They tried to make me go to rehab and I said, “Maybe you have a point.” Without wanting to trivialise addiction, I have a small but harmful problem. My name is Daisy and I’m addicted to Shellac. It is 61 days since my last gel manicure.
I’m a cack-handed idiot and I am not good at painting my own nails. Essentially, I’m the Mr Burns of beauty and my grooming routine involves looking confused and furious, and throwing money at people until I consider myself fixed. I’ve never painted my own nails and gone more than half a day without some serious chipping. Even professional manicures seemed to go strange and smeary on me in a suspiciously short amount of time. But then I was saved by technology. The gel (or Shellac) manicure came into my life at the end of 2012 and, since then, I’ve been chip-free and mirror-shiny.
At first, it was an expensive, occasional treat, then a bi-monthly necessity and then, when it got really bad, something I’d do every 10 days. I’d have to keep coming up with new colour combinations, to make sure things stayed interesting. (When I was experimenting with a nudey pink and fuchsia, the manicurist actually looked up and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”) The trouble is that, over time, gel polish and the associated heat treatments dehydrate the nails and can cause damage to the nail plates and make them become brittle. The result? I have nails with less structural integrity than a soggy tissue. There are newborn babies with more strength and resilience than my fingernails. A light breeze could take off my cuticles. Something needed to be done. I had to knock the nail polish on the head for a bit.
I’m hoping that this doesn’t end as some detoxes do, with me falling through the door of my local nail bar, clutching a bottle of vodka
My first step involved the Elliona Gel Polish remover kit, £14.50. You get a file to buff the nails, you apply the tube of gel to the nail gels, you wait for a minute and then you can remove them with the supplied metal tool, just as you would in a salon. Even if you’re not swearing off gel for ever, this is great when your manicure has started to look a bit dodgy and you’d rather have nude nails than sad-making scruffy ones. In the past, I’ve removed a gel by soaking my nails in coconut oil, as oils break down the gel formula. This time, after reading a suggestion on a Reddit forum, I rubbed in some supermarket almond oil to keep them strong.
I decided to give my nails a rare 24 hours of fresh air before the next step. I applied Orly Nailtrition nail strengthener which is supposed to support nail growth and stop them splitting, and is especially recommended for rebuilding nails after acrylics. I liked the pale pink translucent colour – it reminded me of being a teenager and arguing with my teachers about uniform transgressions (“But it’s allowed! It’s technically clear, and clear is allowed!”). I immediately remembered why I regularly pay someone else to sort my nails out. When you do your own, you are literally watching paint dry, and if you pick up your phone in order to alleviate the boredom, you have to start all over again.
In the interests of making it a fair test, and out of curiosity, I also tried OPI Natural Nail Strengthener, and Nail Envy in Samoan Sand, a pretty, flattering taupe that’s the same shade as most of Kim Kardashian’s wardrobe. I painted it over the dried Nailtrition and noticed a difference after a couple of days. When reaching behind my head to pull up a tricky zip, I bent my thumbnail and didn’t damage it! I scratched the polish, but the nail itself was fine! If I’d done it to a Shellac’ed nail, I think my entire thumb would have fallen off.
Throughout my experiment, I have been taking Perfectil Plus Nails, a supplement designed to provide extra selenium and zinc to keep hair, skin and nails strong. I’ve noticed that my nails don’t have as many calcium deficiency marks and they seem to be growing more quickly than usual. The Perfectil seems to have made my skin slightly plumper as well, which is a pleasing bonus. Also, I tried the nail-rehab equivalent of Doomsday prepping by building up a store of Elegant Touch press-on nails, in case I snapped and stopped being able to bear the sight of my pinky nude hands. I’m still saving the holographic Chrome set for a special occasion, or maybe a Blade Runner theme party, but I know the brand has many fans who wear them as an alternative to gels.
Ultimately, my trip to rehab is probably more of a detox. I’m going to try to keep going until the end of the month. While I’m hoping that this doesn’t end as some detoxes do, with me falling through the door of my local nail bar, clutching a bottle of vodka, calling lovely Georgia a “basic bitch”, I do hope that I can work out how to enjoy Shellac in moderation, rather than reaching a point at which I have to give it up completely. If you’re a fellow gel junkie, I think it helps to take supplements to keep your nails as strong as possible from the inside out. However, I reckon the main trick is to plan a break before your nails break on you. I’ll probably be back on the gels before Christmas, but I’m pretty sure that making my nails stronger and healthier is going to be my early New Year’s resolution.
Daisy is obliged to admit that, for the duration of the experiment, she kept her gel pedicure. One day at a time, eh?