrap and soak another 5 minutes.
4. Gently massage the foil at top of nail and pull foil wrap away from nail. When gel has lifted from nail, carefully remove any gel excess on nail with an orangewood stick (from cuticle to tip).
5. Rub nail with a lint-free nail pad soaked in polish remover to remove any residue.
6. Re-hydrate nails & cuticles with apricot cuticle oil.

Gel-like nail polishes
Looking for the strength and endurance of gel nails at home? Have we got a solution (or two) for you! Based on a new nail technology, gel-like nail polishes deliver the long lasting power of gel nail color with the ease of traditional nail enamels.

essie gel couture
essie gel couture is our easy 2-step system that offers 42 new essie streak-free gel-like nail polish colors to compliment any look.

Step 1, after cleaning nails with nail polish remover, brush on the gel couture color of your choice. Pure color pigments in the bottle create a perfectly tailored fit. The precision formula brushes on smoothly, without the need for a base coat.
Step 2, apply the cutting-edge, high gloss top coat. This quick-drying coat helps protect color and magnifies shine for an ultra-glossy finish without an LED or UV nail lamp!

That’s all you need to rock 14 days of chic essie color. When you’re ready to remove, simply swipe it off like traditional nail enamel with a cotton ball soaked in an acetone-based remover.

essie gel.setter
Another amazing option: our gel•setter gel-like topcoat makes getting the look of gel nails so super easy. What’s more, you can use it over your favorite essie nail color, and with 300 chic nail polish shades to choose from, your fashionable horizons are limitless.

Traditional nail enamel
One of the benefits of a traditional nail manicure is the do-it-yourself aspect—it can be done at home at your convenience as well as by an expert nail technician at a salon. As traditional nail polish has also been available a lot longer than gel-like polishes, you have more color options to choose from when perusing the nail polish shelf. Traditional nail manicures generally consist of three coats; a base coat, the polish and a top coat, the main difference is that they air-dry without a lamp. Here’s how they work.

Base coat
Applied first, a base coat is a clear or milky coat of polish that is used to smooth the surface and help polish adhere to nails.

Nail Color
Applied next, the color is your moment to make a major fashion statement. At essie, we have more than 300+ shades of nail polish colors to choose from; the delicate, pale pink of ballet slippers, the dark, edgy, luxurious night shade of midnight cami. Apply two thin, even coats before moving to the next step.

Top coat
Applied last the top coat is a clear polish that seals and protects freshly-applied nail color with a glossy finish to prevent chipping, scratching or peeling.

Traditional nail enamel removal
Essie nail colors swipe off with a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover.

Now that you know the difference between gel nail products and traditional nail enamel, you’ll be free to explore these fantastic nail options at your leisure. After all, changing her mind (and her look!) is every girl’s prerogative.

And who gives her the shade selection to match her ever-changing mood? Her nail color bestie, essie of course!

Looking for even more information? Find more great articles like How to Make Your Gel Nail Polish Last Longer here.

products from this scoop

more scoops
Hot To Remove Gel Nail Polish and Gel-like Nail Polish at Home | essie gel articles


How To Remove Gel Nail Polish and Gel-like Nail Polish at Home

essie's DIY nail tips

view detail

The Easy Way to Get the Look of Gel Nails At Home | essie gel articles


The Easy Way to Get the Look of Gel Nails At Home

a nail novice's guide to essie gel couture.

view detail

hello canadian #essielover!
were you looking for essie canada?

take me to