If you’re looking for an alternative to gel nails that’s gentler on your nail beds but you don’t want to stray too far from the path, then solar nails might be the right ticket for you.
You may have seen them popping up in nail salons everywhere or maybe you’ve never heard of them in your life. Regardless of which end of this spectrum you’re leaning towards, you’ve come to the right place for our ultimate guide on everything solar nails.
We’re going to be looking at the positives and negatives of solar nails, how they compare to gel nails and what they are exactly. We’ll also tell you how to avoid being duped by nail salons that are trying to charge you extra for something that’s not the real-deal. Stay tuned to get clued in on what could be your next beauty buy.
What are solar nails?
Solar nails are a high quality brand of acrylic nails product manufactured by Creative Nail Design (CND). This is the same company that created Shellac gel nail polish. Basically, a plastic nail extension is glued to the very tip of your own nails and then a special powder (polymer) and liquid (monomer) substance is combined and pressed over the top of your nail and the extension.
They cure (harden) as they’re being worked and shaped to your natural nails with a nail brush and then can be filed down and finished with a couple coats of nail polish to match the exact way you want them to look. This process generally takes around 30-45 minutes from start to finish.
Solar nails are thick, generally around 10 times thicker than your natural nails and can be any length you like. They air-dry so there’s no need to hold your hands under ultraviolet (UV) light for ten minutes (like you would with gel nails).
With solar nails, there is a risk that they may look less natural than other fake nail options due to their thickness. But their strength, resilience, and tendency to be gentler on nails beds make them an excellent option regardless of their few pitfalls.
Solar nails vs. gel nails
Here’s a list of the benefits that solar nails have over gel nails:
Gentler on nail beds
Solar nails are easy to remove with an acetone soak and so do less damage than gel nails which need to be soaked in acetone for around 10 minutes and then also filed off, taking some of the natural nail with them.
A full set of solar nails will set you back around $30-$40 whilst gel nails can cost up to $60 a set. And when getting them refilled, solar nails will cost around half the initial price whereas gel nails need to be completely reapplied so you’ll have to pay full price again.
Easier to remove
Using the acetone soaking method, your nails can be removed within around 15-20 minutes with no damage to your nail beds. With gel nails, the gel has to be filed off your natural nails to remove them (even after soaking them in acetone), often taking part of your nails with them and causing them to become very brittle and weak for a few weeks afterwards.
No UV exposure
As mentioned earlier, the liquid monomer and powder polymer are mixed together and shaped over your nails, curing and hardening in around a minute. Due to this, there’s no need to hold your hands under potentially harmful UV light like you would have to if you were getting gel nails. You nails will then continue to harden and should be completely done within 15 minutes of application.
Solar nails, when done correctly, can usually last around 3-4 weeks before you need infills. Gel nails generally last around a couple weeks and have to be completely removed and redone when it comes time for your next appointment. Additionally, solar nails are much harder and more resilient due to their thickness whereas gel nails are prone to shattering and can’t be fixed as easily.
And here’s a list of the negatives of solar nails vs. gel nails:
More chemical fumes
Have you ever walked into a nail salon and been smacked in the face with a strong chemical stench? That’s coming from the acrylic nails, aka solar nails. Gel nails have less of an odour and emit less chemical fumes so are better for the environment and your lungs.
Look less natural
Due to their thickness, solar nails can tend to look less natural than gel nails. If you’ve got a skilled nail technician, however, they’ll be able to file down your solar nails until they closely resemble natural nails – don’t expect them to look exactly the same, though.
Take more time to dry
Under a UV light, gel nails harden completely in around 5-10 minutes while solar nails take around 15-20 minutes to be finished. An extra 10 minutes waiting time isn’t so bad, though, when you consider all the other benefits of solar nails over gel.
If we’re comparing solar nails to other acrylic nail product brands, it’s important to note that solar nails are a higher quality and safer formula.
No-name acrylic products will yellow quicker, lift easier and won’t last as long as solar acrylic nails will. So if you’re wanting top quality acrylic nails, make sure you’re getting the real deal by checking the bottle your nail tech is using – it should say “Radical Solar Nails” by CND.
How to remove solar nails
This is the easy part, as mentioned above, the best method for removing solar nails is the soaking method. Generally, this involves soaking your nails in a bowl of acetone for around 15-20 minutes and then they should easily come off when rubbed with a cotton wool ball soaked in a bit more acetone.
Your nails may be a little weaker after removing your solar nails, but it’s a much better option than having them filed off (like gel nails) and ruining your natural nails completely. Use a strengthening or nourishing clear nail polish for a few days after removal to replenish the minerals in your nails and restore them back to their former natural glory.
How long do solar nails last?
If you’re happy to wait, your solar nails should fall off in around 4 weeks from the date of application. You’ll notice them growing out from your cuticles and becoming more flexible, they should eventually be able to be popped off the nail bed with minimal effort.
If you try to pry them off and it hurts at any point, stop immediately and head to your nail salon to get them removed safely. You don’t want to risk pulling them off when they’re not ready and taking a chunk of your natural nail with them – ouch!
What to look out for when getting your solar nails
This is important if you want to save some serious dollars on your manicure. Don’t be fooled by nail salons looking to make a few extra dollars (or 10-15) out of unsuspecting clients.
To make this very clear, solar nails are a brand of acrylic nails in the same way that Ford is a brand of car and Shellac is a brand of gel polish. Same kind of product, just a different brand name. Solar nails are a safer, higher quality, and more expensive brand of acrylic, just like Gucci is a top quality and more expensive brand of clothing.
If the bottle and jar from which your liquid and powder acrylic nails are coming from is not labelled “Radical Solar Nails” by the brand Creative Nail Design (CND), then you’re not getting solar nails, you’re getting ordinary acrylic nails. And if this is the case, then you should NOT be paying more for them than a standard set of acrylic nails would set you back – because that’s what they are!
If the nail technicians need to cure your nails with a UV light, they might have used a gel overcoat on your solar acrylic nails – which is not the product you asked for.
Solar nails cure as the powder and liquid mix together, meaning they’ll be hard within about a minute of application and there’s no need for them to be cured under a UV light. Any nail polish they put on top of your solar nails should be air-dried as well (unless you’re happy for them to cure that quicker with the UV light, that’s totally up to you).
Don’t be afraid to query these issues with your nail technician and leave if they try to convince you otherwise, just walk out – you know better now.
If you’re looking for a great alternative to gel nails that won’t ruin your natural nails then solar nails might be the way to go. They’re a high quality brand of acrylic nails from Creative Nail Design (CND) that come with all the awesome benefits and durability that all acrylic nails have, plus the added bonus of extra strength and durability.
Solar nails will last for around 3-4 weeks before needing infills and are generally cheaper than gel nails, both when you’re getting a new set and when you’re getting them refilled.
Just make sure that what you’re getting is the real deal if you’re specifically after solar nails. Remember, if the bottle doesn’t say “Radical Solar Nails” by CND then you’re not getting solar nails and you shouldn’t be charged more than a normal set of acrylics.