Calgel manicure.

It’s no secret that I love having fancy fingers and toes. There’s just something about having nicely painted nails that makes me feel complete. I like looking down at my hands and feet and seeing shiny little jellybeans of color. It’s fun. I don’t wear much jewelry, so colored polish functions as an accessory I can’t lose. It makes me feel pretty and done.

I very seldom pay for manicures or pedicures—maybe once every couple of years, tops. I’m good at doing my own nails. It’s one of those things that seems really tricky and messy at first, but with practice it gets easier and the results are very satisfying. Doing your nails is an easy way to FINISH a project, and that can have a pretty profound effect on my state of mind. (And yes, I do realize we’re talking about nail polish here.) Also, I’m loathe to pay someone else to do what I can do myself, especially when even the best manicure tends to chip within a few days.

Lately, though, I’ve been really busy working on freelance work at night, and I’ve been defaulting to bare or clear-coated nails most of the time. I decided to pay someone to give me a special manicure that will last longer than one done with regular polish. (Funny—exactly one year ago, I was experimenting with another long-lasting manicure option! There’s just something about late August, I guess.) After doing some research into the various options, I decided to go with a Calgel manicure. If you’re curious about what Calgel is, exactly, this site has a detailed description.

One salon name comes up over and over again once you start looking into Calgel-certified salons in NYC: Sakura. After reading a bunch of reviews on Yelp, looking through their impressive gallery of wacky-cool nails on Facebook and, of course, soliciting feedback on Twitter (Gala actually replied to me from the salon, which is a pretty good endorsement!), I went ahead and booked an appointment.

My nail stylist was Selina, and she did a great job. I usually wear my nails short, which sometimes prompts a pitch for extensions of some sort (if you haven’t seen comedian Anjelah Johnson’s routine about nail salons, watch it right now—it’s dead on), but Selina was fine just giving me a natural, rounded shape to go with my bright orange-red color selection (it’s #59). The whole process from start to finish took less than an hour, and considering my nails were totally DRY at the end of that hour, that’s pretty impressive. Calgel needs to cure in layers under a UV light, so there was a lot of switching hands and rotating of thumbs…and then it was all done!

My nails look really nice. The finish is so smooth and shiny, and the edges around my nail bed are flawless. I’m very happy with the outcome! The total cost was $40 for a solid color (stuff like gems, glitter and gradations obviously cost more), and I was given a customer card for a discount after I earn a certain number of points from repeat visits. I like stuff like that.

Calgel manicures can last as long as month (!!) without chipping, but since I have such short nails and chose a solid, bright color, new growth will be really noticeable—so I’ll probably go back in two weeks for a color fill-in at the base. Once my nails are longer, I’ll try something fancier like a black-to-sheer gradation (amazing, right?) that won’t show regrowth as much. Knowing I’ll get an entire month out of a pricey manicure makes the cost sting a little less!

It’s only day one with my Calgel manicure, but I’ll let you know how things are looking after a couple of weeks. I have high hopes…

44 comments
  1. AdamAug 27, 20129:22 pm

    Beautiful, so shiny! I love the color you chose.

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  2. lisaAug 27, 20129:51 pm

    just got mine done yesterday too… navy blue – short & square.
    man i love the gradation idea! black to sheer! wonder what black & blue or black & tan would look like.

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  3. nicholeAug 27, 201210:50 pm

    LOVE these manicures. I get them when I travel or go on vacation, and they really do last. Most last three weeks for me before any signs of chipping.

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  4. LaurieAug 27, 201210:52 pm

    Is the calgel the same as shellac, or is it different? I’ve done shellac a few times, but I find it a pain to take off, especially if the salon doesn’t do it right. I love the look of bright colours on my nails as well, particularly on my toes, but I hate how quickly it chips on my fingernails.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Hi Laurie, no, Calgel is not shellac. There’s a link in the post that explains what Calgel is. I don’t have any personal experience with shellac!

  5. PaulAug 27, 201211:28 pm

    But short colorful nails are so much classier than long colorful nails!

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  6. JackAug 28, 20121:38 am

    Yummy colour! I agree with Laurie – shellac is a huge pain to take off, so I’m interested to see how easy calgel is to remove.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    I’ll have the salon remove it. I’ve had acrylics removed plenty of times–can’t possibly be worse than that!

  7. LorieAug 28, 20126:17 am

    Holy moly! A month? That’s amazing. I was just telling my mom I hate to sit for the time it takes to get manis/pedis but I could totally do an hour for a months wear. Normal manicures typically chip the same day with me so it is a complete waste of money on my nails. Jelly beans of color. Totally. :)

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  8. LizzieAug 28, 20129:45 am

    Beautiful color! And I totally agree about how something as simple as having your nails done can make you feel more put together. It’s just one of those lovely little accents to make you smile.

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  9. Paule T.B.Aug 28, 20129:47 am

    Cool!! Yeah, I usually want to do this around the holidays.. Since there is so many places to go and so little time to do your nails, and for them to dry (always my problem. breaking them right after i’m done)
    But the gel nails I got needed to be sort of scratched off… so I’m thinking this might not be the same?
    She used a sort of rotative drill / file and it hurt like fu(*&?. Next time i waited for my growth to be like 1/2 of my nails and then took them off myself with my fingers, it did not hurt as much. ;)
    Also, mani-pedis are SO MUCH CHEAPER in the NY area. This is unfair. A regular mani or pedi is around 40-45 $ here. Gel nails are more around 60++ $. So…. yeah, maybe for christmas!
    I love reading in details your thought process though, always so interesting. :)

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Yeah, that doesn’t sound right! From what I understand, the removal process should be mostly soaking in acetone. I have a couple of friends who do their own gel nails at home, and they soak a cotton ball, wrap it around their nail, then wrap foil around that—wait 10 minutes, and it all just wipes off. Honestly, based on my days of having acrylic nails (which are really awful and damaging), the nail tech’s experience makes a HUGE difference. I don’t let anyone near my nails with a drill or any kind of very abrasive file anymore.

    Manicures in NYC are definitely cheaper than other areas…even cheaper than around my house upstate. There are SO MANY nail salons down here that the prices really have to be competitive. You can get a regular mani for $10-15!

    Paule T.B. /

    Yeah.. there was a place near my school, when I lived there, where I would get mani-pedi for 22$ + tip.
    Those days are gone! Ha, I do my nails myself now. :)
    But i’ll probably do that again for the holidays. With your words of advice taken!

  10. SammyAug 28, 201210:50 am

    I was thinking of getting acrylics – really awful? I’ve been pretty hesitant…my nails are super short maybe not..you’ve scared me Anna!

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    Anna @ D16 /

    I went through a phase about 12-15 years ago where I did the whole acrylic nail extension thing. It is SO damaging to your natural nails, and the risk of developing a fungus is very real (fortunately I never had that happen, probably because I took “breaks” every few months).

    Personally, now that there are so many new options out there for “permanent” nail color, I can’t imagine going back to having any kind of artificial extension. Short nails are cute! I just like to have chip-free polish on them. :)

    donna /

    I may have to treat myself when I’m in NY to a mani pedi because the prices are much lower than in Toronto.

  11. JaimieAug 28, 201211:48 am

    I got a shellac manicure (sounds similar to Calgel) in July when I had a bunch of parties, weddings, etc. to attend. It looked wonderful — really shiny and smooth, and it definitely was much tougher and lasted much longer without chipping than a regular manicure. But, I had to go to a salon to have it removed (like Anna describes, they soaked my nails in acetone-soaked pads for a while, then basically gently scraped/buffed the polish flakes off).

    The more intensive (in time, money, and wear and tear on your nails) removal process means that I won’t do this type of manicure very often at all. But, I think it’s a great option for going on holiday, or when there’s a busy season of parties, etc. like Christmastime.

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  12. how2homeAug 28, 201212:25 pm

    love the color you chose! Shellac polish are great too, you should give it a try next time ….it lasts about a month or so and they are not harmful to your nails. My parents owns a nail salon, shellac polish is one of our best products :)

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    Anna @ D16 /

    I choose to not use shellac-based products because the resin is animal (beetle) in origin. Calgel uses a synthetic, non-animal-based resin.

  13. Emma WAug 28, 201212:30 pm

    Nice colour! That Calgel sounds interesting. I’ll have to see if there’s somewhere to get that done in London as I’ve been tempted to try out these two week long-lasting nail treatments that are around these days (I’d only heard of Shellac up til now). I’ve still NEVER had a pro manicure, and starting to feel it’s about time!

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    Liz /

    Emma – as fellow Londoner maybe I can share what I’ve found so far.
    Nails Inc say they use Calgel but a tiny bit of internet research threw up a lot of unhappy customers. I won’t be going to Nails Inc but you could ask in a branch if there’s one close to you. (I looks like different branches use different gels but as a novice it all looked way to complicated to me.)
    I’ve done a more general search and there are quite a lot of salons in London that appear to use Calgel. I’m now going to find a couple that are convenient for me and then see what online reviews I can find. Hopefully there’s somewhere good as I do think this looks like a good option for someone like me who can only wear nail polish for a maximum of 139 seconds before it chips. Now, better get back to Google…

    Anna – love the jelly bean nails. They look so glossy and bright. (And the black to clear gradient looks amazing.)

    Emma W /

    Just saw your comment, Liz. Thanks for the info. I’m not quite sure on the differences between shellac and calgel anyway so must admit, if it’s easier to find, I’d be happy just trying out shellac. All I know is I really want to get a mani at a place called MWNails cos it looks amazing in there (retro boeing airplane interior) but just wishing their prices were a little lower!

  14. MarionAug 28, 20123:39 pm

    Sigh. That comedy clip is just… yuck. The experience she describes of upselling may be accurate for you, but what’s with the accent? Really? I wish I had a way to articulate how messed up I think it is. I’m not much of a commenter but this really bugs me. I check this blog almost daily, not sure if I will now.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    It’s a Vietnamese accent.

    What is it that you think is “messed up” about it? I’m the child of a parent who speaks with a foreign accent, and I live in a place with a very distinct regional accent—both of which are routinely parodied in comedy routines, movies, commercials and so on. Emulating accents is a very, very common part of comedy and of creating a believable impersonation. How many “New York Jew” accents do you hear on a regular basis? What about American accents used in derogatory ways? I think it’s OK to laugh at ourselves. There is a line, yes, but I don’t think Anjelah Johnson’s bit here is anywhere near it.

    Just curious—do you find the bit itself offensive, or just the accent? Why? I’m honestly wondering. What if she were doing a Mexican or a Native American bit? Would that by OK because she’s part of those groups? Would you have laughed if she’d done the whole thing with no accent at all? Would it have been believable?

    (See also: This Adam Hills bit.)

    Jenny /

    What are the odds- I know the lady in the audience at the 2.21 mark on the Adam Hills clip! She’s a friend of my mum’s and had not idea that she was in the video!

    Hoping I can find someone good that does Calgel nearby but it doesn’t seem to be very common in Australia.

  15. ellenAug 28, 20125:09 pm

    The Calgel link you gave tells everything but what’s in it? Do you know anything about how many carcinogens it contains?

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    Anna @ D16 /

    I have no idea what the ingredients are, sorry! I do know that it’s free from the “big three” (formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene).

    I personally just like to hope that the enormous amount of kale in my diet offsets whatever monsters are hiding in my nail polish.

  16. LorieAug 28, 20126:47 pm

    Just now watched the video and it was HYSTERICAL! And spot on. I am still chuckling…

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  17. TheresaAug 29, 20122:26 am

    I like how detailed you are about everything… the research and thought process. I’m not sure if they have Calgel here in Sweden but I’m going to look into it. I have a nail routine which when I think about now takes a bit of time. Sunday night I file, buff and paint (base, color x2, top) and on Wednesday if needed I add another top coat. Saturday night I remove all polish and on Sunday I start again! My thing with this one month color is that I love changing colors every week. But, I’m willing to give it a go if I can find it.

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  18. fritzAug 29, 201210:12 pm

    Picture reminds me of Mrs Thing from the Adams Family

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Hah! Yessss

  19. AnnaAug 30, 20125:54 am

    ” I like looking down at my hands and feet and seeing shiny little jellybeans of color.” Adorable! I have given up all hope of having perfectly painted nails right now. A combination of constantly washing my hands (the joys of hydration) and typing most of the day = no more shiny little jellybeans of colour :(. Also, lounge looks AMAZING! Loooove the rug!

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Your hair (in your gravatar) is amazing!!

    Anna /

    Thank you :). It was at it’s absolute best when I took royal jelly but I’m pretty lucky because it would always look like that (I cut it shorter sob sob)

  20. RoxAug 30, 201212:43 pm

    gotta love the gel mani’s…it’s worth the extra $$- cause it lasts SO MUCH LONGER!

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  21. letsAug 30, 20122:51 pm

    Love Anjelah Johnson’s bit and Adam Hill is hilarious.
    Love your nails too!

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  22. nauliAug 31, 20121:21 am

    Your nails look awesome! I love painted nails, but hand working with paper only allows to color them when I’m having a break. The funny thing is since I do this job, I feel like I always have to paint my nails when I have a break. It’s part of the relaxing process.

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  23. AmandaAug 31, 201210:42 am

    Hey, I’ve indicated you on Blog Day! I don’t know if you understant Portuguese, but if you want to, you can check the post in my blog! ;)

    XOXO

    [Reply]

  24. JenSep 1, 20123:25 pm

    It seems to me like the problem with a manicure that lasts a month would be growth…won’t it be substantial after a week or two? Do I just have freakishly fast-growing nails? The ombre look seems like it would be a good solution to that problem, though.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Hi Jen, yes, I talked about that in the post. ;)

  25. Cheryl JonesSep 3, 201211:01 pm

    $40 well spent! I’m with you. Having my nails painted makes me feel complete. I used to stick with pretty traditional/neutral colors, but I’ve been going with a little more vibrant colors these days, and I like the change!

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  26. fffSep 12, 20123:47 am

    ith you. Having my nails painted makes me feel complete. I used to stick with pretty traditional/neutral colors, but I’ve been going with a little more vibrant colors these d

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  27. leanne jonesJul 30, 20137:45 pm

    i have been having calgel for 8 months and cannot fault it…i go 4 weeks between appointments and never had it chip or peel yet! I have the infill done 3 times before having the gel soaked off as by then the gel is getting obviously thicker. After soaking in acetone pads for 10 mins it peels straight off. Iv always bitten my nails and they were thin, flakey, forever splitting and absolutely impossible to grow…now they are in a better condition than i ever thought possible! They are longer, thicker and i have the nails i always wish i could have had n never thought i would lol :-)

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  28. jenniferOct 7, 201312:26 pm

    Lovely nails i cant a place anywhere in London!

    [Reply]

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